§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Sir Walter Monckton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill represents a sincere effort on the part of the Government to deal effectively with a serious problem which has disturbed relations between employers and workers in the baking industry over a very long period. From this very fact it can hardly be expected that the Bill will in all respects commend itself in every detail to all the parties concerned, but it ought to be remembered that the Bill is based upon the unanimous recommendations of an independent Committee which went fully into every aspect of the matter and had all the relevant arguments presented to it. Moreover, since the Committee reported and its Report was published, the Ministry of Labour has had the advantage of full discussion with the trade unions and the employers' organisations inside the industry. A number of points which were raised in those discussions will be found embodied in the Bill.
I should like to express the thanks of the Government for the care, trouble and thoroughness with which the Rees Committee performed its task. Secondly, I thank the representatives of both sides in the industry for the help they have given to the Ministry in working out the detailed proposals for legislation. It is appropriate that the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who will follow me, should be performing this task, because he was the one of my honoured predecessors who called upon this Committee to consider the matter and make its Report. Moreover, I do not think that he is unacquainted—in a wholly different industry—with night work over a considerable period.
We ought to look at the Bill in its historical setting. This is indeed a long tale of difficult negotiations. When the Rees Committee came to make its Report, it went back to the 41st Chapter of the Book of Genesis and said that the misfortunes of the bakery industry could be 1461 traced back to the time when Joseph was explaining to the chief butler and the chief baker of Pharoah the meaning of their dreams, after which the chief butler was restored to his place but the chief baker was put to death. That is going back a long way.
In the history of the Bill, we go back for no less a period than 106 years. It was in 1848 that a Bill was first produced in this House prohibiting night baking. A number of similar but equally unsuccessful attempts were made to bring to an end the practice of night baking, but that practice grew more common as the years went by because of the growing use of machinery in the industry towards the end of the 19th century. By the end of the First World War the problem was threatening to cause serious trouble and difficulty inside the industry.
In 1919, the Government appointed a Committee, the Mackenzie Committee, to look into the matter. That Committee found that the practice of night baking was objectionable. It took the ground which has been taken time and time again that it interferes with normal family and social life to a great extent, and it recommended the prohibition of night baking, with certain specified and important exceptions to meet special needs.
In 1920, legislation was introduced for this purpose but it was not proceeded with. Thereafter there were Private Members' Bills introduced with the same object, but again they did not make progress; and all the time, in the early part of the 20th Century, there was a marked growth of mechanisation in the baking industry. That meant, of course, more night work. In 1937, once again, a Committee was appointed by the Government—the Alness Committee—to make a further inquiry, but the majority view was against legislation to abolish night baking because the Committee thought that it would work inequitably among employers and would not entirely remove the disadvantages from which the workers suffered. It suggested that a body should be set up on which both sides of the industry would meet and devise some means of improving the conditions in which night work could take place. That recommendation led to the establishment, in 1938 in England and 1462 Wales and in 1939 in Scotland, of trade boards—now wages councils—for the industry.
In the meantime, in 1938, a Bill was presented and it became an Act, the Baking Industry (Hours of Work) Act, 1938. It passed through Parliament and received the Royal Assent. It had had a curious history, as it had been introduced as a Private Member's Bill to abolish night baking, had had a great deal of amendment in the course of its various stages, and had emerged not as prohibiting but as restricting night baking. The employers were given by that Act the choice of three systems, under each of which night work was permitted to a greater or lesser extent. There was a provision by which the Act was only to come into force if trade boards had not been set up in the industry before the beginning of 1940; but in fact trade broads were set up in 1938 and 1939, so that that Act, the only one on this subject which has gone through the House, never came into force.
So we came to the war. Since the war, renewed efforts have been made—the right hon. Member for Southwark knows about them as well as I do—to try to find an agreed basis for settling this question. Perhaps the most important event in the process took place in 1948 in Scotland, where the industry is highly organised. It was found possible to reach voluntary agreement between the two sides, under which night work is limited but not abolished. The Scottish experience was obviously borne in mind a great deal by members of the Rees Committee, as anyone will see who reads its report.
In England, Wales and Scotland the trade unions have made it clear that their objective remains total abolition. If the Bill goes through, I hope they will feel that the restriction which it imposes, even if it does not go as far as they would like it to go, makes an appreciable step towards meeting the mischief of the case. Efforts were made to find a basis upon which we could agree to something, and there were exhaustive discussions in which the Department for which I am now responsible gave every possible assistance. They failed to produce any positive result, and it became clear that there was no prospect of settling the matter in this way, despite all the patience that had been displayed. So it was in 1950 that the right hon. Member for Southwark, as Minister 1463 of Labour, appointed the Rees Committee to undertake yet a further inquiry, and it was a decision which was welcomed by all sides in the industry.
I come now to the Committee itself and to its Report. I have already said that the Committee went thoroughly into every aspect of the question, and, in addition to hearing what was to be said for the employers' organisations and the trade unions in the industry and other interested bodies, it gave close attention to what is a very important element in this matter, the needs of the public. The Committee caused special surveys to be carried out so that it might have reliable evidence upon questions such as how often housewives buy their bread and what proportion of them prefer it new and what very small proportion of them prefer to have it hot. All those surveys which were carried out are appended to the Report.
After thoroughly weighing all this evidence, the Committee came to the conclusion that total abolition of night work would cause serious production difficulties in the large plant bakeries in which three shifts are normally worked. It also concluded that abolition would cause a measure of inconvenience to the public, and that it would mean that some bakers would have to raise the price of their bread.
On the other hand, having for those reasons rejected the solution of complete abolition, the Committee considered that a measure of restriction based on the principle—this is the fundamental principle of the Report—that no one should be required to work at night for more than half the weeks in the year was not merely desirable on the social grounds which are familiar to us and which I have indicated but could be introduced with comparatively little dislocation to the industry, without materially affecting the public and without increasing the price of bread. Those are the principal grounds upon which the Committee concluded that it was desirable to impose restrictions, though it was against abolition.
Hon. Members will see that in the course of its Report the Committee constantly stressed the need for flexibility in dealing with an industry in which the size of the establishments and the 1464 methods of production vary very widely. Therefore, having reached that first conclusion, its main proposal is that employers should be required to choose between two systems. Under the first system, employment between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. would be totally prohibited. Under the second, night work would be permissible, but no individual might be employed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than half the weeks worked in any calendar year.
Those were the two choices which the Committee suggested, but it agreed that there should be exceptions for the week end trade, the Jewish Sabbath and for certain other specified purposes into which I need not now go. It recommended that legislation, which should not apply to master bakers, should be introduced on these lines, but that a period of grace of two years should be granted. The reason for that was to allow for the necessary reorganisation in the industry, which could not be quickly undertaken.
I think that I have fairly summarised the main recommendations of the Rees Report. On 24th July, 1952, I announced in this House the Government's decision to accept these recommendations broadly in principle, and, indeed, they form the basis of the Bill about which I am now speaking. I wish to turn aside for a moment to draw attention to one fundamental feature of the Bill which is really based, in a sense, on the reasoning although not on any recommendation of the Rees Committee.
The Committee emphasised how much better is agreement and how much more suitable as a method of regulating matters of this kind than legislation can ever be. That is a view which I entirely accept. As the House knows well, it has been our general practice in this country to deal with questions relating to conditions of employment by collective agreements freely negotiated in the industry by representatives of employers and workers. We have preferred to do that rather than try to do it by legislation. I think we have been right. The method of agreement is so much more convenient and flexible, and it leaves questions of amendment and interpretation in the hands of the people who, after all, are most directly concerned.
It is for those reasons that I propose in this Bill—hon. Members will find it 1465 in Clause 9—to take powers to enable me to exempt from its provisions employers who are covered by an effective voluntary agreement which, in the opinion of the Minister, makes the application of the Bill unnecessary. I have already mentioned the difference between the position in England and Wales and that in Scotland. It is quite clear that the agreement which is now in force in Scotland for regulating night baking, and which was reached voluntarily between the two sides of the industry, will come up for consideration, if that is desired, in reference to Clause 9, to which I have just adverted.
There is one other thing which at this stage I want to mention. The Rees Committee pointed out, not once but in several places, that it was chiefly the lack of organisation in the industry in England and Wales which had hindered progress towards a solution of the problem with which the Bill is concerned. I fully share the hope expressed by the Committee that its Report and the present legislation based upon it, and especially this provision relating to exemption from the Bill if voluntary agreement is reached, will have the effect of stimulating progress towards an effective system of organisation and joint negotiations in the industry in England and Wales, in addition to that which exists in Scotland. I hope that this will lead not only to agreements on night baking which will enable the parties to be exempted from legislation, but also in time to agreements on other aspects of service and conditions of employment, and so lead to a healthier and happier spirit throughout the industry.
In the statement which I read to the House in July, 1952, I said that the Government would be very ready to receive the views of all in the industry when they came to draft the provisions of the legislation, and I have already said how much I am indebted to those who gave assistance in that respect. It has not been possible to find a solution on every point which commends itself to both sides. Indeed, if we waited for that, I think we should be waiting for what is really beyond hope.
Therefore, broadly speaking, the general principle which I have followed has been to try to meet the representations which have been made to us, but that, where we found that acceptance of these representations would involve a 1466 departure from the Committee's recommendations and where it was not possible to get an agreed basis for such a departure, then the Bill has been framed to carry out the recommendations of the Committee. Put in a sentence, the Bill is based upon the recommendations of the Committee except where, after careful discussion between the parties, an agreed basis for departure from those recommendations has been reached.
As I have pointed out, there are some points upon which there has been no agreement and one cannot say that the sides in the industry are satisfied with the proposals in the Bill. I leave minor ones aside for the present, but there are two of some importance and I therefore mention them now. The first is that the trade unions have expressed strongly the view that the Bill ought to be so framed that employment on the backshift, that is, between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., should be restricted to not more than half of the weeks of the year under both systems—that is, either choice that is given. That sort of restriction on the backshift was, in their view, intended by the Committee and, in addition, is necessary to prevent hardship to the workmen.
I am bound to say candidly to the House that, after carefully considering the recommendations of the Rees Committee, I think that it is quite clear that it did not intend to impose any further restrictions upon those bakeries which chose the first alternative—that under which, apart from statutory exceptions, baking would not be undertaken at all in the night hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. I do not want to take up time by arguing that now, but I would ask any hon. Member who has doubt about it to look at paragraphs 210 onwards in the Report, which contain the recommendations, and particularly at paragraph 211.
It is quite clear that the recommendations have been drawn in a way which does not seek to put any further limitation upon those who adopt the first of the alternative systems proposed. That is the first point, and I mention it here to show that I have not overlooked it. It is a casein which, there being no agreement, I put forward the proposals of the Rees Committee.
The second point concerns the employers and the continuous three-shift system which, as I have pointed out, is 1467 very commonly used now in the large plant bakeries. As worked now, the usual hours are from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the shifts rotate weekly or fortnightly. Under that system an individual worker would be employed for some part of the time between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., for two-thirds of the weeks worked in a year, because not only the night shift but half of the backshift comes within the period prohibited, if I may use the expression, in the second alternative—between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.—so that that which is the normal practice now in the large plant bakeries would not be permissible under the terms of the Bill.
The Federation of Wholesale and Multiple Bakers has made strong representations to me that this will prevent the most efficient use of expensive plant, that it will be wasteful and uneconomic, and, in its view, will have an adverse effect upon the productivity of the industry. It has urged the desirability of modifying the Rees Committee's recommendations so as to allow the continuance of three-shift working in its present way. The trade unions, on the other hand, have expressed the strongest opposition to any such change. I have carefully considered the submissions made on both sides, but, in the absence of agreement between the two sides of the industry, I have not felt justified in departing from the recommendations in what would be a fundamental particular—and this was one of the most important things with which the Committee was concerned.
It would not be right for me to deal with this point in detail now and so prevent other hon. Members from taking part in the debate, except to say that, in considering the practicability of the recommendation which it has made, the Committee had in mind—and I hope that hon. Members will have it in mindalso—the experience in Scotland, where this method of restriction is in force and yet is found to be practicable. We have, of course, ample scope for discussion of this and the other main point to which I drew the attention of the House.
Before I come to the short passage in which I shall deal with the provisions of the Bill itself, I ought to say something about the nature and extent of the problems with which the Bill is concerned. 1468 I have said enough to explain the reasons which drove the Rees Committee to its conclusion in favour of some measure of restriction, but I have not yet said anything about the size of the problem with which the Bill is concerned.
The Rees Committee estimated that the number of bakery establishments at which operatives are employed is about 23,000. Most of these, as they found, are of small or medium size. Only about 1 per cent., according to the estimate of the Committee, employ over 50 workers, and 75 per cent. employ less than five, so that the industry is predominantly one of small establishments. But the Committee found, on the other hand, and one has to bear this in mind, that the minority of the large plant bakeries—the fully mechanised bakeries operated on the three-shift system to which I have referred—account for no less than one-third of the country's bread trade, and there is a continuing tendency which, as I have pointed out, had begun even before the war, towards the concentration of bread production in these larger bakeries. There is the problem—most of them are small but one-third at least, and a growing proportion, of the bread comes from the larger units.
There is another point. Most bakeries bake their bread, rolls and similar goods at night, and flour confectionery—cakes, pastries, etc.—during the day. The Committee therefore took the view that the key problem was that of bread and rolls production and it thought that abolition or limitation of night work would affect the manufacture of flour confectionery only incidentally.
So much, then, for the extent of the problem; now for the still more important thing—the workers in the industry. The problem of night baking is one which directly affects only about one-quarter of the workers in the industry—approximately 28,000 of a total of 110,000 to 120,000, according to the estimates which the Committee obtained. Of those 28,000 who are, to one extent or another, concerned with night baking, the Committee took the view that 17,000 at the most are employed on continuous night work—that is the feature which distinguishes the baking industry from others—and the continuous night work is generally regarded as the objectionable aspect. The Committee, moreover, had some 1469 evidence that continuous night work is less common now than before the war, but the Government nevertheless recognised—as I made clear when I spoke to the House in 1952—that this night work, although it is limited in extent, does represent a hardship which ought, if possible, to be alleviated, and that is the purpose of this Bill.
Having said what the problem is, what the recommendations are, and what the Government's conclusions are, I now come to the provisions in the Bill which embody those conclusions and give effect to that purpose.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, in regard to night work, whether it is universally unpopular with all those 17,000 men working regularly all the year round on the night shift? I ask that because, in newspaper work, many men prefer night work as it leaves them free for part of the day.
§ Sir W. Monckton
I cannot give figures to my hon. Friend, but it is certain that there are advantages in the night work which appeal to some people in that there is more to earn. But I think it is quite clear that the view put forward by the trade unions who represented them is sufficiently strong to show that the bulk of the workers do not like night work—at least, continuous night work. That is the conclusion at which the Rees Committee arrived. It is difficult to give figures, but I think it is clear that a strong majority of workers do not like continuous night work.
Mr. J. T. Price (West Houghton)
We all appreciate that from some points of view the advantage of freely negotiated agreements in comparison with statutory provisions cannot be disregarded. At the same time, workers in the industry cannot understand that argument, because the assumption is that, in the absence of legislation, we might get the same thing at the selling end as at the manufacturing end. In other words, why is it necessary for Parliament to limit the hours during which bread should be sold, under the Shops Acts, while burking a similar provision in regard to its manufacture?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I can satisfy the hon. Member that we are not burking it. 1470 The whole purpose of this Bill is to provide legislation, and the whole purpose of Clause 9 is to provide an opportunity for the parties to agree. If they do agree, so much the better, and legislation need not be used. We are providing legislation in order to encourage agreement, or, in the absence of agreement, to discourage continuous night work.
There are a few Clauses to which I should like to draw attention. Clause 1 (1) embodies the first of the two alternative systems which were recommended by the Committee. It says that:…a person shall not be employed as a bakery worker between the hours of ten o'clock in the evening and five o'clock in the morning…Clause 1 (2), in effect, describes the scope of the Bill. As hon. Members will see, broadly speaking it applies to bakery workers employed on production processes, but not to foremen or workers engaged on distribution or other types of work. There are points which, at one stage or another, the House or the Committee will have to consider. One to which some hon. Members attach importance is in connection with the kitchen staff of hotels and restaurants. I think we would all agree that, if these provisions are right, they should apply to hotel and restaurant staff who are bakery workers in the ordinary sense; but as the Clause is drawn it is suggested to me that it might also embrace kitchen staff who are preparing flour confectionery—cakes, gateaux, and things of that sort—for consumption late at night. If that point is of importance, it is not very easy to find a formula to deal with it, but it is one which can be sympathetically considered at a later stage of the Bill.
The Rees Committee recommended that legislation ought not to apply to master bakers, and hon. Members will see that that is avoided by defining bakery workers as persons employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship. Clause 1 (3) seeks to give a similar exemption to working directors of family or other small businesses which have been turned into limited companies. That meets a point which was specifically raised by the National Association of Master Bakers.
Clause 2 deals with the second of the two alternative recommendations of the Committee. It allows an establishment 1471 to be used as a night bakery, subject to certain conditions, the most important of which is that no individual may be employed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than 26 working weeks in any calendar year. Paragraphs (b) and (c) amplify the previous subsection. Paragraph (c) can be explained when it is dealt with in Committee. It looks a little obscure at first sight, but its object is to keep a balance through the year, so that a man does not have to do, for instance, four weeks of night duty, then one of day duty, and back again to four weeks of night duty. It is not very easy to construe until one has had the previous provisions in mind.
Clause 3 deals with special exceptions which the Rees Committee recommended to deal with the requirements of weekend trade, the Jewish Sabbath and, in subsection (3), public holidays. Subsection (4) deals with unforeseen emergencies. Hon. Members will see that a limited amount of night work is allowed for the first two requirements and that there is no fixed limit with regard to unforeseen emergencies, and it is difficult to see how one could fix a limit for emergencies. The Minister has to be notified of the emergency within 48 hours and, if he thinks right, he can call upon the employer for further evidence.
§ Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)
Will the unions be notified either by the employer or the Minister?
§ Sir W. Monckton
The Bill does not require notification except to the Minister, but I cannot imagine that the Minister would keep it to himself. The point is that these special exceptions are wanted whichever system is adopted, and we want to avoid the night work done under those exceptions being set against the employer in computing the amount of night work permitted under the Bill.
The matter would come to the Minister with full notification, and if a situation which was not an emergency were sought to be treated as such, the matter would do doubt eventually be determined by the courts. I think it will be found that both parties are satisfied that this is a reasonable way of dealing with something which must be covered by exceptional treatment, and it can be looked at more closely at a later stage.
1472 Clause 4 is intended to provide for a greater degree of flexibility in administration than would have been possible in the scheme as it was set forth by the Rees Committee. Its effect is to make it possible to use both systems of working where a simple choice of one system or the other would not meet reasonable requirements. It has been fully debated and discussed with all interested parties. One may have a large establishment in which either the activities could be better organised or physically separate parts of the establishment could be more usefully employed if one could have the first choice in one and the second in another. This Clause provides for that possibility, under a certificate.
