HC Deb 02 July 1954 vol 529 cc1725-52
Mr. Willey

I beg to move, in page 10, line 31, to leave out "fifty-seven," and to insert "fifty-six."

I think that the next Amendment to line 33, which is similar, can be debated with this one. In the Standing Committee we had a very brief debate upon this point, and as far as I am able to judge we will also have a brief debate on this occasion. This is a very simple point. May I say at once that we on this side of the House have always recognised, when dealing with this Measure, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is an arbitrator, and that anything I say is no reflection on the judgment he has reached.

We feel we should press this Amendment because the Parliamentary Secretary has called attention to paragraph 211 of the Rees Committee Report, and a specific recommendation was there made that the obligation imposed by the Report should take effect not later than two years after the passing of the legislation. It is quite clear from the Report that this was carefully considered because if we turn to paragraph 208 we read: We therefore think that before any legislation restricting night baking takes effect, the industry should be given a period of grace to make arrangements for training operatives in all the varying types of bakery work so that full interchangeability between male opera tives becomes possible. Although some witnesses have suggested that this would be a long process, we believe that the certainty of legislative restriction of night work could be a great stimulus and we suggest that a period of not more than two years should suffice. It is clear enough from the Report that within the limits placed upon the Committee as to the nature of their inquiries they came to the conclusion that two years would be adequate.

I want to add only two points to reinforce the conclusion of that Committee. First, we blame no one, but it is a fact that the Committee reported in August, 1951, which brings emphasis to their recommendation. Secondly, we have had experience of this kind of thing in Scotland, and my information is that the apprehensions of the baking industry were not borne out. I am not criticising anyone. Of course, the baking industry must take a cautious view about this matter and would do so when it advised the Committee. However, I am supported by the recommendation of the Committee and I am saying that, as far as the experience in Scotland helps, it would suggest that the Committee was justified in the conclusion it reached.

We move this Amendment in the spirit of the specific recommendation made by the Rees Committee, who appeared to have considered fully all the available evidence, and in those circumstances we feel that the Minister ought to have accepted the recommendation. Further, we feel on general grounds that it would be better to have a shorter time limit. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman could reconsider this, to see if it could come within the original recommendation, it would at any rate be warmly supported by the trade unions.

Dr. King

I beg to second the Amendment.

2.45 p.m.

Mr. Duthie

I would remind the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that we are dealing with the Bill, not with the Scottish agreement. This Bill makes more demands upon the master baker than the Scottish agreement and I want to underline a danger inherent in the Bill, in that it might accentuate the giving up of bread making by bakers and their being more and more dependent upon foreign bakers for their bread supplies, which is happening in the baking industry today and is to be deplored from the point of view of defence.

What is the small and medium-sized baker to do if he has to obey the dictates of this Bill? If he is a day and not a night baker, he must have more buildings, more space for storage and cooling of the bread, because he must have more intensified production during the permitted hours. So he will need more ovens and machinery, and the Amendment reduces the time factor in one case to 18 months from now and 2½ years if the Minister so desires.

It may not be physically possible for a master baker to put his house in order in that time, during which he will also have to make financial arrangements. So he may take the easy course out and say that he will give up bread making and, instead, will concentrate upon flour confectionery, which will probably pay him better and which can be done in the prescribed hours easily, getting his bread from the foreign baker. That is a fundamental consideration because it weakens the defence position of the country, which was an important consideration in the war years. Therefore, the cutting down of time is to be deplored.

These points were covered fully in Committee and I urge the Minister to resist both of these Amendments.

Dr. King

The best Guillotine in the House is when both sides anxiously want a Bill, so we do not propose to conduct the long debate on this issue which we promised in Committee.

This Bill has been created in a spirit of happy compromise and there is no doubt that the bakery workers will be anxious to have its benefits put into operation on the day the Bill receives the Royal Assent. As regards this Clause, the benefits are confirmed in operation for 2½ to three years and this Amendment is an attempt at a reasonable compromise. We are suggesting that a maximum period of 2½ years is adequate for the master bakers to meet the difficulties which undoubtedly they will have to face. Therefore in the spirit of compromise which has attended all our deliberations, I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

2.45 p.m.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I had not the opportunity of attending the Committee on this Bill because I was employed on other Committees of the House, but I should have liked to have been upon it because some of my constituents are vitally interested in this Bill. I think it is a good Bill and I am glad to see it before the House. It is a considerable step forward, in its sphere comparable to the steps forward made by such statutes as the Workmens Compensation Acts, the Factories Acts, and so on.

However, its excellence is marred by this deplorable delay provision, which I hope the Minister will reconsider. If it is a good Bill, why should it not be put into operation at once? I was astounded to hear a Member with the outlook of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) make the speech he did. He said that certain technical alterations would have to be made in the bakeries. Well, the bakers had ample warning that this was coming and I do not see why they did not take time by the forelock and make the alterations which are desirable.

