§ HOME OFFICE.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £ 722,561, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for the salaries and expenses of the office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and subordinate offices, liquidation expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary and contributions towards the expenses of Probation." —[Note. — £ 500,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £ 100.
I move this reduction principally in order that I, along with my hon. Friends, may draw attention to the hours of work of juvenile labour in this country, especially in relation to Sections 70 and 71 of the Factories Act, 1937. I think it is a good thing that we should turn aside for a moment from the vast preparations we are making in order to protect ourselves against aggression from without, in order for a moment to consider how we can protect ourselves against aggression from within— how, in other words, we can safeguard those small social advantages that have been won during the last few years. My hon. Friends are of the opinion that many of these advantages are being attacked, or are in serious danger of being attacked, and this morning I wish to draw special attention to an attack that is being made on the youngest section of our wage-earning population.
We move with leaden feet in these matters. The 10-hour Act is nearly 100 years old, and yet to-day, with all the tremendous advances that have been made in technical productivity in the world, all the abundant resources in the world that can give us more food than we can eat, more clothes than we can wear and more houses than we can live in, if we have the will so to organise things, the most 908 we can do is to give an ordinary 8-hour day to children of 14 years of age. When the Factories Bill first came to the House, its provisions appalled me, not because of what the Bill proposed to abolish, but because of what it proposed to sanction. I suppose I was all the more appalled by the provisions because I was made aware, for the first time, as were perhaps many other hon. Members, of the employment conditions in a field of industry about which previously I had only the most slender knowledge. That was especially so as to the hours of employment of young persons, in what was then Clause 68 of the Bill, particularly as that Clause related to young persons between 14 and 16 years of age.
I should like to remind the Committee of the original provisions of the Bill. Originally it provided that these young persons could be allowed to start work, at 14 years of age, at 6 o'clock in the morning. They could be allowed, at 14 years of age, to work a 9-hour day and to have an 11-hour spread-over— or, in other words, could be required to be about the premises for 11 hours a day— and to work in all a 48-hour week. On the Second Reading of the Bill, I protested against those provisions, as did other hon. Members, and, therefore, the Home Secretary of that time, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had ample time, if he so desired, to put down Amendments on the Committee stage to meet the more serious criticisms that had been made on the Second Reading of the Bill; but in fact, I am bound to make this point, that what is now Section 71—the 44-hour Section— was put down in the Committee stage of the Bill at the very last minute, when the Home Secretary himself was most anxious to get the Bill back on to the Floor of the House, and when in fact, as my hon. Friends who were in the Standing Committee will remember, we had spent three or four very hard and fatiguing months in considering the Committee stage of the Bill.
In the Committee stage the original Bill was modified in two directions. First, the 6 o'clock start became a 7 o'clock start, and, secondly, there was a new Clause added, the present Section 71, which concedes a 44-hour week to all young persons between 14 and 16 with powers to the Home Secretary to increase 909 the hours up to 48, if, after inquiry, he is satisfied, as to any particular industry, that he should do so. He may then make regulations for that purpose, and it is about the very wide use of that power, which I think was entirely unexpected and unanticipated when the Clause was agreed to in Committee and in the House, that my hon. Friends are very seriously concerned. Perhaps I may be allowed at this stage to point out one reason why we thought it necessary to raise this matter in this fashion. It is because of the modus operandi of the Act itself. The Act concedes a 48-hour week for all women and young persons from 1st July, 1938. It concedes a 44-hour week for young persons from 14 to 16 as from 1st July, 1939; but where an application of the type I have indicated is made under Section 71, the 48-hour week continues until the Home Secretary has given a negative decision, or unless and until regulations laid by him on the Table of the House have been negatived by the House.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
May I correct the hon. Member, as I would not like a misunderstanding to exist from the outset of the Debate? The hon. Member said that where an application has been made the status quo as regards hours continues until the Home Secretary's decision is given. I think it ought to be made quite clear that it is only where an inquiry has been ordered by the Secretary of State that the status quo continues.
§ Mr. Ridley
I do not want to quarrel with the Under-Secretary, but I hardly think his correction was worth while. The position is that where an application has been made, unless it is turned down by the Home Secretary, the 48-hour week continues. If it is not turned down, that is obviously because the right hon. Gentleman orders an inquiry, and in those circumstances the 48-hour week continues. On 29th June, according to a Parliamentary reply, 17 applications had been made.
§ Mr. Ridley
Perhaps the Under-Secretary will allow me to complete my sentence. I have read this Act very carefully, and I was about to say that 17 applications have been made, which were subject to inquiry. Three of them at that date had been recommended, three were not recommended, two had been withdrawn and nine were then proceeding, of which some, I believe, have since been subject to recommendation. The right hon. Gentleman, in any event, has issued draft Orders as to the cotton, woollen and carpet industries covering 38,000 young persons. These orders must be in draft for 40 days and must be laid on the Table of the House for 28 Parliamentary days, but they cannot be laid until after the Summer Recess, because the 40 days during which they must be in draft, will not be completed until then. When we come back, owing to what will be called "pressure of business," we shall only be able to pray against them after 11 o'clock at night. That will be, perhaps, next November.
Suppose the House disapproves of the regulations. It may not be the same House of Commons next November; in fact, if a General Election intervenes, nobody supposes that it will be. The Under-Secretary smiles, but does he suppose that if an appeal were made to the country at this moment the result would be a repetition of the swollen, exaggerated majority which at present with unexampled docility— except on occasions like the night before last— helps this Government to push through its legislation. Suppose, in any event, that the House exercises its right to disapprove of the regulations, then the employers in this case will have had a 48-hour week covering 38,000 young person for between four and five months—to which they may be legally but are not morally entitled. Indeed, I can well believe that some employers delayed their applications under Clause 71 in order to have, in any event, the advantage of the negative provisions, of the Clause.
I turn to one or two reasons why the Home Secretary should not vary the standard provisions of Clause 71. In Committee there were two outstanding-Debates. One was on the age of entry into industry, which we desired to raise from 14 years to 15 years. The other was on the 40-hour week. It is not without 911 significance that on both points we had the support of every responsible organisation that communicated with us, including the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the National Council for Equal Citizenship, the Committee on Wage-Earning Children — which one hon. Member opposite did not always represent effectively on the Committee, although he is associated with it— the Save the Children Fund and the Workers' Educational Association. Despite that considerable body of responsible support we failed on both points, for two reasons. We failed on the age of entry because of the beneficial employment Section in the Education Act, and because the then Home Secretary would not advise the Committee that employment in a factory at the age of 14 was not beneficial to the child.
It is remarkable, however, that in this matter the wheel has come full circle and that most local education authorities, certainly most enlightened authorities, are now considerably in advance of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. Most of them have laid down conditions, in regard to hours and terms of beneficial employment for young persons which are better than anything included in the Factories Act. The Amendment in favour of a 40-hour week was defeated, because it was urged that it would destroy the economic foundations of industry. I can still hear, ringing in my ears, speeches made upstairs two years ago, reminiscent of a state of mind which existed 100 years ago. In the end we squeezed the 44-hour provision out of the Government. In my view it is a bad provision because, although it may shorten the working week, it makes no compulsory provision for shortening the hours of employment over all, unless the Home Secretary makes regulations. Employers can still, despite the 44-hour week, work a young person 11 hours a day. The employer may comply technically with the Section by lengthening the meal interval with no advantage to the child, unless the Home Secretary, by regulations made under Sub-section (4), otherwise prescribes.
I raised this matter on the Report stage. The then Under-Secretary said it was a point of substance, and although I was not satisfied with what 912 he said, I withdrew my Amendment because of his assurances. I would like the Home Secretary to say what regulations have been made under this provision whether they have been made in all cases or in some only, and what is the nature of those regulations. By the regulations which the Home Secretary proposes to lay, and drafts of which are already in circulation, in this case alone 38,000 young persons are being thrown on to the 48-hour week to which every responsible person and organisation, education and medical, is unhesitatingly opposed. A young person may be required to work nine hours in a day and to be about the premises for 11 hours.
I invite the Committee to consider this case which is permissible within the terms of the Act. Suppose a girl of 14 lives half-an-hour away from her work and her work commences, as the Act permits, at 7 o'clock in the morning. She must leave home at 6.30 a.m. She must be up by 5.45 a.m. She can be required to be about the premises where she works until 6 p.m. She is home at 6.30 p.m. She has washed, dressed and had her meal by 7.30 p.m. She has then only 10¼ hours before she is compelled to be up again to go back to work. If, as frequently happens, not only London but also in the Lancashire cotton industry, the young person is living an hour away from her work, the interval is only 9¼ hours. I recognise that a child may be hardly any better off on a 44-hour week than on a 48-hour week if no regulations are made under Sub-section (4), but I contend that the smaller the advantage to the child the meaner it is to deprive the child of that advantage.
I emphasise the fact that the Act permits conditions of employment for young persons of 14 which requires them to rise at 5.45 in the morning, when they are still drugged with sleep. I have a youngster, but I would not dream, for all the money that the world could provide me, of engaging in the process of ruining that child's health, winter and summer, by compelling her to wake for an arduous and fatiguing day's work at that hour in the morning, and I invite those who contemplate that sort of thing with equanimity to read the terrible story of young Darius Clayhanger, in Arnold Bennett's famous novel. Our children will be bigger and stronger because they 913 will both sleep and play more than the children in the Lancashire cotton industry, who will be governed by these proposed regulations. By these regulations the Home Secretary will deprive 38,000 young persons of both sleep and recreation, and I invite the Under-Secretary of State to observe that although the Employment of Young Persons Act, passed last year, was in many respects a very unsatisfactory and bad Act indeed, it did lay down a 44-hour week for young persons from 14 to 16 from which there can be no exception and as to which the Home Secretary can allow no varying regulation.
Many of my hon. Friends are taking part in a fitness campaign. I invite the Under-Secretary of State to say in what way these youngsters, working 48 hours a week, getting up before six in the morning, too tired at the end of the day's work to either cycle or swim, can take part in a great fitness campaign. How can we hope to build from them a nation worthy of modern civilisation? The Clause provides that as to these regulations three conditions shall be satisfied. One is that the extra hourswould not be likely to be injurious to the health of young persons.Will the Under-Secretary of State dare to say that to deprive these youngsters of four hours' sleep or four hours' recreation per week, to deprive them of 200 hours per year of either, will not be injurious to their health? Nobody dare say that, and nobody could justify such a statement, even if they attempted to make it. I relate this question of health to the question of physical fatigue. It is an unfortunate thing, for which I blame nobody, that the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops for 1938 is not available for us to-day, and so I have to go back to the report for 1937, on page 37 of which I read the following:It seems evident that not until there is a far greater change in the outlook of employers and managers generally with regard to problems appertaining to the employment of young workers will there be an appreciable reduction in the number and gravity of accidents. … Many persons in responsible positions are slow to realise the great change in young people's lives when they begin work in factories and enter into new and strange spheres of activity of which they have no knowledge or experience and where the rules of conduct are very different from those of, say, the playground. … They cannot be ex- 914 pected to have the stability and reasoned judgment of people of mature age. A common reason given for an accident is—" who could have expected him to do such a silly thing," whereas, often enough, the so-called "silly things" are just the actions that might be expected from one unaccustomed to machinery and inexperienced in its possible dangers.On the Second Reading of the Bill an hon. Member said that young people under these provisions should be taught to be much more careful in the handling of machinery, as though at the age of 14 we are to rear a stern-faced set of grown men, treating machinery with very great care so that their fingers are not injured in the process. The two years covered by these draft regulations are dangerously important years in child development, and we may by improper feeding, by lack of adequate sleep and air, leave physical marks on them for the rest of their lives. It is a happy thing that more and more of our people are turning to outdoor recreational life with enormous benefit to the community, but we are now proposing by these regulations to deny to 38,000 young people all the opportunities that the children of most Members of this House will be able freely to enjoy. The Lancashire cotton operative has endured 150 years of the worst form of capitalist exploitation, and the annals of this House are crowded with efforts to meet the consequences of such exploitation. The physical marks of it are on them now, and we propose to perpetuate it in their children.
I have had the opportunity of reading the statement of evidence given by the United Textile Factory Workers' Association to the Commission of Inquiry. The Union was emphatically opposed to the application of the employers, despite the grave economic pressure on the Lancashire cotton operative to find earnings and money wherever he can. I was impressed, as others would be if they had the opportunity to read it, by the quiet, unexaggerated strength of the arguments put forward. As to health, the statement said:It is hardly likely that even the employers will claim that life inside a cotton mill is extremely healthy and that the longer one stays therein the more healthy will one be. Cotton operatives are not remarkable for an unduly healthy appearance, and we submit that the more hours that are spent by them inside a cotton mill the less healthy will they be, and to that extent increased working hours are injurious. Work in cotton mills is arduous and fatiguing, is carried on particularly in spinning rooms, where the temperature 915 is high and the atmosphere humid and far from being such as to warrant more being spent therein than is absolutely necessary.We should not confine these youngsters, but we should liberate them, for health and education, and for all the pursuits that are natural to my youngsters and that ought to be just as natural to those of everybody else. Evidence was given before the inquiry by two doctors on behalf of the employers. One said that four more hours per week in a cotton mill would not be injurious to the health of a child of 14, and the other said that 48 hours would not be harmful. I do not like to think of doctors prostituting themselves or their profession in this way, and I hope that before this debate is over we shall discover that there are more enlightened members of the medical profession in this Committee than that.
§ Mr, Tomlinson
May I point out that there is not a medical man in Lancashire with a child in a cotton mill?
§ Mr. Ridley
There is another condition which has to be satisfied, and that is that the employment of these young persons is necessary, owing to the condition of the industry, and I suppose that the Home Secretary is so satisfied with the argument that all employers have used for over a century, that the greatness of a nation depends on the weariness of its little children. That is the language, the philosophy, against which Shaftesbury and Owen so magnificently rebelled, and so must we rebel. The unions themselves say that the industry could adjust itself to the necessary change, and in that connection I must draw attention to what seems to have been the opinion in Committee upstairs of the then Home Secretary. These are very important words. In moving the Clause upstairs, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said:There will have to be adjustments. At the Home Office we have steadily maintained the view, which I stated in the Committee, that the mere fact that there would have to be adjustments or some inconvenience to industry was no reason for not making a necessary and justified change. That has been received in very good spirit by those with whom we have been dealing. In the cotton industry, or in certain branches of it, and the woollen industry, for instance, many young persons are largely employed as members of a team, and there will have to be a very considerable amount of reorganisation." — 916 [OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee B), 27th May, 1937; cols. 914–5.]
Those words could only convey the impression to Members of the Committee upstairs that there would be no variation of the standard provision in the Clause in connection with the industries mentioned that in fact exceptions from the standard provision would be exceptional and would not become so general as to cease to be exceptional altogether.
There is a third provision about which I want to say a word, that is, that the industry must be particularly suitable to young persons. The unions do not deny some suitability, but they do deny particular suitability. On the contrary, they assert that wages and hours in the cotton industry at the moment are so unattractive that juveniles avoid it rather than accept it, and that the position in the cotton industry would be aggravated by the proposed regulations. So far from worsening the present conditions, they are in need of drastic improvement. As to the necessity for familiarising the young person with the processes of the industry, which is another condition, no one can contend that, if a young person of 14 cannot become familiar with the processes in a 44-hour week, a 48-hour week will make any difference. Another point is that many local authorities, including the Lancashire County Council, prescribe, as to beneficial employment in the Education Act, no young person between 14 and 15 shall be employed for more than 36 hours a week.