Clause 5 deals with records. I have tried to avoid imposing unnecessary burdens on employers in the keeping of records. It is proposed that records need be kept only by employers who adopt the second of the two systems. There is no need for a record in respect of people who do not do night work. It is also proposed that records which have to be kept now for wages councils or other purposes shall be acceptable for this purpose.
I need say very little about the remaining Clauses. Clause 6 deals with enforcement, which is to be carried out by the wages inspectorate of my Department. The powers which it is proposed to confer upon the inspectors for this purpose are, in general, the same as they now have under the Wages Councils Act. Clause 7 deals with offences and penalties, and is modelled on those in the Wages Councils Act. Clause 8, which provides for the possibility of modifying agreements to permit structural alteration, follows a provision included in the 1938 Act, to which I have already referred. Clause 9, of course, is important, but I have already dealt with it. That is the Clause which contains the provision giving the Minister power to exempt from the Bill employers covered by any effective voluntary agreement which, in his opinion, makes the application of the Bill unneccessary.
There is one other provision to which I ought to draw attention in Clause 13 (2). That is the subsection which deals with the date on which the Bill is to come into force. I mention it because there is 1473 some departure from the Rees Committee's recommendations here. The Committee considered that an interval of two years after the passing of the legislation ought to be enough to allow for the necessary changes and reorganisation in the industry. It is common ground that there will have to be a considerable period to allow for that reorganisation. The Committee thought two years would be enough. When I spoke to the House in July, 1952, I said the Government appreciated this might not be long enough and that three years would be allowed if necessary.
As the Bill is drafted, it may be brought into force at the beginning of 1957 if the Minister makes an Order to that effect. If he does not, the Bill comes into force of its own power at the beginning of 1958. The commencing date is fixed at the beginning of a calendar year for a practical administrative reason, namely, that that is the date from which employers who adopt the second system are bound to reckon the amount of night baking done by their workers. The intention in respect of this Clause is to keep the matter under review, see how things go, and to decide later on which of the alternative dates ought to be adopted in the light of the progress made in the meantime by the industry.
I have tried in a comparatively short compass to explain the origin, the reasons and the provisions of the Bill. When I announced the Government's decision to accept in principle the recommendations of the Report and to introduce legislation to give effect to it, I emphasised what I have repeated today, that the Government were really making, after all these years, a sincere effort to dispose once and for all of a problem which has occupied this House on many occasions in the past and which has done much to hinder the development of really satisfactory relationships in the baking industry, and I added the hope that both sides of the industry would co-operate as fully as they could in the steps which the Government propose to take.
Now, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, I make my appeal to both sides of the House to approach the Bill sympathetically and constructively, for I really believe that within its framework, after full discussion, we shall be able to find a sound solution at long last to a real and difficult problem.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. George Isaacs (Southwark)
I think the first thing I ought to do is to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the clarity with which he has explained the Bill and to join with him in his final words in hoping that this Bill will be approached objectively by both sides of the House so that we may finally get a settlement of this long outstanding difficulty. I am aware that the right hon. and learned Gentleman may find it necessary for other reasons to leave shortly, and I would assure him that if he feels it necessary to leave very soon I shall know that it will not be because I am speaking but because circumstances make it necessary for him so to do.
This matter has had a long history, as the Minister has said, since 1848, but it has had some more modern history as well for some of us. Looking at it from a personal point of view, I remember that when I first went to the Trades Union Congress as a delegate in 1909 there was on the resolution list of that year, as in previous years, a motion for a Bill for the abolition of night baking. In 1910 it was still there, and it went on for many years.
It was introduced on those occasions by one whose spirit, I am sure, is floating about this Chamber at the moment. He was a Member of the House, secretary to the bakers' union, one whom we used to know as Billy Banfield, a great worker on this matter. Billy Banfield could have taken strong action and, perhaps, organised disputes and strikes to push home his point of view, but he and his colleagues on the executive council in those days, as in these days, were more anxious to get a settlement by agreement than by enforcement. That is why there is wisdom in Clause 9.
The Minister referred to several Committees. I should like to comment a little further about them. There was the Mackenzie Committee that considered night baking, to use the words of the Report,Objectionable on account of its interference with family life.It recommended, subject to certain important exemptions, that the employment of workers between 10 o'clock at night and five o'clock in the morning should be abolished after two years. It suggested two years' delay. I hope that the Minister 1475 may be able to see that two years is sufficient now, and not three years.
Then we had a Bill in 1920, which was not proceeded with. That was followed by a number of Private Members' Bills, but it was followed by something of far greater importance. There was in 1925 the International Labour Organisation Convention for the abolition of night work in bakeries. The Government of this country approached that with considerable caution, as generally they do all those conventions. They wanted to know more about it. At that time there was in existence a Royal Commission on food prices. Some of us wish today that there were one now. However, following that Royal Commission the Peat Committee was appointed to investigate the matter, and it was asked whether voluntary discontinuance of night baking would be likely to result either permanently or temporarily in an increase in the price of bread. That Committee reported, and again the Government's approach was an example of caution. The Committee stated:If new bread is to be supplied in the same condition of newness to the same points in the same quantities and at the same time in the morning as it is now, the cost of the loaf will have to be increased, and it is impossible to say that this increase will be purely temporary."That does it," said the Government at that time, and they did not endorse the convention.
Then we got the Alness Committee, to which the Minister referred. That Committee hoped that master bakers and operatives would thresh out their difficulties and that some means would be found of enforcing any decision reached. At that time there was a long debate, spreading over many months and years, in the trade union movement on the question of the legal enforcement of voluntary agreements, and there was a school of thought in the movement that said, "Let us make an agreement in a report and get the Government to give us powers to enforce it." Because there were people who thought the other way, nothing has ever come of that. Now we get legal enforcement in this Bill with the suggestion that there should be voluntary agreement. I fully support the Minister in that point of view.
1476 Then we come to 1938, when the Trade Boards were established for England and Wales. We got a Private Member's Bill that received the Royal Assent in 1938. I must express my view, and that of my colleagues of the time. We think that the bakers' union then was subjected to a little piece of political trickery. The Act was passed to operate as from 1st January, 1940. I would quote what the Rees Committee says about that. I so much admire everything this Report says, and I have never seen a report so clearly written and drawn up after such careful examination of a problem. Perhaps that is because I appointed the Committee. However, that is by the way. The Rees Committee says this:It"—that is, the new Act—provided that it was to come into operation on 1st January, 1940, unless before that date the Home Secretary had laid before Parliament a Certificate that he was satisfied that a Trade Board had been established in the Baking Trade. In fact an Order setting up a Trade Board for England and Wales was made in June, 1938. In Scotland, progress in discussions had been slower because there was considerable argument as to the need for a Trade Board at all in view of the considerable degree of joint organisation in that country. An Order similar to that for England and Wales was however eventually made in February, 1939. The Home Secretary was thus able to issue a Certificate in July, 1939, that he was satisfied that Trade Boards had been established and the Act consequently never came into force. The Trade Boards, which have now become Wages Councils, regulate wages and conditions of employment in the Industry but they have no power to prescribe the hours during which baking may or may not take place.That is the Rees Report. That is what we felt at the time.
That Act of Parliament is still on the Statute Book and will not be repealed until this Bill becomes an Act. That Act says that these hours should be restricted. Some Minister made an Order by which he could suspend the action of that statute, but that Order contained nothing about working hours. We felt then—and, looking back, I do not think we were wrong—that it was a piece of sharp practice to deprive the workers of the industry of the advantages of that Act of Parliament by an Order which in no way gave them any conditions about working time. We can, however, forget our disappointments of those days because we are now making progress.
1477 As the Minister said, after the war, and especially in the last few months, a considerable amount of negotiation has taken place. I had the privilege of meeting the unions and the employers and I found that there was a desire and an anxiety on both sides to get the matter settled. The men wanted to get it settled because they feel very strongly about this night work. The employers, apart from the feeling in that direction, which I know many of them share, wanted a settlement because they wanted to know where the industry stood and to be able to go ahead with normal activities.
I mentioned the I.L.O. and the Internal Labour Office Convention. What we have so often found with I.L.O. conventions is this: a convention is passed and some States in South America, Latin America, at once endorse it and put it on the Statute Book—but that is the end of it. These countries can say, "We have endorsed this convention," but not one of the workers in those countries has ever had the advantage of any of those conventions. The British Government, on the other hand, whatever their political complexion, do not endorse a convention unless they intend to carry it out. They prefer to put up with possible discontent or with the odium of declining to confirm a convention when they know that if they in fact confirmed it, they could not carry it out.
Let us see what has happened in some other countries. Denmark has prohibited baking between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. The German Federal Republic has prohibited baking between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. In Ireland—I assume this means the Republic of Ireland, although I am not quite sure—[HON MEMBERS: "Yes."]—in the Republic of Ireland baking is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. There is a similar provision in Luxembourg. In Netherlands it is prohibited within hours which are specified. In Norway they locked the door on this matter; they not only prohibited work before 6 a.m., normally, but a national collective agreement stipulates that an extra premium of 100 per cent. is to be paid for work before 6 a.m.
That is the way to stop night work—make it expensive. Many a man who does not like night work will not be unwilling to do it if he receives double pay—which is not very often the case here. 1478 In Sweden there is a law which restricts night baking. This is not total abolition, for in all of these cases provision is made for emergencies and for special conditions, such as holidays.
The Minister has explained the Bill, and I do not propose to take up the time of the House by going through each Clause. I shall put one or two points relating to the Bill. Some of my colleagues who have been engaged in this matter, and who, although not members of the trade, have been associated with it in many ways, would also like to put their point of view.
It is interesting to notice, and I am pleased to notice, that this morning the employers circulated a document, and I hope most hon. Members have a copy of it. At the opening they say:The declared purpose of the Bill is to restrict a baker's hours of work at night and thus to ensure that he has a periodical change to day work.They say that, subject to certain things,they are willing to accept the above principle.The House may therefore proceed to discuss the Bill knowing that its principle is accepted.
The employers make a suggestion, which should not be debated here but is a matter for the Committee stage, and which is certainly one worthy of examination. Not having had time to consider it, I could not express an opinion now. They want to alter the Bill and to make it read:…a person shall not be employed as a night-bakery worker between the hours of six o'clock in the evening and six o'clock in the morning for more than one half of his working hours in any one year.They based the scheme on hours, as distinct fromone half of his working weeks.That is another point for the negotiators to discuss, and possibly they can make some adjustment.
There are one or two Clauses which I must mention. In Clause 1 (2, d), I am not quite happy about the definition of a foreman, which reads,A worker with four or more bakery workers under him.I am not sure whether it should be "not more than four bakery workers under him," but that is a matter for discussion. 1479 Nor am I happy about the exclusion of directors which may open an obvious way of avoidance. There seems to be nothing to prevent a small firm, employing a master baker and three working men, from forming itself into a limited liability company, all men becoming directors and all becoming excluded from the terms of the Bill and therefore evading their responsibility. In such a case it would not be so much the workers themselves who would be affected, because, being directors, no doubt they would get substantial directors' fees as well as their wages, but it would be unfair to any other small baker in the area, employing perhaps two people, who would find that this firm, by manipulation of the Clause concerning directors, could work so as to provide bread at a different hour and in a different state from that offered by a firm under the Bill. This provision therefore requires further examination.
Clause 2 (1) says:An employer may at any time give notice in writing to the Minister that he intendsto become a night bakery. I suppose it means that he may decide to become a night bakery but, having so decided, he shall give notice of his intention to do so. It is not compulsory for him to become a night bakery. No doubt the intention is to make this clear, but it seems doubtful in its present form.
I could not help noticing that when he dealt with Clause 2 (2, c), the Minister skated rather carefully around it. This paragraph, it seems to me, is a wonderful example of the draftsmen's jargon. It reads:(c) except as aforesaid, a person shall not at any time in any one year have been employed as a night-bakery worker between the hours aforesaid for an aggregate number of working weeks exceeding by more than four the aggregate number of working weeks in that year for which he has been in employment as a night-bakery worker without being employed between the hours aforesaid.I have read that again and again, and I should like to ask what it means. I know the Minister said it means "keeping a balance," but if I read it many more times I should find myself completely unbalanced and I might find myself over-baked. Does this mean that a night and day staff may consist of a four-week turn but that to exceed a four-week turn the consent of the Minister must be obtained? 1480 Does "aforesaid" refer to paragraphs (a) or (b), or both? I could put another interpretation upon it. Does it mean that in spite of a limit of 26 weeks' night work under paragraph (a), a man might be kept on night work for 30 weeks—that is to say 26 plus four? I am glad to see the Minister shake his head on that point. I have been shaking mine about this Clause. Does it mean that a man employed for less than one year can be kept on night work for more than 26 weeks in the second year if he has not then been employed for more than four weeks on night work? Does it mean that a man brought in for a holiday season of 13 weeks can only be engaged on night work for four weeks?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I should like to say that as to the precise terms of the drafting—whether it can be better done or not—I do know that my own experience of trying to improve on the draftsmen has not been very happy. I should like to say a word or two on the purpose of this Clause. Clause 2 (a) is trying to say that we should not employ in a bakery workers between the hours of six in the evening and six in the morning for more than 26 working weeks in one year. Subsection (2, b) says that a person shall not be employed as a night worker more than four consecutive working weeks at one time. That is again for the protection of the worker. Subsection (2, c) is this.
The right hon. Gentleman correctly stated that I was trying to preserve a balance. The mischief which we are trying to avoid—and this is the point we are on at this stage—is the worker being taken on half way through a year—and the calendar year is the period of time—being called upon to do four weeks of night work, as he can be called upon to do, and then being asked to do a week of day work, and then going back to night work again for a further four weeks—four of night work and one of day—more or less indefinitely. He cannot do that if some such provision as paragraph (c) is inserted, because it would mean that at whatever part of the year he starts there has to be a balance between day and night work. It might be suggested that that balance could be better achieved by other words, but there is no intention here but to protect against the abuse of the worker.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I am sure that the House will be obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that explanation. We have no doubt that his purpose was for the protection of the workers, but the words are confusing.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that when he tried to measure his amendments against those of the draftsmen he could not make them any better. That is because they are both legally minded. If we want these things to be properly drafted, let a trade union secretary draft them, because by cutting out some of the fancy language he can get to the bottom of the matter; but we appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. I have heard about a baker's dozen being thirteen but when I read this Clause I thought that I had had "one over the eight."
We also think that Clause 3 (4, a) and (b) is ambiguous. We do not want to make a point about that, but we think that there should be an amendment to make it clear that the employer must give prior notice of a change of working hours, and where that is not practicable that notice should be given within 48 hours of the occurrence. We think that, at the same time, notice should be sent to the union and not only to the Minister. We appreciate that the Minister said that any notice given to him would not just remain with him, but that would mean some delay, and as it is the men who are involved in any such change, we think that the Bill should require that notice is given to the union.
On Clause 5 (2), concerning the keeping of records, we think that the Bill should make it clear that these records should be open to the inspection of the trade union upon proper application being made.
I also want to refer to Clause 9 and the voluntary agreements. I think that this is a wise proposal, because with the greatest good will in the world and the best of intentions the House of Commons can never make a properly working inside agreement between employers and workers like those people can themselves do. I know a good deal about the printing trade. I am sure that hon. Members could not properly discuss and understand all the operations in the printing 1482 trade without their having been engaged in it. They would endeavour to put in safeguards and conditions which the people concerned would not understand.
The great advantage of voluntary agreement, especially with a Bill such as this in the background, is that one does not have to get up on a Thursday evening in the House of Commons and ask the Leader of the House to provide time to discuss amendments to the Bill. One does not have to fit it in with legislative procedure. There can be proper agreement between both sides. If an application is made it can be discussed straight away, and there is no frustration and no delay in reaching a settlement.
As to Clause 13, does the Minister think it necessary to wait until 1958? Cannot 1957 be substituted? That is two full years in which there would be an opportunity to clear this matter up, and with the good will of both sides, I am sure that could be done.
I should again like to make reference to the Rees Committee Report. I seem to have got obsessed by it. It says:We trust that the influence of this, the third and, we hope, the last Committee on Night Baking, will stimulate progress towards an effective system of joint organisation and negotiation which is desirable in the best interest of the Baking industry and the public which it serves.We support that statement. We feel sure that the Bill will be read the Second time, and it is certainly of a character sufficient to justify it going Upstairs with our blessing. There will be some tussle on Committee, but I feel certain that that tussle will be a good natured one to improve the Bill. Probably it will be necessary to give a little bit away on this side and a little bit away on the other. I hope that the Bill will soon find its way on to the Statute Book, and that the present Minister will have the great satisfaction of knowing that something that has hung about for 100 years has become an Act of Parliament. If Billy Banfield can look down upon him, I am sure that he will give him his blessing.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm McCorquodale (Epsom)
I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) in wishing my right hon. and learned Friend good fortune in this matter. It is always an 1483 especial pleasure to me to follow the right hon. Member for Southwark; we have had many discussions on trade unions and voluntary negotiations, and, strange as it may seem, at the end of the day we have usually found ourselves in a very large measure of agreement.
I must confess that, when listening to his remarks, I could not help feeling that I agreed with practically everything that he said. I should like first to join with him in praising the clarity of the Report of the Rees Committee, which was set up by himself. I think that the Committee posed the problem of night baking accurately and fairly before the public; but—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me on this—while I praise the Rees Committee's Report, I personally regret very much the necessity for a Bill of this sort coming before the House.
It is, to my mind, a signal of failure of joint negotiations—a very sad and sorry commentary on the state of industrial relations in this industry in this supposed enlightened year of 1954. We like to feel that our factory legislation is amongst the most up to date in the world and, when we have considered it in the mass in this House, we have not attempted in the main to regulate by Act of Parliament the hours of employment of men in our great manufacturing industries, but have left that to the proper field of joint negotiation.
It is an unfortunate fact that in trades which are of service to the community an amount of night work is necessary. For instance, there is night work in the industry in which the right hon. Member for Southwark and I have been engaged all our lives. A considerable amount of night work is also necessary in the transport industry, and hon. Members who have to travel back to Scotland or to other parts of the country on a Thursday or a Friday night after the deliberations of this House are guided on their way by coach, train or aeroplane by men who have to work through the night. Similarly there are many other continuous processes in industry which have to be conducted round the clock, and it has been the general rule that the amount of night work, the length of the shifts, and the amount of shifts worked shall be adjusted by joint negotiation.
1484 I, for one, wish that this had been the case in the baking industry and that we should not have had to take up the time of Parliament and to have the heavy hand of the criminal law in this matter. I am of opinion that Parliament should and must intervene in regard to conditions of work in special cases, of which underground mining might well be one, or where appropriate negotiating machinery is not and cannot be present. But, while the appropriate machinery may not be present in this instance, there is no reason why it should not be set up quickly to negotiate an agreed solution to this problem instead of bringing it to this House.