When I read the speech made by the hon. Member for Banff in Committee I could scarcely believe my eyes. He asked for the postponement of the operation of the Bill for a year beyond the date provided because the trade must put its house in order. But the trade should have made the technical alterations long ago. It is tantamount to saying to a person, "If you are 40 years of age, you cannot have it until you are 43; if you are 30 years of age, you cannot have it until you are 33." This is an improvement in the law, and if it is a humanitarian and ameliorative Measure, why not put it into operation at once?

In my submission, the reason given by the hon. Member for Banff is insufficient, and I hope that the Minister will take steps not to prolong this antiquated and out-of-date system of night baking, but will bring this Measure into operation at the earliest moment. I support the Amendment and I beg the Minister to reconsider the matter.

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) knows from practical experience that I enjoy being in his company, but I must say that I was glad he did not appear in the Committee because he would have brought heat and feeling to our proceedings. I prefer the approach of his right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who said: The only way of getting peace in industry—in any industry—is not by the combined wisdom of Members of Parliament, who know nothing about it, but by the less combilled understanding of the people in the industry. My long experience of the trade union movement has taught me that we can get an Act of Parliament to point the way, but that the proper way of travelling the road is by both sides meeting round a table and reaching an understanding."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th May, 1954; c. 11.]

Mr. Hughes

Into which class does the hon. Member seek to place himself—that of the hon. Member who knows what he is talking about or that of the hon. Member who does not? I venture to submit that he falls into the latter class.

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. and learned Gentleman is using a Thursday night atmosphere for a Friday debate. My appeal was to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite not to press the Amendment, although it is clear that they have the backing of many of their supporters in the country. I beg of them to accept the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie). There are actual practical reasons why it may well be that we should be making honest men into lawbreakers if we make this Bill premature law.

If the Bill is passed, the restrictions imposed by it would create very many problems for those in the industry. In many cases, it will necessitate extending the business, putting in new plant, making alterations and introducing new techniques. It may well be that all this can be done in the time suggested by hon. Members opposite, and, if it can be done and is done, it will be quite in order for the Government to use the minimum amount of time for bringing the Bill into operation.

I feel that, for the practical and effective working of the good ideas contained in the Bill, we should leave it as it stands at present for at least another 12 months, within which those concerned will gradually accustom themselves to the new state of affairs, rather than live in the fear that somebody else is trying to run their business for them. Now that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have made their point, I hope they will face up to the real problem which faces the employers, and will not press their Amendment to the extreme course.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

It seemed to me that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Nicholls), when he quoted my right hon. Friend, was arguing against himself. We are all agreed on both sides in regard to this Bill, but this Act of Parliament is not meant as an end in itself, but as a means to an end—in this case, the bringing about of a voluntary agreement between the workers and the employers in bakeries in England similar to that which prevails in Scotland.

I think the Amendment which we have submitted is a reasonable method of speeding up this process, because, after all, we have had the system which is proposed in this Bill in operation in Scotland for a very long time, and it would be strange if we should not be able to bring about the same sort of conditions in England a little more quickly than is done in the Bill as it now stands.

Mr. Watkinson

Owing to the kindness of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), when we had a very protracted discussion in Committee—and I was very much indebted to the Committee for giving me an easy run on that occasion—it is only fair that I should now give a detailed answer to the point which he made. I was unable to do this on the Committee stage.

I think both sides agree that, where we could not get agreement on the Bill, we should rest on the Rees Report. From that point of view, what the hon. Gentleman says about Paragraph 211 of the Report is quite right, because it states on page 73 that the obligation must take effect not later than two years after the passing of the legislation. I can understand that, but then we come to another difficulty. No report is ever perfect, and many reports and Measures which come under the expert and technical scrutiny of this House, particularly in Committee, are sometimes shown to have errors.

I must confess that here—and I do not think it is anybody's fault—the Rees Committee's Report was in error when it rather glossed over the difficulties that would arise in the three-shift plant bakeries due to the limitation of night work. If there is a failing in this excellent Report, it is that it does not seem to me that enough attention has been paid to the very severe difficulties that would have to be faced by the big three-shift plant bakeries in meeting the conditions of this Bill. That is the view of the employers in that section of the industry, and it is the point which has been put with great force by many of my hon. Friends in this House.

I accept, for purely practical reasons, that when we came to consider the Bill, perhaps we did not fully appreciate these difficulties. While I do not believe that we should have moved further than we have done to meet them, there is this one concession which we can make—the concession of a slightly greater time. Not only for the purely technical reasons advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), but for the general reasons set out by the Rees Committee, if the Bill is hard on anybody, it is hard on the big three-shift plant bakeries. I am quite satisfied that, in this section of the industry, it will cause a certain amount of dislocation of labour and a certain amount of redundancy, because the plant bakeries at present working level shifts will have to come to some variation of the three-shift system.

Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow. East)

Do I understand that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the two sides of the industry coming to agreement to adopt the recommendations at an earlier date?

Mr. Watkinson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I was intending to emphasise that point, and I am glad that he has mentioned it. In Clause 9, which is widely drawn, not only national agreements are allowed for but agreements between sections of the industry other than the plant bakery side, if they wish to do so. I want to make it plain that, in that section of the industry, there is going to be a good deal of dislocation, and it is only fair that we should give a little longer time for the purely practical reasons which the Rees Committee sets forth. It is only on these practical considerations that we are justified in departing from the Committee's recommendations.

There is one last point I wish to make in reply to those hon. Members who suggested that to put a compulsory time-limit on negotiations is the best way to get the right answer. It is not my experience that that is the best way to bring two parties together, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not press this Amendment. I think that what is proposed here is a sensible compromise and, as hon. Members have said, this Bill is founded on sensible compromise. I therefore ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite not to press this Amendment, because I think some such provision is necessary because of the way in which this Bill will affect a particular section of the industry.

Mr. Isaacs

We have listened very carefully to what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, and we think there is a good deal of sound logic in his argument. There are two points that weigh with us. First, we are satisfied that the Minister, who has shown such great anxiety to get the Bill on the Statute Book, has chosen a date which is the earliest which is humanly possible of achievement, and, as far as the date is concerned, we have to accept it because it is the earliest date which can be effective.

The second point is that, up to now, this Bill has gone through its various stages very harmoniously, and we have been able to come to understandings on the political side and to a good measure of understanding on the industrial side. It may be that the fact that we do not press this Amendment to a Division will mean that there is still further opportunity for understanding on the industrial side. The Bill provides an excellent opportunity to both parties to come to an understanding rather than contacting us. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.0 p.m.

Sir W. Monckton

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

I made an appeal on the Second Reading for a sympathetic and constructive approach to this old and troublesome question. I should like to start this very short speech on the Third Reading by saying how fully and amply that appeal has been responded to, and to thank both sides of the House for the way in which they have addressed themselves to the task of getting a sensible and constructive solution, for the advantage of us all.

I would next express my gratitude to the representatives of the employers' associations and the trade unions for their help in the discussions which have taken place to clarify a lot of practical points. I hope I may be allowed also to say one word of personal gratitude to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, not merely for his constant loyalty in all my troubles and difficulties, but for the firmness and skill with which he has conducted this matter in Committee. I think that we can say that, as a result of the care and effort which everyone has put into this matter, the discussions have resulted in real and tangible improvements in the Bill.

Of course, this remains a difficult and controversial subject. If we are to get something effective done we cannot expect, after all these years, to find a solution which will satisfy all parties. We have to admit that we have not been able to accept everything that has been put forward on every side, even though we have had sympathy with it. There are two cases in point as an illustration. I know perfectly well that the Opposition's proposal to restrict back-shift working was one to which they attached great importance, but I was not able to meet them over it.

Secondly, with my hon. and right hon. Friends, there has been great opposition to those passages in the Bill, and to Clause 2 in particular, which do not permit the continuance of the existing system of three-shift working. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has, with great persistence, care and skill, put forward that point, but I regret to say that we have not been able to meet him there. With some slight exceptions, to which attention has been drawn and which I will not repeat, the Bill is still substantially based on the recommendations of the Rees Committee, after the full inquiry it made. That is the secure basis for legislation on this long-standing problem.

I want to emphasise the point which I heard various Members refer to at an earlier stage, about the importance which we attach to Clause 9. Under that Clause, employers' associations and trade unions in the industry can, as it were, contract out of the Bill by reaching suitable voluntary agreements. I well know—and I am sure that hon. Members who have taken the trouble to investigate this industry will know it better than I do—that legislation is not the ideal instrument for dealing with this problem. We have in this country a long tradition of settling this type of problem by joint negotiation and the agreement that comes out of it. It is only because it is clearly not possible at the present moment to see an immediate prospect of such agreement that it became necessary to introduce a Bill.

It is the earnest hope of Her Majesty's Government, as it was the unanimous wish of the Rees Committee, that legislation—this legislation—should act as a stimulus towards strengthening organisation on both sides of the industry in England and Wales and the setting up of joint machinery for negotiation. Negotiation, and as a result, effective agreement, have been proved possible in Scotland. We shall not get perfection—we do not expect that—but I think we may hope that, as we go along, this Bill will promote negotiating machinery which will lead to constant improvement.

In an industry where one is constantly needing to see whether things can he improved here and there, negotiation through the organised parties of the industry rather than reliance on legislation is obviously desirable. Therefore, my prime hope for this legislation is that it will lead to the traditional way of organising industry and finding agreement. That is why we find what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred to as wide provisions in Clause 9 which enable the substitution of self-government by agreement for the rigidities which are inseparable from legislation.

