HC Deb 22 May 1940 vol 361 cc154-85

"to extend the powers which may be exercised by His Majesty under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939," presented, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, by the Prime Minister; supported by Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Attlee, and Mr. Greenwood; and ordered to be printed. [Bill 49.]

3.36 p.m.

Mr. Attlee

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I believe that at this critical time the vast majority of the people of this country will willingly give their services to the country, and will do all that is asked of them. We introduce this Bill not because we have any doubt of the willingness of the people, but because in a difficult emergency like this there must be the necessary power in the Government. Let me explain shortly what the Bill does. The operative part of the Bill is an extension of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, and in Clause 1 the powers conferred by that Act are to include power by Order-in-Council to make such Defence Regulations making provision for requiring persons to place themselves, their services, and their property at the disposal of His Majesty, as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Realm, the maintenance of public order, or the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged, or for maintaining supplies or services essential to the life of the community. Sub-section (2) gives power to amend the legislation passed since the beginning of the war. The third important point is the extension of the original Act for another year. The Act expires in August of this year. No one can tell quite what conditions may be in August of this year. Therefore, it is best to extend the Act now. This is an enabling Bill under which Regulations can be made. I want to give an indication as to the sort of Regulations and the kind of control that may have to be exercised. Let me say that I do not want anyone to jump to the conclusion that all of a sudden everybody is going to be ordered to do something different from what he is doing now. The essential thing in an emergency is that everybody should continue at his job until he is ordered to do otherwise; but what is proposed is that there should be control over persons and over property.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

How much over property?

Mr. Attlee

Perhaps the hon. Member will wait a moment. The Minister of Labour will be given power to direct any person to perform any services required of him. That does not necessarily mean services in munitions or factories. It does not apply only to workmen. It applies to everybody. No one can tell what these days may bring forth, or who may be required to dig defences or do anything else, but everybody alike must be under this control. The Minister will be able to prescribe the terms of remuneration, the hours of labour, and conditions of service. Remuneration will be on the basis of the remuneration for the job. If an engineer is asked to do engineering work, he will get engineer's pay. If somebody else is asked to do a particular job, he will get the pay of that job. If a professional man is asked to do his professional work, he will get his professional pay. If he is asked to do manual work he will get a manual worker's pay. The general principle will be that of remuneration for the job.

With regard to conditions and pay, it is proposed that we should carry out, wherever they exist, industrial agreements which have been arrived at and wherever such agreements have not been arrived at, observe the rates normally paid by good employers. If there are cases, in which people are asked to shift from one district to another, there should be payment to deal with things of that kind. There is power to inspect premises and to require employers to produce their books. The object is to mobilise the effective resources of the nation for whatever tasks may come upon us now. I said at the beginning that it was essential that this should be done but not because people are unwilling. I am convinced that the bulk of the work will be done with the good will of all and with the co-operation of organised labour.

Let me deal with a few points about control over property. Some establishments will be controlled altogether right away. Others may be controlled later. They will, in effect, be working on Government account. Wages and profits will be under Government control. The Excess Profits Tax will be at the rate of 100 per cent. There will be no profit out of the national emergency. Other establishments may be ordered to carry on and they may perhaps be ordered to carry on at a loss, but there must be power to carry on essential services and if people are put in a position where they are making a loss, they must have adequate remuneration in order to do their job effectively. The essential thing is that over a wide field—how wide one cannot say at the moment—industry will be carried on for the community in fact, and not for private profit. There may be cases in which firms will have to close down and there may be destruction of property here and there. One cannot tell that will happen. There will be difficult questions of compensation. There will have to be full reconsideration of compensation but in an emergency, these things cannot be worked out precisely and, meanwhile, there will have to be interim compensation.

I have spoken of businesses, but it is not only industrial businesses in the ordinary sense that will be, or may be, under control. It depends on what the Regulations will be. There will have to be control of the finance of the country and the banks. It may be done, centrally; it may be, if conditions require it, that it will have to be done through regional commissioners and financial advisers, but at the moment I cannot give more than an indication of the kind of action which may have to be taken. The point arises: Under whose orders are these things to be done? They are to be done under the orders of the Government. The order will be given by the competent authority and the competent authority in each case will be the Minister concerned with that particular national activity—the Minister of Labour, for instance, dealing with labour matters, and the Minister of Agriculture with agricultural matters. If conditions enforce it, control will have to be exercised through the regional commissioners, but, broadly speaking, we are taking control in a time of emergency, so that in the national interest we may utilise all our resources for the common weal.

Now let me take one part of the scheme which has already been worked out in detail. It is essential in this crisis that we should produce to the full all our essential munitions, and the Minister of Labour has been given the responsibility of supplying the labour required for the programmes of the various Departments. He proposes to set up at once a Production Council consisting of representatives of the chief Government Departments concerned with munition supplies—the Admiralty, the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Mines. That Production Council will be presided over by the Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). It is proposed to set up a Director of Labour Supply with full-time assistants, drawn from trade unions and employers. There will be local organisations based on area boards.

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Maryhill)

Will there be no Office of Works in it?

Mr. Attlee

No, but there will be full control of building operations. I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I am afraid I have had to deal with this matter at very short notice. It is essential that all building operations should be properly controlled, brought together and co-ordinated. At all important centres, labour supply committees will be set up to organise local self-help for meeting difficulties in the labour supply. It is proposed that firms should be grouped to secure the best utilisation of labour and to prevent waste. In certain instances there will be compulsory notification through the Employment Exchanges of all men who are "stood off" or on short time. Those firms engaged in munitions will be brought under control and will become controlled establishments. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour proposes to set on foot a bold and comprehensive scheme of training. Training facilities are available under the Ministry of Labour and in the technical schools and so forth. It is proposed, too, where non-federated firms are standing out and not observing agreements, that they shall observe agreements.