I ask the Under-Secretary to examine the cruel ironic inconsistency which will now be created. A young girl of 14 leaves school at the end of this summer term. She goes into a cotton mill. If these regulations are imposed, she will commence to work a 48-hour week and, if the regulations are approved, she will continue to do so because she will have been employed at the operative date of the regulations. If her cousin becomes somewhere in the middle of November she will not be allowed to go into a cotton mill at all, not because the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough so to frame his regulations that they will not apply to young persons between 14 and 15 who are not now in the industry, but because the Lancashire County Council has laid it down that they will not even tolerate 44 hours. They insist on 36 917 hours. They have more morality in the matter to the extent of 33⅛ Per cent. than appears to be in the possession of the Home Office.
We are dealing with children. You cannot change the characteristics of a child merely by a clever piece of legal terminology in an Act of Parliament. You do not by statutory provision change a child in a night to a young person, no matter how many capital letters you may use in spelling the two words. Many Members are familiar with "Acquisitive Society." In that great book Tawney says:In England a new race of nearly 900,000 souls bursts upon us every year and if, instead of rejuvenating the world, they grind corn for the Philistines and doff bobbins for mill owners, the responsibility is ours, into whose hands the prodigalities of nature pour life itself, and who let it slip aimlessly through the fingers that close so greedily on material riches.I move to reduce the Vote in order to give the Committee a chance of saying what it means by a good society. Do we believe in a society which deliberately and diabolically exploits some of its children in this fashion, or a society which provides ever-expanding opportunities for health and education? The draft regulations cannot be justified morally or economically, and this House ought to express its complete disapproval of the proposal to impose on other people's children conditions which we would not tolerate for our own.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Sir Cyril Entwistle
I am sure we have all listened with very great sympathy to the hon. Member's eloquent and sincere speech. There can be no question that every Member of the House is desirous of reducing the hours of work of young persons, but in this country we obtain our reforms by adjustment and by alterations which can be practically achieved without causing such injury to industry that the benefits of reduced hours for young persons would be lost through the disadvantages that it imposes on the industry as a whole. I am rising only to deal with an industry which affects my own constituency, and to deal with the regulations as affecting the cotton textile industry. We all want to reduce the hours of labour to the maximum extent that is practicable without greatly prejudicing the industry concerned. It is true that the trade unions in the industry 918 did oppose the application for an inquiry under this Act to extend the 44 hours, which is the standard number of working hours allowed for young persons, but the employers' associations put forward this application on the ground that it was of vital importance to the industry that these regulations should be made.
It would not be quite obvious from the hon. Member's speech that the Factories Act started with placing the maximum hours for young persons at 48, and it was in Committee that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer conceded the Amendment which reduced the hours for young persons under 16 to 44. That was contained in Section 71 (2). But an essential condition of the Amendment was that, if certain conditions were fulfilled as regards the class or description of factory, there should be an extension of the 44 hours to 48. Those conditions were very carefully laid down, and the Amendment was accepted only on those conditions being incorporated in the exceptions. [Interruption] I do not say that every Member agreed to those conditions, but it was on those conditions that the reduction from 48 to 44 was inserted. They were by no means light conditions which can be easily complied with. They were conditions of a very stringent character, and it had to be shown that they were vital to the industry. The first condition that had to be satisfied was that the industry in that class or description of factory is so dependent on the employment of such young persons that it would be seriously prejudiced unless the hours were permitted to be increased. The hon. Member quoted from the Chancellor's speech to indicate that he gave no suggestion that an application applying to the textile industry would come within the exemptions provided in this section.
§ Mr. Ridley
I do not want to misrepresent the Chancellor of the Exchequer, especially when he is not here, but if the extract from his speech which I have quoted is carefully read, it will be found to convey the impression that regulations would not be made in the case of the industries quoted, and that exceptions would be exceptional. My hon. Friends hesitatingly accepted the Clause for that reason.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
I really cannot accept that as a fair interpretation of what the 919 Chancellor of the Exchequer said in Committee. I have his words here, and I think they give exactly the opposite impression. In consenting to the Amendment reducing the hours from 48 to 44 he made it quite clear that exemptions should be permissible on the grounds with which I am dealing, and in illustrating the need for exemptions being possible, if those conditions are satisfied, he illustrated the cotton industry. He used these words:There are industries— my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) knows this very well, as do others, particularly the hon. Member for Batley (Mr. Brooks) — in which there is a very close interdependence between the different classes of labour— what has been called "team work" by one or two people. I need not give illustrations, since they are known, but they are extremely important and cover, in the case of the textile industry, a very large part of the work." — [OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee B) 20th April, 1937, col. 1295].In giving that illustration he was indicating the class of case which would be entitled to exemption as complying with the conditions on which exemption can be granted, so I suggest that, so far from the Chancellor of the Exchequer having given the impression when the Factories Act was going through Committee that an exemption could be granted to all the spinning and weaving factories, as these regulations provide, he expressly indicated that that was the type of case in which exemptions would be granted. The first condition was that the industry is dependent upon the employment of young persons, and that it would be seriously prejudiced unless the hours were increased. Why can it be said that in the cotton industry this condition is peculiarly satisfied, probably, far more so than in any other industry that could be selected? It so happens that in the Lancashire cotton industry there are machines on which young persons are employed either in preliminary processes on those machines or in assisting the adults who are working on those machines, so that if the young persons who were not so employed the whole machine would stop.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
Apart from young persons who were already engaged at the date of the regulations coming into force the exemption which was recommended by the committee of inquiry and which is now contained in these regulations applied only to young persons of 15. Exemption is not granted to young persons of 14 unless they are actually in employment at the time the regulations come into force. [Interruption.] The raising of the school-leaving age would mean, in practice, that young persons of 14 would not be available for these processes in the cotton industry.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
If you remove all the young persons of 14 that is an additional reason for allowing the young persons of 15 to be engaged on these processes if their non-engagement will be seriously detrimental to the employment of adults.
Is the hon. Member telling us seriously that the cotton industry could not just as well engage children of 16 as 15? Does he really mean that children of 16 would not do the work as wel1, or even better? I do not believe that to be so.
§ Sir C. Entwistle
Many factors arise in connection with the employment of young persons. There is, no doubt, the question of the costs of production, if the industry is to survive. Everyone will admit that the cotton industry is having a harder time than any other industry in this country. A committee which spent five days hearing all the evidence put before it was satisfied that the processes on which young persons are employed in the cotton industry are not injurious to their health. Furthermore, there is the third condition. I have been trying to deal with the three conditions but have been interrupted in the process. The second condition is that it is not injurious to health that these young persons should be so employed.
The third condition, and it is an important one— [Interruption] — I said that this committee of inquiry, which was composed of independent persons and heard evidence for five days, found as a fact that the employment of young persons in these processes is not injurious 921 to their health. It is true that no employment in a factory can be good for anyone, adult or young person, and it is much worse of course for young persons than for adults. We should all be better if we spent all our time in the open air. All these matters are, of course, relative, but it was found that the processes on which these young persons are employed are not arduous in the sense of being heavy manual labour or imposing a strain upon them. They involve, rather, skill and technical proficiency, which these young persons rapidly acquire. And on the whole these factories are large, airy and well ventilated. In so far as conditions of labour must not be injurious to health, that provision is satisfied by the cotton mills as well as it reasonably can be satisfied. That was the second condition.
The third condition that has to be complied with is that the work is particularly suitable for young persons— and that the committee so found— and that their employment on such work would help to train them for permanent employment in the industry. In the cotton industry these young persons are employed as piecers, tenters, doffers and reachers. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) has spent all his life in the cotton industry and knows much more about these occupations than I do, and I think he will admit that a ring doffer eventually becomes a ring spinner, a reacher becomes a twister and a tenter becomes a weaver. Those are natural graduations. The young people are employed on the same machines as adults, and in course of time become qualified for the work for which adults are employed, and the important point is that so interdependent are these processes that if the preliminary processes are not kept in balance with the other processes it has a very direct effect on the wages of the adults.
It may be asked why adjustments cannot be made to reduce the hours of employment of these young persons. If they are to be employed for 44 hours a week and the adults for 48 on the same machines, clearly only two alternatives are possible. Either additional labour must be employed for those four hours a week, and it is an impracticable thing to engage people to work for four hours only, or we should have to double 922 the number of young persons and let them work for 24 hours a week. That would be the much preferable alternative.
There is no doubt at this point of time that the overwhelming argument against that second alternative would be a question of cost of production, but there is another argument. It is that you tend to lose efficiency in the working of these machines if the adult has two sets of young persons employed, one set for half the time and the other for the remaining time. These are real difficulties in the working of the particular processes of the Lancashire cotton industry, and I submit that they are not present in other industries. They peculiarly satisfy the very conditions in the Act and the condition on which the Section reducing the hours to 44 was approved by this House.
References have been made to the shortage of juvenile labour in Lancashire. That is a condition very much to be regretted, and it is no doubt due to the depressed state of the cotton industry; but the very fact that there is a shortage of juvenile labour when such labour is so essential in the present conditions of organisation of the cotton industry is a ground rather for introducing these lower hours gradually and of exempting young persons of 15 years of age from the strict provision of the 44-hour week, in view of the various factors which I have pointed out.
I have put as fairly as possible the points which the employers' associations put before the committee of inquiry. The committee was an independent one and it made a very long investigation, lasting over five days. It found, as a fact, that these conditions, which all would admit, if you are to have any exemption, are stringent but reasonable, had been complied with. I would remind the Committee what those conditions were: That it would be gravely prejudicial to the industry as a whole if those young persons were not permitted to engage in this particular employment, that it would not be injurious to their health and that their employment in such processes tends to train them and secure their employment in after life. On those facts, I would ask the Committee to approve of the regulations, of which a draft scheme has been laid before the House.
§ 11.58 a.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Never did I listen to two Debates in the course of a single week which ran so directly parallel to each other as that which took place the other night on the minimum for agricultural labourers and that which is now taking place. The characteristic feature of the Debate on agricultural labourers and their minimum wage resembles what I see is the characteristic feature of this one. The young people about whom we are speaking this morning are to receive exactly the same treatment as the agricultural labourers received. The committee agreed in principle with the desire to do well by these children and said, in effect: "We all have sympathy with them, but, owing to the circumstances of the case, we are bound to inflict these hardships upon them," I am not impelled to follow the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle), because he has endeavoured, much more fairly than did the employers in the cotton industry themselves, to set out their case for the exemption of these children from the application of the Factories Act in Lancashire. I am glad, in a way, that the first draft regulations being laid are with regard to the cotton industry, because that industry has always been regarded as dependent to a great extent upon the labour of young people. Always, when changes have been contemplated in the law, the difficulties because of the employment of young children have been pointed out.
Let me give an illustration which should prove this conclusively. This is not a question of argument but of facts from experience. My father went into the cotton mill at eight years of age. At that time the employers in the cotton industry were convinced that he could be made into a much better cotton operative by going into the mill at that age than he could possibly be if he went in later, because his fingers were nimble and he could be trained. He was trained from the age of eight. His height was five feet, four inches. I went into the mill— the same mill and the same factory in which he began— at 11 years of age. I went half-time. The employers in Lancashire were so liberal at that time that they thought it to the advantage of young people to spend half their time in the factory and half in school. I have in my possession, and I would not part with it for worlds, a certificate issued by 924 the local authority telling the world that George Tomlinson, at 11 years of age, had put in so many thousand attendances in the course of seven years at school and now, on the authority of the urban district council of that district, had received beneficial employment.
As I look back upon it I think of the days when I attempted to find my way to work on the arm of my father, finishing my sleep as I went through the fields which divided the factory from the home in which we lived, and I wonder how people could manufacture such phrases as those of which my hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) spoke, and such as "beneficial employment." Beneficial to whom? There was only one reason why I went into the mill at 11 years of age. Make no mistake about it. I know the reason. It meant 2s. 3d. a week in the home, in which, at that time, were seven people with an average wage coming in of 26s. per week. The 2s. 3d. per week made it easier for my mother to come somewhat near to balancing the family budget. That was the only beneficial aspect of that employment to which I was sent. My fingers were nimble at 11 and my father's were nimble at eight. I have a girl now 22 years of age. Had I not had experience in the mill and been a little better placed than the majority of mill operatives, she would have gone into the mill at 14 years of age. Her fingers were nimble. Let us get out of our head this idea. There is nothing in it at all. In modern industry nimble fingers are not required. Nimble feet are required in order to keep up with the pace of the machine, but the argument about nimble fingers does not enter into it.
In that respect I would like to take the hon. and learned Member to task, not in any spirit of animosity, with regard to the actual facts of juvenile labour in Lancashire at the present time. He-proved much more conclusively— to himself at any rate, but not to me—than the employers did in that inquiry. I have read the evidence of that inquiry, and I have before me now the findings of that independent Commission. It was held in Manchester. The findings state definitely that although the Committee had come to the conclusion that the employers proved their case to the extent of being allowed the extra hour, they did not particularise, and it was only in 925 general that they agreed that the withdrawal of these young people would be prejudicial to the industry. I want to point out that there are less than 5 per cent. of these juveniles in the cotton industry at the present time, and not a single employer who went into the box to give evidence would answer the question, deliberately put to him by the representatives of my trade union, to whether it would be necessary for him to close down in the event of this regulation not being allowed. They said it would interfere.
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton used one argument with respect to the possibility of the change-over of children, of having, rather than one period of 48 hours, two periods of 24 hours each. I have heard the argument many times before. He said it would have the effect that there would be less efficiency in the working of these machines if two sets of employés were engaged. That argument has been used by the Lancashire employers for quite a long time. I want to give the secret behind it. It is not a question of less efficiency; it is a question, very often, of bringing to book the individual who is responsible for any faults that may happen in a given time, and, if there is an interruption at a given place, there may be difficulty in finding who is the culprit that is responsible for a bit of cloth that has been spoiled or some twist that has gone wrong. But whenever any employers in Lancashire receive an order from the Government in connect with rearmament, where it is necessary that more hours of labour should be put in than before, they attempt to introduce, and often succeed in introducing, the shift system. What happens then? The very machines which cannot be entrusted to two sets of young people are entrusted to two sets of adults, and the same difficulties arise, but the machines are kept going, because the production is required in that particular factory.
Again, the suggestion is made that there is a shortage of young labour in Lancashire. Of course there is a shortage of young labour in Lancashire. What is the reason? It is the very reason that I pointed out in the debate on the wages of the agricultural labourer. It is not the old agricultural labourer who leaves the land; it is the youngster who grows 926 up and sees all that has taken place with regard to his father and mother, and the conditions they had to put up with. That is what is happening in Lancashire. Who are the children that go into the mill? Two doctors gave evidence. It is not often that I show animosity towards my fellow men; I like to think kindly of them; but I hate to see people in good circumstances come along and suggest that it is not detrimental. Who are the children who go into the mill? Who are the children that we can recruit for the mill?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The doctors said in evidence that it would not be prejudicial to the health of the children if they were employed in these large airy mills— I hope I may be forgiven this reference to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bolton— which I do not recognise. I have lived in Lancashire for a long time, and I am dealing with a point of fact. I know most of the mills in Lancashire, and, with very few exceptions, I should not recognise them under the description that was given by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton.
§ Mr. Wakefield
Did the medical evidence deal with the length of time worked? Was it just prejudicial to the factories, or was evidence brought in with regard to hours?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The same thing applies. If it is prejudicial for them to work 44 hours, it is prejudicial for them to work 48 hours. It is all a question of degree of prejudice. You do not say that, because a man can withstand poison for 23 minutes, but would die in 25 minutes, therefore the poison is good for him for 23 minutes. It is all a question of degree, and the doctors were answering questions that were put to them in connection with the inquiry, so that it was a question of hours— whether it would be prejudicial for them to work 48 hours as against 44, and that was the evidence they gave. But this is the point that aggravates me. I say unhesitatingly that there is not a son or a daughter of a medical man in Lancashire in the mills to-day— not one. Why? Because it is not worth while. That is the one reason alone.