I commend to the employers and to the workers in the baking industry the importance of this legislation. As the House will have understood from what I have already said, this Bill does not, of course, pretend to be the last word. It is necessarily in the nature of an experiment. Nevertheless, it is, as I suggest to the House, an indispensable step if anything effective is to be done.

I have shown how the industry can always agree on alternative arrangements that suit them better—and they know better, and so they well may—but, without the stimulus of this legislation, experience seems to suggest that the course of negotiation and agreement might once more prove impracticable. Therefore, I commend this Bill to the House as one broadly based on the unanimous recommendations of a strong committee. I think that I can also commend it as a fair and workable compromise between conflicting points of view. It is, at any rate, a sincere effort by Her Majesty's Government to tackle a problem which has been with us in Parliament for more than a century and which hitherto has proved very unsusceptible to treatment. I hope that the House will give the Bill its Third Reading.

3.7 p.m.

Mr. Isaacs

At this stage a number of things come into one's mind. Some few years back, a certain circular was issued by an industrial organisation, and the opponents to that circular dubbed the day upon which it was issued as "Black Friday." Today is both black and white Friday, and from two points of view. We had earlier a most interesting and fascinating discussion on the Mines and Quarries Bill, which showed a very great measure of co-operation, agreement and compromise on both sides, and now we are dealing with the Baking Bill, concerning which the same compromise has shown itself.

Compared with the Mines and Quarries Bill, this is a small Measure, but the servant's baby was only a little one, and yet it lived a blinking long time. We hope that this Bill will live a long time, and will be of use to us all through the years. As the Minister has said, it is the culmination of 100 years of effort. I wonder whether that makes the Minister a centenarian? What would be the appropriate word for a man who finished a job which had been going on for 100 years? Almost a stonewaller, I should think.

The Bill will bring about some changes. The baker will now be able to see the setting sun on his way home instead of on his way to work, and that means from a different point of view. We all know the words of that famous hymn or poem: Faint in the East behold the dawn appear. That was the moment when the baker plodded his weary homeward way, when the dawn was appearing.

This Bill does not give the workers all that they hoped for. It may mean that it will cause employers to give a little more than they desire to give at the moment, but the fact that some hopes and desires have been relinquished is a good omen. Time and again today, the Parliamentary Secretary has said that there have been discussions on both sides of the industry. That is what the Minister aimed at, and, quite frankly, that is what we on the trade union side aim at.

After a fairly long experience of trade union activity, I long ago came to the conclusion that one can get more out of someone by sitting and talking things over with him face to face than by standing on a soapbox and telling him what a dirty dog he is. There is at least one hon. Gentleman here who will agree that that spirit of co-operation and understanding, and anxiety to meet each other, has proved of value to the industry and to those who work in it. Much can be achieved by this Bill if both sides will use it.

One problem has arisen under the existing conditions in the industry. Trade union organisation amongst workers on the English side of the Border has not been so strong as on the other side—and not so strong as in other industries. Trade union officials whom I know well have told me that it was the working conditions that made it difficult for them to get people to come into the union, and difficult, when they did come in, to retain their interest by allowing them to go to the branch meetings and to know what was going on. The workers in the industry will now have an evening or two to spare to attend trade union meetings. I hope that they will attend regularly and not just when there is something to grumble about. This Bill at least gives them the opportunity.

Whatever I may say cannot add to the Ministers expressions of hope. From our point of view, the best way to finish the Bill is first of all to express our very sincere thanks to the Minister for having brought is in. It has been played about with for a long time. I know that one of the greatest men in the Labour movement, the late Ernest Bevin, was most anxious to get such a Bill on the Statute Book. I followed him and was equally anxious and saw both employers and employees in the industry. However, the crown goes to the Minister and, whilst I should have liked to have worn it myself, I am very glad to see him with it, having brought about this great change.

I wish also to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his courtesy, his patience, his helpfulness, his willingness at all times to discuss the whole thing with us, and his efforts to bring about understanding on both sides. I can assure him that if he is ever out of his job we will try to find him a job as a conciliation officer in one of the big trade unions. I am quite sure that the spirit he has brought to bear upon our problems has had a good deal to do with the progress made. With the legal backing of the Minister and the friendly advice of the Parliamentary Secretary, we hope that this Bill will start on its long career and bring happiness to all concerned.

3.13 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm McCorquodale (Epsom)

It is always a pleasure to speak after the right hon. Gentleman, with whom I have been associated in more spheres than one for many years. Although we have from time to time differed in the past, I cordially agree with every single word he has spoken. It is a remarkable thing and worth emphasising that today we have had the Third Reading of two Measures dealing with industry—Measures affecting the health and safety of wide sections of the community. In both cases we have had a remarkable amount of unanimity and co-operation between the two sides of the House.

