§ This Act shall apply to persons employed by the local authorities only in so far as such persons are engaged wholly or mainly in the preparation and serving of food or drink—(Sir J. Lamb.)
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The Minister has had a good deal of difficulty in convincing the Committee why certain Amendments should not be accepted, but I hope that I shall have little difficulty in convincing him that this new Clause is something that he could and should accept. Legislation should be quite clear, and people should understand to whom it applies. The proposed new Clause does this and makes clear to what persons in the employ of local authorities this Bill should apply. Local authorities are not against the Bill; they want to help it and to have it as good as possible. They are not clear to what people in their employ the Bill really applies. Clause 1, Sub-section (2), is so wide that it might include many who are not wholly or mainly employed in the preparation and serving of food. I take it that the kitchen staffs of hospitals and nurses' hostels are included. So, too, are the cooks and those engaged in preparing food in the kitchens attached to schools. The teachers, however, do a good deal of the serving, but I hope they will not be included. There are also porters and others employed by these institutions who might 551 be included, and it should be made clear that they are not. In hospitals there is what is called a housekeeping sister, who has control of the kitchens and the serving of food. Therefore she might be included. She is also included in the Rushcliffe Report. That is an example of the ambiguity as to the persons who come within the Bill.
§ Sir A. Maitland
I had an Amendment down earlier covering the same point. It was put down at the request of the Association of Municipal Corporations, and as we rely so much on the municipal authorities for the administration of legislation, it will be agreed that we ought to have some regard to representations on matters which closely affect them. Clause 1 of this Bill says it shall apply to all persons employed "in any undertaking." If we take the example of a hospital, the main duty of a nurse is to attend the patients. She has nothing to do with the cooking of food, but on occasion she may serve it. Should she, therefore, be included in this Bill? This new Clause will not affect the purpose of the Bill, but it will make clear the persons to whom it applies.
§ Sir H. Williams
I got into a certain amount of trouble on Thursday when we were discussing an Amendment to Clause 6 which had some relation to this proposal. An hon. Member behind me was angry because he thought I had misrepresented the situation.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I was speaking for the County Councils' Association with the full knowledge that we were supported by all the other associations.
§ Sir H. Williams
That was my impression. The issue in this new Clause is perfectly clear. On the other hand, although I have been asked by the London County Council to support it, I am wondering whether it should be supported, because there is no reason why a local authority should be in a privileged position in legislation like this. Let us take the case of any large shop in the West End that has a restaurant for the convenience of its customers, as, for example, the Army and Navy Stores, which is the nearest to us. Across the river is the London County Council. Across the road is the luncheon club which is or used to be run by the Ministry of Health. Are we going to treat these three cases differ- 552 ently? Under Clause 16 the Crown, which is not His Majesty but that mysterious entity represented by the people who sit on the Front Government Bench, is always claiming privilege. Under Clause 16 we have exempted the Crown except so far as canteens in Royal Ordnance factories are concerned. We are being asked by this new Clause to put local authorities in a position of privilege. I am not clear whether the people in the luncheon club at the Ministry of Health come under the Bill. The people at the Army and Navy Stores do come under it. What conceivable reason is there why somebody on the clerical staff of the Army and Navy Stores should come under the Bill and why somebody who happens to be the secretary of the luncheon club of the Ministry of Health should be exempt because he is a servant of the Crown and not an industrial worker, and why County Hall across the river should be exempted by this Clause? There is no coherence about the Bill.
We thus have three classes of persons. There are the employees of the Crown; there are employees of places like the Army and Navy Stores, which used to be called a co-operative society but they have now abandoned that title; there are co-operative societies which would come under this Bill. The hon. Member behind me who is very chatty has supported Clause 16, which suggests that certain people should be out of the Bill. In addition to those two classes there are people like the secretary of the luncheon club of the Ministry of Health. Now this proposed Clause wants to exclude the London County Council. I do not really mind who is in the Bill and who is out, for it is such a bad Bill that it does not matter. There ought, however, to be some principle. I can find no principle governing this matter in the Bill. It is merely submission to the pressure of Fascist doctrine, which has now its chief support from behind me. (Interruption). The hon. Member thinks Fascism is a term of abuse applied to Germans.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is going very wide on what is really a narrow point. Perhaps he had better refer less to hon. Members behind him.
§ Sir H. Williams
I apologise. The question at issue is whether there is any fundamental reason why employees of local authorities, who are large traders in these 553 days, should be outside this Bill any more than the employees of private persons. That is the fundamental test, and although I have been asked by the London County Council, of which I am an alderman, to support the new Clause, I find that I cannot do it. There is not the slightest reason why municipalities should be put in a privileged position. If we pass Acts of Parliament which impose social duties in connection with employment, conditions and wages there is no reason why local authorities should be exempt from the overriding and all-powerful arm of the Minister of Labour.
§ Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)
British Restaurants are managed by the local authorities, and I hope that the Solicitor-General will give an assurance that the staffs employed in them will not be in a privileged position as compared with staffs in any other catering establishment.
§ Sir H. Webbe
I hope that we shall not be alarmed by the implications of what my hon. Friend has just said. We have not yet had any indication from the Minister that it is his intention to accept this new Clause. Like others who are concerned with local authorities, I have been asked to support it. I admit that the logic of the arguments leads me to want to do so. This is just another example of the muddle into which we have got because of the rather hasty character of this legislation. There are any number of arguments which can be put forward on behalf of the local authorities, but those arguments apply equally to the big private enterprise establishments. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot support this new Clause, and I hope very much that the Minister will reject it. There is no doubt that local authorities will experience great difficulties with this Bill. Questions will arise in connection with their clerical staff which will puzzle them and lead to a great deal of trouble in administration, but they, like private enterprise, have to suffer from the fact that the bull has got into the china shop and that some china is bound to be broken.