927 As for the question of recruitment, who are they? The only children who go into the mill— make no mistake about it— are the children who do not get the opportunity of going to a secondary school. In the first place, you have creamed off a section of the community in Lancashire, and have said to them, "We will give you the opportunity of a better education in the future. You can go to the secondary school until you are 16." The creaming off process has begun there. There is another section, those who are 14 years of age, which is the school leaving age at the present time. The children of 16 do not go into the mill for the simple reason that very often the impetus to the parents to send them to the secondary school is just in order to qualify them not to go into the mill. Because of their experience in the cotton mill, they want to keep their children away from it. The sacrifices that I know are being made by parents in Lancashire to send their children to the secondary school are in the main due to the fact that they want to keep their children out of the cotton mill. Therefore, there is a restricted field.
There are the children of 14, but even these children, many of them are attending our new modern central schools, where they get a better type of education than has ever been given before. The one thing in the minds of the mothers and fathers in Lancashire, when they send their children to the central school and see these new developments, is that they may acquire sufficient skill with their fingers and brains to enable them to escape the mill. It would not be possible to recruit labour for the Lancashire cotton mills at all at the present time if it were not for economic circumstances. Make no mistake about that. The only children in Lancashire who are going into the mill are the children of parents who cannot afford to see them walking the street and cannot afford to send them anywhere else. They drift into the mills; they do not go into the mills to-day. Throughout the history of the cotton trade— because this has been the experience for the last 50 years; it is not something that has just come upon the cotton industry; it is not just related to the slump that has taken place in the industry— throughout the history of the cotton trade for the last 928 century the tendency has always been to drive the children away.
I suggest that this House, and particularly the Home Office, not only from the point of view of health but, I would suggest to the employers, from the standpoint of the industry, could have been doing something to make this industry-attractive to the young people. Reference has been made to what is being attempted through the Education Act when the new school leaving age comes into operation, and I realise the value of the provision that has been made by the Committee for not allowing these draft regulations to apply to children until they are 15 years of age, and for determining the date oh which the school leaving age comes into operation. I think that that was the only logical thing to do. What is the position, and why were they driven into that position? The answer is here. They say quite definitely that they were compelled to recommend this because the employers had made it clear that, whatever happened with regard to the 44 or 48-hour week, they would not employ young children on the basis laid down by the Lancashire Education Committee as necessary to qualify for beneficial employment— in other words, that they would let the machines stop or find some other method of keeping them running if a 36-hour week was enforced, either by the Lancashire education authority or by any other educational authority. Therefore they said it must not apply to children until they reach the age at which under the Exemption Clauses of the Act of 1936 they would be coming into the open market. So we have got practically a 12 months' release for these children under the draft regulations that are put before us. There is one other thing that I want to ask the Under-Secretary to do in that regard, and that is to see to it that in every other industry where draft regulations are drawn up this same Clause is inserted, because, unless that is done, the anomaly will be created in those districts which it has been sought to avoid in Lancashire by the reference to the cotton, woollen and other industries.
Every month that is rescued for the children, every month that the children are saved from attendance in these places, is a month to the good. Although I realise that the Committee were driven to that position by a county council 929 that is more Conservative than the National Government from the standpoint of political complexion, yet the Committee saw the necessity, and many of them are cotton employers. Why? These people who are interested in education have been carrying on also the business of the cotton industry, and they have definitely come to the conclusion that unless in some way they can make the industry attractive to the young people the death-knell of the industry has been sounded, not from outside but from inside; the seeds of destruction are there because of the treatment that has been meted out to the children. I do not want to quarrel with the composition of the tribunal. I have read the evidence and the conclusions of the Committee, and I cannot help feeling that they paid more attention to the needs of the industry than to the needs of the children. In my judgment that is the wrong way about and conclusively a case ought to be proved for an industry before you begin to sacrifice children's lives to it. For these reasons I shall support the reduction of the Vote. I had not the advantage of being in the House when the Factories Act was passed, but I have read the evidence and the report of the Standing Committee. It seems to me that to include in an Act a certain standard and then to allow regulations to be made so that that standard will be administered out of existence, is a wrong principle.
§ 12.18 p.m.
I regret that the House is not full of Members to-day, for, to my mind, there is nothing more important before the country than the question of the treatment of our young people. I am convinced that it was the wish of this House that young people under 16 should not work for more than 44 hours a week. That was the wish of the whole House of Commons, and in my opinion it is still the wish of the House of Commons. Those of us who are here to-day wish, before the time when these regulations come in, to arouse the House of Commons, and if we cannot arouse the House of Commons we want to arouse certain sections in the country and make them arouse the House of Commons. I never heard the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) speak with so faint a heart as he did to-day. It was quite obvious 930 that he was speaking for a certain section of his constituents. But he did not make out a case. If his own child were affected he would not dare to bring forward such arguments. I am sorry he spoke as he did, although I understand that sometimes we have to speak for our constituents. But I say to the hon. and learned Member "Go home and tell them that you never spoke in this House with so faint a heart, and never made out so bad a case."
What was the case? I missed the first point of it, but perhaps the hon. and learned Member will tell me what it was. I remember his second point. It was that the cotton industry could not get on without these children. I want to say here and now that every one who has been in this House for the last 10 years knows that there is something radically wrong with cotton. The reason is largely that it is an inherited industry. Old men start it and leave it to sons and grandsons, finally it gets into the position in which we find it to-day. Every one knows that. That is one of the reasons for the present condition of the industry. It needs reorganisation. It is said that the industry depends on the children of 14 working 48 hours a week. No one dare say that in this House. Reference has been made to the statements of doctors, and to the contention that it was good for children of 14 to work in the factories 48 hours a week. It is time to protest against statements so outrageous. They are the same old arguments that Shaftesbury heard, the same arguments that we always hear when it is proposed to reduce the hours of labour. It can be proved that industries that have reduced the hours of labour, not only for juveniles but for older workers, are making bigger profits to-day than they made when the hours were longer and the industries were not organised. It is interesting to note that well-organised industries are not asking for such regulations as these. The hon. and learned Member's third point was that this work was good for the young people. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) has spoken with authority and knowledge on this subject. While he was speaking I was thinking to myself "My goodness, had I been in this position, had it been me or had it been my child going into the factory under those conditions, the red 931 flag would not be red enough for me; no red flag would be red enough."
I beg the House to rise in protest and not allow the Government to do that which was never intended when the Act was passed. There was not a single Member of the Standing Committee which considered the Factories Act who wanted children to work 48 hours a week. There is still time to stop this proposal. We have been told to-day that there are fewer children in Lancashire going into the cotton factories. The hon. Member for Farnworth said that they would not go unless driven there. That is the tragedy of it. Only the poorest children go into the factories. The cream of the young people has been taken off by other occupations. I am proud of the Lancashire Education Authorities. They are helping to save us. The same thing is happening all over the country, and we ought to be very grateful. I often wonder how in this House and in the country we can talk about the nation keeping fit and about children's clubs, and then consider even for a moment that any child up to 16 years of age should work 48 hours a week. I have evidence here which is most interesting, from the trade unions, and from Miss Adler, who has gone to every one of these inquiries and has done yeoman work. What an absurd House of Commons we shall be if, after we have passed millions to keep children fit, we allow children to work 48 hours a week in the factories. The hon. and learned Member said something about those who start as tenters and doffers and twisters. Then they become M.Ps. If we do not take action now it will look as though we are twisters.
Another reason why fewer children are going into the cotton industry is that fewer children are being born. Of all countries that ought to look after its juveniles, we are the chief. We have a falling birth rate, and, instead of talking about how we are to get the birth rate up, I wonder whether Members would not do better to think of preserving those who are born; seeing that they are fit, and that they grow to manhood. Go into any of the industrial areas, or even into the hotels here, and look at the pitiful little specimens we have got. It is an insult to bring forward these regulations. I am convinced that the Home Secretary will 932 not pass them when he sees them. He has shown great courage and vision in connection with his Criminal Justice Bill. I think his social record is very good; and the social record of his party, so far as young people are concerned, is extraordinarily good. This party has done more for young people in the last 25 years than anybody.
The Home Secretary makes regulations every day. If he passes these he is going to make it impossible for thousands of young people either to get exercise or to attend educational courses. This is one of the most reactionary proposals that have ever been brought before the House. I wonder whether the Prime Minister has looked at this. Have the Cabinet passed it? Is it just something which has been forced on them by the employers? It cannot be the policy of the Government. We are talking of having an election in October. Are we going on the cry that industry needs children of 14 to work 48 hours a week? That is not possible. Even expediency will prevent that. Ask any social worker about this. Do not ask those two doctors. I would not ask doctors at all. What do doctors know about people who are well? They never see anybody but sick people. Ask the mothers. If it is said that it is not injurious to the children's bodies, what about their minds? I do not think there is anything more tragic than to see children of 14 compelled to work. We have heard pleas on behalf of the refugees, the children of China, Spain, and other countries. We ought to have more pleas made on behalf of the children here. We get the House crowded for something that seems of vital importance, yet when it is a question of these young people there is hardly anyone here. Of course, it is Friday; but even if it were Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday there would not be many Members here.
There is no sacrifice that would be too great to make to keep our young people out of the factories, certainly until they are 15; and I hope that some day we shall keep them out until they are 16. Of all the periods of life this is the most important. You do not find the totalitarian States overworking their young people. In Russia they will send women down the 933 mines, but they take great care of their children. Italy, Germany and Russia are wise enough to know that, not from a spiritual point of view but from a purely material point of view, it is madness not to take the greatest care of their young people. I beg every hon. Member to look into this. If the cotton industry or any other industry say that they have to have children of 14, ask them to try the children of 16. It is nonsense to say that the little hands, the nimble fingers are essential. What we need is trained minds. Look at what Rugby has done. That is the only town in the country which has adopted the whole of the Fisher Act, and it has never had any juvenile employment problem. The position there is magnificent. Instead of passing these regulations we should insist that the whole country should put the Fisher Act into effect. Then this problem would not come up.
Nothing is more pathetic than the way in which opportunities have been wasted, because of the blindness that has been shown. One saw that blindness in 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1923, when we were fighting for the Fisher Act. If we had had it put into effect we should have had no juvenile employment problem at all. I appeal to hon. Members, and I appeal above all to the young men. I know their hearts are in the right place, and I hope they will start a rebellion. It would be a very good thing for the Government if you had a quiet little rebellion. You need not tell the papers about it, but you could go to the Government and say that you are young at heart, and that— [An Hon. Member: "Your boss is there."] I am certain the Chief Whip would not want his boy to go into the factory at 14, and work 48 hours a week. I ask the Chief Whip, who is all-powerful, to look into the matter.
§ Sir Herbert Williams
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the Noble Lady to address somebody who is standing outside the House?
I was going to draw the Noble Lady's attention to the fact that she is not in order in addressing somebody outside the House.
The Chief Whip ought to come inside. Parliament has power to turn down these Regulations. 934 If we do not, it will be an everlasting disgrace that at this time of national crisis we did not do our best, not for a section but for the whole country, by guarding the lives and health of our juveniles.
§ 12.34 p.m.
Mr. Owen Evans
We have had two extraordinary speeches, which impressed me very much. I do not pretend to know anything about the conditions of work in the cotton industry in particular. It is refreshing to have speeches made here which certainly show a clear knowledge of the subject with which they are dealing. Speaking as one who is engaged in industry on an extensive scale, I cannot help feeling that the House of Commons would not have accepted Section 71 if they had really believed that there would be wide use made of it. I believe that most of those who are engaged in industry are amazed at the number of applications under this Section which have been disclosed to-day, and I would like the Undersecretary to give us more definite information as to the nature and scope of the applications that have already been made. If I understood my hon. Friend correctly, there have been 17 applications in respect of which inquiries have been ordered, and the Committee would like to know how many other applications have been received, in respect of what trades, and how many people are affected?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Is the hon. Member aware that no applications have been received from his own country?
Certainly no application has been made by any industry with which I am concerned, and I do not think that there is any important industry in this country which, if properly organised in its production, need take advantage of this particular Section. We may pride ourselves that some progress has been made even since the time when the Labour party were in office and introduced a Factory Bill, as the provision made in this Section is a little in advance of what was suggested a few years earlier. Therefore, I think it can be said that public opinion is progressive and more conscious of the necessity of doing something drastic in regard to the employment of juvenile labour.
It is true to say that the health of young persons employed in industry has 935 improved enormously during the past 20 or 25 years, and that that is due very largely to careful medical supervision and inspection not only with regard to the health of the individual, but also with regard to the conditions and atmosphere of the factories and the conditions affecting employment. Figures have been published of the medical examination of young persons of 20 and 21 in connection with the Military Training Act, and I must confess that I have grave doubts with regard to those figures and the slovenliness with which the examination may have been conducted. I do not believe that it is possible in five minutes to make a thorough medical examination of any individual. I am glad to give the information to the Committee that in one of the industries with which I am connected there were 35 young persons due to undergo training, and I had them thoroughly medically examined, including X-ray and an examination of the heart, and the report of the medical officers was highly satisfactory. It is amazing that there should be a big industry desiring to take a retrograde step. It really must have become old-fashioned due to hereditary reasons, and it wants some new blood in it in order to reorganise it.
I also want to draw the attention of the Committee— and I would like the Under-Secretary in the course of the debate to give some information on this matter— to another very important section of the Factories Act. I refer to Section 11. I put great important upon that Section, which deals with power to require medical supervision in factories. The cotton industry is not the only industry in this country which is an old and languishing industry. The greatness and prosperity of this country in the future will depend not so much upon these old industries as upon the establishment of new industries in the country, including particularly industries of a chemical nature. In all these industries problems of great gravity arise which cause uneasiness and worry to those concerned with the management, and I ask the Under-Secretary to state whether progress has been made in establishing medical supervision in factories as contemplated in Section 11 of the Act, as I regard that as one means of improving the health of the workers and the conditions of labour in factories.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
I believe that every speaker, with the exception of one, has been in agreement as to the undesirability of working juveniles for 48 hours a week. I regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) is no longer in the House, as I would like to deal with his argument, which was that it was in the interests of the cotton industry that these juveniles should be employed for the longer hours. No one who cares for the employment of our people can be disinterested in the welfare of the cotton trade, but I, personally, feel that, if the welfare of a trade depends upon the over-working of young children, then, the sooner it is wound up the better. And I do not believe it is true to say that the cotton trade is dependent upon these few children working for these extra hours. As the noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) said, it is the old argument which has been heard on every occasion when any effort has been made to ameliorate conditions or to progress. When we passed the Factories Act, which we did with pride and with pleasure, and on which we congratulated the Government, most of us truly believed that in future it would be the rarest possible thing for a child of 16 to work more than 44 hours per week, but if these regulations are passed, I am afraid that it will no longer be a rare thing, and vast numbers of children will have to work 48 hours a week.
With regard to the argument as to whether or not it is bad for the children's health, what two doctors said in regard to their physical health leaves me absolutely cold. I was told 14 years ago by three doctors that as long as I lived I could never hope to be on my feet for more than an hour a day. Upon what do they judge health? Surely, it is rather reactionary to judge the health of a child on the health of the body alone. Have we not learned that true health is health of mind as well as body, and can a child have a healthy mind who has to go to work for 48 hours a week and has no time for recreation and for the extension of its education? In every industry where there has been facility and encouragement of after-care and after-education, the industry itself has developed.
937 One hon. Member said that there was a scarcity of juvenile labour. I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth that you will go on having a scarcity and having an appalling birth rate if you treat the child at the age of adolescence in a way that is unwise. These girls who go into industry at the age of 14 are the future mothers of the nation, and whether they will be physically perfect for motherhood depends, perhaps, more than anything else on how they are treated from the age of 12 to 18. Therefore, it is very undesirable that these girls should be doing anything which in any way will fatigue them in a degree that will be detrimental to their after life. They must be fatigued if they are to be at work for 48 hours a week. The same argument applies to the boys.