As one who is keenly and primarily interested in the industrial world as well as in political life, I should like to em phasise that we in this House would do well to follow the example of industry. In industry we have learned the lesson that co-operation is better than abuse. Only today in this House we have had an example of that. I feel as if the spirit of one who was an old friend of many in the House, Mr. Banfield, is sitting, as he used to sit, where the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) is sitting today. Mr. Banfield would have been a proud man today, because his whole life was wrapped up in this industry in which he served so long. Although he sometimes said many harsh things he was a man who claimed not only our respect, but our affection.

Having said that, I cannot help feeling that to some extent the Bill is a confession of failure on the part of the industry to put its own house in order. When I was speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, I asked the Government if they would postpone the Committee stage for two or three months to see if, even at that late hour, the industry could come together and put its own. house in order by means of voluntary agreements freely entered into between the two sides. That happened, and in, that interval I know that strenuous efforts, were made behind the scenes to see' whether some accommodation between the two sides of the industry could be brought about, but the attempt failed. Therefore, this Bill had to proceed.

I should like to emphasise the importance of Clause 9. I can only hope that this Bill, which does not come into force for some time, will act as a spur to the industry to make another effort to get together and settle their affairs. voluntarily. One of the difficulties, I am told, is that the industry is not well organised on the workers' side. I believe that in different sections of the industry, figures of membership vary. Possibly it would be easier for the section of the' industry which is better organised to come to some agreement first—I do not know—but if anything which is said in this House can help the industry to become properly organised on both sides and then enter into the normal method of industrial agreement, as other industries do, I am sure that will be of value to the industry and to the country as a whole.

I feel that the well-fitting overcoat of voluntary negotiation, tailored to the size of the individual industry and to the various needs of the industry, is always a much more comfortable garment than the strait-jacket of legislation. If anything that is said here can encourage, cajole or even urge the industry to come together and make arrangements for its future working on an agreed basis across a table, I am sure that the relations of all in that industry will be happier, and that the industry will work more effectively and more efficiently in the service of us all. We all depend on the baking industry. It is vital to every one of us. We should all like to think that those engaged in the baking industry have the same working arrangements which other industries have found to be the best in these matters.

3.18 p.m.

Mr. Wallace

I also should like to express my thanks to the Minister for introducing this legislation and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) who appointed the Rees Committee. The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) referred to an old trade union colleague, and I too wish that he were here today.

The right hon. Member for Epsom, I think, rather regretted the legislation, not because he is opposed to improvements in the industry but rather because he would like to see these improvements brought about by negotiation. When we are discussing another subject we often refer to negotiation from strength. When we survey the industrial field, I think it will be found that over the long years we have got negotiation, recognition and consultation freely and fully from strength. I am not so sure that those engaged in this industry have yet reached that position of stability and organisation by which they can carry out this negotiation.

Like the Rees Committee. I prefer agreement to legislation. I have been engaged in an industry in the past, and when I look at its rules and regulations I can put my finger on many which have arisen from self-government. That is the happiest kind of legislation. The workers really have an obligation to join their trade union. If they are sensible they must see that in order to have their opinions and ideals reflected in their working conditions they must belong to an organisation which can speak and act for them. The union itself should also use every endeavour, by recruitment campaigns, and, if necessary, by re-organisation, to see that every worker in the industry has a chance to become a member of the union and to see his opinion reflected at the annual conference.

To those employers who still do not like trade unions—and some of them do not; I must not say they all dislike them, or the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) would quarrel with me—I would say that in the long run they will find that by recognising the union and giving its representatives the fullest opportunity for joint consultation and, above all, prior consultation, they will establish a relationship in the industry which will be beneficial to all engaged in it and which will also benefit the consumer of bread.

I do not propose to take up any more time except to express the hope that the Bill will stimulate all persons in the industry to arrange their organisation so that they can proceed to improvements by agreement without the necessity for legislation. I hope that over the years this industry will place itself among those others which have discovered, sometimes by bitter experience, that the better way to proceed is to sit at a table and reason out the difficulties. The employers will find joint consultation most helpful, the workers will get used to facing the facts, and this will lead to a much happier industry.

3.23 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I have not intervened on any Amendments and have not sought to pursue any of those which stood in my name since the Bill was considered in Committee. I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments if I explain why I have not done so. First, however, I apologise for the length of time for which I spoke during the Committee stage. At that stage it was almost always either my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) or myself who took up the time. I shall not pursue my arguments further today because of the very great work of the Minister and the Rees Committee in achieving such a substantial measure of agreement. That is an act of statecraft which indicates how much further we go today in trying to achieve agreement on the Floor of the House in regard to matters affecting industrial relations. One can go a long way before one differs with a man who has such a statesmanlike attitude.