The essential thing at this time is to see that there is no waste of the skilled labour which is available and that there is the utmost co-operation between all those who are working for the common end. My right hon. Friend intends to work in the closest co-operation with trade unions and employers' organisations. It may be that cases will arise in which, under this stress, agreements will be made to set aside, for the time being, customs in industry that have previously been agreed between employers and employés. It is essential that everybody who is engaged in this great effort should be satisfied that the rights which he has had shall remain alive and in being and it is proposed, therefore, that there should be an addition to the Fair Wages Clause whereby employers who do not at the end of this war restore any customs or conditions which have been set aside for the war, will be ineligible to come on the list of Government contractors. [Hon. Members: "Permanently?"] Certainly, until they comply, but I will deal with that point later. I cannot now give more than a broad outline. I have tried to give the House a picture of an immediate piece of work. To show how immediate it is, I may say that it is proposed that the Munitions Board should meet to-night to get on with the job.

I have only been able to indicate some lines on which action will be taken. What other action will be taken must depend on how events move, but I cannot end without again stressing what I am quite sure is in the mind of everybody. At this time everything for which we stand is in jeopardy—our political rights, our rights of conscience, our industrial rights—and everything will go if we do not defeat the enemy. I do not believe it is necessary to make a long appeal to the people of our country. I am quite certain that everybody knows what is at stake, and that while these powers are necessary the real force behind us to-day is the will and determination of a free people.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

We have heard about labour, wages, trade union agreements and all the rest of it, but the most essential of all things, the thing which is in question and jeopardy, is the land, and that has not been mentioned. I want to know if we are taking powers for the entire control of the land of this country?

Mr. Attlee

The hon. Member is, of course, right in stressing the importance of the land. I say "all property, real and personal," and land is an essential part of property.

Mr. Davidson

The Lord Privy Seal referred to the fact that firms who did not restore what we may call agreements come to between employers and employés will be kept off the list after the war so far as Government work is concerned. May I ask if full cognisance has been taken of the fact that many firms who may be engaged on war work now may, after the war, be engaged on a different type of work and may not desire to be placed on the list?

Mr. Attlee

I quite realise that such cases may happen, but perhaps my hon. Friend will have a talk with the Minister of Labour on particular points. I am giving a general principle. The general principle is that there should be a definite sanction imposed that they should not take advantage of a war situation to break down conditions established for many years, and this is one of the means of enforcing that.

Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland).

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal a question?

Mr. Lees-Smith


Mr. Logan

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to ask something germane to the Question.

Mr. Speaker

It is better that we should have speeches made than questions put on a point of Order.

Mr. Logan

I was not making a speech. I wanted to ask a question pertinent to the subject which we were discussing then.

Mr. Speaker

I often find that speeches and questions run very much into one another.

Mr. Maxton (Bridgeton)

On a point of Order. The Government have asked the House to make a big concession on the matter of procedure and the House has granted it, but one or two of us are anxious to ask a few questions to elucidate the statement which has been made. We do not want to make speeches, but would it not be more convenient if we could have one or two questions answered now rather than by having several long speeches?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for the House.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Lees-Smith

Before making any observations upon the Bill I would like to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether these numerous Regulations which are to be put into Orders will be laid and, if so, what the procedure will be? Perhaps we might have a reply to that before the end of the Debate, because if there are any questions of details to be raised they might be conveniently raised then.

Mr. Attlee

Yes, they will be laid, and, of course, they can be annulled by a Prayer. It is, of course, as the hon. Member says, a fact that the whole meat of it comes in the particular Orders. This is merely an enabling Bill.

Mr. Maxton

When will they be laid?

Mr. Attlee

As soon as they are made.

Mr. Lees-Smith

It seems to me impossible for us to discuss this in detail now, and if any Member wishes to do so it seems to me that his opportunity will come when the Orders are laid. One cannot help recognising in the speech of the Lord Privy Seal that he has in mind certain contingencies of a character which has never yet faced this country, and broadly speaking he wishes to ensure that this country shall not be taken by surprise like some countries already have been. I would, therefore, say that, apart from the discussions upon the Orders, if hon. Members find that in the working of this Bill there are points which ought to be raised I am glad to know that the ordinary procedure of this House will protect us. We shall have Ministers in front of us from day to day with whom we can raise particular points. One of the great advantages of our procedure is that we can with confidence give Ministers powers, especially if we have confidence in them, and we should give these powers, because our procedure enables us to raise the issue of how they are being utilised any day when the House is sitting.

Mr. Maxton

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) that everything which matters will be in the Regulations and not in this Measure. This merely confers a very very wide power on the Government to make Regulations. I imagine that it does not add much to the emergency powers granted in last August, and I believe that all the things outlined by the Lord Privy Seal could have been done under that legislation. I notice that the Lord Privy Seal shakes his head, and I accept his greater knowledge on the subject. He only made a short general statement on which one can say nothing. I do not object to land being nationalised and banks being nationalised, and I do not object to property of all descriptions being taken over for the service of the State. I could have wished, however, that it could have been in rather calmer days and adopted more deliberately than to-day.

As I listened to the Lord Privy Seal I noted that he was very precise about what was to be done in the seizure of labour. He was very definite about that—how they were to be moved anywhere at any time—but he was very vague and general about what was going to be done to property. I am not going to take the responsibility of dividing this House on the matter. I divided the House on the last vote on emergency powers. I can see my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) smiling, but I do not wish to have a Division in which the Opposition is ludicrously small. My hostility to this Bill in principle is as strong as it was previously, but it is only when we see the regulations that we shall know just whether the inroads that are being made into established liberties are necessary, or whether the general circumstances of a time in which people tend to get nervy are being utilised to take away liberties which it is not necessary, even in these days, to take away. As I say, I will not oppose the Measure, but I will scrutinise the regulations very closely when they come before the House.

Dr. Little (Down)

I would like to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether this Bill is to apply to Northern Ireland?

4.2 p.m.

Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)

I hope I never trespass unduly on the time and patience of the House, and what I feel moved to say now I can say in a sentence or two. I believe that the introduction of this Bill and the statement made by the Lord Privy Seal will be received with a feeling of great relief by vast multitudes of the people of this country, whose abiding anxiety in recent weeks has been as to how, through their property or their services, they could make their full contribution towards the conduct of the war. In a recent speech, the French Prime Minister said that if we wished to conquer the enemy, we must first learn to conquer ourselves, and I believe that this instrument will be one of the things that will enable us to do that. I will say nothing in regard to the details of the Bill, because on the Orders themselves we shall have an opportunity of doing that, but I am sure there is nobody in this House to-day who does not realise that if we are to preserve our liberties eventually and for the future, we must make a substantial surrender of them at the present time. That, I believe, is the temper in which this Bill will be received and the temper in which I believe it will be worked.

4.3 p.m.

Mr. Lewis (Colchester)

Can the Lord Privy Seal assure the House that if we pass this Bill and circumstances should arise in which it is impossible for Parliament to meet, the Government are satisfied that they will then have all the powers which they require to deal with any emergency that might then arise without being hampered by the absence of legislation? I think we ought to have that assurance before we pass this Bill.

4.4 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

I think there is complete unanimity that when the Government ask for further powers the House will cheerfully grant them, but we want to have some assurance that those powers will always be wisely exercised. The Deputy-Leader of the House stated that the competent authority would be a Minister. That does not mean that it will be the personal act of a Minister, but that a Minister will act through his servant. Therefore, the power to direct a workman to go from this factory to that factory will not be a personal order by a Minister, but it will be an order given by a servant of a Minister, and many of those orders may be unwise orders. The requisitioning power in regard to property, virtually speaking, already exists.

Four days ago a competent authority took 160 public service vehicles, which were used by the military with such indiscretion and so unnecessarily that at this moment 100of them are under repair in the garage of the public service undertaking, and it has been necessary to call upon mechanics belonging to the military to carry through the essential repairs. I mention that as a minor example of the necessity of making sure that those who in fact are the competent authority do not wildly do things which are unwise, merely on the justification that there is a war on. The fact that there is a war on is no reason for doing anything foolish, and there are many people at this moment who, without full thought, will sometimes take advantage of the great powers which are rightly conferred upon them to do things which, in fact, are contrary to the interests of the State. I think it is of the greatest importance that when the regulations are drawn the instructions to those who will exercise the practical duties of the competent authority are of such a character that mistakes of the kind with which I am familiar, and many other Members also to a great extent are familiar, shall be repeated to the smallest possible degree.

4.9 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I want to take exception to this Bill. I do not see how it is possible to suggest that by taking away the liberties of the people of this country you are helping to forward any cause of liberty. The working class of this country has had no say whatever in the policy that has led to the critical and desperate situation in which we find ourselves. The ruling class of this country is responsible for what this country is facing and now seeks to save itself at the expense of the mass of the people. This Bill does not represent, as an hon. Member opposite said, "an effort to conquer ourselves"; it represents a deliberate effort on the part of the ruling class of this country to conquer the working class. I can remember when I and the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and others met the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in the last war. We put proposals before him that would give the workers in the factories and the shop stewards and the trade unions a measure of control over conditions that operated in the factories. The right hon. Gentleman told us that anything of that character would represent a revolution and that you could not carry through a revolution in the midst of a war. What did he mean by that? He meant that if there was any attempt to cut into the power of the ruling class of this country, the ruling class would forget the war and would proceed to protect its own interests.

So we face a situation in which the ruling class is determined to hold on to its power and to bring the power of the independent organised working class to an end. Yet the one thing that is important in this country at the present time is a strong, virile, independent working-class movement. That is the one thing that is more essential than anything else for saving the people. When we talk about this country, it is the people of whom we are talking, and the masses of the people are those who are going to be fettered and imprisoned under this Bill. The country is not a geographical expression; it is the masses of the people. The working class will get absolutely nothing from this Bill. It is true that there may be interference here and there with the rights of property, and there may be certain control of organisations for the time being, but the Bill does not allow, and there will be no intention of allowing, for doing away with the rights of private property.

If there was anything serious of that kind in the minds of hon. Members opposite, there would be a complete requisitioning of all wealth and property, and everything would be taken over, but what do we find? What did you have yesterday in this House? The ex-Prime Minister, whose policy more than anything else has brought us to this terrible pass, came in, and all the profiteering Members opposite cheered him, deliberately demonstrating for the ex-Prime Minister, and when the new Prime Minister, who is supposed to be winning the war, came in, they were completely silent.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member's argument has nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr. Gallacher

With all this talk going on about national unity and everything being wanted for the common good, it is clear that those on the other side who are interested in private property and finance have their eye on the ex-Prime Minister and those associated with him. It is finance that they are concerned with, more than anything else, as was demonstrated yesterday.

Mr. Logan

What view are you taking? Are you speaking for this country, or for whom are you speaking?

Mr. Gallacher

I am concerned about this country, deeply concerned about it, and always have been, but I am concerned for the masses of the people of this country, and I am against the small gang of the ruling class who have brought us face to face with this disaster. When I speak about the country I am concerned with the masses of the people, because there is no such thing as a country if you do not take the people into consideration. The masses of the people have had no say whatever in the policy that has led to this disaster, and it is the masses of the people who are now getting their liberties taken away by this Bill, while the property of the ruling class remains intact. The main principle of the rights of property on the part of a small group, whose profits are going up all the time as a consequence of the war, is adequately protected. You can see in the financial papers how their profits are going up, and at the same time the liberties of the many are to be sacrificed. Therefore, I am opposed to this Bill.

4.13 p.m.

Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)

If ever there was an occasion when the nation should listen to the House of Commons, it is to-day. The liberties of the people can be enjoyed by the people only if there is unity in the country, but it is foreign to me to hear an alien voice raised in this House that has a country in every part of the world except the country in which he lives. I think that at this time we not only have to protect ourselves by the laws that we make, but that this Bill should enunciate views which are subservient to the voice of the people of the land. In the case of leprosy and other diseases, we are very careful to see that we have proper protection against them, but unlicensed speech in this House is doing great injury. Therefore, I think that for the common good it is about time that a voice like that of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) was silenced as regards the question of the emergency powers that we ought to exercise. I have listened for a long time to a quartette in this House that professes to speak on behalf of the people of the land in regard to laws that are being passed, and I have lived all my life among the poor and have seen my sons and those of my home having to go out and fight to protect the very people who claim the licence to say and do whatever they like in the British House of Commons.