I believe I shall have the majority of hon. Members with me in saying to the industry that it is not too late for it to set its house in order, and I want to appeal to those concerned to sit down immediately after the Second Reading of this Bill, which I hope will go through without a Division, to see whether they cannot hammer out the necessary voluntary agreement between themselves so that we need not proceed further with this Measure. I believe that something might be done if there were a strong appeal from this House, and from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about joint negotiations, I am sure he will agree with me.
I should like also to join with the Minister in praising the memory of the late Mr. Banfield. I was one who knew him well. I do not suppose that there was a Member of this House who was more deservedly popular or more respected for the complete and utter sincerity of the work he did on behalf of the people he represented. When he introduced his Private Member's Bill in 1938, I was privileged to be on the Committee upstairs to which it was sent. When he saw that his original Bill for the complete abolition of night baking had no chance of going through, Mr. Banfield was wise enough, if I may make a pun, to consider that half a loaf was better than no bread, and he sought an agreed compromise.
There were many of us upstairs who were not satisfied with the conditions in the baking industry, and there was general co-operation in the Committee, although party feeling ran high, to see whether something could not be done to 1485 ease the situation which, while not going as far as Mr. Banfield desired, would be an improvement. I am always pleased to remember that it fell to my lot to present certain Amendments which had the blessing of the Government of the day, which proved to be acceptable to the Committee, and which made a start at regulating the industry.
I always regret that the Bill did not come into operation, because it might have meant the establishment of the appropriate joint negotiating committee that would have made any further appeal to Parliament unnecessary. However, I like to think of those times when I was privileged to co-operate with Mr. Banfield and I feel that he would be very interested in what is happening here this afternoon.
I do not want to go into the differences between our Bill of 1938 and the Bill before the House today, as other hon. Members wish to speak on different aspects of this Bill. However, I do not care for Clause 6 (2, c) on page 6. This is the enforcement Clause and it says that a factory inspector shall have power to examine any person—either alone or in the presence of any other person, as he thinks fit, with respect to any matters under this Act…and to require every such person to be so examined and to sign a declaration of the truth of the matters in respect of which he is so examined.I think that is going too far. I do not know what are the precedents for it, but it seems to me to be unjustifiable snooping, although nobody in the House wishes an Act of Parliament to be evaded.
Once again I ask, cannot we get this matter settled by joint negotiation even at this late hour? I believe that the majority of our people do not like Parliament interfering in affairs which are properly the subject of joint negotiation between the parties in industry. Both sides of industry fight against the Government interfering in what is normally their proper sphere. Could we not give the Bill a Second Reading today and then, with all the authority that Parliament possesses, urge the two parties in this industry again to come together to see whether they cannot reach a satisfactory voluntary agreement? We could give them, say, three months in which to do it but if after Easter they have not succeeded, then we could proceed with this 1486 Bill upstairs in Committee where I do not believe it would have a difficult passage in those circumstances, and it could then pass into law.
If, however, with the sharp urge of a Second Reading of this Bill and of the influence which Parliament can exert upon the industry, we can persuade them to do what other decent industries do, put their house in order, then how much better it would be than for Parliament, with its heavy hand, to interfere in things of which we cannot have the first-hand experience which is possessed by those engaged in the industry.
Therefore, could we not once again appeal to the people in this industry to sit down together and negotiate with the object of establishing between now and Easter a satisfactory joint agreement which will operate efficiently and smoothly, and without the heavy hand of Parliament always hanging over them?
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
Perhaps I might begin by referring to the concluding part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale). I agree wholeheartedly with him that these problems are much better settled by voluntary negotiations than by legislation, but, as one who has had a considerable trade union experience in consumer industries where there are many employers and many establishments in relation to the total number of workpeople, I know the appalling difficulties which arise when trade unions seek to build up voluntary negotiating machinery through which these settlements can come to pass. Legislation is therefore necessary.
That leads me to say that the Distributive Workers' Union, of which I am president, has a membership interest in this Bill. Compared to the two bakers' unions, ours is a minority interest. Nevertheless, considerable numbers of our members are engaged in the preparatory work, in slicing, wrapping and functions of that kind, which are connected with the production and distribution of bread. Moreover, as the House will realise, the Rees Committee gives considerable attention to what has always been alleged to be a stumbling block to the total abolition of night baking, that is, the effect that such abolition would have on the distributive 1487 system and on distributive and transport workers.
Hon. Members may have noticed that the union of which I am president gave evidence before the Rees Committee, and we sought to demonstrate that these fears were grossly exaggerated. As an experienced trade union representing the men who sell the bread from delivery vans and in the shops, we certainly realise that a total abolition of night baking would necessitate some reorganisation of the distributive system as well as the system of production. But we also take the view that, unless the problem is approached in the spirit of not desiring a reform so that it is assumed that all the disabilities now inflicted on night bakers would immediately pass to the distributive and transport workers, we think that a solution can be found. There is abundant evidence to show that the transport and distribution problem can be solved, provided there is realistic negotiation between the unions and the employers.
In this country during the war there was a substantial abolition of night baking in some large towns, Birmingham, for example. Realistic negotiations between the distributive employers and the trade unions succeeded in the handling of the distribution of bread without excessive overtime by the distributive workers and without reductions in their earnings. I therefore speak today, as Billy Banfield used to put it in this House, in the réle of an unrepentant advocate of the total abolition of night work, and I welcome this Bill because I believe it can become an important step towards total abolition.
Reference has been made to shift working in other industries. I should like the House to remember that until very recently in the baking industry there was no such a thing as a night shift. There was permanent night working by the main body of workers employed, and even today some 17,000 men are engaged on permanent night work. I would also ask the House to remember that it is only comparatively recently that these men even got annual holidays. Consequently, they have been confronted with perpetual night work.
The Rees Committee, when examining the effects of night work, came to the conclusion that night baking carries serious 1488 social disadvantages to the operatives. I welcome this admission of what is, after all, a fairly obvious fact. But I do not share the view of the Rees Committee that the health question is of no importance. It is true that it is very difficult to bring statistical data forward to show that permanent night work in bakeries has an adverse effect on health. It is true that the mortality figures in this occupation for the year 1931 are adduced in the Rees Committee Report as almost conclusive evidence of this point.
But I want to tell the House that for a considerable number of the years of my working life I came into daily contact with night bakers, and no matter what evidence is adduced and no matter by whomsover it is adduced, my conviction will remain that a lifetime of night baking leaves its mark on the man concerned. I well remember my friend, Mr. Mowbray, secretary of a Scottish Bakers' Union, speaking at a conference not long ago on this matter. At that time this House and the newspapers were discussing the use of bleaching agents in bread, and I remember friend Mowbray remarking rather acidly that he wished as much publicity were given to the agent which bleached the faces of night workers. Make no mistake about it, the men have been marked for life. Permanent night work in bakeries has been destructive of human personality, and this Bill is to be welcomed because it is the first great legislative act which can lead to a remedy for this problem.
The House should read the reports of different conferences of the I.L.O., the reports of the Food and Drink Workers' International Federation, and similar international documents on this question. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) has given details of some of the practices in other countries. In Scandinavia and in the Republic of Ireland there is abundant evidence that either the total abolition or a massive restriction of night baking is not only desirable but thoroughly practicable. Were hon. Members who have visited Scandinavian countries in recent years aware at any time of hardship to consumers because allegedly stale bread was being eaten?
The Rees Report makes great play of new, fresh rolls. Can hon. Members who 1489 have stayed in hotels in Stockholm, Copenhagen or Oslo, recall the slightest inconvenience to the consuming public. In seeking the abolition of night baking, it is a question not only of honouring an I.L.O. convention, but of following the long standing practice of progressive countries in Europe whose habits and traditions are similar to our own.
I come now to a few points of detail in the Bill. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark referred to the provision in Clause 1 (2, d) which excludes foremen from its scope. This is a departure even from the modest recommendations of the Rees Committee. As far as I can discover, there is no reference in that Committee's recommendations to the exclusion of foremen. The sole exception which the Rees Committee made was that of master bakers.
In paragraph 209 of its Report, the Rees Committee advocated the exclusion of the master baker, not on economic grounds; because the rest of the Report demonstrates that the abolition of night baking is much easier in the smaller units than in the large establishments. The Committee rests its case on the personal liberty of the master baker. I have heard this argument used in the distributive trades. I have always resisted it, because to pander to what is called the personal liberty of the owner of the one-man business would usually be found to be the route to damaging the liberty of countless other people. And so it has proved in this case. Although the Rees Committee said that the master baker should be the sole exemption, we find in the Bill that a foreman—that is to say, a worker with four or more bakery workers under him"—is to be excluded. If one refers to the Rees Report and sees the substantial number of bakeries involved and realises the possibility that the large plant bakery would create more foremen, and if one links to this the point in Clause 3 referred to by my right hon. Friend, it seems that there is a terrible opportunity for any unscrupulous firm to escape the provisions of the Bill by the handing out of nominal directorships and the appointment of nominal foremen. A bakery firm with 10 or a dozen employees could have a simple method of escape from the whole of the provisions of the Bill. I am confident that the right way of dealing with this is not only to delete 1490 the reference to foremen and to directors, but to reject the Rees Committee recommendations on this point and not to exempt even the master baker.
I know that personal liberty has a great appeal, and rightly so, but when this House has considered its own night shifts it has never said that we should have no Standing Orders and that the majority of the House should not be master of its own procedure out of deference for the personal liberty of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) or the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). No doubt these two hon. Members would often keep the House well into the night shift unless we had Standing Orders and Regulations which limited the night work of the House, It has always seemed to me that if there was one case which should have a sympathetic hearing in the House, it was a plea for the restriction or the total abolition of the night shift. I know that the great majority of my colleagues dislike the small doses of night work which we in our work have to endure.
I welcome Clause 9. In this connection I should like to discuss the circular that has been circulated by the Federation of Wholesale and Multiple Bakers, whose proposal is that half the total number of hours worked, not half the weeks of the year, should be the basis of restricting night baking. This suggestion is very strongly opposed by the trade unions in the industry. A moment's thought by any hon. Member would reveal that to give way on this point would undermine the whole basis of the Rees Committee's recommendations. The Rees Committee had specially in mind the problems of the large three-shift plant bakery when making the alternative provisions of its recommendations.
The remedy for the Federation of Wholesale and Multiple Bakers—I hope that the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. W. R. A. Hudson), who is associated both with the multiple grocers and the multiple bakers—will take note of this point—is to take advantage of Clause 9 and to get down to realistic negotiation with the trade unions and to work out a scheme not less favourable than the proposals of the Rees Committee and of the Bill. I am sure that if this were to be done in a constructive and practical 1491 spirit, there would be no need for those interests to press their Amendments on the Committee stage of the Bill.
Today is an important occasion in that it is the first truly substantial step towards the abolition of night baking. In the baking industry there are two modern trends. The Minister himself referred to the growing concentration of bread production in larger firms and larger plants, but there is, in the second place, a scientific revolution in bread production going on, a strange mixture of physical and chemical processes. I believe that the development of refrigeration and air conditioning, the use of no-time dough and modern physical and chemical processes, allied with the growth in the size of the unit of production, can, if there is powerful trade union organisationin the industry and a spirit of realistic negotiation by the employers, in combination with Clause 9 of the Bill, hasten the day when night baking is not merely restricted, but is totally abolished, as Billy Banfield would have wished.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Duthie (Banff)
I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene in this debate. The Bill concerns an industry and a subject which have been of great interest to me for many years. I was associated with the baking industry prior to the war, and it fell to my lot as Director of Emergency Bread Supplies, Ministry of Food, to be responsible for the nation's bread supplies during the war, not only for the civilian population but also for the military. In that capacity I had access to figures of potential production of all bakers, and I had to use them to the best effect to meet emergencies. I pay tribute to the work that the bakers did during the war. They were absolutely splendid.
The Bill has a great bearing on the industry and embraces points which are of great importance to the public at large, quite apart from the obtaining of bread, cakes, and so on, from bakers' shops. The baking industry is a public service which is somewhat finely adjusted but we know that it is capable of improvement. The conditions that apply in many English and Welsh bakeries are absolutely crying out for improvement.
There is a modem tendency in the baking trade of which the House should 1492 take most serious notice. It is the movement on the part of the smaller bakers to stop bread-making on their own and to obtain supplies from big plant bakeries. This practice loses craftsmen to the trade, and men capable of training new entrants to the trade are being lost. Bread supplies, therefore, are becoming more and more dependent upon the plant bakers. That is extraordinarily dangerous from the point of view of defence. We found during the war that the bigger the bakery the bigger the target, and when a big bakery was knocked out we had to put countless small bakeries into 24 hours production to take up the slack. The House should take account of the fact that it is absolutely important that small bread bakers should remain in operation in very large numbers.
The position in Scotland in this respect is worse perhaps than in England. A very large part of Scotland is entirely dependent upon three large bakeries. The whole of the West of Scotland, west of the Clyde, depends virtually on one Glasgow Plant bakery. It would be calamitous if anything of a warlike nature happened in Glasgow and that bakery was knocked out because a very large number of people would be absolutely deprived of supplies of bread.
I am glad that the matters contained in this Bill have come before the House. It is true that in most industries matters of this kind can be settled by negotiation, but in this trade there is a great difference between conditions in Scotland and those in England and Wales. In Scotland the Union of Bakers, Confectioners, Biscuit Makers and Bakery Workers represents 96 per cent. of the workers in the industry whereas in England the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers, Confectioners and Allied Workers of Great Britain and Ireland unfortunately represents only about 33⅓ per cent. of the workers. I sincerely hope that the fact that this matter is being discussed in the House today, and the need for collective agreement is being emphasised on all sides, will help recruiting to the English union. The sooner that union more nearly represents the total workers in the industry the nearer will be the day when we shall have in England and Wales a collective agreement similar to that which operates in Scotland.
1493 I should be glad if the Minister would tell us whether he will accept the Scottish agreement in the event of this Bill becoming law. That is to me a fundamental consideration. There is unity in the Scottish trade. The employers, the Scottish Association of Master Bakers, the Co-operative Union, and the Wholesale and Retail Bakers of Scotland, and the Union have produced an agreement, of which I have a copy for this year, which covers all difficulties. Implicit in that agreement is the setting up of a committee to which any dispute in the trade can be referred for examination and settlement.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Is it a fact that somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all men employed are covered by voluntary agreement in Scotland?
§ Mr. Duthie
The leaders of the Scottish union have set their names to this agreement. I cannot vouch for individual feeling in the union, but this agreement has been entered into by the union with the employers in Scotland and it takes care of all the difficulties that are likely to arise there.
The Bill must remedy one or two matters of a practical nature. One concerns the hours allowed for dough making. The Bill allows one hour before work starts. In the trade we must allow three hours for dough making. People may talk about fancy processes, short cuts, refrigeration and so on, but to have properly made bread there must be three hours fermentation with commercial yeast. That is the standard. If the Bill is to be a practical proposition for the baking trade, doughing must start at 2 a.m. and not 4 a.m.
One must take into account how long it takes to prepare a loaf. The doughing takes three hours, the weighing and so on one and three quarter hours, the baking one and three quarter hours, making a total of six and a half hours. One must also bear in mind that the demand is very largely for fresh bread. As to the vexed question of morning rolls, if anything happens to the Scottish agreement it will mean that the Scottish people will have to change their dietary habits in the matter of morning bread. I hope, however, that the Minister will assure us that the agreement will be accepted as it stands.
1494 During the war, when yeast factories were damaged, we had to revert to very lengthy processes in fermentation. We had to go back even to the Biblical leavening of bread, and we even had to ferment bread by the utilisation of beer and stout in many cases. There were six or seven approved alternative methods which the bakers could practise.
If, with the help of this House, membership of the English union could be built up to figures relatively commensurate with those of the Scottish union we would have no need for a Bill of this kind. If an agreement on the Scottish pattern were entered into openly and wholeheartedly by the contracting parties in England and Wales it would be infinitely preferable to having this Bill. I hope, however, that the Bill will have a Second Reading and that during the Committee stage we shall be able to make it into a workable instrument.
There are far too few young men going into the industry, and the present trend towards obtaining bread from a central plant will make a difficult situation in this country in the future in the event of an emergency. On the question of the number of hours that men will be allowed to work consecutively at night in bakeries, I should like to enter a plea for the seaside resorts. It is no use limiting hours for seaside resorts, where they have a very short season, to four weeks in the year. A period of 10 weeks consecutive night work should be allowed for the resorts as part and parcel of the 26 weeks during which a man would be permitted to work at night.
The right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) suggested that two years were too long a period before the Bill comes into effect, but I suggest that four years are perhaps not long enough. If the small and the big baker are to conform with the terms of this Bill they must have far more equipment than they have today and infinitely more storage room for bread cooling, because that bread will have to be made one day and sold the next. It will be impossible to sell the bread on the evening of the day on which it is made. Therefore, there will have to be big new investments in ovens, and structural alterations in connection with cooling. If the Bill is to work satisfactorily and employers are to have a fair chance to set their houses in order a 1495 period of four years should be allowed before the operative day of the Bill, otherwise we shall have a very large number of bakers giving up bread baking altogether and going for their bread to bakeries outside their area. We should try to avoid that as far as possible.
I have had a good deal of experience in these matters and I find that the most discriminating and by far the most knowledgable buyers of bread are heavy manual workers. I have not found any district where the interests with which I havebeen associated in the past have been located that manual workers require other than fresh bread. One can talk to them until one is black in the face about how good it is to eat bread which is 12 hours old. If one goes to dockland and to the mining and heavy industry areas and tells them that story I know what their answer will be.
There are one or two points with which I shall not weary the House now; they are matters which can be dealt with on Committee stage. I sincerely hope that the publicity given to this splendid industry by the discussion in this House today will mean that Mr. Thomasson's union will have a large increase of new members. The bakers deserve very well of this country. Their record in wartime is very little known, but some of the greatest acts of heroism were performed in bake houses where bombs were falling. Men continued to bake bread knowing that it was urgently needed by people outside whose means of cooking had been denied them. The Co-operative societies and private traders stood shoulder to shoulder in war with no business animosity intervening. I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and that in Committee we shall make it into a workable Measure.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Bowden (Leicester, South-West)
It is an old tradition of this House that Whips should be seen and not heard, particularly if they are Government Whips. It is also a tradition that Opposition Whips should be seen but heard seldom. This is one of my seldom occasions. I may point out that there are other Whip colleagues hoping to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in order to speak against the abolition of night work.
1496 I have an interest, but not a financial interest, in this industry. It is an interest that comes from childhood, having been born with the smell of fresh bread in my nostrils, as it were, and having lived" in my early days in and around bakehouses. But always I had the one thought in mind never to be employed in them; nor was I. This Bill does not abolish night baking, but it is a step in that direction, and as such I welcome it. It marks perhaps the beginning of legislation which will improve the social conditions of bakery workers, as the result of a Committee set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) when he was Minister of Labour. With respect, I wish to say to the present Minister of Labour that I doubt very much if this Bill would have seen the light of day if any one other Minister on the Government Front Bench had been in charge of the Ministry of Labour.