I beg the Government to reconsider these regulations. I shall vote for a reduction of the Minister's salary. I realise that we are going through difficult times, but this is the wrong way in which to economise, and the wrong way in which to save an industry. One hon. Member spoke of the excellent central schools. It is a farce to spend large sums of money on better education if the whole of that education is to be wasted by children going into industry at too early an age and working too long hours. Part of the education we give to-day is of an unpractical nature. In many instances we are spending so much money on building central schools which in some cases we are not able to afford. I know that in the West Country are are spending money in building central schools. I speak particularly of Frome, when we could very well have utilised the admirable schools in the villages, which would have been infinitely better for the health of the children and for the purses of the ratepayers. Let us have a more practicable idea of the way to spend our money. Do not let hon. Members come to this House and say that the welfare of the cotton industry is depending upon overworking our young people. That is a pitable suggestion. The Government who have so admirable a record in what they have done for the health of the nation and the welfare of the young people, ought not to undo their good work by these ridiculous regulations.
§ 12.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Woods
Those of us who were on the Standing Committee which dealt with 938 this Bill felt when we had finished the Committee proceedings, although we were not very happy about them, that by reducing the hours of juvenile employment from 48 to 44 we had at least achieved something that justified us, and gave us some satisfaction for having spent so much time upstairs. But when we learned that there was to be an inquiry into the conditions in the cotton industry and that the result of the inquiry might be that the Home Secretary would give his consent to an increase of the hours of children of 15 to 16 to 48 per week, we felt that we were going back again and that we had been swindled. We feel to-day very strongly that a tremendous injustice has been inflicted upon thousands of young people.
Those of us who listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) felt that there we had the authentic voice of the people of this country, and when we listened to the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) we felt that we had the echo of the reactionary voice that has been speaking throughout the centuries— an echo of that same voice which has contended that it was necessary for the father of the hon. Member for Farnworth to be sent to the mill at the age of eight, and for the hon. Member for Farnworth to go into the mill at 11. All along the line there has been no progress in that regard. When I hear hon. Members opposite who belong to a Party which has persistently endorsed that retrograde voice, a Party which has embodied the policy of that voice in legislation to the detriment of the people of this country, claiming to be progressives, all I can say is that this Committee has an opportunity to-day of reversing that policy by supporting the reduction of the Vote.
The issue is very simple. We have to decide what is the major claim upon the interest and attention of this House, whether it is the interest of industry or the human interest, whether it is the process by which profits are made for the few, or whether it is the health, the happiness and the education of our people. I maintain that the only way of achieving a satisfactory industry is by subordinating industrial processes to human needs. There is no economic prosperity unless it is reflected in the lives of the people. 939 The question of the health of the people is our main consideration. The hon. and learned Member for Bolton has put the point that at the inquiry it was shown that the cotton industry needs this juvenile labour to work extra hours. His second argument was that this is not detrimental to the health of the young people. The only evidence that we have had so far is that of two doctors. I shall not be quite so harsh on the medical profession as the Don. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate). There are good, bad and indifferent doctors, just as there are good, bad and indifferent Members of Parliament. If an effort had been made to secure the representative voice of Lancashire medical men, especially those who have practised among the poor people, who are the operatives in Lancashire, or the school medical officers who know these children before they go into industry and have to deal with them after they have gone into industry, I am sure a very different opinion would have been given.
The third point, which was not developed, was that here is a justification for the extension of hours, because it is preparing and equipping these young people for permanent employment in industry. Those who know the conditions in Lancashire know the pitiable results there of permanent unemployment for a considerable proportion of the population in every town and village. How can we justify the employment of these young people for these long hours in Lancashire on the ground that it is qualifying them for permanent employment, while their own parents are walking the streets looking for jobs? There seems to me to be no argument for it. One realises the ultimate futility of these children coming from school and being sent into the factory and made to work these long hours in these circumstances. Why should we not give their parents a chance of work? I am not very happy about the inquiry that has taken place in regard to the cotton industry. From what I can gather, there was very little time for preparation for the inquiry, which was held at short notice. It was more or less a hole-and-corner inquiry. The whole of the evidence so far as the employers were concerned seems to have been taken from one federation. It is well known that in the cotton industry the Federation of Employers that exists does not represent 940 the whole of the employers and that when it speaks it speaks only as a majority opinion.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary what effort was made to secure the evidence of employers in the cotton industry who were prepared to insist on and to apply the 44-hour week for these juveniles. Was any effort made? I can give him the name of employers, owners of textile factories in Lancashire, who are anxious to apply a 44-hour week for juveniles. If one employer or a group of employers in any industry are satisfied that they can make this step forward and discontinue the employment of young people for 48 hours a week, it should be the standard and we should not legislate in the interests of those who, because of incapacity or greed for profit, are anxious to perpetuate the bad old system. I am not interested in the cotton industry but I am interested in certain other industries, and I can see in this a very bad precedent. The aspirations which we entertained by the passing of the Act will be wiped out if we do not make a stand on this matter. Several other inquiries are going forward, and it is because we see the possibility of many thousands of young people being robbed of their legitimate opportunities for enjoyment and recreation that we appeal to the Minister to review this matter and to hon. Members of this House to assist us in improving the conditions of employment for young people in this country
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
I am grateful indeed to the Opposition for raising this important matter this afternoon and giving the Committee an opportunity of putting pressure upon the Government and on public opinion in favour of a reduction in the hours of young persons. I am grateful for the speech of the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley), and I have only one small point of difference with him which I will deal with at once. He blamed the Home Secretary. I do not think that was fair. The people who are really to blame are ourselves and public opinion at large. If he had moved to reduce our own salaries by 10 I could go into the Lobby with him, but I cannot go into the Lobby to reduce the salary of the Home Secretary, because it is we who are responsible for the posi- 941 tion in which the Home Secretary finds himself. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) seemed to refer to 48 hours as the pre-Act standard and to imply that by Section 71 we had reduced it to 44 hours. In fact, the pre-Act standard permitted hours up to 60.
§ Mr. Denman
That is a happy assumption, but I am afraid the majority of the Committee had no such optimistic feeling. A 48-hour week was an improvement on the existing law. We fought for 40 hours, and we obtained 44, with possible exceptions, and I for my part never under-rated the dangers of that possible exception, nor did I ever imagine that there would not be cases in which that exception would be applied. Our duty is to see that the application of the exception is reduced to as small an area as possible, and to make it clear to the Home Secretary that this House would not stand for an administration of the Act which in fact would mean 48 hours as the normal working time for children under 16.
§ Mr. Ridley
How can the hon. Member make that clear to the Home Secretary unless he votes for the Amendment?
§ Mr. Denman
I think we shall make it sufficiently clear by debate. By voting for the Amendment we should be blaming the Home Secretary who as far as I can see has done nothing unfair in the administration of the Act. I think we should encourage the Home Secretary in resisting any pressure to administer the Act to the disadvantage of children.
Does not the hon. Member think that it is a good way to show our disappointment with the Home Secretary in allowing so many exceptions, which will affect thousands of young children, by voting for the Amendment? Is it not better to go into the Lobby and show our disapproval? The vote is more powerful than the tongue.
§ Mr. Denman
I do not think on this occasion that a Vote is anything like as powerful at the tongue. I am sure that the Noble Lady's vote will exercise far less influence than her most interesting 942 speech. We must realise the simple fact that the Home Secretary is bound by Statute. Contrast has been made between the action of the Home Secretary and the action of the Lancashire County Council. Both of them have to administer an Act. The Home Secretary has to administer the Factories Act and the Lancashire County Council has to administer the Education Act. I rejoice that education authorities throughout the country are making use of the Education Act, in a way which I hoped they would, in so limiting the hours of children entering industry as to make something like a small revolution in this matter. I am extremely pleased to see that so many large authorities are insisting on hours not exceeding 36 or 40. If we gave the Home Secretary the Education Act to administer he could have done the same, but we gave him this Section 71 instead in which he is obliged, if he administers it fairly, to have inquiries, and he is in a semi-judicial position in relation to these inquiries. I want us to put the utmost pressure upon the Home Secretary to administer the Act for the benefit of these children, but we must admit that it was our own action that has put him in the position of having to administer Section 71.
Having said that, I want to return to what is a far more important matter, and that is the complete agreement between hon. Members on the necessity for shortening the hours of these children. Forty-four hours was a compromise, it was not what we wanted, but we are rapidly, under the leadership of the education authorities, coming to see that 44 hours is excessive. All the old arguments cut no ice at all. There is the argument that they are necessary for the industry. The hon. Member for Finsbury pointed out that there are textile firms in Lancashire who can manage on 44 hours and even less. There is the well known case of Tootal Lee and Co. where children are allowed to take off seven hours a week for education. It is, therefore, quite clear that 44 hours a week is a possibility in that industry. Of course, the evidence that these long hours are injurious is overwhelming. The admirable reports of the factory inspectors show that again and again. The 1937 report of the Chief Inspectors of Factories has already been quoted, and I will quote another passage from it: 943The incidence of accidents to young workers under the age of 18, in proportion to the numbers in employment, is greater in frequency and sometimes in severity than to adult workers of the corresponding sex.It is obvious from the figures that the majority of the cases occurred during the first two years of employment. Clearly, in those first two years there must be shorter hours if the risk of accident is to be lessened. It is clear, moreover, that these children suffer fatigue, and not on1y is that fatigue a cause of accidents, but it prevents the children from having that reasonable development of mind and body which we expect our children to have in these days. I think we often look at this problem from a wrong point of view when we argue for shorter hours merely on the ground that long hours are injurious and unnecessary. The point of view from which we should look at the problem is the more positive one that we must provide such conditions of employment as give the best possible chance of development and training to children. If instead of seeking to prevent injury, you alter your outlook and say that employment in industry for children is tolerable only if it is such that it enables them to attain, not perhaps the best possible development, but the reasonably best development of which they are capable, then you have a more constructive outlook from which to approach the whole problem.
Is a given employment consistent with the best use and development of the brains of the children? I cannot believe that 48 hours in a factory is really the best way of developing any child. To put a person to a machine, to make him mechanically-minded, to destroy so much of that natural human enjoyment, which necessarily is the result when a person is made part of a machine, cannot be a good beginning at the ages of 14 and 15. I think we ought to attempt a positive line of advance. In Committee we cannot suggest legislation, but fortunately, there is on the Statute Book already the Fisher Act, which enables us to proceed with adult education in part-time classes. On those lines, we can make the entry into industry partly educative in a general sense, and consistent with good physique, and also give initial training in the technical work of the job in question. That mixed system of education and work in the factory I believe 944 to be the real solution of our problem. It is on those lines that I trust we shall steadily advance.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
It is indeed interesting this morning, even in this sparsely attended Committee, to get away from the uttermost parts of the earth and to look at the problems right on our own doorsteps. At about this time last year there was developing an international crisis. An attempt was made to solve that crisis by a policy of appeasement. I think the question before us this morning, the sanctioning of these Orders, is an attempt to carry out appeasement to the Hitlers at home, who are demanding that boys and girls in industry shall be employed up to 48 hours a week. It is true that there have been great improvements in factory and mining laws during the last century, but from some points of view, the aspect is still a sombre one, and there are many pressing problems to be solved.
The excellent reports issued by the factory inspectors and the Commissions that have inquired into hours of labour are interesting and informative documents, and they are arresting in some of their details. The 1937 report of the Commission of Inquiry into the hours of labour of young people in unregulated occupations is a volume which every Member and every employer of labour ought to read. Out of it came the Act that was passed recently, and which made some attempt to reduce the hours of work. There was need for that reduction, for we were told in that report that there were 4,170 van-boys working up to 54 hours a week, 1,295 working up to 60 hours a week, 205 working up to 66 hours a. week, and 63 actually working over 66 hours a week. Those hours were exclusive of meal times, which were estimated at six hours per week, bringing the total time the boys were away from home up to 60 hours and even 90 hours. What chance have these youngsters of going in for further education, when they are away from home from 10 to 15 hours a day? They have all too little time left even for sleep, let alone recreation or further education.
The story told of the errand boys, messenger boys, porters and warehouse boys was pretty much the same— 2,431 working from 48 to 54 hours a week, and 230 working more than 54 hours a week. 945 excluding meal times. As regards pages, lift-boys and attendants in hotels, the same story was told, boys were working from 66 to 72 hours a week, and 334 were working over 72 hours a week. The committee stated that a definite need existed for the registration of the hours of those young persons in the occupations reviewed. The evidence received by the committee was given by three main bodies— first, the Committee on Wage-earning Children, which in their evidence recommended that the hours of work should be 40 hours a week; secondly, the Trades Union Congress, which recommended hours not exceeding 40 a week; and, thirdly, the National Union of Teachers, of which I am proud to be a member, which recommended 34 hours a week, with a total altogether of 40 hours a week, the remaining six to be employed in education and organised recreation.
As I have said, the recommendations of that committee led to the Act which was recently passed. Unfortunately, the 40-hour week proposal was not incorporated in that Act. Reference has been made by many speakers already to the loopholes which have been left by the Act and I will not pursue that point. Something more drastic is needed in the interests of these young people and of the nation. The nation is concerned at present with the decline in the birth rate and the high rate of child mortality, and we must, therefore, take all the greater care of those children who remain. The Registrar-General last year reported that 55,687 children under 14 had died. How many Rachels were there, weeping for their children because they were not? The Chief Inspector of Factories tells us that fast year 72 young persons were killed or died as the result of injury and 35,769 young persons were injured in industry.It is unmeet To shed on the brief flower of youth The withering knowledge of the grave.These young people who were done to death or mutilated by industry have had a very early introduction to the knowledge of the grave. The masscre of the innocents which is going on in our factories and on the roads, and as the result of disease, must cease. In the report already referred to, Mr. S. R. Bennett points out that the importance of this subject has not 946 been fully realised in industry generally, and reference is made to the gravity and number of accidents to young people. I was particularly interested to find on page 442 two graphs showing the accident rates among young people when they enter industry. These graphs are for the years 1936 and 1937 respectively. The 1936 graph showed that boys during the first six months at work had the high average accident rate of 30 per cent. In the second six months at work it was 18 per cent., and after 3½ years in employment the accident rate fell as low as 5 per cent. In the case of girls, the accident rate during the first six months of employment was 38 per cent., and in the second six months it was 22 per cent., and after 3½ years in employment it fell to 3 per cent. The 1937 graph showed that the boys' accident rate during the first six months was 44 per cent. —an alarming increase. During the second six months it was 25 per cent. — another increase—and after 3½ years it dropped to 3 per cent. In the case of the girls the accident rate during the first six months of employment was 58 per cent. — more than half— and it was 25 per cent, in the second six months of employment, and dropped to 2 per cent, after 3½ years employment.
If hon. Members look into the ages of these boys and girls they will find that, generally speaking, the first six months employment refers to boys and girls of 14 years; the second six months, to those of 15 years, and that those who have been 3½ years in employment are generally 17 or 17½ years. We know that the length of time that the young person has been at the job is a factor in reducing the accident rate, but I submit that the major factor is the increase of age. Surely this is a potent argument for a later entry into industry, and a powerful reason for keeping boys and girls at school until the age of 15 as the Education Act permits and raising it later to 16. Modern industry makes a greater demand on the worker and those who are going into industry to-day require to be more highly educated than their predecessors. In the "Times" of 15th July, Mr. Harold Butler, Warden of Nuffield College, is reported as saying:Modern industry was growing constantly more complex and, accordingly we needed more highly educated men in all ranks … and for that we needed more secondary education."947 What educational opportunities have these boys and girls who are compelled to work at the ages I have mentioned? Even if the opportunities were available, is it not physically impossible for them to avail themselves of those opportunities and to indulge in that recreation which is necessary if they are to keep fit? To me it is indeed disappointing to find that some children will have their hours of work actually increased by these orders from 44 to 45, and even to 48 hours. It is true that the 48 hours will apply only to the 15-year olds. I remember that it was a Government of the same type as the present Government which increased the mining hours not many years ago, and now we find this Government actually allowing an increase in the hours of children.