If unity is to be brought about, and this nation is to be saved, that unity must come in common action, and it is because of that that I do not intend to be a cipher in the House of Commons. We are about to pass laws which, in my humble opinion, are absolutely essential—not only that Stalin might have views expressed but that we at a later date may be able to give expression to our views and bring about a better state in the affairs of our land. This is an honourable institution, and it can only be made more honourable by Members of the House recognising that this land fought for and won its liberties and defending them at all costs. We will give to any Government, provided it is a legitimate Government working in the interest of one and all, every power it can exercise for the common welfare of the people.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)

I always think that the extreme tolerance which this House invariably shows to the amazing statements and strictures made by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) provides the best answer to the speeches he makes. I rise only to put a question to the Lord Privy Seal, which I do not ask him necessarily to answer now, in relation to the penalties that will be imposed on owners of property and on persons who may show some recalcitrance in carrying out directions. I share the view of every Member that this Bill will be welcomed in every quarter of the country. There will, however, be very small minorities who for various reasons may prove recalcitrant in carrying out directions, and I would like an assurance that the penalties will be proportionate to their profits and the magnitude of their offence. I understand that in certain other Defence Regulations there are standard penalties for a whole range of offences. The scale of requisition of persons and property which will take place under this Bill may not be adequately covered by the penalties which are already in force, and I hope that some attention will be given to them.

4.17 p.m.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

When the Lord Privy Seal was making his statement, I asked how much the Bill would affect private property. I waited patiently to see whether private property and the banking interests were to be affected to the same extent as the working class, and as far as I was able to gauge the situation there is a distinct difference. The working class, as I under stand the Lord Privy Seal, are to be tied hand and foot, and private property is not. I will defeat that distinction to the best of my ability. I do not happen to represent either Russia, or Rome, or Jerusalem—

Mr. Logan

Or reason.

Mr. Kirkwood

I represent the working class of my country, and my countrymen will have something to say about this Bill if it works as I understood from the Lord Privy Seal that it will work. The landed interests and the big financial interests are not to be affected to the same extent as the working class. My class are to be conscripted; the Government are going to conscript the life of the worker. They will not do that as far as I can hinder it unless they conscript wealth also. That is supposed to be the programme of the Socialist movement as I have always understood it. I heard in the last war all that the Lord Privy Seal stated to-day. We had then the same promises about what would happen after the war. In the War Cabinet then were two of the most powerful men ever produced by our party in George N. Barnes and Arthur Henderson. They gave every promise, to engineers in particular, that all trade rights would be guaranteed, but in 1920 the wages of highly skilled engineers were less than those of scavengers in the streets of London. That is what happened to us, and that is what will happen again unless the Labour party prevent it. At that time there were not so many Socialists in the House of Commons as there are to-day. There were not so many men sent here by the workers. There were not so many representatives of the miners, whose conditions to-day are hellish. Every time an accident has occurred in the mines, I have asked in the House whether everything is being done that science and engineering can devise to prevent these tragedies, and I am not satisfied that all is being done that might be done.

Unless the workers are to be treated under this Bill on an equal footing with the great, the rich and the all-powerful, I shall do all I can to get my class to resist. Hon. Members should not run away with the idea that because certain Labour and trade union leaders have gone over to the Government side of the House the working-class movement is dead. You may do what you like, but that movement cannot be killed; however it is put down, it will rise again. Even the slaves who were taken from the wilds of Africa as savages and put into the cotton fields of Carolina revolted against their slavery. So will our people revolt. It is no use the Lord Privy Seal and his partners thinking that the working-class movement are just going to fall under the provisions of this Bill without protest, unless all interests are treated alike. The working class of this country have a country to defend, and they are capable of defending it. All that they have is in the country. They have not wealth invested across the seas. The whole of their lives, everything that they have, their wives and families, are all here. Everything for which they have a regard is here, and they will defend it. Down the ages we have had to defend every right that we have against the ruling class. Everything that we have has had to be fought for against the ruling class with which my colleagues and my leaders have now allied themselves. Now is their opportunity to state to the ruling class, "We will defend the country with everything that we have, we will put everything at the disposal of the country, provided the country is ours and all that is in it, instead of belonging to the ruling class as it has done in the past."

4.27 p.m.

Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

I will be brief because I do not think the House is in any mood for speech-making. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) had better concentrate his attention on how to fight Hitler rather than on how to fight the ruling class. The Lord Privy Seal stated the intention of the Government in respect to wage agreements and so forth. Does he mean that the existing wage rates, trade agreements and industrial agreements will be frozen as they are now, or that the existing machinery for regulating wage rates and so forth will continue? It seems to me that some Members took the Lord Privy Seal's remarks in the former sense and that we were being given a gentleman's agreement on the part of the Government to keep up existing wage rates or if there was any change to give something higher. If this Bill with its exceptional and dangerous powers, which we recognise as necessary, has to go on for some time, there may be such changes in the financial position of the country that a modification of industrial arrangements and scales both up and down may be necessary. Women are coming in as substitutes for men in the engineering trade. If vast numbers of women have to be employed and the Government pledge themselves to pay the rates recognised for men as the rate for the job, that may be right or wrong, but it is a big undertaking to which to commit ourselves without any discussion. May we therefore have a little more explanation of the industrial side of this Measure?