The second reason why I shall not pursue my arguments is that the Bill was meant to be as far as possible an agreed Measure, and was based in substance, as well as in fact, upon the findings of the Rees Committee. The Committee's Report, as anybody who really knows it can see, contains certain ambiguities. I do not propose at this stage to go into the niceties of those that have been canvassed already, but I would point out that after Second Reading there was a delay of three months that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said, was due to the chances of legislation. During that time, I think the public ought to know, the Parliamentary Secretary was heavily engaged on many occasions in meeting both sides of the industry and, moreover, in meeting them for the first time together at the same table. Yet they were not able to achieve the agreement they might have secured for a national agreement. Despite that three months' delay that has not been achieved. Therefore, it seems that it may be necessary at some time in the future to use the provisions of the Bill.

However, I think we ought to underline the fact that we are passing a Bill the prime purpose of which is that it should never come into effect if that can be avoided. This is a very important constitutional point. There are many of us on our side of the House who have for many years now canvassed the idea of laying down a code of good behaviour of good husbandry in industry. This is a Bill whose prime purpose is to lay down a set of rules of fair play, and we hope that they will be observed in the future.

The most important Clause, as my right hon. and learned Friend from the beginning of his speech on Second Reading until the present time has underlined, is Clause 9. The point I would stress to the trade union movement and to the employers is that it is not necessary to have only a national agreement, but that the three-shift plant bakeries can perfectly well enter into an agreement with their men in their union in any particular section, without its necessarily being a national agreement. Of course, a national agreement would be the best thing if we could get it, but if we cannot get it we could have area agreements. That is plain in Clause 9. There could be an agreement to deal with the position of the plant bakeries and the men there, or with the position of the small bakers and the men there. These would be of the greatest assistance to the trade union movement and to the workers and to the employers.

I want to elaborate a matter that I do not think has been fully appreciated. I want to point out what worries the employers. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the plant bakeries have severe difficulties in meeting the conditions of the Bill. That is abundantly true because the three-shift rotated system of eight hours will not be able to be maintained if the terms of the Bill come into force. The practical effect of that will be that the two 12-hour shift will come in instead, and the effect of that will be, of course, considerable longer working hours or some redundancy.

I ought to explain why I have not pursued Amendments on that point. I think that is more than balanced against the loss of the Clause 1 provision that was so much pressed by hon. Members opposite, back-shift working. There is not the slightest doubt that the men are more concerned about back-shift working than anything else. I felt and I still feel that the scales in the terms of negotiations are more onerously weighed against the employers here than against the workers. That is my belief.

Nevertheless, whether that be true or not, there is clear ground here on which both sides have room to give in their negotiations, and it does seem that with the Bill even in its present form there is no reason at all why agreement should not be secured, either in the areas or throughout the country, by which we shall achieve the true object of the Bill, which is not to burden us with further legislation but to secure the principle of obtaining by agreement, in pursuance of Clause 9 and with the assistance of the Minister and his advisers, a final settlement of a problem that has been outstanding for 100 years.

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Palmer (Cleveland)

I wish, shortly, to add my congratulations to the Minister, to the Parliamentary Secretary, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) on the work which has been done to bring the Bill to Third Reading.

For those of us who sit in the House with both Labour and Co-operative support, the Bill has presented certain subtle problems of diplomacy and of adjustment. Sometimes we may have taken a little too much refuge in silence, but that does not mean that we have not played our part behind the scenes. We have had to carry on our shoulders, as it were, both the burdens of management and the aspirations of the workers. We have been able to see the difficulties associated with the Bill and the problems which it presents from both points of view. I hope that both my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) and I have survived with our consciences and our reputations unsullied.

The Co-operative movement is a big employer of bakery workers, and, without boosting ourselves too much, or without boasting, we can say that the Cooperative societies are among the best employers of bakery workers in this country. The Co-operative movement welcomes this legislation because, in a sense, it will help the good employer. It will tend to put a brake on the bad employer. Perhaps the workpeople have not been as well organised in trade unions in the past with all employers as they might have been, and that sometimes has given the bad employer an advantage over the good employer.

That is one reason, I think, among others, why the Co-operative movement welcomes the Bill. In the long run it will help us as employers with a socially-progressive outlook. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, will join with me in giving the blessing of the Co-operative movement to this great and necessary piece of social progress in industrial relations.

3.32 p.m.

Mr. Duthie

I wish to give a great valediction to the Bill on its way to the Statute Book. I want hon. Members to realise that we are dealing in the Bill with a very important public service—perhaps the most important public service of all. The operation of that service is far from perfect, although it is finely balanced today. Its imperfections have given rise to the Bill, which I think is a good step in the right direction.

I believe that all those who have taken part in the proceedings of the Bill, through all its stages, would be glad if it never came into operation and if the only part of it which became effective was Clause 9. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Wallace) is not in his place, but I join with him in hoping that the Bill will give a great fillip to the recruitment to the English union and that the position of the workers in negotiations in England and Wales will in that way be strengthened.

Instead of the various Clauses of the Bill coming into operation, I hope we may have in England and Wales a national agreement along the lines of that which we enjoy in Scotland, which has been productive of an era of peace in the industry. I hope the Bill will have that effect upon the trade, because then it will be providing for the baking trade the greatest boon in its history.