This is a really progressive Measure, as far as it goes, and we congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on introducing it. As I say, it ends a social evil. The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said a few moments ago that he worked upon and welcomed the legislation of the Private Member's Bill in 1938. He apparently agreed to legislation at that time. But he also said, a few minutes later, that he did not think legislation was necessary now—only that negotiations should take place between both sides of the industry. Negotiations have been taking place over the last century and have not resulted in anything so far as England and Wales are concerned. I am very glad that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) mentioned the position in Scotland, which we recognise as a very excellent one. We wish it were as good in England and Wales, but it is not.
During the course of these 100 years there have been numerous instances in which this matter has been brought before the House, as the Minister said, in Private Members' Bills, at Question time and by requests for inquiries. At the first attempt in 1848, when Lord Grosvenor moved for an inquiry into this industry, some very interesting things were brought to light. We learn that the bakers a century ago were working 18 to 20 hours per day for a wage of 1497 15s. to 17s. a week. It may be that 15s. to 17s. a week does not compare unfavourably with today, but 18 to 20 hours is still 18 to 20 hours a day. We have progressed considerably since then.
The attempt to set up that early Commission in 1848 was defeated by only 12 votes. I mention that to indicate that in the House of Commons in the middle of last century there was a real interest in the conditions of bakery workers, or there would never have been a debate at all. The proposal was defeated by only 12 votes, and in the many years since then numerous committees have sat upon the problem.
In introducing the Bill today the Minister explained that it was based in the main on the recommendations of the Rees Committee. The Minister has endeavoured to perform a balancing act by being fair to both sides of the industry. He has gone some way towards doing that, although I think he could have gone further. I think he could have taken his courage in both hands and done precisely what has been done in many European countries—taken the opportunity now of abolishing night baking. That would have meant some changes; it would have necessitated changes in plant bakeries, but, given time, it would have worked out. The public, the employees and the employers would all have been glad after a few years.
There are many points in this Bill with which perhaps we can better deal on the Committee stage, but I cannot lightly accept the findings—strangely enough in each of the three Committees which have reported, the Mackenzie, the Alness and the Rees Committees—that the health of bakery workers is not adversely affected by night work. I know that the doctors have not agreed that it is affected, but sometimes the layman is able to judge these things. I am sure that with my youthful experience of the industry I could apply a simple test by going into a room in which there were 10 bakers engaged on night working and 10 agricultural workers or seamen. Every time I could pick out the bakery worker because of the pallor of his skin. The colour of his face is the hallmark of his trade.
I readily agree that those conditions do not apply quite so much today as they did in the days before the large plant 1498 bakeries were established. But we are told that the large plant bakeries are still only a small proportion of the industry and that small bakeries represent 75 per cent. In a sense the large plant bakeries are machines for turning out bread and nothing more. They are working under good conditions—many of them are owned by Co-operative societies—where there is air-conditioning and where bread is not touched by hand at all. Flour, yeast, salt and water and other ingredients—the additives about which my hon. Friend concerned himself—go into a mixing drum and the dough is kneaded and moulded by machinery and not touched by hand. It all goes into travelling ovens and is then sliced, wrapped and goes out on to delivery vans without being handled. But there are still a large number of bakeries where that does not happen.
Many hon. Members may have seen bake houses in the East End of London and other large cities which are underground or partially underground and have the old type of ovens known as side flue ovens, where the firing of the ovens takes place in the same room in which the bread is baked, and where the baker is continually breathing either steam from the oven which he is drawing—taking the bread out—or the sulphurous fumes coming from the flue where his colleague is shovelling coke or coal into the oven.
These were the conditions that broke down the health of many thousands of men in the baking industry. In 1911 there was a Question asked in this House about a worker who had died suddenly, and in the inquiry it was found that he had died as a result of the conditions in the bake house in which he worked and his hours of employment. He was a baker named Oakley who lived in Southwark. It is a point of interest that the question was answered by the present Prime Minister. I do not know what his office was which made it his duty to reply, but he dealt with it, and if Members turn up Hansard they will find that the answer was, as usual, evasive.
A lot of nonsense is talked about "new" and fresh bread. New or fresh bread is something that takes a great deal of describing because a loaf of bread can feel rather hard and stale after a few hours out of the oven whereas, on the other hand, given the right humidity and temperature, it can be quite fresh 1499 to the touch and delightful to eat after 15 or 20 hours. It is usually thought that the 12-year-old loaf—[Laughter]—is the best loaf. I am thinking in terms of the loaf of bread found in a famous tomb in Egypt not long ago. The 12-hour-old loaf of bread is a good loaf to eat.
Considerable research is going on at the present time into the question of the freshness of bread. The War Office and other Government Departments still spend considerable sums of money trying to discover how to keep a loaf of bread fresh. They are not thinking in terms of 12 hours but more in terms of six months. They have discovered some remarkable things. They have discovered that if they add tallow, bread can be kept and maintained in a fresh condition. I do not know what it would taste like. I do not think we should waste too much time on this argument about the housewife requiring a new fresh loaf. She will get it if it is 12 hours old. If she has any concern for her family she will not serve them with a loaf straight from the oven.
This is not an industry which readily lends itself to change. It is difficult to organise because there are so many small units. The unions have worked and tried very hard to organise it. It is an industry which is conservative in character—I use the small "c." It does not like change, but gradually there is coming inside the industry the recognition by employers, certainly by employees, that night baking is no longer necessary, that it does not serve any useful purpose.
It is fallacious to say that we have to prove for three hours. The dough can be set so that it can be proved for 12 hours or in any time at all. It is purely a matter of adjustment in the manufacture. I am sure that, given an opportunity, we shall find that the total abolition of night baking would work. In the meantime I welcome the Second reading of the Bill.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. M. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Bowden) told us that his responsibility as a Whip seldom permitted him to speak in the House. I think we can all agree that that 1500 does not diminish the skill or knowledge with which he can speak when the occasion occurs.
I believe that this Bill will be widely welcomed, as it has been long awaited; but as the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) has said, it will create certain difficulties in the holiday resorts where the population varies so much at different times of the year. It is on that point that I wish to speak briefly. The towns I represent may be exceptional in that they considerably more than double their population during a few weeks in the summer. One of them is certainly unusual in the fact that it attracts so very frequently hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to their conferences, and we welcome them there. In the matter with which we are dealing, those towns are of course not exceptions, and if I give examples tonight only from Scarborough it is not because I think it is unique in this respect, but because I am more familiar with the circumstances there.
The hand bakeries in Scarborough can produce all the bread required for three-quarters of the year or thereabouts by starting their work in the daytime, as it is called—at 5 a.m.—but in the summer they have to work all night to produce enough for the doubled population. Under the Bill, if they choose to opt as night workers, they can only keep their men on four weeks. But these bakeries are all very small, employing only two or three men, so they will be unable to arrange a shift to do that. That means that their only alternative will be to bake the day before, from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., which of course means stale bread.
It means not merely 12-hour-old bread, to which the hon. Member for Leicester, South-West has just referred, but 24-hour-old bread. My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) spoke just now about newspaper workers working at night. I think that is done because it is recognised that the nation's minds would not like stale news. I suggest that stale bread will not be very acceptable to the nation's stomachs.
In the case of automatic plant manufacturers of bread, I will take as an example one who makes 74,000 loaves per day on average during the winter but who, during the summer season, has to step up output to 160,000 loaves a 1501 day. He has to do that. He cannot make the smaller amount and lose that turnover, because he would then not be supplying his customers and would lose their goodwill and his winter business. Moreover, this firm makes three-quarters of the bread made in that town as well as supplying other towns, and there would be considerable difficulty if that bread were not manufactured.
What can this manufacturer do under the Bill? His only alternative is, I believe, to double his plant. That would cost him about £30,000. It would be idle for three-quarters of the year and also at night, unlike the other plant, which is in use all the 24 hours round. That would seem to me to be not only a considerable burden upon this relatively small firm but also a great waste of national resources. That would be quite immaterial to the Bill if it occurred only in that place, but if that situation were to be duplicated in many seaside holiday resorts, it might be a serious matter.
We are all agreed that today we must concentrate all our investment resources on improving the equipment in factories so that we can lower the cost of production and succeed in the export drive. It seems to me that if we are to divert our resources into uses like this into duplicating plant without reducing the cost then we are not acting in the spirit which will win the balance of payments struggle.
I wish to suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend that there is a solution of this difficulty which would entail only a fairly moderate modification of the Bill. I suggest that night bakers who so wish, in addition to the alternatives of being a day bakery or a night bakery, and employing men for 26 weeks at night, but for not more than four weeks running, should have a third alternative of engaging men, if they are willing—and it can only be if they are willing—for a period, not of 26 weeks of night work, but of 16 weeks, and all of that consecutively. Were that permitted, I believe that bakeries at holiday resorts—which, after all, are quite exceptional in that they double their population for a few weeks—could carry on without very serious dislocation either to the bake house employees or the consumer. I therefore ask my right hon. and 1502 learned Friend to give sympathetic consideration to that suggestion.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
To answer one important point raised by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), I would refer to the findings of the Rees Committee as to what people really like to buy—I am speaking of housewives—when they purchase bread. The report contains most interesting figures showing, among other things, that 34 per cent. of the housewives referred to in this very comprehensive survey got their bread a day before they started to eat it. If that be the case, I am sure the hon. Member would be the first to agree that one may not speak of bread as being stale when the tendency on the part of at least one-third of those who buy bread is to keep it for a day before starting to eat it.
Both the hon. Member and I know why that is. It is because hot bread can be eaten without mastication and stale bread tends to last a little longer. One does not fill one's stomach with it in the same way. In other words, it is cheaper to eat bread which is a day old. That is the experience of people who are very concerned about the cost of bread—something about which all of us here have little personal knowledge.
Another point developing from the survey is the number of young wives who want their bread hot or fresh, that is to say, immediately or within 12 hours. The percentage of young wives wanting bread that way as compared with the older and more experienced women who did not want it hot at all is fairly high. At the same time, I note that those who wanted bread hot were only 6 per cent. of the whole total, so I do not think we need waste our time discussing the question of consumers receiving their bread fresh.
By and large, it is apparent that Scotland can, by voluntary agreement, restrict night baking. Since asking a question about that, I find there are 90 per cent. of the workers involved in these voluntary agreements. If our Scottish colleagues do not grumble, who are we in the South to say anything about it? In this respect, as in many others concerned with organisational and educational problems, our Scottish colleagues are far ahead of us in 1503 the South. I deplore that fact, but, in view of it, I think it is time that we gave them a lead in one or two points of this kind.
May I turn to the question of health hazards mentioned so convincingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Bowden)? The Rees Committee mentioned health hazards and stated that there was no evidence brought before it of a medical nature, or from the returns of the Registrar-General, to suggest there was any greater hazard in night baking than in day baking. It stated that the sort of hazards with which it was faced were flat feet, dermatitis, anaemia and leptospirosis, which I am sure is rare and is associated with infection from rats which may infest the bakery.
I agree that one does not need to be a medical man to secure the evidence. If you see such persons year in and year out and if you watch and compare them with other people, it will be evident that they are pale and weary, and do not enjoy their life in the same way as other people. In other words, the hazard appears to be social-medical rather than strictly medical. There are men who miss the rays of the sun. It is skyshine they miss rather than sunshine, because we do not get a lot of sun in these islands. They miss the natural light, although this can be ameliorated in the large bakeries by the installation of suitable lighting giving out more artificial sunlight, so that they need not be as pale as described by my hon. Friend.
Although that can be done and although air-conditioning may be such that they get clean and fresh air, compared with the working conditions in the old-fashioned steam bakeries, everyone knows that people working on night shift regularly for many years lack energy and feel debilitated. Although they are not actively sick, they are not positively well. May I quote a remark of a patient of mine who, two or three years ago, when I asked if he was doing night baking, said, "Yes, I have done 40 years, and I am going to retire altogether." I asked him, "How did it affect you?" And he said, "I was never able to have a friend." When I questioned him about what he meant, he said that because he worked at night every night of the week for 40 years, with rarely any time off at all, he could 1504 not make any social contacts. And so he was able to say—I think it a sad thing to hear—"I have never been able to have a friend." For the wives of these men and for their families it is not pleasant to have as the breadwinner someone who is literally baking bread all night long, and who must obtain his sleep from the early hours of the morning until the evening, and then prepare to go off to work again.
§ Mr. Baxter
Would the hon. Member agree that that danger may apply to hon. Members of this House, who may end up with no friends?
§ Dr. Stross
Indeed, I would go further. I would say that if we worked each night in the way we occasionally do, we would not only find we had no friends but soon we should lose our wives. No woman with a reasonable respect for herself would be prepared to put up with Members of Parliament sitting all night long every night.
If I may return to the Bill, I noticed, in Clause 2 (3, a), a remarkable phrase.…no account shall be taken of any period of employment by another employer.May that be construed to mean that a panel of night bakers could be formed who would work six months for one employer and then leave him and offer themselves on the open labour market to work for another employer? If I am right in my suspicion, it may well be that that can be done, and I would welcome a denial.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Watkinson) indicated dissent.
§ Dr. Stross
I see that the Parliamentary Secretary is shaking his head, and I am pleased if I have misconstrued it, but as it stands, it looks as if there were a danger that men might opt to work at night all through the year simply by changing their employer after six months. The House will be interested to hear whether this will be allowed.
It is not bread alone that the public want at convenient times each and every day. They want bread and rolls of the best possible quality. It is obviously true that craftsmanship cannot run parallel with the growth of great plant bakeries. I do not say anything about strategic implications; that subject has already been dealt with. The greater the bakery and the more we rely upon 1505 the machine, the more the machine makes the bread and the confection and the less and less the individual has anything to do with it, except to act as an attendant.
We must remember that in the making of good bread it is the great plant bakery which can most easily add any new substances which are thought to improve the quality or appearance of the commodity manufactured, though some of us in this House and outside may be suspicious for fear the substances have not been fully tested. There may be no guarantee that these substances may not be harmful to human beings. The difference between the plant bakery and the individual baker is that not only does the plant bakery not give cheaper bread, nor in my opinion any better service, but, due to lack of craftsmanship, less individual skill is applied and the confections are not so well made. Moreover, we note that the plant bakeries may well be more guilty than any private baker would be of the use of what I call chemical additives which have not yet received approval as being suitable for use.
I do not want to stress this point, but it is interesting to find that the professor of nutrition of the University of Cornell, which is in Ithica, New York State, who used to advise the naval department and look after the health of the Navy to ensure that nothing should impair its efficiency, has given evidence before a committee of Congress. He has been able to get what he thinks is the best possible bread for one section of the people. I find, strangely enough, that it is not for the Navy but for the lunatics in the asylums in the United States. The best bread he could think of from a nutritional point of view was one un-contaminated and not improved by any chemicals, but which had added to it 6 per cent. of soya bean flour and 6 per cent. of milk solids. That is supposed to be absolutely first-class bread. It is a sad commentary that the benefit goes to those who perhaps can least appreciate it, although it may do them a great deal of good.
The Minister said that we have had to wait 105 years for the Bill. I have appreciated the pleas which have been made for negotiation and the request that Parliament should not interfere. It was the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) who said that even at this 1506 late stage we might get successful negotiation. I would only say that in Scotland, where negotiation covers almost the whole field, we have evidence from the union that the men wish to press forward to the total abolition of night work. If they are so concerned about it, we should take their views into account. Therefore, we should give the Bill a Second Reading. We can talk more fully about the details during the Committee stage. I am sure that the Bill is a step in the right direction.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. A. Hudson (Hull, North)
The hon. Member or Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) referred to bread produced by the plant bakeries and I gathered that he was a little doubtful about its quality. He compared it, to the detriment of the plant bakeries, with bread produced by the small baker—
§ Dr. Stross
I should not like to be unfair to plant bakeries. I did not want to infer that. What I inferred—and I think it is obvious—was that the plant bakery with its organisation could add substances to bread more easily, and therefore might be tempted to do so, with the best will in the world, not knowing any better.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am sorry if I misunderstood, but I wanted to make that clear. It is a fact that the modernplant bakery produces bread of the very highest standard. Housewives often express a preference for it. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) is not here. He referred quite correctly to my connection with two trade associations. I wish to make it clear that on this occasion I do not speak as the official representative of either of them, but I must declare an interest in that connection.
There is something in what the hon. Gentleman said about the definition of exceptions—the foremen, the part-proprietor, and so on. However, that is a question which can be thrashed out in Committee. The hon. Gentleman concluded, as did my right hon. and learned Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), by urging voluntary agreements on both sides. I think that we all should do the same but, in their absence, we should welcome the Bill as an attempt to deal with a most difficult problem. 1507 My right hon. Friend indicated that the Measure was based largely on the Rees Report. He described at some length the discussions which have taken place over a century. He spoke of the Act of 1938 which became largely abortive because of the introduction of trade boards. I do not want to go over all that, but I want to stress that it is interesting that a Tory Government are introducing legislation to deal with this problem. The Bill follows the pattern of Tory legislation of the past which has had the effect of improving the working conditions in many spheres—miners, shop assistants, textile workers, children and women. I do not want to be controversial, but that point ought to be well known and understood.
I have referred to my interest, and I must say that for 40 years I have been associated with businesses that have included baking in their operations. Therefore, to some extent I have been familiar with the discussions that have taken place in the past. The thought in my mind is that, because the discussions have taken so long, it is most necessary that the Bill should be as tidy, as clear and as capable of practical application as is possible. We must recognise that it is a Bill for social improvement. Most Bills that have that effect have involved a cost. I want to speak about the practicability and the cost of the Bill.
The baking industry employers' trade association has stated a very clear case which will be put by someone more competent to do so than I am. Where a bakery is working at full production on a three-shift system, it will now become necessary for it to work a two-shift system. If full production in the bakery is to be maintained, it means that there will have to be two very long shifts. The alternative is to put down more plant which will work a fewer number of hours to produce the same sack age of bread. The first alternative will be very bad for, and unwelcome to, the worker, but it can be operated. The second alternative will add greatly to the cost, for if more plant has to be put down to produce the same sack age, the cost must rise.
A second practical difficulty arises from Clause 2 (2, a) and (3, b) wherein night work is denned and the conditions relating to employment at night are set out. 1508 The effect of these provisions is that no baker may be employed on night work for more than 26 weeks. Although an emergency is provided for, there may be the difficulty of a man who meets with an accident on his way to work and is delayed, with the result that a day worker has to be kept at a machine or an oven for a short time, and even if the period is only a quarter of an hour the day worker's week immediately counts towards the total of 26 weeks on night work. That appears to be a very great danger, and the alternative which has been suggested of counting night work in terms of working hours as distinct from weeks would be very much simpler to operate, as it would not be subject to such difficulties.
There are some practical defects which will not be very welcome on the part of the employees. I know that the official view of the workers' union has been put and will be put again, but I am certain that there are some bakers who will not welcome the loss of earnings which may be entailed. Strange as it may seem, there are some who prefer night work. I can recall a man who would in no circumstances work during the day if he could work at night, and he is now nearly 80. He was happily married and is now happily retired and in very good health. At the same time, I share the view which has been expressed that prolonged night work is not a good thing.