4.29 p.m.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

The Lord Privy Seal mentioned that each Minister would issue Orders as he felt them to be necessary. I take it, however, that they will be issued only on a decision by the Cabinet and that it will not be left to each Minister to take it upon himself to issue them. If it is necessary to nationalise the mines or take over the land for the welfare of the State and the prosecution of the war, I take it that there will be no hesitation in putting full powers into operation. We must be assured that the changes that are necessary to win the war will apply not only to the working- class. Equal sacrifice should be called for from all sections in the country, and if necessary wealthy people should be called upon to pay their share like everybody else.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)

Did I understand the Lord Privy Seal to say that the Minister of Labour, with his additional powers for increasing the mobilsisation of labour generally, will seek powers to restore a provision which was in operation before the war but which has been suspended since the outbreak of the war? We still have large numbers of unemployed, and some of them may be residing in places where there is no present or future hope of employment. It may be necessary to transfer them to places some distance from their present homes. Is the Minister of Labour going to restore the power to assist the workers and their families to move to the new place of employment, because that is a power which has been suspended since the outbreak of the war?

4.32 p.m.

Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)

I have one or two suggestions to put to the Lord Privy Seal, entirely on my own behalf. I cannot speak as a representative of the working classes in the same way as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). Most of those who vote for him are workers, and I do not think one can claim to represent the workers in that sense unless one has been through the life of a working man, which I have not. I should like to make a suggestion on behalf of a small number of people who are in positions roughly corresponding to my own. I am rather looking forward to the day when something of this kind will happen: that the Lord Privy Seal or his representative will come to my house, or to houses of similar size, and say, "You have here some very attractive pictures by Joshua Reynolds"—or whoever it may be—"We are taking those pictures and are selling them in America to buy aeroplanes." When I ask what compensation is to be given for those pictures, I am looking forward to receiving the two answers "The means test and Keynes' Plan. Let us see how much you have to live upon after we have taken these pictures, and as to the rest let there be deferred compensation." I merely offer that suggestion to the Lord Privy Seal, because, I submit, when that kind of thing begins to happen in this country in relation to property, it will be very much easier to solve some of the difficulties which were forecast by my hon. Friends above the Gangway. That is the kind of thing, only on a very small scale, which I mean by conscription of wealth, and unless the Government are prepared to act in that way we shall run into trouble.

Mr. Logan

Of what value would porcelain or beautiful pictures be in a time like this?

Sir R. Acland

They could be very valuable indeed, because if we sold them in America, we should have purchasing power with which to buy aeroplanes. We shall run out of American dollars if this is to be a prolonged struggle.

4.34 p.m.

Mr. Attlee

By leave of the House, I will reply to some of the questions which have been addressed to me. The answer to the hon. Member for Down (Dr. Little) is that this Measure does apply to Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) asked whether under this Bill the Government would have all the powers they want if we are invaded. The answer is "Yes."

Mr. Lewis

I meant if Parliament could not be called together.

Mr. Attlee

We shall have the powers. With regard to the questions as to the control of property, I do not think the hon. Member who put them can really have listened to what I said. The power taken to control property is just as strenuous as that to control persons. I was asked whether the banks would be controlled, and I gave that as a specific instance—that the banks would be controlled and would operate under Government orders. They will be as much under orders as anybody working in a factory and in the same way as any other business. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) stressed, very rightly, the position of labour. Labour has declared its view that this war must be won, and I have not the slightest doubt that the hon. Member himself will do his full part. He knows as well as I do that we can get the biggest effort from this country only if the trade unions play their full part and undertake their responsibilities, and that is exactly what is being done under the scheme of the Ministry of Labour, as I indicated.

Mr. Kirkwood

I have a question to put on that point. This is a very serious matter. It may be that some hon. Members do not know just how serious it is, but I do. I want to be perfectly clear about this, because it will be put to me immediately by the engineers: Are we to understand, seeing that labour is to be conscripted—because that is how it appears to me—that wealth in this country is to be conscripted also? I want the Minister to give me a straight answer, such as I am in the habit of giving.

Mr. Attlee

My short answer is that we are taking power to deal with all persons and all property.

Mr. Kirkwood

But can I not get a straighter answer than that? I want a straight answer if the Minister can give it. Believe me, it is with the best intentions that I put this point. It is perfectly true that the leaders of the trade-union movement, and all that, are on the opposite benches, but I am dealing with the men, and it is the men we have to get. Am I in a position to say that if labour is conscripted, so will wealth be conscripted? Can the Minister say that, speaking for the Government?

Sir William Davison (Kensington, South)

I can give an answer to the hon. Member. I have received an intimation from my bank that certain property which I have in America has been taken by the Government and that certain payments will be made in due course. If that is not conscription of wealth—

Mr. Gallacher

They should take the whole lot and give you nothing.

Mr. Kirkwood

I do not want another Member's reply.

Mr. Attlee

I have said that we are taking power over all persons and all property. That does not mean to say that from to-morrow everybody will be given orders to do this or that work, but there is power to do it. In the same way, it does not mean to say that from to-morrow every form of wealth will be taken, but there is power to take property and to control persons, and that power will be exercised wherever it is necessary in the interests of the safety of the country. With regard to the point put by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), there is no suggestion of any "freezing" of industrial agreements. The whole industrial system is alive and going on all the time, and there is no suggestion that from this time on it will be suddenly frozen. There is a general principle with regard to agreements made in industry, that advantage should not be taken of the war to take away rights that ought to be restored at the end of the war. As to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), general policy must necessarily be co-ordinated, either by action between Ministers or through the Cabinet. The competent authority will be the Minister. Within the range of his activities, so far as they do not impinge on the activities of another Minister, he will be the person to give orders.

Mr. Tinker

Suppose the Minister of Labour should decide to direct certain sections of labour in a particular direction. That might arouse controversy in the trade union ranks. It may not always be the present Minister of Labour; there may be a Minister not sympathetic to labour. Would his orders be subject to Cabinet review, or would he be responsible himself?

Mr. Attlee

In any case where there was a difference it would necessarily be settled either by the Cabinet or through one of the Members of it, but no Minister would attempt to enforce powers that ran directly contrary to the functions of another Minister. It is essential that there should be co-operation in all these things. The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) put a good point. I cannot say exactly what the previous practice was, but if in the national interest workers are required to go from one place to another, there must be adequate payment to compensate them for the cost of travelling and all that kind of thing. I could not say precisely what was done before.