Whose bairns are these? We have heard some references already to the children of the doctors who reported that this work would not be injurious to the health of the children. But whose children are concerned in this? They are not children of Members of this House. They are the children of the workers— the people who are forced by economic circumstances to allow their boys and girls to go into industry far too soon. We, in this House, value education far too highly to allow that in the case of our own children. We do not condemn our children to the absence of educational opportunity which these orders will involve. We do not put them to what is sometimes called "beneficial employment." As the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) pointed out, it may be beneficial to the child's parents to have two or three shillings a week added to the family income, but it is far more beneficial to the employer to employ the children, or he would not do so.
We spend money on school medical inspection; we improve the environment of the children by providing better houses and schools; we teach the children to appreciate beauty. Then we allow them to be flung into industry at this age, in many cases to work very long hours, and deny them the opportunity to continue with that music, art and literature which in the schools we have taught them to enjoy. After a day in the quagmire of the quarry, or in the inferno of noise 948 in the factory, or amid the din and danger of the mine, these young people are in no mood to continue their studies. We should remember that the mass production of present-day industry is monotonous, but monotony does not signify ease. We must beware of the danger that mass production may produce mass minds, and tend to destroy individuality.
At present the entry into industry is at the age of 14 to 15, which is a most critical time. The bud is just beginning to open and unfold. What parent is there who has not watched anxiously the unfolding of that bud? What parent is there who has not given all possible shelter to that bud during those critical years? Physical and emotional changes are taking place, character is being formed, and how we shelter our own during those critical times. An old proverb says, "Youth and white paper take any impression." By lessening the hours of work and giving more time for healthy recreation and further education, the impressions received will be more wholesome and a more perfect maturity will be attained. Let us see to it that Shakespeare's declaration, "He wears the rose of youth upon him," is a true one and that the rose is not blasted by a too early entry into factory or industrial life.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is proceeding in this House with the Criminal Justice Bill, and he has raised a storm of protest over one part of that Bill. In this Debate we are asking him, not for justice for criminals, but for justice for bairns, who have broken no law. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to stand firm and not to allow orders which will increase the hours of work of a child. I hope he is not afraid of employers. Much has been heard lately about the encirclement of a certain country, but what we ask is the encirclement of young persons by the protection of the law against wearying hours of labour. Give them more freedom and opportunity for physical and mental development. I believe, and we on this side believe, that industry built up on the bodies, minds, and souls of bairns is a primitive idea exploited by capitalism at home and abroad. I hope the Home Secretary will reconsider these orders and do all that he can to protect the young life of the country.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I feel some hesitancy in entering upon this debate, as I do not represent industry, and I do not know much about the Lancashire cotton trade. On this point of the regulation of the hours of young persons—I cannot call a stout lad of 16 or even of 14 a child— they are just being introduced into industry, and I think it is monstrous that they should be asked to work eight hours a day. Factory work is of all work the most monotonous, and tending a machine must be extremely so. I cannot think of anything more likely to dull the faculties, unless perhaps it is going to a secondary school. Why cannot we work it in this way, that we should go back to the old system of half time for these young persons of 14 to 16 or even to 18 years of age? Four hours' hard work is quite enough up to 18 years of age, above all in a factory. It is something quite different from ordinary, open-air work, or even work in hotels and places like that. The record of Great Britain in the industrial age was very bad. You have only to look at the early days of the last century and to read the speeches of a man like John Bright, who was bitterly opposed to the Factory Acts and to any regulation of factory life, to realise that. It was not until the days of the great Conservative leader Lord Shaftesbury that any humanity was shown in this respect. The Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria, was very strongly desirous in those old days of humanising industry, but unfortunately in those days they did not succeed. There is this to be said for Herr Hitler, that he is very much against the factory system, and says that he does not want a country composed of factory coolies. He wants to humanise the system, and he believes in people being spread over the land, as I do.
I say that a half-time system applied to these young persons would be quite enough, and I do not accept the idea that it is awful for such young people to be employed half-time. If a young person has only four hours' work before him, he will go to it fresher and keener and will be more active at the end of it, whereas at the end of eight hours his powers of concentration are completely gone. I believe that with a half-time system you would get much more out of him. What is the good of all the inventions of science 950 and all the great improvements that we have made if young people, and even older people, are to work the major portion of the day? There are occupations in which the work is so hard that they simply cannot do it. I remember being told long ago, when they used to make ships' chains by hand, that the work was so heavy that the men could work only two days a week and for only two hours at a time. I do not say that factory work nowadays is anything like that, but certanly I think that some system might be devised to make it less arduous for young persons. I aways say that if an industry can thrive only by working young people for long hours, there is something very wrong about the organisation of the industry, and I think the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) put her finger on it when she said that the system has been in existence so long that the employers have never really tried to see whether they could get some better method.
In the Highlands we are prejudiced against anything in the nature of factories. Lord Leverhulme went up to the Highlands and said to the crofters and fishermen there, when he saw them weaving their bits of cloth, "How splendid! I will put you up a factory, and there you will get ordinary employment." They replied, "Do you think we will work to a whistle? No, we will not." The thing failed, because they would not subject themselves to factory conditions. They loved their independence too much, and they wanted to weave with a little loom in their own cottage as and when they liked. If his Lordship had said, "You are getting very bad prices for your stuff, because you do not know how to sell it, and I will sell it for you, on commission," he would have conferred a great benefit on them, but he wanted to set up factories, and the Highlanders said they would rather be poor, but they would be independent. That is the spirit, and it has always been so throughout the Highlands. We could not get that spirit in England because they started with this industrial system, and they used to employ little children of four years old under cruel circumstances, for long hours, down in the pit. I remember reading accounts of them opening and shutting doors at the most tender age, and the children were horribly exploited. After that there grew up the 951 half-time system, and children much younger than those with whom we are now dealing were employed half-time and went to school too. I remember that in one particular place in Scotland the factories themselves had a splendid school, and their scholars who were working half-time in the mills were far ahead of the boys and girls at the ordinary school.
One hon. Member has said that people go into factories because they are compelled, but who works for any other reason? We all have to work to earn our living. There are very few pleasant occupations. The stage is one. People love to act and to sing. Pleading in the law courts is one of the most entertaining of occupations. Farming is another delightful occupation as long as it is not commercialised. I agree with Hitler as to the undesirability of factory work. I remember a factory in the country where the poor lasses had to get up at 6 o'clock on snowy mornings to go to their dreadful occupations. The hours are altered now, and they are much more reasonable. I remember a lace worker who was very successful and owned a lot of property. He told me the way he had managed to accumulate money. He had married at 18 a girl of 16, and they had an enormous family and he had the benefit of all their wages until they got married in the same way. Every son born was worth another £ 100, because he got the benefit of his wages for a certain period.
Now the children of the working classes have been made into a liability, the same as the children of the well-to-do, but they used to be an asset and repaid all that their parents had expended on them. They worked for a few years on the half-time system and repaid their parents the the cost of their upbringing. Now they are a liability, and that is why the population is going down. It will be a serious matter to the country 30, 40 or 50 years hence when, as Mussolini himself said, the democracies will be composed of nothing but old age pensioners. Under that half-time system the family income was increased and they had a bigger supply of nourishing food, which was much cheaper and of better quality than the tinned stuff that we get nowadays. I do not think it is right to have young people of 14 working for 44 hours. One recollects one's own disinclination to work at 14. 952 Children are willing to do a certain amount of work to help their parents but not eight hours a day, day in and day out. They have to travel to get to their work. In London they have to travel a long way, on account of the concentration of the population, and there is no time between sleeping and working. It is not good enough. The foundation of national wealth is a healthy, well-fed population. A certain amount of work is good for everyone, though they do not like it, but they must not be overworked. A 48-hour week is certainly overdoing it for young people. The practical remedy is to make all young people up to 17 or 18 half-timers. If the cotton industry cannot do without these long hours for young people, it is obvious that it is not an industry for this country, but much more one for the East.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
I do not think the Home Secretary can have reason for very much comfort from this Debate. If he likes to take a strong line and refuse to accept the recommendations of the Committee when they result in a 48-hour week, it is clear that there is very strenuous support in all sections of the House that have been represented. He can take: a very definite and strong line. I am sure that he can say with the support of the House that 44 hours is at least the maximum that these children ought to work. It is rather interesting to observe the contrast between the attitude of the local education authorities and that adopted by the Home Secretary, and the commissioners in some respects, when they made certain recommendations. It is more than interesting, it is useful, that we should give some consideration to the reasons why you have this change of attitude by local education authorities from that adopted by employers of labour. I gather that you have on the education committee of the Lancashire County Council a large number of Conservatives. I am told that the majority are Conservatives. There is also a large number of employers on that body. It is rather interesting to observe that that body, composed of Conservatives and employers, adopts a completely different attitude towards this question of hours for juveniles from that adopted by employers when approached individually. Why is that? In passing it throws an interesting light on one of the flaws in 953 Clause 71, I think it is, which arises from the fact that whereas the Home Secretary or the Committee has to deal with individuals or groups of employers and think of the interests of a particular industry, employers who are gathered together on an education committee or on a county council have larger issues in their minds. There they are not concerned only with whether a particular industry makes a profit or not, but with more fundamental issues, and that explains the difference between the decisions arrived at by local education authorities and by the committee when it is approached by individual industries or groups of industries.
I want to put forward the proposition that a reduction of hours is necessary not alone in the interests of the physique, the health and the happiness of the child but as a sound national economic proposition. To anyone who understands the requirements of modern industry it is a case in which humanism pays, in which, from the national point of view, there can be a profit. It may be true that a particular employer can be assisted to carry on by lengthening the hours of employment, and may be able to prove that if hours are shortened he can operate only at a loss, but the Home Secretary, in a great Department of State, has to consider not only the interests of a single industry, but must have regard to the whole national economy.
It has been said over and over again that it is necessary to let these young children go into these industries in order that they may get the requisite training for their work in the future, but anyone who has given consideration even to the basic industries of the country will have been struck by the fact, which was brought out by Jewkes and Winterbottom in their investigations into the cotton industry, that of late years these basic industries have become blind alley occupations for a large number of our children. There is no certainty that if children enter the cotton industry, the coal mining industry or the ship-building industry they can look forward to progressive employment in those industries. Those investigations make it plain that one of the tragedies of modern industrial society has been that even in those industries which have laid the foundation of our industrial greatness there is now no certainty of progressive 954 employment, and that for large numbers of children they are blind-alley occupations. In contrast with the decay of the big basic industries we have the rise of the new secondary industries, which afford a greater variety of employments, with increased mechanisation and increased mass production.
Having regard to the needs of the old-established basic industries and of the newer industries, it is necessary that children who go into industry should be more adaptable, more intelligent and better trained. In the main, though I know there are exceptions, modern industry does not give the training that is required. The apprenticeship system is dying and in many industries is dead. A Home Secretary who was looking after the general interests of the nation would say to himself "Apprenticeship is dying or dead; both in the big basic industries and in the newer industries greater adaptability and more scientific knowledge and intelligence are required, and the industries themselves do not provide the training or develop that intelligence— then who has got to do it, and when has it to be done?" It will have to be done by the State, and in the time cut off from the hours of the children who now go into industry.
The Government will have to bring forward a concerted plan for the technical equipment of all youths who enter the industries of the country and the necessary time must be found for it. I hope that I shall not be regarded as fanciful, but I should like to read one or two observations from Colin Clark's book "The National Income and Outlay." He discusses there the rate of increased productivity of our nation and points out that before 1913 the trend in production was a strong slowing down of the rate of increase. The curve was approaching a very definite ceiling. Then, he says, something happened which increased our power of national production. I am not going to read all that he says but he writes:Something happened and our power of national production went up and up. The ceiling was broken.A number of factors contributed to that, but he claims there was this main factor:We have now broken through that particular limit largely, I think, through the improvement of our technical knowledge and, 955 what is equally important from the point of view of the national productivity, the growing up of a generation of trained and experienced workers and technicians who can apply this knowledge.My argument is that in this modern world, living as we are in an industrial nation, the widespread power of masses of our people to work intelligently, use their fingers intelligently and their brains, and to be adaptable is a fundamental necessity of national well-being, and that to push our children into factory, field and workshop at an early age and to make them work hours which prevent them having the time to develop their intelligence and adaptability is not only wrong to that child but is national economic suicide.
I say confidently that the decrease of hours of labour of young persons is the requisite preliminary to a planned development of adolescent adaptability and adolescent intelligence. As a matter of fact, the reduction ought not to be merely to 44 hours; the figure should be down lower than that. The case against the Government is, as usual, that they are dealing with things piecemeal, first with this industry and then with that industry, listening to the case of this one and that one and giving a decision on each individual industry. That is anarchy. That is not what you need at all in modern society. Some of the claims made by the employers have been ridiculous. I would remind the Under-Secretary of the case put up— I do not know whether hon. Members have read it— by the Ramie industry. It is absolutely absurd, and it is worth putting in to show to what lengths of absurdity individual employers will go in demanding that they should have this increase of hours. The Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State have not only a responsibility to individual industries, individual employers and workmen in those industries, but they have responsibility of a national character. I cannot see that by allowing this to go on and by not making certain that the hours are reduced, they are making any contribution.
I have one final point. It is often thought— I could say it in my own words, but I want to have more authority than myself behind the statement— that modern industry does not need adaptability and skill and that, so far as the mass of the 956 people are concerned, it is entirely automatic; in short, that the moron can be an economic proposition. That is a great mistake, but I do not want the Committee to take my view; I came across an article the other day in "The Year Book of Education," signed by Mr. H. B. Butler. I should imagine that that name will carry some authority here. I shall not read it all, but I want the Under-Secretary to pay some attention to what is said by a man like this:The spread of mechanisation, rationalisation, mass production and the use of conveyors have neither reduced nor eliminated the importance of vocational training, but they have fundamentally changed it. We are witnessing the creation of a never-ending series of new kinds of work "—I want the Under-Secretary of State to give some thought to that matter instead of saying "Shove them into the cotton factory and let them stay there for long hours." How are they to be made adapt able? You cannot meet the situation in that way —and the ceaseless transformation of the needs of the labour market, with their consequent demand for different qualities, different aptitudes, and different capacities on the part of the workers. These, in turn, imply different vocational training, more varied and complex than the apprenticeship needed by the purely manual dexterities of the journeyman of the past. The old classifications of workers as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled no longer correspond to modern requirements. As Henri de Mann says: ' Modern technical methods require of the worker a lively intelligence and sufficient knowledge to understand the increasingly complex and fluctuating processes of manufacture, rather than a long and patient training in muscular movements and manual dexterity. As technical progress continues, the need for a higher standard of education among workers becomes greater.'Mr. Butler quotes other authorities to substantiate that point of view.
The Home Office has a contribution to make. Local education authorities are making theirs and doing so far better than the Home Office. At one time I had great doubts about the practicability of the Education Act, but I must confess that things look more hopeful than I expected them to be.
§ Mr. Cove
I agree, but it is thanks to the local education authorities. These bodies are predominantly Conservative, 957 but they say: "No child must work more than 36 hours." Why? Because, as I have said before, these men not only realise the importance to the individual child, for its physique and good health, but they have looked at the matter from the point of view of the society in which they live. Doctors talk about health and nutrition, but it seems to me that many of them report merely what they are told to report on those matters. The medical profession is going down in the estimation of many people here, because, on these great public issues, they seem to be very partisan. The education authorities are the people who know and who can regard the subject apart from individual interests and individual profit. They have said that 36 hours in work are enough. They have said: "We will give time for the development of this adaptability and the intelligence that is necessary in modern society."