I want to emphasise a health consideration related to changes between day and night work. The Bill provides that changes shall be made not less frequently than every four weeks. I am not sure that it would not be better for a worker to have an opportunity to remain a little longer than four weeks on night work. A man finds difficulty in adjusting himself to hours of work and sleep when he has to change from day to night work, and I believe that a longer period may be in the interests of the men, and it would in no way interfere with the overall proportion of night work which men are permitted to work.
Cost can be assessed in terms not only of money but also of freshness. Whatever the statistics may show, the housewife will always go for the fresh loaf, and the retailer has very great difficulty in disposing of a loaf which is a little off-fresh.
1509 My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) has already referred to the fact that under Cause 6 (2, c) the enforcement officer is empowered to ask an employer or an employee to sign a declaration of the truth of the matters in respect of which he is being examined. That is an extremely important matter, but it is also extremely dangerous. Even more important are these words which occur in the same subsection:to examine, either alone or in the presence of any other person, as he thinks fit, with respect to any matters under this Act, any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to be or to have been a bakery worker, or the employer of any such persons, or a servant or agent of the employer…It is perfectly proper that an enforcement officer should be empowered to interrogate a worker or anybody else in a bakery, including the employer, but, from the point of view of good management, I doubt the wisdom of making it possible for an enforcement officer, for example, to interrogate an employer in front of an apprentice. The employer may be prepared to say "Call Jack in and let me say it in front of him," but I believe it to be a little dangerous to give an enforcement officer power to demand that the employer's statement shall be made in front of any other person. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of the point so that it may be dealt with in Committee. I very much welcome the Bill.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Like the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. W. R. A. Hudson), I also wish to refer to Clause 6 (2, c). I hope the Minister will watch this provision. It has already been said that 75 per cent. of the bakery firms in the country are small firms, and these probably have friendlier staff relations than the big units have and there is, therefore, more likely to be collusion between employer and employee in breaking the law.
The hon. Gentleman referred earlier in his speech to the question of agreement on working conditions, and reminded the House that this Bill was being introduced by a Tory Government. I cannot refuse to go a little way to meet that challenge, even at the risk of upsetting for the first time the political harmony which seems to prevail in the House. I should say 1510 that, just as is usual when the Tories are interested in doing something to better conditions, there is a minority putting up a rearguard action. I think it was to that minority that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) directed his remarks in asking that agreement should be reached on this important matter. In finishing that point, I would add that it has taken well over 100 years to arrive even at the point of discussing a Bill to go even some way towards restricting night baking.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
As the hon. Gentleman has referred to me, may I ask him in plain terms whether he would not prefer an agreement voluntarily entered into rather than an enforcement Bill of this sort?
§ Mr. Hannan
Absolutely; I am afraid I have not made the point quite clear. Indeed, I have no hesitation in saying that I support the right hon. Gentleman in the remarks he made. I am in favour of voluntary agreements by all means, but I do think that, when the right hon. Gentleman was arguing in favour of them in his speech, it might very well have been noted by that minority, wherever they may be, who are maintaining a rearguard action against the terms of this Bill.
The history of this matter has already been refered to and, although the Minister himself made a jocular reference to it, I am not going back to the time of the Pharaohs. It is sufficient for me to say that all the three Reports which we have had on this subject—the Mackenzie Report, the Alness Report and the Rees Report—in my view, are agreed on one thing, and that is that the consumer will not suffer as a result even of the total abolition of night baking. I think that is a very important factor, and I support the remarks of my hon. Friends on this side of the House who said earlier that they regretted that the Rees Committee had not gone further in suggesting and recommending its total abolition.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I want to take up only one point with the hon. Gentleman. Paragraph 155 of the Rees Report contains a clear finding on these lines:We find it hard to see how the best interests of the national economy could be 1511 reconciled with a complete closing for eight hours in the twenty-four of a three-shift plant bakery.How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that view with the view that night baking from the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. should be entirely terminated?
§ Mr. Hannan
We are not on the same point. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not understand it, and it may be my fault. If the hon. Gentleman will look at Paragraph 11 of the Rees Report, he will see that the Committee, referring to the Mackenzie Report said:The Committee were of opinion that, apart from some initial capital expenditure, their recommendations should not add generally to the cost of manufacture, and should not prevent the public from receiving bread reasonably fresh and at reasonable times.The only point I am making, and it is common to all three of these Reports, is that the public would not be inconvenienced. The only slight difference is in regard to the cost of the article. In the Rees Report, it is indicated that it is possible that the total abolition of night baking in plant bakeries might mean that the price would have to be increased by three farthings.
I want to suggest that total abolition could have been seriously considered if a greater examination had been made of the inefficient and costly method of distribution. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), who is not now in his place, spoke of the concentration of plant bakeries in the West of Scotland. It is not generally recognised that 75 per cent. of the bread consumed in Scotland is produced in Glasgow and its surroundings, and that some of that bread is then transported 330 miles away to the Highlands, Islands and Inverness, actually bypassing a bakery at Fochabers in the North. It is not quite true, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, unless I misunderstood him, that one large bakery is responsible for supplying all the people in the West of Scotland and that, if it were to be knocked out, say, in a blitz, the whole of the population there would be in difficulties. There are, of course, other bakeries, and I should have thought that, in considering this matter, more attention would have been paid to distribution.
There is also the valuable point which the hon. Gentleman made that production is becoming concentrated in a 1512 smaller number of factories, but the way to overcome and meet the objections which have been made about fresh bread would surely be to re-open some of the small bakeries which have, in fact, closed as a result of the concentration and competition which has taken place. All three Reports have this in common: they say that night baking is undesirable, that it presents hardships and is socially disadvantageous to the employee.
I should like to make this criticism, though not in a harsh way. In this excellent Report, it seems to me that, in the end, the Committee evaded the consequences of the evidence. Moreover, by implication, it appears to be saying that, although it believes that abolition is the right thing, it hesitates to go all the way because the industry itself should have solved the problem. For instance, in paragraph 41, it has this to say, in reference to the position in Scotland:This excellent organisation on both sides has led to a degree of negotiation which is almost unknown in England and Wales. It has facilitated the successful operation of the Scottish shift system and is a major factor in the continued successful operation of the apprenticeship scheme in the Scottish baking industry.In paragraph 42, it says:Indeed we cannot help thinking that if the industry had been more highly organised, rather more progress might by now have been made towards a solution of the problem of night baking.It seems to me that that Committee, examining as it has done all the conditions in the industry, should have faced up to a decision on abolition and made it one of its recommendations.
The Bill is therefore a compromise, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. It does away, not with night work, but with continuous night work. I was rather glad, coming from Scotland, to hear and to appreciate the complimentary remarks that were made about the system which operates there. Since 1948, by voluntary agreement between the Scottish Bakers' Union and the employers' organisations, a method has been set up of meeting almost any contingency and providing safegards for either side.
The Bill limits continuous night work to 26 weeks in a year. In Scotland that is done already. That is part of the answer to the hon. Member for Hull, 1513 North who spoke of the difficulties in getting men to adjust themselves. These men adjust themselves every two weeks in Scotland, and the transport workers are adjusting themselves every week. The miners have also to adjust themselves to different shifts. I do not think that that objection holds much water.
Clause 2 (2, b) indicates that no operative can be on night work for longer than four weeks, which is the maximum. That is important, as the Bill is thus an improvement on recommendation No. 4 of the Report, which asks for four weeks as a minimum. A very important point was mentioned by the Minister and no one else has, so far as I am aware, referred to it. I am looking at the actual recommendation in paragraph 211 in which alternatives are given for bakeries to adopt. Either:Recommendation (a) will leave the situation wide open to abuse in that the working period will then be from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. at night and therefore a constant back shift from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at night may be brought into being. The Report makes it clear in two or three places that the Committee wants to avoid excessive back shift. In paragraph 210, leading up to the recommendations, the last sentence is:
- "(a) It should employ no person in the manufacture of bread and flour confectionery between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.,"
- "(b) It should employ no person in the manufacture of bread and flour confectionery between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than half the weeks worked in any particular calendar year."As devised, the scheme will also avoid the dangers of excessive 'back shift' working or Sunday work.While the recommendation (a), if accepted, would leave the situation open to abuse, I think that if the modifying words of recommendation (b) were added to (a)for more than half the weeks worked in any particular calendar yearit might safeguard the position.
The Bill brings no change in working conditions in Scotland, but puts the present practice into legislative form. The point raised by the hon. Member for Banff is important. I understand that the bakers want this Bill even in Scotland, because they want the present agreement 1514 put into legislative form. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply on this.
A great part of this Report deals faithfully with Scottish conditions and is complimentary to the industry there. Time and time again the Report suggests to the English industry that both sides might very well study with benefit what has been done in Scotland. The Committee paid us a very high compliment by travelling to Scotland and staying there for three or four days. I can say with sincerity that Scottish hospitality was extended, and that we hope that the civilising influence which the Scots have had from time to time will bear fruit in the future in regard to the Bill.
I urge both sides of this industry to give careful consideration to the suggestions that are made and to the working agreement which obtains in Scotland. There are not merely two shifts but three, within broad limits and wide terms in regard to hours. The agreement provides for almost any set of conditions, and I feel that any objections and difficulties can be overcome. I believe that after a short period of experience the two sides can come even more closely together and that the goal, total abolition of night baking, will be realised. Then the hopes and aspirations of thousands of British citizens will be achieved and a long fight will have been won.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
I hope that it has not escaped the notice of the House that if we were a large bakery we would already have done 25 minutes of night work, if the terms of the Bill as at present drafted had become law. We would also have worked a complete night week, even though we adjourned this minute and did not resume for the rest of the week, so strictly is the term "night work" denned for large bakeries.
I have travelled about the world a certain amount in the last few years and I am convinced that the bread of this country is healthier, cheaper and fresher than that of almost any other country in the world. I am very concerned lest anything should be done to make it dearer and staler. I do not think that the Bill need do that, provided that certain Amendments are made. The happy 1515 labour relations that have existed in this industry and the way in which all parts of the industry, large bakeries, small bakeries, the Co-operative societies and the rest, and the employees, have played their part in producing a very good result at a time when fuel charges have been going up against them and the cost of plant has been increasing, are very impressive. I hope all that feeling will be harnessed in Committee to see whether we cannot avoid the abuse of continuous night baking and yet keep bread fresh, cheap and healthy.
One of the difficulties in choosing the formula "half the weeks," that is 26 weeks in the year, instead of the simpler formula "half the time," is that two out of every three of the ordinary 8-hour shifts become night work. As a result of that, it may well be that if bakers are to avoid the expense of fresh plant, fresh buildings and more lorries—distribution comes into this, of course—it will be necessary to have a long night shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a long day shift, or at any rate one long night shift and two short day shifts of six hours each.
The result of that may well be that employees, in the true sense of the word, will work more at night in the future than they do at present. Not only does this Bill enable the employer to keep men at work from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. for a whole week, but there are also exceptions to the Bill which would enable them in many cases to ask the men to work one night the following week. Therefore, not only could men be kept on 12 hours a night for one week, but also 12 hours for one night the following week, which is their "day week." Therefore, unless the three-shift system can be retained, there is a grave danger in this tightly-knit and very diversified industry that in many cases employees may find that they will be working more at night than at present.
It is certainly likely to upset a great deal of the loading arrangements. I am told that in many cases quite a lot of the loading of the vans goes on in what under this Bill are technically night periods. The vans are out all day and are loaded at night. If that work is to be restricted, it means for example, that some bakers will have to buy more vans 1516 because their vans which are normally loaded in what are to be defined as night hours will have to be loaded in the day time while other vans are about their normal business. That will be another expense.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whit by (Mr. Spearman) spoke about the expense of keeping ovens idle for long periods in order to have them available at certain seasons of the year when it is necessary to double output. I do not think that that sort of thing is likely to be restricted only to seaside resorts. If plant is not used continuously, then more ovens will have to be put into operation during periods when night work does not operate.
I am informed that such is the immense cost of plant these days that a six-sack plant and the appropriate building in which to house it would cost something like £75,000. I mention these facts—and no doubt many others will be mentioned in the course of the debate—to show that if we unnecessarily increase the costs of the industry, the price of bread will go up. We all know what this is likely to mean to the cost of living, which it is the duty of all of us to try to keep as low as possible.
Of course, if it were necessary to increase costs in order to safeguard health, I should be the first to support that course, but if it is not absolutely necessary to do so, then we must try to come together in the spirit of agreement. There is also the need to restrict capital expenditure on unproductive things at a time when productive things are crying out for such expenditure. Therefore, I suggest that if only we could approach this question of the formula of "half of the time" as opposed to "half the weeks," we should avoid great dangers.
It is said that the Scots have worked this system, that they have not increased their price, and that their bread is fresh. The same has been said of the Scandinavians. But one cannot compare like with unlike. Because one country can do something well, it does not mean that another can. Conditions vary enormously in different countries, and for this purpose Scotland is a different country. Scotland has a different tradition, and I suspect that the structure of its industry is entirely different from that in this 1517 country. I see that a Scottish hon. Member opposite wishes to intervene. I hope he is not going to say that Scotland is exactly like England, because if he does he will not be believed.
§ Mr. Hannan
I was only going to say that the members of the Committee whose Report is the basis of this Bill, and who are much more authoritative people than simple back benchers in this House, say that they see no reason why the same conditions should not prevail south of the Border, why both sides of the industry cannot get together, which is a point that was made by my right hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
No Committee, however eminent, is going to persuade me that conditions in Scotland are exactly the same as conditions in England, because, first of all, they have to deal with totally different human material. I am sure that the hon. Member would be the first to agree with that. There are many other differences as well.
I think that the real objection to the formula of "Half the time" as opposed to "Half the weeks" is really one on which the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) has put his finger, and that is the vexed question of the back shift. Of course, it is quite true—unless some safeguard were devised—that if the formula of "Half the time" were introduced into this Bill, it would theoretically be possible for an employer to employ somebody continuously on the back shift, that is to say, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. because half of this shift comes before the magic hour of 6 p.m. and half comes after it. Therefore, some safeguards would undoubtedly have to be introduced to avoid that horrible result.
I agree with everything that has been said about the horror of permanently working the back shift as far as social life is concerned, because the back shift is almost exactly the shift which we permanently work in this House. It is all very well for those who are happily married, but what about those who are not, because it is during these valuable hours that their chance of release from single bondage most naturally occurs. If bakery employees, like us, are to be kept permanently on the back shift, then they 1518 are likely to find their social life gravely impaired.
It should not be beyond the wit and power of the Parliamentary draftsmen and others to provide a rotation system. We must avoid having people working permanently on the back shift, because that would be anti-social. I cannot believe that the trade unions would be so weak as to allow it, and I suggest that it can be quite easily adjusted in the terms of the Bill.
Now, it is said that half these objections go by the board, because, of course, there is power to exempt from the provisions of the Bill. I have no doubt that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will say that there is power under Clause 9 to, as it were, contract out of the Bill, and for employers to avoid the expense of more vans and plant and the general cost of the upset of their present arrangements which these hours would undoubtedly cause, if only they came to terms with the trade unions and reached an agreement which the Minister approved.
On the face of it, that is a very attractive argument, but I would just utter a word of warning. Of course, agreements with the trade unions are not restricted to hours of work. They cover all sorts of things, including wages, and it is not really a very happy or satisfactory state of affairs for one party to negotiations of that sort to be in a position to say to the other party, "Either you agree to our terms on all these matters or else you go back to the Bill, because we shall not agree to anything less. If we do not get agreement, then you know what the Bill is going to cost you. It will cost you far more than what we want." That is really negotiating at the pistol point, and I shall be much obliged if the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that objection when he replies, because I believe it to be one of substance.
Finally, I wish to reinforce the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) about the Clause dealing with the powers of the enforcement officers. The wording used, I believe, is a repetition of Section 123 of the Factories Act, 1937, and I am therefore sure that it will be said to be common form, unexceptionable, and has now become a sort of doxology.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
That does not satisfy me in the very least. Before we give enforcement officers these Star Chamber powers, I believe a special case must be made out, each time, to do what is otherwise absolutely contrary to the criminal law of England. The Judges' Rules and other safeguards, which have been built up carefully throughout the ages, deal with crimes far more important than the abominable crime of baking after 6 p.m.—crimes of murder, arson and damage to property and person, all of which are hedged round with the most scrupulous rules by which people must be cautioned before they are examined, need not sign statements unless they wish to, and can have people to accompany them if they so wish.
What is the point of those rules if they are to be now set aside by a common form? Because there has been some factory legislation where it might have been necessary, I do not think that it should now be assumed necessary in all statutes dealing with labour legislation. It may be necessary, but a special case must be made out each time, otherwise, bit by bit, we shall find ouselves with our liberties removed and no one, not even the Liberal Party—whom I am sorry to see not here—to raise a voice in protest. It may not be a dangerous thing where the safety of the Realm is concerned, and where otherwise it might not be possible for offences to be detected, but so far as bakers are concerned, with all their rivals there to see that they do not break the law, I cannot see that the examination of people in private, with the power of people being obliged to sign statements without cautions being administered as they are always administered by police officers, is necessary.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) enumerated a large number of difficulties which would confront the industry if this Bill became law, but rather left out of his account the human factor, and I am sure that the difficulties which I have heard mentioned from the benches opposite could be very easily removed. When this country is faced with considerable dangers we very 1520 often adopt extraordinary measures to overcome them, and I am sure that none of the difficulties which it is said employers would face can possibly overcome the very serious objections that, in this enlightened age, we must raise against the continued denial of social rights and amenities to large numbers of people.
This Bill imposes the minimum restriction, and I am frankly disappointed that it does not go further. I am in favour of the total abolition of night work, and it is a rather sad reflection upon our intelligence that we, in this House, have not yet found a way of doing our business without extensive night work, although I must confess to having taken my share of it. In 1945 I rather objected to our hours of work, and I still think we could be more intelligent in our planning of it.
In my own city of Birmingham night baking was stopped at the beginning of the war because it was anticipated that there would be continued air raids. As that did not immediately materialise, night work was resumed. Then suddenly we had very serious raids on Birmingham and operative bakers were killed at their work and on their way to it. When this came to light we acted.
Facing all difficulties, Birmingham, a city with 1¼million population, and the whole of the Midlands abolished night work in bakeries for the remainder of the war. There were, I suppose, more than 250 bakers affected, but the difficulties which resulted were surmounted. Following the blitz on Coventry—and on Birmingham—Birmingham had by day to produce the bread not only for itself but for some surrounding areas, including Coventry. In addition, power and water supplies failed, which imposed enormous difficulties that were overcome.
The Birmingham Co-operative Society is a shining example of what can be done, because since before the war it has abolished night baking and has never gone back to it. I do not know whether Glasgow can point to anything like this, but the Birmingham Co-operative Society produces more than 25 per cent. of Birmingham's total bread consumption. It produces, by day, 3,000 sacks per week, and, as I understand that each sack makes 220 loaves, it means that 660,000 loaves are being baked by that organisation by day work. If that can be done in Birmingham; if, as has been stated, the principal 1521 recommendations of the Rees Committee can be operated in Scotland, then I suggest that not only can we impose the restrictions which are recommended in this Bill but can go very much further, and I hope that the nation will soon decide to go much further.