Mr. Mainwaring

Before the war, if an unemployed worker was being placed in a job 50 or 100 miles away from his home, he and his family were moved at the expense of the Ministry of Labour, but that system has been suspended since the outbreak of war. I think that, in all reasonableness, that condition ought to be restored, because otherwise an unemployed man would be under very great hardship.

Mr. Attlee

I think I had better bring that point to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. I was not considering the question of the unemployed. If there was a surplus of key-men in an industry in one place and it was desired to bring them to another centre, then, in all fairness, they should be compensated. As to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), there is power to take his Joshua Reynolds, if we thought it in the national interest to do so. If he has one and wants that done, I am sure the Government will be glad of it.

Mr. Garro Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer the point about penalties?

Mr. Attlee

It is true that there are to be penalties. It will be the endeavour to make the penalties apply proportionately to everybody—I could not say exactly how, but the idea is that there should be no distinction between people at this time. Whether they be rich or poor, or whatever they are, they should all be willing to perform service and to give up their property, and those who are recalcitrant come into the same category.

Mr. Thorne (Plaistow)

What means are you going to take now, in view of this Bill, to prevent the moneyed class and the propertied class from getting rid of their property now and buying securities in America?

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and considered in Committee.

[Colonel Clifton Brown in the Chair.]

CLAUSE 1.—(Extension of powers under 2 & 3 Geo. 6. c. 62.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

4.44 p.m.

Sir Robert Young (Newton)

It is plain to me what this Clause does. I understand it to mean that the services and the property of all persons can be taken when required. But from the discussion in the House this afternoon it is obvious that the Clause as it stands will be misunderstood by some people in the country. It is regrettable that it should have been worded in such a way that the word "all" could not have been used. I can imagine people going to the country and saying that the Bill will be utilised only in one direction, although it is intended to cover all classes. If anything can be done by means of an assurance from the Minister, I shall be very pleased indeed.

Mr. Attlee

The Committee will see that "persons" means all persons, and it does give the power which the hon. Member desires. I should like to make it quite plain that "persons" means all persons.

4.46 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

The Committee should have more assurances from the Lord Privy Seal as to how the Bill will be administered. No one can point a finger at the trade union movement with regard to the part that it has played during the past eight months, in the engineering industry in particular, where the unions at the very beginning came to an agreement which was known as the Relaxation of Customs Agreement. Anybody in touch with the heavy and general engineering industries will understand that that in itself was a revolution in working-class conditions. Up till now, that spirit has not been reciprocated. If anyone doubts that statement, I can produce correspondence from executives of a number of trade unions as concrete evidence. Clause 1 gives powers for making provision for requiring persons to place themselves….at the disposal of His Majesty. Our position is clear. If I were in the workshop, as I was in the last war, I should be called upon to play a representative part on behalf of the men. They are bound to be concerned when they know that this Bill is going through; we are speaking on their behalf. We are entitled to have assurances as to how the Bill will be administered. I was speaking in my division the other night, and it was clear that the whole of the audience supported the decision of the Bournemouth Conference and were in agreement with the line that we were taking. After the meeting, several men came up to me with questions. I do not intend to repeat all those questions, but I will give one example. A man who was going to work produced his pay packet, and on it was written "£2 7s."That man had worked overtime. He has seven children, and he desires a transfer to another job in order that he might have more wages. Nevertheless, because he was already in a job, and in spite of the fact that he has seven children, he has been prevented from going to another job. I want to ask whether the Clause will be interpreted in such a way as to prevent men of that kind from going to other jobs. To a great extent, these days, we must sink our individuality and our own individual interests. Our men and women have done so during the past eight months, but they find that that spirit is not evident in other directions. I should like to have an assurance that that kind of thing will not be encouraged, and that if men wish to be transferred to other jobs, provided they are serving the State in a better way as a result of the transfer, they shall be entitled to that transfer. As the matter is being administered, the employers' interests are considered, rather than the interests of the State as a whole.

The next point arises out of our experience in the last war. We know that skilled engineers are being discharged from aircraft factories. This week-end highly skilled engineers are being discharged from a certain factory, which I could name if anyone doubted my statement. This is an indication of the lack of organisation in the industry. While our men are giving of their best and have agreed to the relaxation of customs, such incidents are causing irritation inside the workshop. Men say: "What is the use of our agreeing to relax our customs, to dilution, to train dilutees and to put forward our maximum effort if the position is being undermined by lack of organisation, because certain monopoly interests are being considered rather than the interests of the State as a whole?" Therefore, we want assurances on that point.

Surely discharges of skilled men ought to cease. We are in a serious state. The only difference between me and some of my hon. Friends is that we realise that the war did not start eight months ago but seven years ago. Our movement can look the world in the eyes because of our attitude during the last seven years. In spite of that, men are being discharged and are, in some cases, being offered employment many miles away from their own areas. Our men are prepared to accept these transfers because they realise what is at stake, but we say that, if this thing is to be carried through, the men are entitled to some subsistence allowance if they are transferred at the instance of the State. I remember that the present Prime Minister, when he was Minister of Munitions, realised the danger in a matter of this kind, and agreed to a system of subsistence allowances in order that wives and children might be maintained in at least as good conditions as they were in prior to transfer. Speaking on behalf of the persons whom we represent, and who are giving the maximum amount of production by using the maximum of energy, in order that the nation's resources might be organised and the best possible result be obtained, we are entitled to receive the assurances for which we ask before we agree to the Clause.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. Kirkwood

Our executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers are responsible for 300,000 workers. I put it to the President and the General Secretary of that union, in the presence of some of my colleagues—the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) was present—whether they had agreed to forgo our trade-union rights to dilution of labour and to the extension of overtime. They said, "Yes." I then asked—and this is where the workers come in—"What did you get, in return? What concessions have you got in return?" What was their answer? That they had got no concessions. Some hon. Members on this side of the House seem to be a wee bit annoyed at me to-day to hear me moved in the manner I am, but I went through the mill, as a result of standing up in defence of the men in the last war. I was deported and imprisoned, not for letting my country down and not for being a conscientious objector, because I never was, and am not to-day, a conscientious objector. I will fight for the rights of the working class, and that is what every Member on these benches was sent to do. We should defend those rights, which are ours to defend and are not ours to give away.