Until the Lancashire cotton owners can guarantee progressive employment, and until they or any other single industry can guarantee that the youths who go into them shall have security of employment, they have no right at all to demand such hours of work as will prevent these children from getting an adaptability that will enable them to do some new job, should they not be kept in one of those industries during their lives. They have no right to cripple the future employment of those youngsters. If you impose these long hours you are chaining these youths to the industry, and you are not guaranteeing them security of employment in the future. This is a big issue. It may appear to be a narrow one, but it is really very big. Someone is needed to get up at that Box and to deal with the subject of the development of the health, the intelligence, the manual dexterity and the adaptability of the whole range of our adolescents throughout our country.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Wakefield
Earlier in the Debate, the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), who made such an interesting and informative speech, spoke about the evidence given by doctors at the inquiry which took place into the conditions of the cotton industry. I intervened to ask him a question, but I think he misunderstood its object, because he proceeded somewhat to chastise me, and said that it was no use giving greater 958 doses of poison. I would remind him and the Committee that certain drugs, when taken in small quantities, act as very excellent tonics; it is only when they are taken in too great quanties that they become harmful and poisonous. So I say now that, so far as work is concerned, I think we all must agree— in fact, we know— that where young people are unemployed they deteriorate mentally and physically. Work is a good thing provided that it is undertaken under right and proper conditions, and that the hours are not too long.
The point I wanted to get from the hon. Member, because I have not seen this medical evidence, was whether it stated that it was injurious to young people to work over and beyond a certain period of time. I understand that the evidence given was that it was not injurious to work up to 48 hours. It may not be injurious to work up to 48 hours, but I would prefer to ask, not whether it is injurious— that is merely negative and destructive— but whether it is beneficial, whether it is of advantage for young people under 18 to work such a long time. I cannot think that medical opinion would hold that it is beneficial to young people to work these hours. It may not injure them, because they may be able to work that length of time, but, if they do work that length of time, they will not have that reserve of energy which is so necessary for young people at that age in order that they may improve their minds by taking opportunities for further educational advancement, and improve their physical health by playing recreational games of one kind and another.
I do not think that young people should have to work these hours, and I said so during the Committee stage of the Factories Bill. I voted against the Government on this very point, and I gave any amount of evidence, which I had been able to secure as a result of my connection with youth movements of various kinds, to show that hours of work round about 48 and 50 a week for young people under 18 are too much. I hope that the Home Secretary will take a firm stand on this point. I know that the Home Secretary and his Department are very keenly interested in this matter, and I think that perhaps the House does not know of all the work which the Home Secretary has been doing and the firm 959 stand he has been taking. I hope we may be given further information regarding what has been done in this connection. I suggest that we must not allow the bringing back of any idea that industry can avoid inefficiency by lengthening the hours of work of young people. I have here a report, made by the National Fitness Council, giving some information about the progress of the national fitness campaign.
The hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley), at the beginning of his speech, made reference, quite rightly, to the National Fitness campaign, and asked what is the use of all the steps we are now taking to provide facilities for young people in the country if they are unable to take proper advantage of those facilities because they are too tired? In this report reference is made to the fact that there are nearly 3,000,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 18 in the countryside, and, after pointing out certain advantages and facilities that exist for some of them, it goes on to say:On the other hand, the conditions under which a large number of boys and girls are still employed leave them little or no time for active recreation during the week, and many of them lack the energy to play games at the week-end. The National Fitness Council are glad to note that the Education Act of 1936, which comes into operation this year, makes the granting of exemption from school attendance conditional on consideration of the health and physical condition of the child. The regulation of hours of employment for young people and the provision of holidays with pay have direct bearing on national fitness. It is indeed clear that the physical education of this large and most important section of the community is unevenly developed, often inadequate, and for large numbers practically non-existent. The majority of those who leave school at an early age get no further physical training, and large numbers have little chance to play games.Lack of facilities may be one reason, but too long hours of employment are undoubtedly another. I have been making enquiries recently as to whether there has been any improvement in this respect, but, unfortunately, I still find that the cases in which young people are employed for too long hours are far too numerous. The work of the various voluntary organisations is being sadly interfered with because young people are either too tired when they arrive at their club to take the part that they ought to be able to take in evening activities, or they are unable to get there because they have not 960 the time. I have here a report made to me privately by the secretary of a very large youths' organisation, which has a membership of approximately 1,000 young people. He says:Most definitely the attendance at the juvenile voluntary organisation clubs is very adversely affected by juveniles coming home late and tired, mostly under 20, and particularly under 18. A contributory factor, in addition to either long or late hours, is the transport difficulty, where they literally have to fight for a stand— not a seat— and consequently they arrive home both late and tired.That is very definite evidence from a man who has wide experience of the difficulties of satisfactorily carrying out the work of the voluntary organisations as is required to be done by the Physical Training and Recreation Act, owing 10 the long hours which young people work. I have another report from the secretary of one of our great national organisations dealing with young people. He gives me a report, made this year by one of their secretaries of a club in a certain town. It says:I have been visiting homes lately to find out why boys are not coming to the club, and in the majority of cases the reply is ' Working late and too tired.' I find that the 48-hour week for working lads is being defeated by employers insisting on their having a longer dinner hour, so that they can employ them later at night.I am taking the opportunity afforded by this Debate to draw the attention of the Committee, and I hope, of the public at large, to the existence of these facts and this position. Hon. Members who have spoken before me have pointed out that there is likely to be a fall in our population, and we have to make up by improved quality the deficiency in quantity. One of the ways in which we can do that is to see that our young people are given a reasonable opportunity, after their hours of work, to build up their mental qualities and to develop their physique by being able to play games and to continue their education.
I have here the latest figures, made up to the end of last month, of some of the grants approved by the National Fitness Council to local authorities and voluntary organisations for the purpose of providing for the leisure time of, and the giving of recreational opportunities primarily to, our young people. There have been grants approved, for swimming baths, over £ 500,000 to local authorities, for 961 various social and recreative centres over £ 232,000, and to voluntary bodies over £ 168,000, for playing fields over £ 464,000 to local authorities and over £ 47,000 to voluntary bodies, and for each pound of grant approved probably another £ 1 or £ 2 will be added from other sources. This is splendid work. This is valuable expenditure which is being undertaken. But what is the use of such expenditure if on the other hand by increasing the hours of work we do not allow our young people to take advantage of the great work that is being done?
I do hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary will watch very carefully this effort by industry to cover up its deficiencies and inefficiency by working young people too long hours. I realise that our industries have to face very fierce competition from the outside world. From information with which I have lately been provided I know that the prices at which we are seeking to sell our goods to the outside world—we have to export and sell to the outside world— are somewhat higher than those of other countries, perhaps because of the various burdens placed on industry to meet the cost of our social services. The only way in which we can make our prices competitive is by increasing our efficiency. There is no reason why that should not be done. It is not increasing our efficiency to work our young people too long hours. One of the ways to increase our efficiency is to make our labour more efficient. I saw the other day a report in connection with a certain industry in which we are being beaten by our American competitors. On investigation it was found that higher wages were being paid and that shorter hours were being worked in America, and yet the prices of the goods that were being sold were lower. Investigation also showed that the quality of the labour in America in this industry was better than that available in this country. Does not that show the importance of not overworking our young people, and of giving them the opportunity, outside reasonable working hours, to improve themselves mentally and physically so that we can be in a position efficiently to compete with other countries in any export trade in the world? I would like to take this opportunity of saying how much I appreciate what the Home Office is doing in this respect, but I do hope that it will sternly 962 resist any tendency from any quarter and any pressure that may be brought to increase the hours of work of young people at this particular juncture.
§ 2.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
The Under-Secretary of State, who has been here during most of the discussion, and the Home Secretary, who has been present for a portion of the time, will have felt that this discussion has been valuable in enabling them to gauge the attitude of mind of the Committee towards this question. I think it is true to say that the general mental attitude towards juvenile employment exhibited in the Committee to-day is on all fours with the attitude exhibited by the Standing Committee which dealt with the Factories Bill. I think I am correct in saying that the majority of the Standing Committee were convinced that 44 hours a week were more than enough for young persons between the ages of 14 and 16. But arguments were advanced and, what is more important, a most effective appeal was made by the then Home Secretary, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to give him the power to make exemptions, and it was said that those exemptions would be very few in number. I want the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary to appreciate that fact, as from the figures given to-day one feels a certain dismay because the applications that have been made and the ease with which exemptions appear to be granted are contrary to the spirit and desire of the Standing Committee at the time when the exemptions were made possible.
At all times, of course, when passing legislation, whilst we might embody certain exemptions in an Act on the plea made by the Minister responsible, we are inclined to overlook the fact that the Act is to be administered probably by an entirely different personality. Therefore I want to make a special appeal to the Home Secretary to appreciate the atmosphere that existed in the Standing Committee when these exemptions were made possible; and I would express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be exceedingly reluctant to grant exemptions, and that where they are made there shall be an undeniably strong case made out for them. I am not persuaded that that case is being made in respect of the cotton industry— not by any means.
963 Stress was laid by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) on the fact that two doctors gave evidence before the inquiry that these longer hours in the cotton industry were not prejudicial to the health of young people. I do not want to cast any reflections on a noble profession, but it is evident from some of the advertisements that we see displayed that there are doctors who would tell me that whisky was good for me, although I know that it would not be good for me. We must appreciate that behind some of the evidence which has been submitted there are vested interests, which are in a position to employ some of these people. That state of things is far too prevalent. It would be better for the Home Secretary to place more reliance on the evidence of the operatives in the industry. There were quite a number of Members of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Factories Bill who had started work at the age of 12 or 13. I gave an illustration to that Committee from my own experience, pointing out that I started work at the age of 13, that I had to be at work at six in the morning and had an hour's journey to make before I arrived at the shop, and that very often I left at 7.30 at night. I know the effect that that had on me. The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) said that if she had had to work such hours of labour the Red Flag would not have been red enough for her.
§ Mr. Viant
It is our experience which causes us to speak so strongly when we see such regulations as these being put into force. The regulations are entirely contrary to the spirit of the Committee upstairs, and, I believe, to the spirit of this Committee to-day. The hon. Member for the Sutton Division said that the cotton industry was largely an hereditary concern. She put her finger on one of the defects of inheritance. I have not the slightest doubt that in the cotton industry, as in many other industries, a great deal of the defects are due to the fact that it is run on an hereditary basis, that the father hands the business on to his son, who, perhaps, has not had a proper experience in the industry. The 964 only way we can cope with the keen competition that we have to meet in the world to-day is by giving our boys and girls a sound instruction in industry and equipping them mentally for their work. To do that we shall have to keep them at school longer than we are doing, and, most important of all, see that their hours at school are put to the best advantage. The Home Secretary, in dealing with regulations of this sort, is going to determine not only the welfare of the industry, but the use that is made of the potential wealth of this country. Our boys and girls are the potential wealth.
I was delighted to hear the appeal that was made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield), and the evidence with which he backed that appeal. He gave us valuable help on the Committee upstairs. As a Member of the council dealing with the question of physical fitness, he is in a position to speak about the health of the young people of this country. I hope the facts that he has given will receive due consideration by the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary. Many of our young people to-day have to undertake a journey of an hour or more to get to their places of employment, they have to start work at about 8 o'clock, and they leave so late that they are too tired to be physically fit or to obtain the instruction which is necessary to achieve either physical fitness or mental fitness. I hope the Home Secretary will not be easily persuaded to allow these exemptions. If he did so, he would be acting contrary to the spirit of the Committee and of the Act. It is a difficult test for him, I agree, but if the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary will take with them the mental atmosphere of the Committee, they will have a good guide in administering this important Act which we have placed in their charge.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Rickards
I rarely speak in this House, because I generally feel that most hon. Members know considerably more about the subject being discussed than I do myself, and so are much more worth hearing. On this subject, I do not pretend to be an expert, but I happen to be a director and managing director of various firms dealing with almost every class of trade in textile— spinning, weav- 965 ing, dyeing and finishing. I should like, from the bottom of my heart, to impress upon this Committee and the country as a whole that those of us who in this case are supporting the Government are just as anxious as hon. Gentlemen opposite to help our fellow-citizens. Take my own case. I live right in the heart of the textile trade, with wool on one side and cotton on the other. I have been brought up in it. I may have been an employer, but many of the employed are my acquaintances and my friends. We on this side feel that hon. Members on that side are actuated by the very highest motives, and I ask them to give us credit for the same motives.
It has been said that there is a great shortage of young people coming into the cotton industry and also the woollen industry, but I do not think that this alteration would make one per cent. difference to the young people who come into those industries. Why? For a very simple reason, and alas, a very sad reason, owing chiefly not to the basic wage, but to the terrible amount of unemployment and the really disgracefully bad wages. We have heard how these extra four hours a week will damage the health of the children. I do not want to exaggerate the position in the slightest. I believe that it will damage their health slightly, but there is something which is damaging the health of Lancashire far more, and that is the low wages, which lead to malnutrition. It is very easy for people who have not been in the trade to find fault with and criticise the manufacturers. We who live in the North country, whether we sit on this side of the House or on the benches opposite, know that the main reason is foreign competition. Take Japanese competition. They run three shifts to our one, and that means reducing their overhead charges by 75 per cent. Their wages also are 75 per cent, lower than the wages we would like to pay Lancashire, and which then would be none too high. What does it mean? Suppose you had a small firm running in Japan paying 20,000 or 30,000 a year in wages and overhead charges, the corresponding amount required in Lancashire, would be 90,000. That is the difficulty. It is that terrible hiatus, that great gap.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Will the hon. Member tell the Committee how it was that in 1892, when I first went into the mill— 966 and I have been in it more or less all my life— there was no Japanese mill in existence, and yet the conditions of which he is now speaking were then in operation?
Is it not true that the Japanese have more up-to-date machinery than we have? I was told by a cotton manufacturer that one of the reasons why it was so difficult for us to compete with them was that they had reorganised their trade and were using better machinery, much of which had been made in this country.
§ Mr. Rickards
The Noble Lady is perfectly correct. I believe that, on the whole, the machinery in Japan, much of which was made in England, is better than ours because it is newer, but, unfortunately, that makes the position of Lancashire manufacturers even more difficult. That is the position we have to face. Again, I do not want to exaggerate and say that the proposal would put people out of the trade altogether. It is too small a thing, but there is no doubt that it will add to the cost. In the old days, as some of us older people will remember, we had the half-time system. Then every mill was full, but if this were done it would mean that only some of the departments would for a part of the day be four, five or six per cent. short. You cannot get people to come in and work for four days a week, and obviously it would mean that the production in the particular department would drop four or five per cent.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I know that the hon. Member does not want to give a wrong impression, but I would like to hear of a single department in a cotton mill that would need to stop for any period of time if this labour was not accessible.
§ Mr. Rickards
It would not need to stop, but if there were fewer people working, the production would be less. It is not only one department; you must remember that the mill is like a chain: it depends upon the weakest link. If you have eight departments and one department is turning out less, all the other seven departments will turn out less. I have heard many flattering and well-deserved remarks from both sides of the Committee with regard to our Home Department. I believe that we all are anxious to try to do our best for the 967 country as a whole. There are people who can put our case 10 times better than I can, and people who, no doubt, would be able to put the case for the Opposition as eloquently as it has been put by hon. Members opposite, and so I would say, let us realise that we all are out to do our best, and I, for one, shall in this case support the Government.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
There is at the present time a greater public interest taken in questions affecting the welfare of young persons and children than there has ever been in the country before, and, on account of the anxieties which have been expressed from day to day at Question time by hon. Members opposite, and on account of the misunderstandings which, to some extent, have been apparent in many speeches delivered to-day, I welcome this opportunity of explaining on behalf of the Government exactly what my right hon. Friend is doing in the great field of administration which he has to cover not only under Section 71 of the new Factories Act, but under a number of other Statutes as well. I would like to give the Committee a general picture of the background against which the Home Office has to work in this administrative field. It is to me a little surprising that so much criticism from the Opposition should be directed against my right hon. Friend and the Home Office on the matter of juvenile employment when I consider the record of the present Government in legislation concerning it.