One hon. Member spoke of the necessity for heavy manual workers having fresh bread. That is very interesting, but Cardiff supplied the whole of the bread for the Normandy landings and had to have at least five days' supply—and they did it all by day. It is amazing to me that what we could do in time of war many hon. Members seem to think we cannot do in time of peace.
Another point I should like to mention is the question of negotiation. It is far better if agreements can be reached between employers and trade unions. The issue of trade disputes and arbitration is now being very much discussed, and it is all the more important that we should look at the Report of the Rees Committee and use it as a method of arbitration by which we can agree and carry out important social reforms.
I cannot see any reason why this Bill cannot be put into operation in less than three years; one hon. Member spoke of four years. It will be a tragedy if we pass a Bill of this nature and then say that we are not capable of carrying it out in less than three years. Section 13 ought to be amended accordingly.
No amount of negotiation can fully compensate those who are obliged to sacrifice their home and social amenities. The chairman of the Bakers' Union of England and Wales was himself engaged on night work continuously for 13 years. At that time he had difficulty in obtaining employment until he moved to Birmingham. The denial of social amenities and social life was an important matter to him. I have heard of many cases where, as a result of continuous night work, homes have been broken, and there have been many divorces.
It is a great tragedy that men have worked continuously at night work for 30, 40 and 50 years, from the beginning of their work until they reached pension age. In a well ordered society we should concede the right of an individual to adequate and natural rest at the right times. He is entitled to social rights, and 1522 he is entitled to wake up in the morning and be able to enjoy the sunshine and a certain amount of leisure in decent conditions. Furthermore, he is entitled to equal opportunity in education and other amenities which are offered to those who do not have to do night work.
I have no doubt that some men like night work. That fact has been mentioned by one or two hon. Members. We are told that some would not welcome a loss of earning and that others prefer night work. Many people have found employment in the armaments and munition industries, and they would be in great difficulties if disarmament came, but we should not cease to aim at the ideal of disarmament simply because it would create difficulties for many thousands of people. We should have to carry out the necessary adjustments. I welcome the Bill, but I think that it does not go far enough.
I do not accept the arguments contained in the pamphlet which has been sent to hon. Members today. If we tried to restrict the work of a baker by manipulating his hours and not making it very clear that he should do night work for only 26 weeks out of 52 we should place the whole of his working life in jeopardy, and that all the difficulties of trade union negotiations would be presented.
This Bill does not go far enough. I hope that in the not too distant future the time will come when the community, as well as this House, will demand rights for those who, for some reason or another, have had the misfortune to have to work during the night and be denied of the great social benefits that come to those who are not so unfortunate. John Ruskin said:There is no wealth but life.I do not accept the view that because one pays or offers workers more money to work at night that is the right end to have in view. I believe, with Ruskin, that there is no wealth but life.
Difficulties may arise, but those difficulties are absolutely minute, and can be surmounted. If Cardiff, Birmingham and the whole of the Midlands could deserve the nation and provide all the bread required—good, wholesome and fresh and do it by day and not by night, as they did during the war, surely, in the 1523 years that have followed, when we can plan with intelligence and with more freedom, we ought to have been able to provide a better system.
When this Bill is being considered in Committee I trust that the Minister will not give way on any essential point which affects the interest of the baking community, which has laboured for reform for so many years. I trust that their dreams may soon come true, and that night work in baking will be completely abolished.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
The hon. Member for Ladywood(Mr. Yates) has dealt with the baking community. I desire to throw my net wider and deal with the community as a whole. Perhaps I can follow the hon. Member to some extent along the lines adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), and if I can make a speech half as forceful, clear and admirable as he made, I shall feel I have achieved my purpose.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Yes, I appreciate that the hon. Member was speaking of the baking community, but one of the criticisms I want to make tonight is that hon. Members opposite have paid far too little heed to the housewife. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) of a Royal Commission on food prices, but if this Bill proceeds as drafted there is no doubt that the price of bread will rise, and so will the costs of the plant and machinery involved.
We on this side of the House, and, indeed, I think the House as a whole, accept in principle the recommendations contained in the Rees Committee's Report that one should limit the amount of night work imposed upon the worker and abolish permanent night work altogether, introducing instead a system of alternating or rotating shifts by which the load on this small number of workers can be removed. 1524 For over 100 years there has been legislation endeavouring to abolish night baking, but up to 1941 when the matter was put up to the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, and up to the case of the National Arbitration Award 684 in 1945, and up to the Rees Committee in 1950 and 1951, the committees of all parties came to the conclusion that it was quite impracticable in the national interest to do so. Indeed, in many of the modern industries today we find that the three eight-hour shift is extremely satisfactory and meets the condition of the day, where the plant is required to be used to its full productive capacity. That is the principle with which we have to deal tonight.
With regard to the background, nobody has yet mentioned the Baking Industry (Hours of Work) Act, 1938. I should like to remind the House, therefore, that under the system in 1938 it was arranged, as set out in paragraph 20 (c) of the Rees Committee's Report, thatUnder the third system, individuals could be employed at night on alternating shifts so arranged that no individual worked between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for more than half his time.So that the test was not 12 hours between between 6 o'clock and 6 o'clock. That was the first point, and the second point was that it should be half the man's time.
Hon. Members will note that if the definitive Clause, Clause 2, of this Bill were the same as Clause 1 we could easily have the rotating shift of three periods of eight hours which would ensure that a man did only one third, not one half, of his time at night and achieve the purpose we all desire. That is the first point I want to make. The Report of the Rees Committee followed, and the Government were successful in securing agreement by all concerned with the fundamental principles contained in it and also contained in this Bill. What we are really concerned with is the terms of the draftsmanshnp of this Clause.
I want to explain why it is that Scotland and England are not quite the same in this matter. The reasons are quite plain. For nearly 100 years there have been effective apprenticeship agreements in Scotland, and those effective apprenticeship agreements in Scotland have led to a far more highly organised industry there than we have in England. There 1525 is an apprenticeship agreement and there is a much higher trade union representation, and hon. Members opposite will be particularly interested in that, I am sure, especially some of those who represent the stronger unions.
The position is that in English bakery only about 30,000 operatives are members of the union out of 120,000 inside the bakeries, and some of the 30,000 are not represented as being men who are actually bakers in the strict sense of the word. Let hon. Members look at another figure and they will see why it is that the negotiating machinery has not been successful. There are 12,000 small bakers, and they represent 45 per cent. of the productive capacity of the industry. There are then 200 bakers only, who represent 38 per cent. of the productive capacity of the industry, and they are increasing.
There are then the Co-op., about 500 of them, who represent 18 per cent. We have not yet heard from the great leaders of the Co-op, union, but I rather feel that the Co-op, union may be not in wholesale disagreement with what I have to say tonight. The vitally important Co-operative Union is representative of the whole country in this matter. Therefore, 55 per cent., over half, of the whole of the bread production in this country is in the hands of about 700 organisations, 700 bakeries, and of those 700 bakers, 90 per cent. are operating the three-shift system of eight hours each day. That is to say they are operating three shifts, from 6 o'clock to 2, 2 o'clock to 10, and 10 o'clock to 6.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
The hon. Gentleman was referring to the Co-operative movement. I must point out to him that the men concerned in baking are not organised on the basis of the company or society for whom they work. They are members of a joint organisation concerned with recruitment of bakers as such, and they have been well represented today in speeches made here.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I do not accept that. I cannot accept it. I do not accept for one moment that hon. Members opposite who have been speaking for particular unions are necessarily speaking for those other 90,000 men, and it is for that reason that I am making the point that we in this House are trustees here for about 1526 90 per cent. of the workers in this industry who are not concerned with the management on the one side or with the union on the other. It is most important in their interests that we should look at this particular matter and this particular Clause, to some extent now and certainly in Committee, most carefully, because in England they have such very small representation in and direct concern with the union.
I endorse what was said earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie). One hopes that there will be wider and greater representation in the future, and this Bill may well go a long way to achieve it. I know not, but there are very divergent views in this industry, and that is why there has been this difficulty in reaching the present position—the difficult reason that 12,000 of the bakers think, rightly or wrongly, they are in conflict with the 200, and feel they may be swallowed up, and the interests of the big operator, who, of course, is out for maximum productive efficiency and represents a large number of those men, who want to work the three 8-hour shifts system, and who like it, but who, I entirely agree, in the main do not want to work the whole night.
With regard to this, there are 17,000 men who work at nights out of a total of 120,000. So the problem is not quite so big as one would expect.
The next point about the Rees Report is that it does not find at all that men should work 26 working weeks. The principles are quite clear and are contained in three paragraphs. Here they are. Paragraph 155 says:We find it hard to see how the best interests of the national economy could be reconciled with a complete closing for eight hours in the twenty-four of a three-shift plant bakery.Let us pause there. The Committee finds that legislation which closes the plant for eight hours would be unsatisfactory, and it wants to continue the three-shift system. I shall show in a moment that the only satisfactory three-shift system is one of eight hours each, not one of one period of 12 hours and two of six, or one of four periods of six, least of all of two periods of 12 hours. Part of paragraph 208 reads:It will also be clear that we regard the introduction of a system of alternating shifts 1527 whereby no one works at night more than half his time to be generally feasible…In paragraph 210 the Committee say:…we recommend that legislation should be adopted requiring each baking establishment to choose between total abolition of night work and the introduction of a system of alternating or rotating shifts. We consider that a scheme of this kind would have sufficient flexibility to enable it to meet the requirements of all types of baking establishments…without causing the public to have less efficient service or to pay more for bread.These points are all contained in the Committee's findings and the recommendations appear to be acceptable to all concerned.
Perhaps I may underline two points. The Committee makes it quite plain that, provided there can be rotating shifts, an alternating system, then the present efficiency will continue and bread will not be dearer. Conversely, the Committee is finding by implication that if we cannot have the shift system operating satisfactorily, there will be dearer bread and worse service and an increase in plant costs.
A principle which we must pursue in the Bill—and the Bill is engaged in that principle—is productive efficiency without price increases, and with a regulation of hours to ensure that no man works more than one-third of his time at night—not half his time, but one-third of his time. I would much rather see the figure of one-third adopted.
The truth about the Bill came out in the speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley). He has practical knowledge of the industry, and what he said this afternoon was most interesting. He said he was very much in favour of Clause 9—that is, the decision to effect an agreement; and so am I—but he went on to say, "If the Bill is passed first." He said it would enable them to secure an effective agreement and, by negotiation, to obtain the terms they wanted. Of course it will, because if it makes it impossible for the employer, as it does, to have the rotating three shift system, then the union can say, "If that be so—and you do not want to go back on the Bill, do you?—we can enforce the terms we want." That is the case the union are making, but it is not wholly fair because it gives them a stick with which to beat the employer while it does not give the 1528 employer a stick with which to defend himself. It is not "fair do's" in battle. I hold no brief for one side more than another, but I want to see that the consumer does not suffer in this stick battle.
How are we to translate these principles and basic recommendations? The Rees Committee is not concerned with dictating to us the terms of the legislation. It is the Committee's job to make recommendations on guiding principles. What it has done, by mistake, is not to understand the 26 working weeks principle at all. If we read the Report, that is clear.
Let us consider the provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 is agreed, more or less in its entirety. There is one mistake; in the proviso has been inserted 4 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. or 2 a.m. The operations which must be carried out before baking starts will take longer than one hour. For the benefit of the Parliamentary Secretary, that is set out in paragraph 191 of the Report where the union agree precisely that there shall be a reasonable period for preparatory work.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am only giving the reference to my hon. Friend. I do not know whether he can remember all the paragraphs by heart; perhaps he can, but I am afraid I cannot remember them without my notes.
Turning to Clause 2, it seems that the purpose can be achieved by one of two methods. The first is a proper definition of "night," in exactly the same terms as in Clause 1—10 p.m. to 5 a.m. That is one method which does not seem to have been dealt with in the Report. Alternatively, it can be achieved by saying that the worker shall be regulated on the principle of half the time. That would mean that Clause 2 (3, b) would be dropped or amended, instead of half a week counting as a whole week. An Amendment would be introduced there.
If that procedure is not adopted, there are three possible effects. The first is to have two 12-hour periods, and such hours are being worked in one or two instances today. In my opinion that would be reactionary, and I am sure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood agrees with me. That is the method of two 12-hour periods—12 hours by night and 12 1529 hours by day. Surely that is not in the best interests of the industry, but it can be done under the Bill.
An alternative is to have one period of 12 hours and then two periods of six hours each, in which case, in a short time, unless they are very stupid—which they are not—the workers would say, "We want double time for the extra six hours." They would look upon it as four shifts instead of three. The next possibility would be to have six-hour shifts, which would mean four men to do the work of three and, as a consequence, the housewife would suffer. In my opinion that Clause should be amended.
I turn next to a matter affecting my constituency of Thanet very seriously. I do not want to draw any unfortunate comparisons with anything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), but in my division we have not double the number of people during the summer but about six times the number. From under 100,000, the number increases to something in the neighbourhood of half a million. Those people have to be fed—and they include hon. Members opposite, in their regular attendance; they have to be given the staff of life with regularity.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, under Clause 2 (2, b) the Minister may include the high peak season of the seaside resorts. The paragraph reads,except with the consent in writing of the Minister, which may be revoked at any time, and in compliance with such conditions, if any, as may be specified in that consent, a person shall not be employed as a night bakery worker between the hours aforesaid for more than four consecutive working weeks at any one time.If four weeks is to be the appropriate period—and in my view it is a very good period—there is still, presumably, a power to enable the Minister to revoke that consent in compliance with certain conditions. I do not know whether the Minister has in mind that this consent could be made to apply to seasonal workers. If not, I most strongly urge that there should be an exception phrase introduced into the paragraph to enable him to take action in the case of the seasonal resorts during the high peak period—it is not a very long period, two 1530 months at most—to enable workers to work at night. I have no doubt that the workers there are quite content to work at night during that short period. In such places, they are prepared to work all hours during that period; Hon. Members will see people selling cockles or eels at all hours. The question of seasonal unemployment is of great importance there, and these men are prepared to gain on the swings what they will inevitably lose later on the roundabouts.
This point was dealt with in the Rees Report. Paragraph 160 states categorically that thecomplete abolition of night baking between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m."—and note the times used; they are from 10 o'clock to 6 o'clock and not from 6 o'clock to 6 o'clock—would during the seasoncause some difficulties in holiday resorts.To substantiate that point evidence was given both by the Travel and Holiday Association and the Tourist Board
. I turn next to Clause 4. Flexibility is undoubtedly essential, and I am sure this Clause is designed to be helpful to the industry, but it could have most unfortunate results, because the Clause as drawn is so woolly that no one can understand what it is designed to achieve. I suggest that an explanation should be sought either in the Schedule or by an Amendment in order to clarify the Clause.
Next, Clause 6. In the last 10 years there has been a very great change, certainly on this side of the House, in accordance with the more liberal view taken of these penalty Clauses. Before I came to the House I was concerned with a Committee for administrative reform of the Bar Society which is a conservative society; and we were concerned with the question of these penalty Clauses.
I should like to endorse entirely what the hon. Member for Darwen and the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said, that there should be a clear and cogent case before one inserts a Clause which will inevitably lead to perjury, as this one would. Speaking with experience as a member of the Bar, I am satisfied that we shall get some very unsatisfactory things as a result of this 1531 Clause. The power of an inspector to go in, force a man to make a statement and force him to declare the truth of it leads to the fact that he may later have to go into a witness box, and, if he does, he may feel bound to hold himself to the statement which he made earlier and which he may regret.
I do not like this Clause. I think that it is punitive and dangerous and ought to be altered. From my experience of this industry, it seems to me that while the Government are to be congratulated on their courage and resolution in putting forward a Bill of this nature in the hope of terminating the wrangles of a century, none-the-less we must be careful to see that the one person who does not get left out in the cold—and who is so apt to be when we are dealing with an industry—is the housewife, and that we do not get dearer bread and loss of production in a most efficient industry which is progressing in the most orderly fashion and which is achieving its objects so admirably today.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)
I think that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) put quite a number of questions to the Parliamentary Secretary with which it would not be proper for me to deal, and that other matters to which he referred could better be dealt with in Committee.
As I understand the Bill, there is nothing in it which prevents the trade unions and the employers from continuing negotiations as to how best to operate this Bill if it becomes an Act of Parliament. I welcome the Bill. I am glad that the Report of the Committee appointed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) has persuaded the Government that some action is necessary, and that they have introduced this Bill.
I think that at present it probably represents the highest common measure of agreement. That makes it very important, although I can say that the trade unions are not content—they would like to see night work abolished. I happen to have been associated with a service where we have night work—where we work throughout 24 hours—and where we have day work. I am not a baker; 1532 I was a Post Office servant. My excuse, if one be necessary for speaking on this Measure, is that, although I do not know much about kneading dough—I did it when I was a lad to help my mother—I do know something about night work. I welcome the definition of this Bill that night work is work between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and I hope that the Government will not move away from that definition.
I have done night work, and as a trade union secretary I have known of some—I will not use strong terms—domestic disturbances which arise from night work. In these days motor-car traffic is heavy. All over this City, cars are being parked in streets, and in some cases there is a line of cars on each side of the street. In these streets there are night workers and they cannot get proper sleep in the day. It is no use pretending that loss of sleep is not serious. Let us leave the cars out of it and take an ordinary working-class district where a man is on night work. Does anyone imagine that it is easy for a man to sleep in the day. Too many of the men find that they cannot sleep in the day because there are so many disturbances. There is, for instance, the wireless, and the lady who, while working during the day, likes to have the wireless on. That is another modern disturbance. It is suggested that lack of sleep does not affect health; but it does.
Throughout my period of service as a trade union secretary, medical officers frequently recommended that men should be taken off the rota for night work because of the effect upon their health. I have not the figures, but I imagine that the health of many of the workers in the baking industry will be considerably improved when they are released from continuous night work. I would remind hon. Members opposite that there are 17,000 workers on continuous night work. I have not heard one hon. Member opposite say that he is opposed to this Bill. Hon. Members opposite have indicated that they support the Bill but their speeches have rather indicated to me that they would like to destroy it.
This continuous night work is too onerous a condition to place upon any worker, and the House has a responsibility in regard to continuous night work. If the House feels that it must legislate to control the consumption of alcohol, why cannot action be taken to control 1533 the misuse of labour by requiring continuous night work? As I understand hon. Gentlemen opposite, they are all in favour of it being abolished. Indeed, some axe dissatisfied with the Bill. They think that the day work should be for more than 26 weeks, that it should be for one-third of the year. When they put down their Amendment in Committee I have no doubt that it will be looked at sympathetically and they may find a great deal of support.
Complaint was made by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) that recruitment is falling off. Why? In all services which have night work—and what is called the back shift in the baking industry—it will be found that the conditions of service are not attracting young workers because of the social disability involved. Therefore, it is in the interests of the industry that night work should be abolished, because that may help to improve recruitment.