§ Mr. Levy
Either this Bill is a good Bill or a bad Bill. If it is supposed to be a good Bill, it should apply to all who should come within its ambit. If it is a bad Bill, let us not make it worse by showing discrimination. The Bill is supposed to be all-embracing so far as the 554 catering trade is concerned, and therefore if local authorities or the Crown find it necessary to cater for employees, it seems nonsensical that their catering departments should be excluded. We find that hotels are divided into two classes, the residential and the catering. All hotels are not necessarily residential. A catering department exists for the convenience of those who may wish to partake of refreshments or food. I cannot support any Clause which is going to discriminate among various categories of catering employees just because they happen to be in various institutions under local autthorities vis-à-vis these other large establishments. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) mentioned the Army and Navy Stores. May I mention Harrods or some other big establishment? Either they are to be excluded or included. I say that if they come within the category this bad Catering Bill should be made worse by the inclusion of all.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden
I think the hon. Member who moved this Clause has been very badly briefed by the Municipal Corporations' Association or the County Councils' Association in regard to the arguments he has put forward. If they have no better case than the one he has submitted, he had better tell them to hold a few more meetings long after this Bill has become law.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I was moving a new Clause and not asking for advice as to what I should do in any other case.
§ Mr. Walkden
And I am offering an opinion on what was said. I think I am entitled to offer an opinion on arguments as to why we should accept the Clause, accepting the fact that the County Councils' Association are the promoters of the Clause and my hon. Friend is the Mover.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is no concern of the Committee who is promoting the Clause. What concerns us is who moves the Clause.
§ Mr. Walkden
I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland), who told us of the interest and appreciation we ought to display in the views of the Municipal Corporations' Association. I am accepting his advice, but I accept the correction from you, Mr. Williams, in regard to the point as to whom else we should appreciate. 555 Whether county councils, municipal councils or parish councils are affected by the Bill, what does it matter? If town clerks cannot decide when this Bill becomes law which members of their staff are affected by the Bill then it is time we got new town clerks.
§ Mr. Walkden
They understand beforehand that this is part of the delaying action, and I am sorry that these associations are lending themselves to it. It is most unfortunate, and I hope we shall reject this Clause.
§ The Solicitor-General
I have given full consideration to this new Clause, and so has my right hon. Friend the Minister, because my hon. Friend was good enough to draw attention to it at an early stage in the proceedings, but the difficulty which we are in is that it alters fundamentally the principle on which the scope of the Bill is based. If the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) will look once again at Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, he will see that the scope is based on the activities of the undertaking or part of the undertaking. They decide the scope issue. The new Clause suggests that in the case of a local authority's catering a different principle should apply, and that the test of the activities of the person should be the material consideration. I think I am putting in other words, relating it to the wording of the Bill, the argument which was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). I ask my hon. Friend to appreciate that there is a fundamental difficulty. We cannot alter the fundamental provisions of the Bill and place local authorities in a different position. That is the difficulty on the question of accepting the new Clause.
Having put that point with one hand, let me try to remove some of my hon. Friend's fears with the other. He put forward the case of a teacher engaged for a short time in serving meals. In that case his fear is unfounded. Applying the test which I have just suggested, the test of undertakings and activities, that teacher is employed in the scholastic part of the local authority's undertaking and would not be within the scope of the Bill because 556 he or she assisted in serving school meals. When we come to the nursing question I ask my hon. Friend to remember the governing principle that local authorities are in exactly the same position, and also to remember that the Minister has said that he is going to have no duplication in the matter. I think that sets at rest the other point. The point of them all being in the same position meets the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor). That is the position we have tried to keep. When we get to the question of the ancillary workers, I think the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon becomes even stronger, that it would be obviously unfair and illegal to exclude ancillary workers in local authority catering establishments while including such workers who are employed otherwise in the local authority. It is quite a serious problem. The normal number likely to be affected in the case of the London County Council is something like 8,000 to 10,000. I am quite certain, having given the best consideration to this position, that in the interests of general fairness and logical legislation we must place local authorities not in any worse position but in the same position as other catering establishments.
§ Sir W. Smithers
Before you came into the Chair, Mr. Williams, we had a discussion on Sub-section (2) of Clause 17, in which the question of ancillary workers was raised. There we were told that certain persons like ostlers, chauffeurs and gardeners who work for catering establishments would come within the ambit of the Bill. Now the Solicitor-General tells us that a teacher who is engaged chiefly in teaching but who helps with the feeding of the school children does not come within the ambit of the Bill. What does he mean? We are here to try to protect the public. Will the Solicitor-General give us some better definition of ancillary help? A lot of people ask me, "Do I or do I not"——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member was perfectly in Order up to the point when he began asking for a definition of "ancillary," but that point has passed.
§ Sir W. Smithers
With great respect, I was speaking about local authorities. The Solicitor-General referred to the case of a teacher and said a teacher does not come within the ambit of the Bill. Will 557 he therefore continue his definition and say who does and who does not come within the Bill, because people want to know?
§ Sir J. Lamb
I should like to thank the Solicitor-General for his reply, but I wish to clear up a point which has been raised by the other side. The authorities for whom I am speaking—and I believe I am speaking for a larger number than are represented by the County Councils' Association—do not in any way wish to oppose the Bill. They are prepared to come under the Bill, but they ask that it should be made clear as to who it is among those in their service to whom the Bill does apply. I see from the attitude that hon. Members have taken that because they have not been successful in obtaining clarity for others they are not prepared to give it to the County Councils' Association or any other association. In that case I think the best thing I can do is to ask leave to withdraw the new Clause.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.