HC Deb 20 April 1943 vol 388 cc1573-5
Mr. Bevin

I beg to move, in page 12, line 12, to leave out from "Act" to "the," in line 15.

Major Petherick

I do not know whether I can say what I wish to say and still remain within the bounds of Order, because it relates to the old question I raised just now in the form of an Amendment. My hon. and learned Friend the Solocitor-General was good enough to hand me just now a legal opinion on the point which I raised, and I think he was quite right in the discussion on the earlier part of the interpretation Clause in which he said with regard to the Amendment which I moved, namely, that canteen workers would not be covered by the Bill if my Amendment was accepted. Now, on this question of the interpretation Clause, I am not at all sure that the Clause as drafted covers canteen workers. I wonder whether I can be allowed a little latitude to develop this, because obviously we do not want a Bill to go to another place not saying what it means. If I may refer to Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, I will try to explain what I mean. If the Solicitor-General would bear with me for just a moment and look at that Sub-section, I am not alarmed about the workers in the hotel business or lodging house business or all those whose business is mainly or wholly carrying on activities in connection with the catering trade. In that case it would be an undertaking. The one we are interested in is the canteen workers who would be engaged in part of an undertaking. Would my hon. and learned Friend address himself to this? Sub-section (2), if you leave out the non-essential words, reads like this: The workers to whom this Act applies are all persons employed in any…part of an undertaking which consists wholly or mainly in the carrying on…of the following activities.… I am extremely doubtful whether those words do in fact cover canteen workers. It seems to me that if they are employed in a part of an undertaking, say a part of Vickers, they would not be covered. The words are: which consists wholly or mainly in the carrying on…of the following activities. Vickers do not do that. Therefore, in order to make it correct, would my hon. and learned Friend consider putting in these words: The workers to whom this Act applies are all persons employed in any undertaking or in that part thereof which consists wholly or mainly.… It is difficult to make my point clear, and obviously I do not expect my hon. and learned Friend to accept the Amendment now. But would he look at it before the Bill goes to another place?

Mr. Francis Watt (Edinburgh, Central)

I would like to say a word or two in support of what my hon. and gallant Friend has said. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General has been good enough to let us have for examination the legal opinion on which he relies. I venture to submit that that opinion is wrong. If Clause 19 is parted with as it stands at present, those canteens, which the Minister of Labour desires to regulate, will, in my submission, not be covered by the Bill. The matter seems to me very plain indeed. If one looks at Clause 1, Subsection (2), one finds that a certain class of workers is covered by the Bill. First, you have workers engaged in an undertaking which consists wholly or mainly of catering activities. Then there are workers who are engaged in a part of that undertaking. The test is, whether that undertaking is wholly or mainly engaged in catering activities. At the very end of the Clause, you will find that if it is something ancillary to such an undertaking the workers are covered; but the whole test is, what kind of undertaking is it? If it is a catering undertaking, the worker is covered; and if it is not a catering undertaking, the worker is not covered. I strongly support my hon. and gallant Friend, and earnestly urge the Solicitor-General to look into this matter.

The Solicitor-General

I am always prepared to look carefully into anything which my hon. Friends suggest. But I must confess that the words used give me no difficulty. I may put the point of my hon. and gallant Friend shortly in these words. He suggests that the adjectival clause beginning with "which" must qualify the second "undertaking" in the line. I should have thought that, in view of the antithesis between "undertaking" and "any part of an undertaking," it must be held to qualify "part." But it is obviously not only my duty but my pleasure to consider any point of clarity which is raised by my hon. Friends, and the matter will be considered.

Amendment agreed to.

Further amendment made: In page 12, line 18, leave out Sub-section (2).—[Mr. Bevin.]

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