3.34 p.m.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

I want briefly to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), because in this Bill we have joined together in trying to negotiate by legislation. We would all prefer negotiation without legislation, and we are trying to help to bring that process about.

The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) spoke of the example in co-operation which we were setting but, of course, the basis of this sort of negotiation is a strong and efficient trade union movement. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Banff in expressing the hope that the Bill will help the trade unions in England to obtain the same sort of position as that which the trade union movement in the baking industry already enjoys in Scotland.

I know that the Scottish bakery trade unions have been particularly proud of the part that they have been able to play in this legislation. In Scotland, we have a history of greater poverty than in England, and we have often been very grateful for the help and strength of our English comrades in their trade unions. They have assisted us very often to raise our standards. It is, therefore, a very great cause of pride to us in Scotland, particularly to those associated with the trade union side, that in this particular case the agreement to which the Scottish bakery unions are a party should become a model for legislation and, finally, we hope, for a voluntary agreement in England on similar lines.

I regret that this Bill does nothing to safeguard the position of back-shift working. I express personally the point of view that back-shift working is an even more serious social problem than night working. It is bad enough to be working when other people are sleeping and sleeping when others are working, but it is even more socially serious and more objectionable to be working when other people are playing and enjoying leisure and the benefits of family life together. I hope that in the voluntary agreement which we believe should come in England out of this Bill that particular position will be safeguarded and that the bakery workers in England will gain the same sort of safeguard as the bakery workers in Scotland now enjoy.

I should add that while, of course, this Bill does not have the same meaning in Scotland as in England, we in Scotland welcome the Bill just as keenly, and I think that the trade union movement and the employers in the baking industry in Scotland will feel that the Bill will be a means of further negotiations and further agreements in the same spirit and, therefore, raise the conditions in the baking industry, and bring about one day, I hope, the abolition of night baking altogether.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. H. Nicholls

I think that the way in which this Bill has been piloted and received by the leaders of the Opposition is remarkable. Here we have the case of an industry which has been in the throes of controversy for 100 years, and now we are in the process of putting a Bill on the Statute Book which is received wholeheartedly by both sides of the House.

I should like to feel that those people who seem to enjoy putting up headlines on those occasions when the Parliamentary system shows differences between parties will give the same sort of headlines to this occasion when it shows the strength of agreement and tolerance. We have achieved that because we have had a very able Parliamentary Secretary taking this Bill through the Committee, backed up by a Minister who has confidence in his Parliamentary Secretary, and, on the other side, an experienced right hon. Gentleman whose heart was set on bringing about an agreement without any desire to gain publicity for himself.

I, as other hon. Members have done, wish to emphasise the importance of Clause 9. Clause 9 is not an innovation, but it could be an innovation if it could have such good effect that it would replace the Bill. I should like to see this to be the first occasion when Parliamentary time has been wasted by the promotion of a Bill in which a Clause has been inserted which may make the Bill itself quite unnecessary. If that could be done, it might well be a way of bringing about a better understanding, not only in this industry, but in industry generally. I have a feeling that the trade union movement, which is now one of the established assets of this country, has reached the stage when it has no inferiority complex at all, if ever it had.

Mr. Isaacs

It never has had.

Mr. Nicholls

Some of its supporters may not have had the supreme confidence of the right hon. Gentleman. From the top to the bottom they can see that they have the power, and they are accepting the responsibility, that goes with power, of seeing the other man's point of view.

I should like my final words to be once again an appeal to the House to recognise the complexity of this industry because of the different groups that go to make it up. There are the great plant bakers, who are like any other industry in these days, with all the new modern techniques that go to make up modern industry generally. Then there are the Co-operative bakers, whom I regard slightly differently, because while they have all the modern innovations of the plant bakeries, they have their new approach in which management and policy are tied up with actual production.

In addition to those two big groups, there is that terrific mass of small bakers, who, although they may not always be members of a trade union, are the people who supply the nation's daily bread. Their premises are not big and often are old fashioned. Often they do not have the financial resources to take immediate advantage of new machinery and tech nique, as we would like them to do, but until they reach that stage, until their finances and their ability to expand enable them to get on to this higher level, we must recognise that they are an important and integral part of the bread producing industry.

Sometimes we may think that the small bakers are dragging their feet, but I am convinced that they, along with the big producers, are interested in having really good conditions for their workmen, although there may be only few of them. They are eager to give service to their customers and they have to tie up plant for baking bread and making cakes. In giving their service they have to interlock their small groups of premises, which in the case of some of their competitors stretch over several acres.

I add my congratulations to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and hope that Clause 9 and the spirit which has been shown in the House today will go out to the country and bring about the results that we all desire. I hope that the people who are not always apprised of the problems will realise that the small baker in the small town or village has the desire to be just as cooperative as the Co-operative or any other big movement, although their problems are quite distinct and separate.

3.42 p.m.

