HC Deb 08 June 1939 vol 348 cc577-80
12. Mr. Whiteley

asked the Minister of Labour who are the representatives attending the International Labour Office Convention at Geneva on behalf of the Ministry; and what policy is to be advocated on behalf of the Government in relation to working hours in industry?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will circulate in the Official Report a list of the representatives of His Majesty's Government attending the International Labour Conference at Geneva. In addition I propose to be present for part of the proceedings and my right hon. Friend the Minister hopes to attend, if only for a few days. In its report summarising the results of the consultation of Governments on the reduction of hours of work in industry, commerce and offices, the International Labour Office, alluding to the present international situation, says: The office is accordingly of the opinion that, unless there is a very marked change for the better in the situation during the next months, the Conference would do well to postpone the discussion on the generalisation of the reduction of hours of work in industry and commerce and to refer the question back to the Governing Body with a request to enter it again on the agenda when the prospects of success are better. His Majesty's Government are in agreement with this estimate of the situation.

Mr. Whiteley

Are we to understand from that reply that this is a sheer waste of money and time, as the Government have accepted the suggestion made by the International Labour Office?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There are other matters on the agenda upon which most useful collaboration is possible.

Mr. Whiteley

Is it not about time that we knew what the Government policy was, and whether there is to be any progress at all in the matter?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I was referring to the Government's policy as regards the reduction of hours of work in general. There are other items on the agenda dealing with hours of work in coal mining and hours of work and rest periods of professional drivers. Different considerations may apply there.

Mr. Whiteley

What is the policy of the Government in regard to mining hours?

Mr. J. Griffiths

Surely we are entitled to a reply.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think it is true to say that at present the international situation does not justify great optimism in this matter. I think that there is a question later on the Order Paper dealing with that point.

Following is the list:

Representatives of His Majesty's Government and their advisers attending the Conference.

Government Delegates:

Mr. Frederick William Leggett, C.B.

Under-Secretary, Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Edward Graham Savage, C.B.

Senior Chief Inspector, Board of Education.

Substitute Delegate and Adviser:

Mr. Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans, Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Labour.


Mr. Sam Richard Chaloner, Chief Publicity Officer, Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Gerard Leslie Makins Clauson, C.M.G., O.B.E., Assistant Secretary, Colonial Office.

Mr. William Lewis Cook, O.B.E., J.P.

Conciliation Officer and Labour Adviser, Mines Department.

Mr. St. Vincent Froude Coules, Senior Legal Assistant, Solicitor's Department, Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Frank Farmer, Staff Officer, Colonial Office.

Mr. Herbert Roland Hodges, Principal, Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Archibald Lang, His Majesty's Senior Chief Inspector of Schools, Scottish Education Department.

Major Granville St. John Orde-Browne, O.B.E., Labour Adviser to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Mr. Harold Ford Rossettie, Principal, Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Percy Cyril Lesley Thorne, His Majesty's Inspector of Technical Schools, Board of Education.

Lieut.-Colonel Frederic Gordon Tucker, O.B.E., T.D., Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Transport.

22. Mr. Leslie

asked the Minister of Labour who will represent the Government at the International Labour Conference at Geneva; and what attitude the Government representative will take over the question of a reduction of working hours in coalmines?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

With regard to the first part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to-day to a question by the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley). The attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the 1931 Convention as revised in 1935 remains, as has been announced on a number of occasions, that they are prepared to ratify this Convention simultaneously with the principal coal producing countries of Europe. As indicated in the answers given to the questionnaire recently published by the International Labour Office there are obvious difficulties in the way of applying in present circumstances any further reduction of hours than those provided for in the Convention referred to.

Mr. Leslie

Is the Government representative prepared to give a lead in reducing the hours instead of following the usual policy of either remaining neutral or opposing?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member will realise that there are coal-producing countries which are not included in the International Labour Office, and that these raise different considerations.

Mr. T. Smith

Is not the formula of ratifying simultaneously with other countries rather an excuse for doing nothing?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Certainly not. We have an excellent record on the International Labour Office, but there are other coal-producing countries which do not belong to the International Labour Office.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is not the implication in the answer that, as there are other countries in Europe interested in this matter, the hours of miners in this country cannot be reduced until they have been reduced in other countries, and that, therefore, the hours of miners in this country are to be absolutely governed by the hours in other countries?

Mr. Paling

Is Germany one of those big coal-producing countries on whom this matter depends?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Germany is one of those countries and while I cannot accept the argument of the hon. Member that the same conditions must apply here as apply in Germany, obviously we must have regard to the general conditions in other competitive countries.