HC Deb 18 January 1940 vol 356 cc198-200
8 and 12. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the employers in the engineering trades have insisted upon reducing the wages of juveniles in proportion to the reduction in working hours from 47 to 44 per week as prescribed by the Factories Act; whether he is aware that, in the absence of agreement, the only normal way in which this question can be pursued between the trade unions and the employers is by a stoppage of work, a course which the unions are reluctant to take in the present circumstances; and whether he will make representations to the employers with a view to reaching a satisfactory settlement;

(2) whether he is aware that, in accordance with Section 71 of the Factories Act, the hours of juveniles in the engineering trades have been reduced to 44 per week, but the employers have insisted upon reducing the wages in proportion, on the ground that the reduction in hours was not secured through negotiations between the parties, but through legislation; and whether, in view of these circumstances, he will consider the desirability of introducing legislation to ensure that the juveniles shall not suffer in wages through legislative reduction in working hours?

Mr. E. Brown

I understand that it is the case that the employers in the engineering industry have not seen their way to increase the hourly rates of pay of juveniles in order to compensate for the limitation of weekly hours of work imposed by the Factories Act. This would appear to be a matter for negotiation and settlement through the agreed procedure established within the industry for dealing with questions arising in connection with juvenile workers, and I would suggest that any further consideration of it should be by way of discussions between the parties concerned under that procedure.

Mr. Smith

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that it is impossible for the agreement to operate, and is he prepared to use his influence in order to avoid what might arise out of this difference of view?

Mr. Brown

We have this particular section in mind. Perhaps the hon. Member will let me know whether he has any definite suggestion to make. He will be well aware that it is very dangerous for the Ministry of Labour to intervene in such matters until asked to do so.

Viscountess Astor

Would my right hon. Friend remind the employers that during the last war many firms discovered that long hours meant less production, particularly for young people?

Mr. Brown

This is not a question of more hours, but of fewer hours.

Viscountess Astor

Very long hours are worked by young people in this industry.