HC Deb 01 February 1945 vol 407 cc1685-8
Major York

I beg to move, in page 15, line 1, after "apprenticeship," insert "or other contract".

The purpose of the Amendment is to widen the Clause as drawn, which only allows the payment of premiums for apprenticeship to articled apprentices as far as I understand it. There are many other forms of apprenticeship which in my opinion are thoroughly desirable and should be continued. In particular, I would refer to the form of premium paid by pupils to good farmers in order to learn all that the farmers can teach them. There is another class, land agents, to whom pupils pay premiums. The Minister may say that the wages council would not apply to those two classes. I would agree that in the immediate future that is probably so, but we do not know where the Bill is going to take us. We do not know, for instance, whether in due course, under other Measures, wages councils could not be extended to include managerial or executive positions, and it is to protect the land agent or the farming pupil against such extensions that the Amendment is moved. There should be an upper level to which the Clause should apply and, as there is not, I consider that it ought to be widened.

2.0 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. McCorquodale)

I am afraid I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment. The object of the Clause, which reproduces the provisions of Section 7 of the Trade Boards Act, closes the door upon what would otherwise present an obvious possibility of evading the minimum wage requirements by requiring the learner to pay weekly or monthly premiums. We do not want that. There is a proviso the object of which is to provide for a proper indenture of apprenticeship to be entered into under which, in return for a premium, the employer undertakes to give the worker proper training. We cannot widen that in the way suggested by the Amendment. It would open the door to other arrangements which would be far removed from anything which this Bill contemplates and which would not be desirable. There is no reason why, if articled clerks are ever likely to come under a wages council, they should not enter into apprenticeship indentures. That would be the proper way of dealing with them.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)

Does the hon. and gallant Member wish to withdraw the Amendment?

Major York

No, Sir.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. McCorquodale

I beg to move, in page 15, line 2, leave out "employment," and insert "apprenticeship."

This is necessary to provide for the case where the apprentice has begun employment some time previous to the apprenticeship indentures. The employment may have gone on for some considerable time, and it is obvious that the date of entry into the apprenticeship is the date that should be taken.

Amendment agreed to.

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

Mr. Lindsay

I gather from what the Parliamentary Secretary said that this Clause is a carry-over from the old Trade Boards Act. I have raised the question of premiums several times with my, right hon. Friend at Question time. Can he say whether it is likely that the wages councils will deal with industries where proper premiums are paid?

Mr. McCorquodale

It is possible but it is unlikely, because apprenticeships have declined very much in recent years and are exceptional to-day. They are sometimes found in respect of children who are indentured by arrangements with charitable trusts, and it is not considered desirable to interfere with that wholly beneficent practice.

Mr. Lindsay

My point is that it looks as if the Ministry of Labour—and I agree with them—take very little account of premiums which are being paid. In all the schemes for further education under the Education Acts no account is taken of premiums, and I would like to get a ruling at some time about what the attitude of the Ministry of Labour is on the question.

Mr. McCorquodale

I am afraid that I cannot give that.

Captain Duncan

I would like to get the meaning of the Clause clear from the point of view of an educational trust. I am a member of a charitable trust which does a certain amount of apprenticeship indenturing. We do not do so much as in the old days, but in the past few years we have indentured boys as sign-writers, watch-makers, cabinet makers, printers, upholsterers, hairdressers, locksmiths and electrical engineers. That list gives an idea of the scope of the trades, but the numbers are very small.

In the indentures which we enter into we provide for the premiums to be in two moieties. As far as I can make out the proviso to this Clause, we shall now be allowed to make only one payment. Surely the wording should be altered to allow the premiums to be paid, not in one lump sum in advance, but as they become due in moieties in accordance with the indentures which are entered into. Although the apprenticeship system is on a much smaller scale than in the old days, it is one of those things that should be encouraged. We have helped boys from the elementary schools to gain scholarships to secondary and technical schools. We have then helped them to learn a trade, and they are fine fellows of whom we are proud. That sort of personal interest which people can take in boys should be encouraged, and I do not want some technical mistake in an Act of Parliament to interfere with that interest.

Mr. McCorquodale

It is not our intention to interfere with it. The Clause will not apply to any payment made in pursuance of an instrument of apprenticeship, but if there is any doubt I will look into it and clear up the point. It is not intended to interfere with these excellent schemes of apprenticeship.

Question put, and agreed to.