I also praised the Government for what they had done, but deplored what they are doing now.
§ Mr. Peake
I agree that there has been criticism from all quarters, but perhaps more from the Opposition benches than from the Government benches, and I was saying that, in view of the legislative record of the Government in this field, that criticism is a little surprising. Time moves on, as the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton) reminded us, in this matter, and I will, therefore, in passing, only mention to the Committee the Factories Bill of 1924, which was introduced at a time when my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton 968 (Mr. Rhys Davies) occupied the position in the Home Office which I occupy today. It is a constant pleasure to me to have his pleasant and beaming features looking at me from a photograph above the mantelpiece in my office. Time certainly moves on. The Bill upon the back of which my hon. Friend's name appeared, provided for a 48-hour week maximum for all juvenile labour, without any exception. We are precluded on a Supply Day from discussing the merits of various Acts of Parliament, although some of the speeches to which we have listened have, perhaps, been directed to rather broader issues than Home Office administration. Although I am going to mention the various Acts of Parliament under which my right hon. Friend has important administrative and executive duties, I am not going either to praise or to blame them. That does not seem to be the function of an Under-Secretary upon a Supply Day.
In 1933 we passed the Children and Young Persons' Act, which was an amending and consolidating Act and restricted in a very wide field the employment of children and young persons. It, moreover, forebade altogether the employment of young persons under 16 in street trading, and enabled local authorities, by by-laws, to prohibit similar employment for young persons up to and under the age of 18. The next great legislative action of the Government was the Shops Act, 1934, about which my hon. Friend opposite knows a good deal more than I do. This Shops Act reduced from 74 hours, inclusive of meal times, to 48 hours, exclusive of meal times, the maximum permitted hours for young persons in shops. It allowed a limited amount of overtime for those over 16 only, but permitted no overtime for those under 16. It extended not only to retail shops but to wholesale shops, and it affected no fewer than 400,000 juvenile workers.
The next legislative achievement of the Government was the Factories Act, which has been the principal topic of discussion to-day. That Act reduced for young persons— by young persons in this connection I mean young persons between 14 and 18— the permissible hours, which were 55½ in textile factories and 60 in other factories, down to 48. It is true that at that time many factories 969 were working only a 48-hour week, but the effect of the old legislation was to enable almost unlimited overtime to be worked, amounting, I think, to 400 hours per annum in textile factories and 600 hours per annum in non-textile factories. That Act not only reduced the permissible hours to 48, but abolished overtime altogether for young persons under 16, and limited overtime for young persons between 16 and 18 to 100 hours per annum. Section 98, a very important Section, brought within the scope of these hours' restrictions a totally new class of labour previously unregulated — van boys and young workers of that class. It applied to them the same restriction as regards hours as Sections 70 and 71 did to factory workers generally. The Act also contained many other provisions which have been greatly appreciated by social workers for safeguarding the health, safety, and so forth, of juvenile and other workers.
The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans) asked what has happened under Section 11 of the Factories Act. That Section provides for arrangements to be made, by regulation, for medical supervision in factories where special processes are adopted or undertaken. The position as regards that Section is that so far there has been nothing brought to our notice to show the need for making regulations under the Section. We know that industry generally is paying much more attention to this subject than before, and I have been informed that the industry with which the hon. Member is connected has taken a leading part in this type of medical supervision. The Act has been in operation for only one year, but if cases are brought to our notice where we can usefully make regulations under Section 11, we shall undoubtedly do so.
The Factories Act affected beneficially about 1,000,000 young persons employed in factories. Finally, we have the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, a very important Act, which covers shops and various miscellaneous employments not previously regulated. Those employments may be briefly described as affecting young persons engaged in the transport of goods, errand boys and girls, messengers, lift attendants, laundry workers, and young persons employed in theatres and hotels. That Act provides 970 for a maximum of 48 hours a week for all young persons affected by it, and for a maximum of 44 hours for those under 16 as from 1st January, 1940. It is estimated that the number of young persons to benefit under that Act will be approximately 220,000. The Act extended the 44-hour week to shops. Therefore, we have here a case of an Act passed in 1934, the Shops Act, which limited the hours of young persons in shops under 16 years of age to 48 hours, being amended only four years later by an Act chopping a further four hours off the hours worked by these young persons. That, surely, is evidence to the Committee that the Factories Act, 1937, is not unalterable for all time. These four Measures cover a very large field of juvenile employment and they are the background necessary for an appreciation of the particular topic which has been the subject of to-day's Debate. I think they show that the Government are not unsympathetic to the claims of juvenile workers.
The principal attack to-day has been directed at and under Section 71 of the Factories Act. My right hon. Friend has certain important functions to perform under Section 71, but I think it is true to say that the greater part of the speeches to which we have listened have not been directed against my right hon. Friend's administration but against the principle of Section 71. Many of the speeches have really endeavoured to show that no young person under any conditions should ever work 48 hours in a factory. That question was debated at great length on the Factories Bill, but for the purposes of this Debate and my right hon. Friend's functions under the Act, we have to accept Section 71 as it stands. We cannot for the purposes of this Debate or of attacking my right hon. Friend say that Section 71 ought never to have been passed. Parliament under that Section provided for certain exemptions being granted, under stringent conditions, to the 44-hour week for young persons generally, and I do not think hon. Members can complain that certain industries have endeavoured to make use of the right given to them by Parliament to claim exemptions under Section 71.
The representations which are made under Section 71 must cover six separate matters which are to be found in three 971 paragraphs of Sub-section (2). Let me describe in my own words what these representations have to cover. First, that the industry is so dependent on the employment of young persons that its carrying on would be seriously prejudiced by the adoption of the 44-hour week. Obviously, that is not an easy thing for any industry to satisfy an inquiry upon. The second is that the industry is so organised that its carrying on would be seriously prejudiced by the adoption of the 44-hour week. Those are two conditions which consider the question from the industrial point of view. The other four conditions consider the problem entirely from the young persons' point of view. They are, first, that the increased hours are not likely to be injurious to the health of the young persons; secondly, that the work is particularly suitable for young persons; thirdly, that the employment would familiarise them with and help to train them for posts in which adults axe engaged; and, fourthly, that their employment for 48 hours, or even longer than 44 hours, is likely to lead to permanent employment in the industry.
Those are the six conditions. They are cumulative in their effect, and it is no good an industry trying to persuade a court of inquiry that it has covered only five of the conditions. It has to satisfy the court of inquiry, if one is ordered, on every one of the six conditions and, therefore, it is a very narrow mesh through which an industry has to pass if it is to secure exemption under Section 71. I should like the Committee to observe that the Section gives my right hon. Friend discretion as to whether he shall order an inquiry or not. Unless a prima facie case is made out, no inquiry is ordered, and when we have received representations we have, of course, used not only the knowledge at the disposal of the factory inspectorate but made special inquiries, and in a large number of cases refused an inquiry on the ground that no prima facie case has been made out. I am in a position to give the Committee some information as to the number of applications we have received. There have been about 60 representations from relatively important bodies in respect of more or less distinguishable industries, and a considerable number of applications from individual firms and smaller groups of employers. I am afraid that 972 I cannot give the Committee, nor do I think it desirable, the names of those who have made these representations. I think if we were to publish the names of those who make these representations on industrial subjects, we should not be rendering industry any good service.
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Member will appreciate that it is difficult to give an estimate, because in many cases the trade association does not extend to the whole of the industry, although, obviously, the regulations, if and when made, must extend to the whole of the industry, and not to a part of it. We have had applications from single employers. Obviously, in the case of a single employer if an inquiry is ordered and subsequently regulations are made, you would be bound to find afterwards that there were more juvenile workers covered than you had any knowledge of at the time when the application was received.
§ Mr. J. Morgan
Do not the terms of the application require them to state how many children would be affected?
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
Clearly the Home Office in considering an application must ask how many children will be affected if it is granted?
§ Mr. Ridley
I put a Question as to the number of people covered in the case of cotton, wool and carpets, and the hon. Member gave a specific number, but considerable anxiety was aroused in my mind because in answer to the second question he said it was difficult to be precise.
§ Mr. Peake
It is extremely difficult to be precise even in the cases where an inquiry has been made, because the number of persons employed varies considerably from time to time, but in those cases where we have rejected the application for 973 an inquiry we have done so because on the fact of it no prima facie case had been made out, and we have not always inquired how many children were covered by the application. Sometimes on the fact of it the application was bad and one which did not fulfil several of the conditions. It is impossible for me to give a precise figure as to the number of young persons covered by every application.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
Surely no recommendation would be made without knowing how many young persons would be affected. Surely the Home Office would have to find out the conditions in similar trades before they could be sure that the conditions which have to be complied with, do apply in other factories where the regulation would necessarily apply?
§ Mr. Peake
When an inquiry has been ordered we have figures as to the number of juvenile workers, but I think I have satisfied the Committee that it is impossible to give a precise number in respect of every application, and to do so would involve a great deal of trouble which, in my opinion, would not be worth while. I should like now to inform the Committee of the position in regard to the 17 cases where a prima facie case appeared to my right hon. Friend to be made out and an inquiry has been held or is to be held. The analysis of the present position is as follows. Two of the applications have been withdrawn— that is, in respect of the manufacture of biscuits, and chocolate and sugar confectionery. In five cases the court of inquiry has recommended that regulations shall not be made; those are the jute spinning and weaving industry, the ramie yarn spinning industry, the paper or paper board manufacturing industry, the flax industry, and hemp spinning for cords, ropes, twine, etc. The last two recommendations that regulations be not made in the cases of the flax and hemp in dustries— were received only yesterday afternoon, after I had answered a Question on the subject in the House.
I have accounted for two cases where applications were withdrawn and five cases where regulations were not recommended. There are five cases where the inquiry has not yet been completed or held, and these are relatively small industries employing in all only 17,500 974 juvenile workers. There are three cases where regulations have been recommended and have already been issued in draft, and those, of course, are the cotton, woollen and worsted, and carpet industries. In those cases, it is essential that hon. Members should appreciate that the recommendations of the inquiry, as well as the draft regulations, provided that the longer hours of 48 shall apply only to those who have attained the age of 15 years and upwards, except that those at present employed in the industry shall continue the present hours. In the other two cases, which are the textile, bleaching and dyeing industry and the printing and bookbinding trades, the recommendation of the court of inquiry has been in favour of making regulations and the regulations will shortly be issued in draft.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
May I ask whether the same recommendation with regard to the age of 15 as was included in the two other instances is incorporated in the recommendations?
§ Mr. Peake
The same provision as to age is included in the recommendation as regards the textile, dyeing and bleaching industry. As regards the printing and bookbinding trades, the recommendation is that only one extra hour shall be worked per week, that is to say, that the hours shall be 45 in place of 44; and the recommendation covers all juvenile workers under 16. I want to be perfectly frank in the matter, and I will give the Committee the information I have as to the total number of young persons under 16 who are employed in the industries in respect of which draft regulations have been or are going to be issued. In the five industries to which I have referred, the number of young persons between 14 and 15 is about 29,000 and between 15 and 16 approximately 44,000, making a total of 73,000 juvenile workers under 16 at present employed in those five industries, and that is out of a total of about 500,000 juvenile workers under 16 in factory employment. Now, the outstanding cases where an inquiry is still to be held or has not yet reported cover in all l7,500 juvenile workers. No further inquiries can be ordered, because the date for making applications to the Home Office has gone by, so that we can now get some picture of what the future position will be. Let it be observed in relation to this figure of 73,000 juvenile 975 workers that, in the first place approximately 29,000 of them are employed in the printing and bookbinding trades.
§ Mr. Marshall
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the draft regulations applicable to the printing and bookbinding trades would enable juveniles to work a 45-hour week, that is, to add one hour. Is it correct to say that the standard week in that industry to-day is a 45-hour week; and are we to understand that the industry proved that that one hour would make all the difference to them?
§ Mr. Peake
As I was saying, out of 73,000 juvenile workers covered by the recommendations already received, 29,000 are in the printing and bookbinding trades. In their case, the recommendation is for a 45-hour in place of a 44-hour week. I understand that the printing and bookbinding trades are organised upon the basis of a five-day week.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some firms actually opposed the application because they were already working 44 hours?
§ Mr. Peake
I daresay that some firms did, but my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) will be able to tell the Committee a great deal more about that than I could. What I am entitled to observe is that the industry is organised on a basis of a five-day week. That is under a very recent agreement made in the industry and the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) who is, I think, the secretary of the trade union concerned in this industry, has not taken this opportunity to-day of voicing any grievance against the recommendation in the case of the printing and bookbinding trades. Apart from those 29,000 juvenile workers in the printing and bookbinding trades, there are 44,000 in the other four trades which are all either part of or connected with the textile industry. The inquiry has recommended that the recommendations for the longer hours, that is 48, shall, in the course of 12 months, apply only to those of the age of 15 and upwards. It is, therefore, obvious that in a year's time 976 the number of juveniles working the longer hours, will be very much smaller than 44,000. There are, at present, something like 18,000 juveniles under the age of 15 in this group of four industries connected with the textile industry. It is exceedingly likely that in a year's time, that number of 44,000 will be considerably reduced. How far it will be reduced we cannot say. It depends upon the policy to be adopted by education authorities, when the new Education Act comes into force on 1st September next. It does, therefore, appear that in relation to the figure of 500,000 young persons under 16 employed in factories, the number who will be working longer hours than 44 in the course of a very short time will be relatively very small.
Now I will say a word or two as to the procedure under this Section, because there is some misapprehension about it. My right hon. Friend has a complete discretion as to whether he shall hold an inquiry. After the inquiry has reported, if he is satisfied with respect to all the six matters which form the conditions in Section 71, my right hon. Friend may make regulations increasing the total hours. But before the regulations are made a rather cumbrous procedure under the Rules Publication Act has to be followed. It provides for the publication of the rules in draft for 40 days before the rules are finally made, and during that period further representations may be made to my right hon. Friend, either as regards opposing these regulations or as regards their amendment, and it is only after the rules are made that they can become operative. They may become legally operative either on the date they are made or at a date fixed by the rules themselves— a future date— but it is after that that they are laid on the Table of the House, and, therefore, no regulations can be made under Section 71 without there being an opportunity of Parliamentary discussion. I am further assured, in case there is any apprehension on this subject, that should the 28 days during which they have to lie on the Table be broken into by a General Election, the period of 28 days is unaffected, and the unexpired days will be reckoned from the beginning of the new Parliament, so that hon. Members will see that there is bound to be, automatically, an opportunity of discussing the regulations.
§ Mr. Peake
Of course, hon. Members, if they put their Motion on the Paper, will have their opportunity of discussing it in the same way as other hon. Members. I have promised the hon. Member opposite to leave him half-an-hour in which to speak, and I hope that when he does speak he will tell us exactly what the complaint is against our administration of Section 71.
§ Mr. Peake
I have listened all the morning, and I must confess that I have not yet understood what the complaint is. Employers have, within their rights, made representations to us under Section 71. Does my hon. Friend say that those representations should have been passed straight into the waste paper basket on receipt at the Home Office, or should they have been, as they have been, carefully sifted, checked, and examined? [An Hon. Member: "And granted"]. In a very small proportion of cases they have been granted.
§ Mr. Peake
They were public inquiries, and anybody was entitled to offer evidence. What does my hon. Friend say should have been done when those representations were received? They were, in fact, sifted and checked and examined. In a great many cases the application was rejected. Where we saw a prima facie case, we ordered an inquiry. Does he say that no inquiries, or fewer inquiries, or more inquiries, should have been ordered? During the Debates on the Report Stage of the Factories Bill the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) suggested that in every case where representations were made an inquiry should be obligatory. What should my right hon. Friend have done on receipt of the reports of these inquiries? Again, should we have thrown them into the wastepaper basket unread, or considered them on their merits and then issued, as we have done in certain cases, draft regulations?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Having answered the question themselves and made the draft regulations, surely we might have some justification for them?