There has been a reference to cost. Sometimes I get disturbed when hon. Members talk about cost, because they seem to have in mind only one criterion, the balance sheet. They say that if wages go up it will increase the cost, but if profits and dividends go up they seem to find nothing wrong about that. Surely in this House we can recognise that there is something more than the financial side to be considered. The health of the worker matters. We do not want sick men working in the bake house and therefore health must be taken into account in considering the question of cost. Then there is the social aspect, the disturbance of the home, which can be a real thing. I shall not make light of marriage by relating happy marriages and unhappy marriages with continuous night work. It is too serious a subject, but there is a truth in it.
I do not propose to deal with matters which are proper to the Committee stage, but I am disturbed by Clause 1 (3), which relates to directors. If a person is a director and also a night baking worker, I am not concerned with his function as a director but I am concerned with his function as a night baker. He should be dealt with as such, whether his holding of the share capital is less than a quarter, a half or two-thirds; so I would like to see that subsection deleted.
1534 There is a reference to records and to the employers notifying the Minister. In answer to an interruption from myself, the Minister did not give a specific yes or no. That point can be pursued in Committee, but it is desirable that the workers' representatives should see the records and that the employers should notify them when night work is to be adopted. I hope that in Committee the Minister will give us a straight answer. He said, "You do not expect me as Minister to leave the letters on the table." No, I do not, but one does like to get specific answers. I think also that the date of application should be amended because too long a period is being proposed.
Much has been said today about what a shame it is that in the year 1954 we come to the House of Commons to legislate against continuous night work. It is a shame, but the conditions are there and they have to be faced. I am sure that the Minister has found it difficult and I congratulate him on his courage in standing up to this, because something had to be done.
Like other hon. Members, I can be sorry that the degree of organisation in England and Wales is not as high as it is in Scotland. That is a matter to which the unions should pay attention. Also, on the employing side, they should give attention to the question of organisation. In these days it is all to the good if an industry is highly organised, if it can speak with one voice, can legislate for itself and can amend its own legislation without coming to the House of Commons. I have seen that happen in industry after industry, and in my own service I could pick out rule after rule showing that the industry negotiates its own conditions of service.
That is an ideal to be achieved, but it is unfair to describe this Bill as an instrument by which the trade unions, with the help of the Minister, can hold a pistol at the head of the employers and compel them to do this, that and the other. It might be said that it has taken 100 years to get this Bill and that the pistol has been pointed the other way. I congratulate the Minister on having turned it this way. There is a problem here and the House wishes to see something done about it.
1535 The housewife has been dragged in today as the widow is usually dragged in when we talk about profits and dividends. Many housewives used to bake their own bread, and I suppose they are still capable of doing that. I am not advocating it—if I did, perhaps it would be better for me to stay out all night. Seriously, however, it is clear that the Rees Committee went into the question of costs and were satisfied that, on balance, this need not lead to an increase in price. If, on the other hand, the price of wheat should fall, it seems to me that the argument goes.
Evidence has been given today from Scotland and European countries that this problem can be dealt with. I welcome Clause 9, which makes possible the improved organisation of the industry and enables it to do what many other industries are doing today, to legislate for itself. I hope that the industry will take advantage of this.
Having said that, if the two sides of the industry get together and suggest improvements, I am sure that every hon. Member of the Committee will be ready to listen and do his best to improve this Bill. I welcome its introduction, and I am glad at last to see something attempted to restrict night work. I have done it myself and no one can pretend to me that it is a pleasure. Men are willing to pay to avoid it and go on to day work, and men do not do that unless they find it very irksome. I feel sure that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading and I hope that we shall improve it during the Committee stage.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
There has been general agreement on both sides of the House this afternoon in welcoming this Bill. As far as I can find out after sitting here throughout the debate, the main difference between the back benchers is that a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to be very pessimistic about the various difficulties which would accrue through trying to pass this Bill, whereas we welcome the Bill and are confident that, with a number of Amendments, some of which have been indicated, it will pass.
I cannot understand the pessimism of some hon. Members opposite, because all 1536 that we are doing is to put into legal form for the benefit of England and Wales something that has been operating very smoothly and efficiently by voluntary agreement in Scotland for quite a number of years. Certainly we on this side of the House, speaking for the bakery workers in Scotland, give the Bill a general blessing, and hope to see it hastened on to the Statute Book. I might add this, that we hope it will pass into law a great deal quicker than is indicated in the text of the Bill. We should like to seethe period before it comes into operation reduced by perhaps a year.
Most of us on this side of the House, and certainly the bakers' trade union in Scotland, think that this is a step in the right direction, but they only regarded it as a step. They still look forward to the total abolition of night baking.
One hon. Member opposite took pride in the fact that this Bill was being introduced by a Conservative Government. He might be interested to know that the Motion of 1848, which has already been mentioned, was introduced by a Conservative. All I can say is that it seems to be a remarkably long time, even for the Conservative Party, to wait until it introduces legislation.
I found the original discussion in 1848 of some interest. It intrigued me partly because one of the people who supported the principle of the Bill most vigorously was the Member for the city I have the honour to represent, Mr. George Duncan. One of the reasons for his support was that the bakers in Dundee were working 20 hours out of the 24. Dundee has since been closely connected with the events which brought this Bill before the House, because it was the bakers' strike in 1944, as mentioned in the Rees Report, which led to the voluntary agreement in Scotland which has worked so well.
It was Lord Grosvenor, a Member of this House, who moved the Motion over 100 years ago asking for a Committee to be set up to look into the question of night baking. Some of his views interested me. He said this:Labour had no direct representative in that House; but though they were divided upon the subject, his belief was, that the great majority of the labouring classes were still willing to wait and leave power in the hands 1537 of those who were best fitted by leisure and education to master the great questions of State.That may be one of the reasons for the delay of 100 years.
None of the representatives of the Liberal Party is present at the moment, but I should like to put on record that amongst those opposing the Motion, which was supported by many of the Conservative Members, was none other than William Ewart Gladstone. On that occasion he used these words:The only remedy which suggested itself to the mind was a law restraining the hours of labour. Could anyone seriously conceive that such a law could be passed? It would be so entirely abhorrent to the genius of the constitution and people that it would not be endured.
§ Mr. Thomson
That debate shows us that in some ways we have come a long way since those days, and the climate of opinion in this House has changed a great deal. Of course, in one way it shows us we have not moved a great deal because only now are we putting on the Statute Book the proposals which were discussed such a long time ago. To come to more recent times, it was in 1919 that the Mackenzie Committee recommended the abolition of night baking, and a number of nations have ratified an International Labour Organisation Convention on this subject, including such near neighbours as the Irish Republic.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Wallace) raised the general issue of night work. That is one of the important things in this Bill. I cannot see how we can have any practical objection to forms of night work in jobs where it is the only way in which to fulfil an essential public need. Before I entered this House I was engaged in a trade which was involved in night work—the trade of journalism. I do not expect we shall ever discuss a Bill for the abolition of night journalism. Whatever can be done with news—and sometimes newspapers do strange things with it—it cannot be put in a refrigerator to suspend its fermentation for a period. But that sort of thing can be done with dough and the other raw materials of baking.
I am no technician on this matter, but the evidence adduced before the Rees 1538 Committee satisfies me that there is no technical reason against the complete abolition of night work in the baking industry. From the Report it would seem that the main obstacles are, first an undesirable competitive spirit in a minority of the baking units in the industry; and, secondly, some real obstacles to re-equipment and reorganisation. In due course we hope that such advance will be made as to get rid of these.
I think the Rees Committee demolishes the idea effectively that the housewives of this country demand the loaf of bread hot from the oven. I found the Rees Report a fascinating social document in many ways, and one of its most interesting aspects was a study of the kind of bread and rolls which people actually eat. As the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) said, with his expert knowledge of this subject, we in Scotland are accustomed to eat loaves in Lerwick or Skye which were actually baked a considerable period before hundreds of miles away in a factory in Glasgow. That must not be taken as meaning that we in Scotland are not very particular and not very fussy about what we eat in the way of our daily bread.
§ Mr. Thomson
I was coming in a moment to the question of rolls, but I was wondering if before that I might say something about Scottish tastes in bread. The fact that we are prepared to eat in Lerwick bread from Glasgow does not mean that we are not very careful about what we eat. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) were here, he could say how in Corby, which is a small Scottish colony in England, serious industrial unrest was at one time prevented by importing a Scots baker in order to provide the Scottish workers there with Scottish bread. There is one Scottish exile in London who begs me when I go up to Dundee to bring a Scottish loaf back with me, and she sighs longingly for Scottish morning rolls.
The problem of the morning roll in Scotland is a serious problem in relation to the abolition of night baking, but the Rees Report has interesting things to say about it. It mentions the experiments in Hamilton and Stirling, where, by the use 1539 of modern technological methods, morning rolls are provided without night baking being involved in their production.
I am very fond of my morning rolls, as is every Scots person, but I do not think I have any right to demand that my fellow citizens should be forced to get up at what the Rees Committee rightly called the "unearthly hour of 2 a.m." in order to bake a roll for me to eat in the morning. The 2 a.m. side of it seems to be the worst of all possible worlds. It is right in the middle of the night. It means that if the baker wants to get a night's sleep before his work, he must go to bed in the early part of the evening. With the benefits of modern technology, we ought to be able to get out of that dilemma.
That raises the other basic issue of exactly why we ask people to work. It raises the question of exactly what we think production is for. Do we think that production is to meet the needs of men and women, or do we think that men and women must be fitted into the needs of our productive system? It is a question that we sometimes tend to forget in these days when our national economic difficulties put a great deal of emphasis on hard work.
What the bakery workers are saying is that they would prefer, if necessary, to forego some economic benefit in order to get some leisure to spend with their families. The Rees Report mentions that point specifically. The workers in the bakery industry show great wisdom in that attitude. After all, we work harder in order to produce a better standard of living for ourselves, but that standard of giving is not measured purely by the material things that we produce. One of the essential elements in the standard of living is leisure to enjoy the fellowship of one's friends and family, and in taking that attitude on this question the bakery workers are taking the right sort of outlook.
My final point concerns back shift working under the operations of the Bill. It seems to me to be the main point about which there is doubt in the text of the Bill. As I understood the various arguments that have been put forward, most of them have questioned the draftsmanship of the Bill in relation to the Rees Committee's recommendations. The 1540 Minister said with great clarity that the purpose of the Bill was either to put into its various enactments agreements that had been mutually arrived at between the two sides of the industry, or, failing agreement, that they would follow the Rees Committee's recommendations. Having said that, the Minister went on to say that he could find nothing in the Rees Committee's recommendations to support the fears of the workers' side in relation to this continuous back shift.
I simply could not understand how the right hon. and learned Gentleman came to that point of view, because in paragraph 66—it is not an isolated paragraph—of their Report, the Rees Committee is strongly critical of back shift working in the bakery industry. The Committee said that it got conflicting views on the back shift, and it made the comment that as a permanent working period, the back shiftis open to many serious objections, some of them perhaps different from those which are put forward to night work, but in their practical effect not much less disadvantageous to the operatives. We believe that any action which had the effect of substituting a permanent back shift for a permanent night shift or an alternation between those two shifts would not in fact be a worthwhile solution of the problem.Nothing could be clearer than that. If one wants confirmation, one sees in paragraph 210, under the heading "The Committee's Recommendations":As devised, the scheme would also avoid the dangers of excessive 'back shift' working or Sunday work.Then, the Committee goes on to make its specific recommendations.
I do not think there can be any doubt that the Rees Committee wanted to make sure that legislation avoided the dangers of excessive back shift working. My hon. Friends will be pressing this matter seriously in the Committee stage, so that we can make sure that the text of the Bill is quite specific on the point. That is the only point of substance I want to make about the text of the Bill.
I conclude, like so many other hon. Members, by welcoming the Bill as an excellent step forward. I hope that it will be regarded only as a step forward and that we shall work in this House, as far as we can, and above all within the bakery industry to push forward with the necessary technical and organisational changes which will allow the abolition of this form of night drudgery once and for all.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
It is something like poetic justice that I should be called to speak at this stage, because on so many recent occasions I have come into the Chamber at this stage of a debate and have taken advantage of circumstances to deliver an unrehearsed speech without prior notice. Today I have had to wait all day without being called until now. I do not complain about that, except as a Member who has the peculiar theory that repetition becomes tedious. So I am left in somewhat of a dilemma. However, every hon. Member who has sat through a debate and has had the experience of hearing his cherished points dealt with one by one is reluctant to give up the idea of making his contribution. I therefore jettison my carefully prepared notes and propose to deal with one or two points which were advanced by hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) stated their point of view very persuasively, very efficiently and, I have not the slightest doubt, with great sincerity; but as they were making their points it occurred to me that all social legislation and Factory Acts have had similar opposition. Even the Bill designed to abolish child labour in the mines had opposition which seemed so reasonable and was so sincerely advanced by its opponents at that time. But the main point in our mind should be whether the ends of a Bill are desirable or not.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Both my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and myself did not oppose this Bill or the principle which underlies it.
§ Mr. Taylor
No, and I have no doubt that when these other Measures for social advancement and those factory regulations were brought before the House the Members who were opposing them in detail did not oppose them in the Division Lobby. It would have been extremely dangerous for them to have done so, and they would have had to face the wrath of their constituents. I was making the point that the objections seemed to be perfectly reasonable. Nevertheless, the end we have in view 1542 is still more reasonable. The ultimate end is the absolute abolition of night baking.
We have had two very eloquent appeals. One was from the Minister who, at the close of his speech, asked that all sides of the House should give the Bill a unanimous Second Reading. The second appeal came from the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), who said that the Bill was not exactly necessary and could have been dispensed with had agreement been reached in the industry in England and Wales as it has been reached in Scotland. He pleaded that, although we were about to give it a Second Reading, somehow or other we should let the Bill fade out in Committee so that the two sides of the industry should get together.
It has been pointed out that the two sides of the industry have tried to reach agreement and have failed. It seems to me that there is a very direct link between that point and the fact that in England and Wales only one in four of the bakery workers are in the trade union, whereas 99 per cent. of the workers in Scotland are organised. The general terms of the agreement which has been operating in Scotland are now incorporated in this Bill. The Scottish agreement does not apply in England because the necessary trade union organisation does not exist in England. That, surely, should be a clear lesson to bakery workers in England that they should be inside an organisation. If they had been inside an organisation, we would have had a general agreement throughout the United Kingdom, without the necessity for this Bill.
In the course of listening to the debate, I thought at one time that it would have been quite appropriate if someone had moved to refer the Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee for its Committee stage. It is not surprising, indeed it is quite inappropriate, for two reasons, that so many Scottish Members should speak on the Second Reading. The first is that the Scots are the best bakers in the world. There is no question about that. Anyone who doubts it should look at the bakers' shops in England and Wales and in Scotland. Secondly, the general provisions of the Bill do apply in Scotland; in England and Wales the Bill applies practices which have been followed in Scotland for some 1543 time. It is natural that we should be seeking to give our experience of those practices.
The fact that these conditions do obtain in Scotland negatives the main objections to the Bill as quoted in the circular from the Federation of Wholesale and Multiple Bakeries. I was absent from the House for only a few minutes and it is possible that this point was made in those few minutes, but I do not think it was. The Federation claims that the effect of the Bill would be to raise costs and that those costs would fall on the public either by dearer bread or increased subsidies from the Exchequer. The operation of the proposals in Scotland has not had that effect. Bread is not only the same price there but it is better bread and in better variety.
Another point made by the Federation is that bakery products will be less fresh. We have not noticed that in Scotland. I do not think this point has been mentioned, but the now general practice of wrapping bread does away with that fetish—because it is nothing more—that bread ought to be sold in the baker's shop hot from the oven. That kind of thing has gone and wrapping of bread is a general practice. In any case it is a very good thing for people's digestions that there should be a period between the time when bread is in the baking oven and the time when it is placed on the table.
The Federation also claims that the Bill would lead to a loss of productivity arising, it says, from inefficiency and waste. It should go and I have a look at the bakeries of Scotland; I doubt whether there are any more efficient in the world. I do not say these things out of any feeling of perfervid nationalism—I do not go in for that sort of thing—but merely state them as undeniable facts.
The methods outlined in the Bill, and now applied in Scotland by general agreement, have certainly not resulted in any loss of productivity. There there are efficient bakeries with a great record of high productivity permanhour and these methods have not resulted in waste or inefficiency. I believe there is less productivity in the English and Welsh bakeries than in the Scottish ones and, so far as I can see, there is less efficiency and more waste in English bakeries than in the highly organised Scottish bakeries. 1544 The Bill does not bring any particular advantage to Scottish bakery workers, as it merely confirms existing practices and methods. It does, however, give these practices and methods the support and authority of the law of the land. That brings me to the point made by the Minister about Clause 9. Like him—and, I think, every hon. Member who has spoken—I agree wholeheartedly that it is much better to have these things arranged by free negotiation between both sides of the industry. It is our experience in this country that agreements reached in that way are honoured as if they had all the force of law. Nevertheless, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us whether, when he referred to the operation of these provisions in Scotland, the right hon. and learned Gentleman meant that we would be exempted from the Bill.
§ Mr. Watkinson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am glad to have that indication. I think the Scottish bakers would prefer to have that additional force and authority behind their existing agreements. Scottish bakery workers, although they derive no particular immediate benefit, support the Bill with certain important reservations which can be dealt with in Committee. Most of them have been mentioned this afternoon and need not be repeated.
But there is the point with regard to the exemption of foremen, who are defined as workers with four or more bakery workers under them. I think we ought to consider an Amendment, which I hope will be moved in Committee, that that provision that deals with a foreman who has more than four workers ought to be "four or less" workers because, after all, a foreman is a baker. The union assures me that it is anxious that that point should be dealt with in Committee.
The only justification for night baking and night work in bakeries, so far as I can see, is in those bakeries which have to serve customers who are hundreds of miles away. That does not apply only to Scotland. In some parts of Wales and the south-west of England there are bakeries which have to serve island communities where deliveries take some time. It is also possible, and the Bill provides for this, that in certain cases bakeries have such a huge output that even large 1545 plants and modern methods cannot cope with the demand by day-time production alone. Night baking in these bakeries will have to be controlled, and the Bill controls it. But that does not mean about half the baking capacity in this country, as it seems to me the Bill provides for. I doubt if it means more than a twelfth of our baking capacity.