I want to try again to see whether the Lord Privy Seal will give me a definite answer that the wealth of this country is to be conscripted if labour and the manpower of the country are to be conscripted. I would like a definite answer, because upon that answer depends the part which I play. This part may not be very much, but you can take it from me that, throughout the length and breadth of this country and not only among the engineers, all the Socialist propaganda cannot all have been of no avail. We have done our utmost to implant into our class that that is their way out. If my boy is conscripted as well as other boys, and they have to offer their lives, it is not asking too much, surely, as a Socialist who has propagated these ideas from one end of the country to the other, to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us a straight answer to the question, "Is wealth to be conscripted as well as human life?"

4.57 p.m.

Mr. Craven-Ellis (Southampton)

The hon. Member who has just spoken has put in a plea for the working class. I would remind him that I stand in this House as a representative to the extent of 86 per cent. of the working class in my division, and that so long as I am in this House I shall do what I can to protect the interests of the working class. On one point I should like to have an explanation of Clause 1, at the point where it reads: making provision for requiring persons to place themselves…at the disposal of His Majesty. Does that include refugees? The reason I ask the question is that my company, which is responsible for a large quantity of machine tools in this country, has made application to the Ministry of Labour for 250 refugees of the skilled classes. If these men were granted to my company, would the Bill apply to them so long as they were being paid the proper trade union rates of wages? On the question of companies under contract with the Government on a cost-plus-10 per cent. basis, I suggest that this system has encouraged the increase in the cost of the camps and other services being performed on behalf of the Government. Because they are not limited to a contract price, these people are paying high wages quite unnecessarily and are, in consequence, attracting people who are getting full trade union rates away from other companies to the companies where they can be in that favourable position. I should like to know whether this Bill will protect companies which are paying legitimate and full trade union rates of wages against that very pernicious policy.

5.0 p.m.

Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)

There is one question I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal. Although I am not a trade unionist, I represent a large industrial area. The point on which I desire some enlightenment is the question when a man is asked to change his job. A man may be employed in the building trade, he may be a transport worker or a municipal worker, and there may be need for such men on the land. The Lord Privy Seal said that when a man was conscripted for a particular job, he had to get the wages which were paid in that particular job. Supposing a transport worker, a municipal worker, an engineer or a railwayman was told to work on the land, are his wages to be brought down to the level of the low-paid agricultural worker? We have heard to-day of somebody being appointed as a commissioner; it may be that men in business will be asked to take up other jobs. In some cases they may get an increase. Are we to continue with these inequalities for services rendered?

I do not see that there is any difference between conscripting people for work and conscripting people to fight. What I want to know is whether the rule will be that a man has to come down to the lower standard. We know that the reason for the scarcity of men on the land is that wages have not been sufficiently attractive. If a man can be appointed as a Commissioner and can receive £2,000 or £3,000 a year, and if another man who has been earning £3 or £4 a week is to receive 30s. on the land, this matter should be looked into.

5.3 p.m.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

The point which has just been raised is a point which I was going to raise myself. I represent an industry that is now so slack that there is a very high percentage of unemployment in it. I am extremely glad to see that the Government are taking the precautions that they are, and I should have no hesitation in giving my vote, if a vote were necessary, to enable the Government to have these powers. I represent a working-class constituency, a constituency over which we have had control for many years, and they all know that we are all Socialists who control it. I claim to be quite as good a Socialist as other people. I do not expect a social revolution to-morrow from this Bill, neither do I expect it at any time during the present war. When the working class want that social revolution of which we hear so much, we shall get it, but the working class have not expressed their desire to get it. When they express a desire to get it, we shall not have a Government of 25 per cent. such as we now have, with 75 per cent. non-Socialists, but we shall have a Government of 75 per cent. and 25 per cent. non-Socialists. I am loking forward to that time, but I do not expect it from this Bill.

What I am expecting from the Bill is something which arises from the statement which was made by the Lord Privy Seal, a statement which I think is very serious. In speaking of the building trade, I am also speaking of others who, like the building trade, over a long period of years, by effort and sacrifice, have attained a standard of life which is one which we desire to maintain. If this Bill is passed without some better conditions than those which the Lord Privy Seal has indicated so far, I can see the possibility of a great danger to that standard of life. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will be able to give us some guarantee in this respect. Carpenters, joiners, bricklayers or plasterers, who cannot possibly get work in their own industry, will be very glad indeed to be transferred to some other industry where they can use their labour and earn their living instead of getting it in other ways, but they will not be so glad if, as the last speaker said, they are to be transferred from their own industry with its high standard to the agricultural industry with its low standard. When I say the agricultural industry, this may also apply to the ordinary navvy. Men may be sent to do general labourers' work or other forms of work where the standard of living is very much below the standard which they have earned by sacrifice and effort. I hope the Lord Privy Seal will give serious consideration to this point.

The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) gave an instance which could be multiplied by tens of thousands. There are people in my constituency who take home £2 5s., or two guineas, or even less than that, and they are working long hours. In that same constituency there are scores of people in my own industry who are out of work. In factories where the standard is below £2 a week men may be required, and it may easily be that a man in the industry of which I spoke, earning £3 10s. or £3 15s., is sent into an industry in the town in which he lives where the standard wage is about £2. I hope there will be a minimum and that the minimum will be a living one. It is not a living minimum for a man with a family to take home £2 or £2 5s. to-day. It is unreasonable and unfair to expect a man who with his fellows has obtained by effort and sacrifice the standard of living which he has, to be transferred to an industry with a standard very little over half that in his own industry. It is also unreasonable to expect a man in a low-paid industry to-day to continue to work under existing conditions and with existing prices. I hope that very serious consideration will be given to the fixing of a minimum wage below which no employer will be allowed to pay his workmen.

5.9 p.m.