Surely we can ask why the Government never paid more attention to their own Departmental Committee on the hours of employment of young persons, which is absolutely against juveniles working 48 hours?
§ Mr. Peake
Parliament provided a procedure under which inquiries should be held. That procedure has been followed, and we have been guided by the reports of those inquiries. I can see no purpose whatever in Parliament providing for inquiries being held unless my right hon. Friend is to be guided by their reports. The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) raised a point in connection with the regulations under Section 71 (4). It is rather a technical point. My answer is that we have issued in draft some regulations but. when we have had more experience of the 44-hour week, which has only just come into operation, we shall be prepared to receive any representations and, if necessary, make further regulations under the Subsection.
There are, probably, some points to which I have not given a reply, but I can assure hon. Members in all parts of the Committee that whatever they have said to-day will be carefully considered at the Home Office and borne in mind. I have occupied my present position for rather less than three months, the position previously occupied by the hon. Gentleman who is going to wind up the Debate. Perhaps he will agree with me that the Home Office touches the lives of our people at many points. Its field of administration is probably more varied and wider than that of any other Government Department. Great Departments of State are frequently represented as machines having no soul and no spirit, but that has not been my experience in the last three months. Behind all these statistics, behind all this complex and sometimes cumbrous procedure of Acts, orders and regulations, there lie great problems intimately affecting human interests. Although we talk in these horrible phrases of adolescents, juveniles, and young persons, we must never forget that we are, in fact, talking about only 979 boys and girls. At the Home Office, whether it be the refugee problem, or questions of penal reform, or factory Act administration, we have the problem of these boys and girls always before us. I have been profoundly impressed since I went there with the consideration, the care and the genuine sympathy constantly given by officials to all matters affecting these young people. But I do submit, in my last sentence, that our administration of Section 71 has been fair, has been impartial and has been judicial, and that it is fully in keeping with the record of my right hon. Friend and the traditions of the great Department with which I now have the honour to be associated.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
The hon. Gentleman has to-day delivered what is, I think, his first speech as Under-Secretary of the Home Department, and whatever opinions we may hold about what he has told us, I think I may congratulate him on the fair and courteous manner in which he has dealt with us in this Debate. The trouble about the present Secretary of State and his deputy is that they are too nice— perhaps I ought to say they appear too nice; but behind the surface there is still the strain of Tory capitalism. Having said that, I think the Committee would like me to pay a tribute to the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) for raising this important subject. Having sat here for some years and taken some little interest in industrial legislation, I feel that the Debate to-day has been very refreshing indeed. The hon. Gentleman and his chief will forgive me when I say that we are determined that issues like this shall be ventilated from time to time in the House of Commons, in order that our Debates may have a salutary effect just beneath that very nice surface that I referred to. The Under-Secretary said that the record of this Government in dealing with the conditions of employment of juveniles was a good one. If it is a good one, why spoil it by these Orders? Frankly, we are very much afraid that if we allow these Orders to proceed it will be only the beginning of a retrograde policy, but we are hoping that whatever else may happen in future the Debate to-day may induce those at the Home Office not to travel any further on these lines.
980 The hon. Gentleman asked me a very fair question, What is our complaint? I do not know what has happened to him. He has sat there all day long, and if he cannot be moved by excellent speeches like those of the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), the hon. Member for Clay Cross and the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) not even the oratory of a Demosthenes would affect him. The strange thing about the Debate is that the Home Office does not seem to have any friends except one, the senior Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle). I am sorry that he is not in his place, because he represents a constituency next to mine, and I hope that he will read what I am saying about him and that is that I am a little ashamed of his speech.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Lady says so, and she knows more about men than I do. The hon. and learned Member for Bolton talked about airy factories with plenty of space but the hon. and learned Gentleman himself knows that at this moment the Home Office is dealing with one of the most terrible complaints that can affect working people, and that is the severe bronchitis which seems to disable permanently many cardroom operatives. I know of no section of the industry that is more unhealthy than that called the card room employment in the Lancashire textile mills.
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton was very careful and so was the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). I could not understand what the hon. Gentleman was saying to-day. He and I are members of a committee that has done very excellent work, the committee on wage-earning children. When he and I sit there, his speeches are very much more progressive than they are when he sits here. I do not know what influences him for the worse when he sits on that Front Bench below the Gangway. But we will leave it at that. Strangely enough the argument was that we all want to reduce the hours of labour of young persons but— and there is always a "but" about it. I would like to know what was behind that "but"? I was very pleased that the two Lady Members were with us on this occasion, and I am hoping that they will be with us in the Division 981 Lobby. It does not always happen that people vote as they speak in this place.
§ Mr. Davies
We shall watch the Noble Lady with the greatest interest in the Lobby to-day. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans) knows as much about industry, I suppose, as anybody in this House. I was therefore very pleased with his speech. I regard him as among the enlightened industrialists; and if all our cotton employers were like him there would be no trouble about these matters we are discussing to-day. Perhaps it would help him if I remind the Committee that no application for exemption has come to the Home Office from the Principality of Wales. We are having a row particularly about Lancashire today; and as everybody knows, politically I am an Englishman.
The hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Rickards) trotted out the old argument once again: "What about Japanese competition?" If I had the musical genius of a Wagner or a Mendelssohn I would put that question into grand opera. If you say a thing often enough people will believe it. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that if Lancashire cotton operatives worked for nothing the industry could not even then compete with the Japanese textile industry. He forgets that Lancashire produces goods for the home trade as well; that only 52 per cent. of its production is for export. The Lancashire textile industry must understand something else. We on these Benches supported the cotton employers for months recently during the proceedings on the Cotton Industry (Reorganisation) Bill which we hope will become an Act of Parliament soon, in order to put the industry on its feet once again. What do we get in return? A request, if you please, from the very same employers that they shall work their operatives under 16 years of age for 48 hours a week instead of 44.
Let the Noble Lady in particular understand what that means. This juvenile problem is mainly a girls' problem. In the Lancashire textile industry 20,890 persons are under 16 years of age; 5,770 are boys and 15,120 are girls. I want the Committee to realise that nearly every industry that has come to the Home Office with a request for exemption employs 982 girls at the rate almost of three to one boy. The most impudent request is, of course, the one from the printing and bookbinding trade. It is an impudent request from people who probably make better profits than anyone else in the land, and who, I understand, print some of our daily newspapers which enlighten and inform us so very well on foreign affairs. Those of us who have been in this House for some time have watched with interest the struggle in the House of Commons to emancipate the child life of this country and the difficulties that always emerge on all hands. The raising of the school age, the regulation of the hours of labour of young persons; almost every effort made in this House to improve the lot of the children, has always been torpedoed by some dark forces behind the scenes. One such effort to undo the good work is now being made by applying for these exemptions. I took part in all the proceedings of the Committee on the Factories Bill. If that Committee had thought for a moment that 70,000 young persons were to be exempted from the provisions of Section 71 in this fashion, I am not so sure that the hon. Gentleman himself would not have voted to delete the power of exemption. The real fact of the matter is that it was understood by everyone that these exemptions would be very rare, that they would only be granted in extraordinary and exceptional circumstances. But the first thing that the Home Office does is to exempt the two largest industries of all that employ juvenile labour— bookbinding and printing and cotton. The cheek of the printing and bookbinding industry is colossal.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
The hon. Gentleman abuses the printing and bookbinding trade. Why did he not take the trouble to come and give evidence at the open inquiry, instead of coming to the House of Commons and abusing them?
§ Mr. Davies
Let me ask the hon. Gentleman in charge for the Home Office what is there to prevent all the em- 983 ployers in the country from applying for exemption in this way? Nothing at all. The hon. Gentleman looks at me in astonishment, and his astonishment is more eloquent than his speech on some occasions. Once exemptions are granted for the cotton industry, what chance is there of refusing them to any other industry? They will say that they have to fight Japanese or Chinese or some other competition, and so on, and they will come increasingly to the Home Office and the tribunal and make out their case.
§ Mr. Davies
I have not sufficient faith in this present Government to feel that they would not alter the law to make all that possible. If hon. Members are astonished at that, they do not know this Government as well as I do. Really, the position boils down to this. These people want exemption in order to employ child labour. Why? It is not child labour alone they want. What they desire is cheap labour; and if they could get adult men and women to do this job for children's wages they would employ adult labour instead. Therefore we have a right to object to these regulations. I understand, of course, why juvenile labour does not enter the cotton mills, but I fail completely to understand why the employers do not see that if wages were good, hours of labour reasonable, and conditions of employment decent in the mills of Lancashire, they could get as many juveniles as they wished. Why do boys and girls go to the shops? Of course the shops draw the largest proportion of our juveniles. The answer has been given in part; in the shops there is a 44 hours maximum. But there will be a 48 hours week in factories under these regulations.
The Act to which we have been referring was passed in 1937 and the hon. Member for Clay Cross quoted a very pertinent part of the speech of the then Home Secretary, when he said in effect that there would be two years for the employers to bend their organisation to the law. What are the employers doing? They want the law to bend itself to their 984 desires. That is what is happening. It is a lamentable thing that to-day we are discussing regulations which will indeed put the clock back a great deal. Let me turn to a problem of high politics for a moment. If employers in Fascist Germany or Italy, the totalitarian States, or in Communist Russia, made a request of this kind to exploit child labour, the employers in this House and in this country would howl with sheer disgust.
I am delighted when we deal with home and domestic problems in this House, because I have a fear that the more we discuss international affairs, here the more employers will "get away" with bad conditions in our own country. I do not think there is a dearth of juveniles. When I look at the reports of other Government Departments, the Ministry of Labour and the Unemployment Assistance Board, for instance, I find that there are scores of thousands of juveniles unemployed. But here is the gravamen of my charge against many employers They take juveniles straight from school employ them for two or three years, throw them on the scrapheap, go to the school again, get another batch and in tarn throw them, too, on the scrapheap. It annoys some of us that the nation does not take a much kindlier interest in children. I have said when visiting foreign countries and was glad to say so in the past, that the industrial and social legislation of this country was on the whole the best in the world. That is not so now. In several States of the United States— here the Noble Lady will know what I am talking about
§ Mr. Davies
I will come to the country of the Noble Lady's birth. In the United States no goods can be sold between one of the 47 States and another if they are produced by young persons under the age of 16. In the States of Rhode Island and Wisconsin all child labour under 16 is prohibited absolutely, except in agriculture and domestic service. If the position in America is not a good argument, let us come within the British Empire, on which the sun never sets—and, I might add, the wages seldom rise.
My hon. Friend has moved a reduction in the salary of the Secretary of State. If this Debate has counted for anything, he should not get a salary at all.
§ Mr. Davies
I am making these points because hon. Members still have a tendency to think that we, of course, are better than anybody else; that our legislation is superior to anything in the wide world.
§ Mr. Davies
I am going to say one thing that may please the Noble Lady. I never let my own country down when I go abroad, especially when I am in America. But I know some Americans who let their native country down when they live abroad. However, that has nothing to do with the Factories Act. Let me make another important point. The Under-Secretary knows that during the last few years the Chief Inspector of Factories has made a special point of the fact that accidents in factories in this country have increased enormously, and, what is worse than anything else, that the percentage of accidents among young persons is proportionately on the increase. That ought to be a strong argument in favour of reducing the hours of labour of young persons. I have been through all these arguments of the employers in favour of exemption and I find among them all the same old stuff. I have heard it a hundred times as a trade union official— the industry cannot afford it; somebody will lose wages unless you do as they suggest.
Let me point out to the Under-Secretary that, unless he is careful, his orders will land some industries into difficulties. If the Lancashire Education Committee, of its own will, lays it down that no child may work more than 36 hours a week and a cotton employer employs a child up to 15, as he may well do, for 36 hours a week, older children from 15 to 16 will be working 48 hours a week, while some children in the industry will not be allowed to work more than 44 hours. In one factory you may, therefore, have some children employed for 36 hours under the education committee's decision, for 44 hours according to the tribunal, and for 48 hours according to the decision of the Secretary of State. On top of all that—and what is more offensive than anything else— you may have men and women trade union- 986 ists in these very same factories working a 46-hour week, and the little ones working 48 hours. That is what you are likely to get. The shabby way this nation is dealing with these children is therefore something worth mentioning in the House of Commons. I want to finish on this note. I am not going to quote my own experience and the experience of hon. Members on this side of the Committee —
I thought that the hon. Gentleman would have mentioned that there were 35,300 juveniles injured and 62 killed since 1937.
§ Mr. Davies
It has always occurred to me in debates of this kind in the House of Commons that the employers of this country, and maybe politicians and statesmen of all parties, forget two fundamental facts about persons engaged in industry. One is, as has been mentioned already, the falling birth rate, but there is something even more important than that, and that is the ageing population. It has been said by the Minister of Health that a child born in this country to-day may reasonably expect to live on the average 13 years longer than its grandfather was expected to live when he was born. We are finding that in some industries juveniles are engaged and got rid of as soon as possible, and if and when they reach about 50 years of age they are dismissed for good. This Amendment of ours is a protest not only against the Government, but against the diabolical tendency in this rich country— the richest country in the world at this moment —
§ Mr. Davies
Their riches are only on the surface. They bring some of their wealth here when they come.
§ Mr. Davies
If they do not, then they ought to do. Finally, Parliament will have to take note of the tendency in industry in favour of employing young- 987 sters and scrapping adult men and women. I hope that I have said something that will help to bring Members of this Committee into the Division Lobby with us to-day. An hon. Gentleman opposite said— and I could not quite understand what he meant— "It is not our duty to vote against the Government; we must educate public opinion." I say that
§ we must not only educate public opinion on this issue, but we must educate the Government by voting against them in the Lobby to-day.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £ 722,461, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 92; Noes, 186.989
|Division No. 267.]||AYES.||[3.55 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Parker, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Simon)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Groves, T. E.||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hardie, Agnes||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hayday, A.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Charleton. H. C.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hicks, E. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Hills, A. (Pentefrest)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cooks, F. S.||Hopkin, D.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Collindridge, F.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Thorne, W.|
|Daggar, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, H.||Lathan, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lawson, J. J.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lunn, W.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walker, J.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Welkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacLaren, A.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Evans, D. 0. (Cardigan)||Marshall, F.||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Mathers, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Messer, F.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Foot, D. M.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Mr. John and Mr. Adamson.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Channon, H.||Eckersley, P. T.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Apsley, Lord||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Assheton, R.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Everard, Sir Wlliam Lindsay|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Colman, N. C. D.||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Goldie, N. B.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Cox, H. B. Trevor||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenent R.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Granville, E. L.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Greene, W. P. D. (Woroester)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cross, R. H.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Crossley, A. C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Cruddas, Col. B.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Davidson, Viscountess||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Davison, Sir W. H.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||De Chair, S. S.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Butcher, H. W.||De la Bère, R.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Denville, Alfred||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Cary, R. A.||Donner, P. W.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Hunloke, H. P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Duggan, H. J.||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J,||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)'|
|Keeling, E. H.||O'Connor, Sir Tarence J.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Kallatt, Major E. O.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Kimball, L.||Peake, O.||Suteliffe, H.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Parkins, W. R. D.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Petherick, M.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Little, J.||Pilkington, R.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Pownall, Lt..Col. Sir Assheton||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Read, A. C. (Exeter)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|M'Connell, Sir J.||Read, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|McCorquedale, M. S.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (lsle of Wight)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.||Rowlands, G.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Magnay, T.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T, (Hitchin)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Salmon, Sir I.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Marsden, Commander A.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Miller, Sir R. J. (Miteham)||Scott, Lord William||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Mills, Major J. D, (New Forest)||Shakespeare, G. H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lana (Streatham)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lt'st)||Wragg, H.|
|Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —|
|Moreing, A. C.||Smithers, Sir W.||Mr. Munro and Mr. Grimston.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Tinker rose—
§ It being after Four of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.990
§ The remaining Order was read and postponed.