We are still awaiting a Measure which would abolish night baking altogether. The end is so good that we ought to be aiming now at the means to achieve that end. It will cause certain inconvenience; it may well cause a little increase in expense, but, as an hon. Member who spoke previously pointed out, health is very important. If there is one industry in the country the health of the workers in which is of special importance, surely it is the baking industry. There will be some Amendments tabled for the Committee stage, which I hope will have the support of all sides of the House so that when the Bill comes back to us on Report it will be improved still more to the benefit of that body of workers who help us by providing each day our daily bread.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
It would be most inappropriate if I were to stand for long between the Parliamentary Secretary and the reply he wishes to make to the debate. I could not possibly do so without repeating many of the arguments which have been put already. It has, however, been an interesting debate. I should think there is no hon. Member who has spoken from this side of the House who has not attended a trade union conference which has unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the total abolition of night baking
In the circumstances, one would have thought that a Bill which merely proposes a limitation of night baking might have been attacked by my hon. Friends. They might have said, "We will take this Bill, but it does not go far enough," or they might have attacked the Bill and said, "We do not like it, because it does not go far enough, but we will accept it." In point of fact that attitude has been expressed from the Government side, because every speaker on that side has said, "We welcome the Bill" but has then gone on to say that, for a variety 1546 of reasons, it really was not very appropriate to bring it forward at the present time.
They have talked at great length about the additional costs in which the bakeries are to be involved and, for the most part, they were speaking of the big plant bakeries. They have only to look across the border into Scotland to see that all the difficulties and problems, which they visualise if this Bill becomes an Act, will not arise at all, because they have not arisen in Scotland. That is the simple answer. Too many of us are looking for reasons for doing nothing.
The workers in this industry have made it clear that they will accept the provisions of this Bill, not because they consider they go far enough, but because they regard this Bill as a step in the right direction. They think this Bill is a reasonable compromise, giving effect generally to the recommendations of an independent committee. They say, "We have got thus far, let us consolidate our position"—and rightly so.
The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr McCorquodale) expressed the deepest regret that Parliament has had to intervene in these matters at all. He regretted the failure of industrial relations in this industry. The position is that Parliament has had to interfere in every industry in this country where there is not a strong trade union organisation. Why did we have wages councils? Why did we have the agricultural wages machinery set up? Why was machinery established to determine the wages of the catering workers? It was because the workers were not well organised and had no strong trade union representation. Wherever there is a strong trade union organisation the workers can be protected without the need for Parliament to put through Measures of this kind. If the employers in this industry were willing to do the right thing by their employees there would be no need for this Bill at all.
The right hon. Member for Epsom said we should appeal to both sides of the industry to get together. He said we should tell both sides of the industry, "If you can reach an agreement, and we give you three months to do it, we will not proceed with the Bill. But if you do not we shall proceed with the Committee 1547 stage of this Bill, which, to some extent, governs the hours of work in this industry." I am bound to say, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree, that it is really just one side of the industry which is referred to, because the workers want a limitation of night baking. Indeed, they desire the abolition of night baking. If any one says it is not all the workers who desire that, but only the trade unionists, I would say that discussions can only take place between the unions and the employers' organisations.
We do not have to appeal to the unions to reach agreement, because they want the abolition of night baking. We are merely saying to the master bakers, to the employers, "Try to reach agreement with the workers." They have had over 105 years' notice of this matter and of the interest of Parliament in it, because that is the time that has elapsed since the first Bill was introduced in this House. No one is more keen than I am that Parliament should not interfere and do work which ought to be done by the two sides in industry. I am a member of a strong trade union which can carry through negotiations with the employers without the necessity for Parliament to Intervene at all.
But if we are convinced, as I think we all are, that the time has come to put a limit to night baking, we must go through with the Bill. There will be some discussion in Committee on the many points raised in the debate. It was inevitable that a large part of the debate would be concerned with what we sometimes describe as Committee points. I do not wish to labour them further now.
I feel very proud indeed that in Scotland the trade union was so able to organise the workers, and the employers were so able to organise themselves, that it was possible some years ago to reach an agreement limiting night baking. Here we are extending to the rest of the country that which has been accomplished in Scotland by voluntary agreement. That is bound to make any Scottish Member proud.
One is also driven to the conclusion as one reads the Rees Report that if Scotland had not proved that we could operate this limitation of night baking, it 1548 is exceedingly unlikely that the Rees Committee would have made the recommendations that it did. If it had not made those recommendations we should not have had the Bill. In other words, if it had not been for the Scottish Union of Bakers we should not have had the Bill to apply to the whole of Great Britain conditions which exist in Scotland.
That makes us proud of what has been accomplished in Scotland, and it makes us say to the workers, from both sides of the House, that it is in their interests—in the interests of the community—that they should get inside a trade union organisation so that we can have agreements negotiated in industry rather than disagreements which have to be remitted by the Minister to an independent committee. After that a report has to be introduced and then Parliament has to be asked to lay its heavy hand upon these matters which ought to be settled by agreement within the industry.
I mention one other matter, although it is a Committee point. The enforcement provisions are said to be far too heavy for a Bill of this nature. As the Parliamentary Secretary said in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), there was precedent for this in one or two statutes which he mentioned. They were somewhat similar Measures. It seems to me that the enforcement officer when he questions an employee, or even an ex-employee, and asks him to sign a statement may be asking questions about the extent of night work. He may be inquiring into a complaint by a certain worker that he is being obliged to do night work in excess of that provided for in the Bill. He may be asking questions about emergencies which have been reported by an employer.
The officer may receive a complaint. He will have to investigate and to ask someone what has been going on in a factory or bakehouse. Then, if there is any possibility of court proceedings, he will want to get the name of the worker. He will want him to put his name to a statement. It is the type of thing which is done under the Factories Acts; it is an entirely different matter from interrogating someone about a murder, a larceny or other criminal offence. I should have thought that in such a case as this the kind of enforcement suggested in the Bill was necessary.
1549 What I am saying is the result not of deep research into these matters but of thoughts which have occurred to me listening to certain speeches during the debate. The Federation of Wholesale and Multiple Bakers has suggested that the Bill should provide that not more than half an employee's time should be spent on night work, but that would annoy the unions tremendously, and it could not possibly have the support of the Opposition, for it would be so much less than what has been achieved in Scotland as a result of voluntary agreement. Any Scottish hon. Member who sought to represent the interests of Scottish bakery workers would be forced to vote against an Amendment giving effect to the request of the master bakers.
In Scotland the men work four weeks on the day shift from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., two weeks on the shift from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. and then two weeks on the shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. If the suggestion by the Federation were accepted the statutory provision within the Bill would be much less attractive to the workers than what has been secured by agreement in Scotland. In those circumstances the Scottish union would certainly withdraw its support from the Bill, and probably the English union would do likewise. It is surprising as it is that, in view of what it has achieved by voluntary agreement, the Scottish union has urged support of the Bill. It has probably done so believing that the statutory support provided by the Bill will make it possible to proceed to the next stage.
I can assure the House that the Scottish union considers the next stage to be agreement about total abolition of night baking in Scotland, and it is believed that the English union will follow suit or, at any rate, Parliament will some day be asked to give effect to what Scotland has achieved by voluntary agreement after another Committee has reported in favour of it. It is the belief of the Scottish union that that state of affairs will be hastened by the passing of the Bill.
Those of us who know more about what happens in Scotland than what happens in England and are more interested in the well-being of Scottish citizens are inclined to carry out the wishes of the Scottish bakery workers and employers and give legislative support to the agreement which they have reached. 1550 The points we have discussed are, in the main, inevitably Committee points, and no doubt there will be keen discussion of them during the Committee stage. So far as we on this side are concerned generally, we give support to the Bill, and we hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to satisfy some of his own right hon. and hon. Friends who have offered points of criticism.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) for his summing up of the many expert contributions which we have had from Scotland in the course of this debate, and for kindly confirming what his right hon. Friend said about the Opposition welcoming this Measure. I should like also to thank him for making clear the attitude of the Opposition in regard to the Committee stage, which it is just as well to know.
I should like to take up one or two points to which we attach great importance. I hope that the English unions will find some inspiration in this debate which will lead to their recruiting larger membership than they at present enjoy. I am sure that is the right way to arrive at any satisfactory solution of the problems of the industry, and I think that, as some of my hon. Friends have said, we shall in that way have a better organised industry in England and Wales and perhaps find a basis for eventually making this Measure unnecessary.
I think the House is indebted to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) for some historical research. I did not really know that the Bill was such a respectable Measure. I am interested to hear that it was first introduced by a Conservative, and it will now be finished by one. I do not think that is really so important, but it is important that this House should finish a piece of business which has been hanging in front of it for 100 years. I can say that I know my right hon. and learned Friend will be delighted that this Measure has received a general welcome in the House. I agree that many of the points are Committee points, but, none the less, many of them are important, and I must try to deal with some of them now.
1551 First of all, I should like to say that it is a very pleasant task to be able to sum up this debate with the feeling—and all can share in it—that we are finishing off work that has been facing the House and the country for many years. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) must feel that this is a particularly pleasant occasion, because the Report of the Rees Committee, which was his Committee, led to this Measure. We are now, I hope, summing up and finalising the work of that Committee. Today the House is doing its historical duty in trying to improve the working conditions of the people, and not spending its time on sterile party political argument. We all seem to be in that sort of mood.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Bowden) seemed to think that we should not have had the Bill but for my right hon. and learned Friend. I should like to say, as my right hon, and learned Friend is not here, that he is never tired of doing good, and that he does not spare himself very much in the process. It is fair to add, however, that the Government in their legislative programme had to provide time for the Measure, and perhaps, therefore, the Government may take a little credit as well as my right hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Watkinson
If I may deal with certain detailed points which are of great importance, there is, first of all, the rather difficult matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark in regard to Clause 2 (2, c). The right hon. Gentleman said that any trade union would have made a better job of this than we have done. It has been a very difficult Clause to draft, and I want to make clear what it seeks to do. If, during the Committee stage, anybody can find a clearer way of expressing it, we shall be delighted. All that Clause 2 (2, c) sets out to do is to make sure that any employee has to have his time balanced up in four-weekly periods. In other words, he must not be more than four weeks ahead on either day work or night work.
We think that safeguard is important, and so did the Rees Committee. With 1552 it a man should not find himself working endlessly on night work, without any remission. The purpose of this provision is to see that the man goes on level pegging, so to speak. If anyone can find a better way of putting it—we have already had three goes at it—we shall welcome it. In our view, it is a very important safeguard in the Bill. There is another point about notice being given, arising out of Clauses 3 and 5. It is not in the Bill, but we think it can easily be arranged by negotiation between employers and unions, and we will see what can be done. I do not think it is a very difficult point.
A major point was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale). He said he rather wished the Bill had not been introduced at all, because he felt very strongly that this matter might well have been arranged by free negotiation between the two sides of the industry. I think I represent his view correctly. Our difficulty, and that of the Rees Committee, was that after all these years of having this matter in front of the House, we have not moved very much nearer to agreement. The Rees Committee said this in terms on page 71, paragraph 207:We see no prospect of agreement on the subject between the two sides of the industry in England and Wales.That is also the Government's view, and therefore we felt that we must go forward with this Measure. Of course, as my right hon. and learned Friend stressed, we shall be only too pleased if the provision becomes unnecessary because the two sides negotiate and reach agreement as they have in Scotland. If that happens, nobody will be more delighted than we shall. But with this long history of failure to agree, I think any Government would have no option but to go forward with legislation and hope that that would provide the spur.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) put a definite question to me. We were very glad to hear his expert views on this problem. He asked how we proposed to deal with the Scottish agreement. Other hon. Members have said that they hope the Bill will apply to Scotland. Of course it will apply to Scotland. What view shall we take of the present Scottish agreement? We shall have to see. We have always 1553 assumed that the Scottish agreement was so good that it would automatically take Scotland out of the Bill, but once the Bill becomes law we shall have to receive representations on that point. It seems that the Scottish agreement would clearly take them out of the provisions of the Bill, but we shall have two years at least, after the Measure becomes law, to look into all these points. The answer on Scotland is that it looks as if they are a long way ahead of England in this respect but that we shall have to look into the matter when this Measure becomes law.
I want to deal with another particular difficulty. I am not going to deal with all the difficulties, but will leave the rest to the Committee stage. This one, which has been raised by many hon. Members, concerns the three-shift large bakery, with continuously running machines. The point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. W. R. A. Hudson), my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), and others. The problem which seems to be exercising their minds is: "Does this Measure mean that these very expensive machines cannot be run on a continuous day and night shift?" That is a fair statement of the problem.
We naturally looked at this point very carefully, and we came to the conclusion that we could see no reason at all why the continuous shift production of bread should not continue satisfactorily under the provisions of this Measure. I will not go into the details as these can be thrashed out in Committee. I will give one example, and again it comes from Scotland, to show how the difficulty can be overcome. It can be overcome by having a four-squad three-shift system. That is a continuous three-shift system with four lots of operatives. It means, of course, that there is a day shift with two lots of men on duty.
In Scotland, that system seems to work quite well, because very often the operations ancillary to bread making, and other jobs in the bakery, can be done then. That, I think, is one of the reasons so many hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that the agreement in Scotland has not worried the continuous shift bakeries unduly. They have been clever enough to work out this system.
1554 I have no doubt that in the next two or three years the ingenuity of the people concerned will provide other methods. It is only fair to say that we looked most carefully into this matter, and we are satisfied that it is not going to increase the cost of bread unduly, or to place on bakers the onerous burden of doubling plant. It will require a little ingenuity in altering the disposition of the labour force, but that is something which, we believe, the industry will be able to manage over the fairly long period before the Bill becomes law.
I believe that one could look at the Report of the Rees Committee for further support in this. Paragraph 210 of that Report, speaking of the introduction of a system of alternating or rotating shifts, states:We consider that a scheme of this kind would have sufficient flexibility to enable it to meet the requirements of all types of baking establishments while at the same time removing the worst features of night baking, without causing the public to have less efficient service or to pay more for bread.We did not accept that; we looked into the matter ourselves. We are now satisfied that that is a fair statement of a position which we think the employers can meet. We will, of course, look at any suggestion put to us on the Committee stage, but that is the present position.
I must make one other thing plain. We tried in dealing with this matter to get agreement, and we worked hard to get every deviation from the Rees Report—everything that the employers and the trade union wanted changed—agreed to between them. But where we failed to do that we rested on the Report. I think it was right to do that as being the reasonably common ground. That is the answer to the problem of the plant bakery.
There are also the special problems of the holiday resorts to which I will come in a moment. I do not support the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen, who has explained that he could not stay to the end of the debate this evening, that no doubt in the end somebody will negotiate these things at pistol point. I do not believe that they will be negotiated in that way. This Bill is merely a convenient spur for the purpose of bringing both sides together 1555 in an endeavour to get a reasonable and satisfactory agreement. If that fails, then we have something to fall back on.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Have the employers given an undertaking that the personnel of the three-shift system will rotate?
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is why, as I say, we favour the Scottish system. As I have explained, the Scots have solved their problem on the four-squad three-shift system. It gives two turns on day as opposed to one turn on night.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) advocated that men should work only one-third of their time at night. This is one way of arranging it. Of course, there are bound to be loopholes in any Measure. I do not think there are many in this Bill, and I believe that a stronger union membership is one way of looking after this point.
The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), and later by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet, about the problems of the resorts, is a perfectly proper point. That is why in clause 2 (2, b), and to some extent Clause 2 (2, c), the Minister has taken power to allow longer periods for continuous night working.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am very much indebted, but if, as it is of great importance in my constituency, the Parliamentary Secretary could be absolutely explicit that this does apply to Ramsgate, Margate and other resorts. I shall be very happy.
§ Mr. Watkinson
It applies to all those particular resorts, whether Scarborough, Margate or anywhere else, which have a concentrated and large problem for a few months in the summer. I would say that it is the tradition of the Ministry of Labour that we understand these things; we have handled them for many years and bring sympathy to bear on these special problems.
The problem of the back shift was particularly raised by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and the hon. Member for Dundee, East. Their view, to sum it up fairly, was that the Rees Committee went a bit further than this 1556 Bill in prohibiting back shift working. Again, we have looked at this very carefully and I am afraid that I cannot agree with that contention. Let me say that this is, after all, a Bill to restrict night working. That is its objective.
§ Mr. Watkinson
No, I wish it did. I wish that such a Bill also could get an unopposed Second Reading, as I hope this Bill will do.
We think that if the Rees Committee did really intend to limit the back shift by a requirement of this kind, it would not have used the words we find on page 72 of the Report. Although it says in paragraph 210 that the scheme would avoid the dangers of excessive back shift working, we feel that if the Committee had wished to go further than that in its recommendations—starting in paragraph 211—it would have made more specific requirements on this question of back shift.
I think it was the hon. Member for Maryhill who said that this was, on the whole, a compromise. I hope that the House thinks that it is a reasonably fair compromise, but it must be borne in mind that this is not a Bill to meet every possible circumstance that could arise in the whole of the baking industry. It is not even a Bill to regulate the working hours of the industry, but a Measure to deal with its night working hours.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary would consider including in the Bill something which does operate in Scotland at the moment, namely, a guarantee that bakers in that country shall work 26 weeks in the year on the day shift. That would meet the point of my hon. Friend and myself.
§ Mr. Watkinson
As I have said, after all these long years of delay, our job is to try to make this a reasonable Measure, but we will undertake to look at anything, without committing ourselves to accepting it at this stage. We have looked at it very carefully, but it does not seem to us that the Measure can do more to regulate back shift working than has been done.
There are one or two other points. Clause 6 seems to be causing some of my 1557 right hon. and hon. Friends some alarm. I think I should point out to them paragraph 212, on page 73 of the Rees Report, which says:In England and Wales, organisation is so imperfect that in our view some official degree of supervision of the application of the law would be necessary.I hope that they do not disagree that some supervision there has to be. We looked as we always do in the Ministry of Labour, for a reasonable and workable precedent. I should explain that enforcement will be done by the wages inspectorate, who are quite used to doing this, and have done so for years. In the Wages Councils Act, 1945, and in the Factories Act, 1937—both very respectable Measures—we found about the right sort of precedent. We have not departed from the powers laid down in those Acts. We shall look at these points very carefully, but I do not think that we shall be able to find better safeguards than those we have at present. Nor do I think that those safeguards are excessive or improper. They are part of the ordinary day-to-day work of the factory inspector and the wages inspector and do not depart from it in any degree.
Our only anxiety is to make this a workable Measure. We have had it in front of us for a very long time, so we would be wise to spend a little longer, if necessary, to get it technically right. We shall be only too pleased to look at any propositions, but I should add that we had long and careful consultations with the employers and trade unions before bringing this Bill before the House. We also had the assistance of the Report of the Rees Committee, a very good and expert Committee, which went most thoroughly and carefully into the whole matter. I therefore cannot give any undertaking that we shall make enormous changes in the Bill or alter its main provisions.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Two years is the minimum period, but at any time after that the Minister can implement it, although, for administrative reasons, it must begin at the commencement of a calendar year. The choice is therefore a delay of two or 1558 three years; but we are quite prepared to consider this question again. If we found that negotiations in the industry were going well, and it looked as if we were going to get agreement, it might be better to put off the operation of the Measure for another year. That measure of flexibility is not an improper one.
This is a compromise Bill, but I think it is a fair one, and the only one which we shall ever get in this very difficult business. I hope that it will be a spur to free negotiation. We shall examine any other points in detail in Committee. I feel, as does my right hon. and learned Friend, that on the main outline this Bill is the best and, perhaps, the only compromise we can reach. It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.