Mr. Logan

There are one or two points to which I desire to draw the attention of the Lord Privy Seal. I am aware of conditions existing in that industry which have been so well described to-day by those who are engaged in it and who are more accustomed to seeing the dirty overalls in that industry. The dilution of labour, so far as engineering is concerned, was diabolic in the last war. The reduction in the value of man-power in that industry compared with other labour which came along was one of the scandals at that particular time. I remember the time when a skilled artisan, who had served his apprenticeship of five or seven years after going to a secondary school, got 39s. a week in what was considered to be the premier industry in the land, and found that the man sweeping the street was getting 62s. 6d. That cannot be allowed to go on in future. I am fully aware, and so must many of my colleagues be aware, that in many parts of this country there are skilled artisans who are not engaged in their former kind of employment; they are engaged in other jobs. I am considering the question of the dilution of labour. I do not belong to an organised body of labour in which one is able to command any wage in the trade union world, but I am one of those who understand the difficulty in regard to the dilution of labour. I am convinced that the trade unions in this country would be better satisfied to see their own members coming back rather than having a dilution of labour and seeing unskilled people being brought in. I am anxious to know this, as it concerns thousands of artisans in our great cities, who have served apprenticeships or who are skilled workers in a particular industry, and who are now engaged in other occupations. Of course, they have to make application, because the Bill distinctly states: …making provisions for requiring persons to place themselves… I am talking of service to the State, by which men who are fully qualified can place their services at the disposal of the State for the period of the war and can give their services in an occupation in which they are qualified. I want to know what provisions have been made and what guarantee could be entered into so that employers of labour could dispose of men's services for the period of the war in jobs for which the men are qualified. There may not appear to be very much in this point, but with my knowledge of the docks of Liverpool, and of the workshops, I can tell the Minister that there are thousands of fully skilled men who have served apprenticeships and who are capable of taking any job in a factory, who would be willing to give their services to the State providing that there was a safeguarding Clause inserted in the Bill. When talking about taking land and persons a Clause should be inserted into the Bill by which a man can be taken from a job, if he makes application and offers his services to the State, with a guarantee that that man will be re-established again in that former employment without any pecuniary loss. The State would be able to get skilled men. It is no use any Minister or any hon. Member thinking that the question of the protection of the home after our difficulties are over is a matter which the workmen of this country must not consider. Every family is dependent upon the father and the mother making provision for that home. If that is realised by the Minister, he may be able to guard against the difficulty and bring in a Clause to see that that safety is given.

A colleague sitting on the Liberal benches spoke of Gainsboroughs, Dresden and porcelains and such things—which I have handled in my time—but I am convinced that if one could get a market for such articles, they would be of little value. A pair of Dresden vases or a Gainsborough picture would not be as valuable as two skilled engineers going into the workshop to provide us with guns. Therefore, when considering the material value which we have in hand, I ask the Minister to take into consideration the question of this valuable labour which would give to the State men who would be of adequate value and who would create no difficulties with the trade union organisations.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Attlee

The questions that have been addressed to me are almost all on rather detailed matters. Clearly, one cannot answer them straight off across the Floor of the House. They are matters that should be taken up with the Minister of Labour, through the appropriate organisations. I know that the Minister of Labour wants to have close co-operation not only with trade-union secretaries, but with trade unions right through. That is the best way to get increased production. Here we are taking an enabling power. It is not possible to put into the Bill all the detailed administration of the Ministry of Labour, or even the details of regulations. Take, for instance, the point put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee). It is impossible to lay down that in an emergency every person shall get the same money as he was getting before the emergency, but we are taking power to provide that a man getting £10,000 a year may have to work for the State, like everybody else, and at the rate for the job. When people are talking of service to the State, you do not expect them to receive large profits, and, at the same time, you do not expect them to be living on a miserable wage. That is the general principle. The details are a matter for adjustment. The hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) asked me a question about refugees. I am afraid that I did not catch the point. Anyway, it does not arise under this Clause. That is a matter to be dealt with by the appropriate authorities.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

Could the right hon. Gentleman make it clear, as this is of immense importance, whether the word "persons" in line 21 of this Clause includes refugees?

Mr. Attlee

It might include refugees from some of those countries which have been overrun. It obviously would not be applied to American visitors here. How- ever, I think that is not a very wide question. I note the other points that were made, with regard to the checking of the jobs, by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and other of my hon. Friends. They are all matters of detailed administration. On the Clause in general, I cannot emphasise too strongly that it applies to every kind of job and to every person. I cannot say that from to-morrow all properties are taken over, but I do say that the Government are taking power to take every kind of property.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication as to when the Regulations, which everybody agrees are the real crux of the matter, will be laid on the Table or otherwise made available to hon. Members of this House?

Mr. Attlee

I cannot say at the moment when it will be, but it will be as soon as possible.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)

The Lord Privy Seal mentioned that powers would be taken to compel small contractors to merge in order that their plant might be made available. It is 12 months since somebody in this House suggested that course. Throughout the country there are small firms which are, in fact, amalgamated in districts, and which want to help. I have a letter from the secretary of one of those firms asking when they will be allowed to do something in the interests of the country. Will the information which is in the different Departments be utilised in order to save time and to bring these plants which are still available—and which, although still in the hands of the separate owners, have in fact been amalgamated—into production?

5.21 p.m.

Mr. David Adams (Consett)

The Lord Privy Seal said that in the event of manufacturers and others not restoring to the workers customs which had been varied or abrogated, such firms would not be entitled to further Government orders. That seems to me a rather remarkable provision. I think the House generally understood that the specific pledges given by the Minister of Labour with regard to the variation of customs was virtually an undertaking that these customs and usages would be restored after the war. On that basis, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, with its thousands of members, agreed to the variation of existing usages. What new situation has arisen which necessitates this rather vague pledge being now given to labour?

5.22 p.m.

Mr. Attlee

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), I would say that the point that he raised would be dealt with by the area boards. With regard to my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), he must remember that some of these undertakings have been given by the employers to the employés, and the Government wish to see them implemented.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.