Mr. Willey

For the second occasion this week I have played my part in expediting Government business. We have not quite reached four o'clock, so I shall be very restrained. I join in the congratulations to the Minister and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). This is a matter in which we can enjoy bi-partisan continuity of policy. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has carried out what my right hon. Friend would have done had he been in his place.

I should also like to say a special word about the Parliamentary Secretary. He dealt with the Bill in Committee and behind the scenes during and after the Committee. We were all struck by his ability, sincerity and endeavour to reach the best possible compromise. I should also like to express my appreciation to the hon. Members for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and Banff (Mr, Duthie), because they have been expressing, in a very restrained way, a point of view. The fact that they have expressed it as they have and that they have not put down Amendments today is very encouraging for the industry as a whole. It means that we can be reasonably hopeful that we will get agreement in the industry.

For the bakery workers this is a really grand day. It was not so very long ago that we saw the white-coated bakery workers in the Central Lobby. They have now very nearly attained their objective. They have got the Bill well on the way. But this is also a big day for the master bakers in the industry as a whole. I do not want to take a partisan view. The Bill was a compromise and it has been accepted by both sides. Our proceedings have shown that it has been genuinely accepted by both sides, and I think that henceforth we can expect much better relations and consequently more efficiency in the industry. I would not be so ungenerous as to say we have got half a loaf. In fact, we have got practically the whole loaf. We have got practically the whole of the recommendations except for two slices.

I want to say a few words about two matters upon which we are disappointed. I think we would concede there is an arguable case about dough making. We still maintain the view we expressed before, that this is not always a good thing to hold to traditional methods of production in an industry. On the other hand, there is a good deal to be said for modern techniques and processes. I hope, notwithstanding the concession that the master bakers have got, that the, do all they can to avoid the social ill consequences of the hours of working in the baking industry. In other words. that they will do all they can to avoid difficulties.

I shall say nothing about the objective test. I regard that as butter for the slice, but I turn to the date of the operation. We have made our point. I am sure it was always in my mind when the Minister decided against us that, in fact, we were discussing something which was academic. I ought to record that we were offered a slice. The Parliamentary Secretary, in fact, did attempt to devise a form of words to meet our point of view about foremen, but when we saw them on the Order Paper we thought there was a good deal to be said for the words as they appeared in the Bill. But it would be ungenerous of me if I did not pay my tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary for offering us a slice and trying to meet us in this regard.

The limitation of back-shift has been mentioned. I would concede at once the difficulties here for the small bakeries, but I would emphasise again that we are thinking about negotiations and discussions which we now hope will go forward. Unregulated back-shift brings serious social ill consequences to this industry. I am hoping that whatever happens to this Bill in another place, that both sides of the industry will recognise that this bears heavily upon the people who repeatedly work back-shift.

Finally, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) is wrong to talk about this as failure. I have always taken the contrary view. I have had the privilege of meeting both sides of the industry, and I have been impressed by the sincerity and ability of those on each side. I took the view from the beginning that once we had the Rees Committee and the prospects of legislation it was unrealistic to expect agreement until that legislation was put into effect. Now that we have this legislation we can bring both sides together, and I am confident that with the stimulus of legislation we will get an agreement which will satisfy both sides and bring a long dispute to an amicable ending.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Watkinson

I am not a very old Member of this House, but after the generous things said about me by my right hon. and learned Friend and by the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), whose offer I shall hear in mind—

Mr. Isaacs

After the Election.

Mr. Watkinson

—and the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), I must confess that I feel a little shaken. It will always be a pleasant memory for all of us, and one that does not always fall to our lot in this House, that we have worked together for the general good and thus performed an historic function of this House, that of trying to improve conditions in an industry sensibly and practically.

My first point is a practical one which, I hope, will be carefully noted by all those employers and members of the trade union who have either observed this debate or will read it in HANSARD. This House has done all that it can to enable another step forward to be taken by this industry, and it is now for both sides of the industry to get on with the job. If the Ministry of Labour can help in any way, by bringing the sides together, by arranging discussions or conversations, that help is freely and willingingly available, and I only hope that the employers and the trade union will take advantage of it.

I hope, too, in the words of the hon. Member, that more people will join that trade union, because it is not yet fully representative of the workers in the industry. It would speak with a much stronger and more expert voice if more joined it, so I hope that all the workers in that industry will do what workers in any industry ought to do, join their trade union, support it, attend its meetings, and play their proper democratic part in the organisation of the union. If that happens, and if then the employers are faced with this Bill which will pass into law in due time, we may get the agreement which we have been hoping for, but failing to get, for so many years.

I say with sincerity that by this Bill we are only completing a task started by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark when he set up the Rees Committee which produced the good Report that has been the foundation of the Bill. I certainly accept what hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, that we shall all he glad if Clause 9 is used. While it would be better if the whole industry can get a national agreement on the lines of the Scottish agreement, if that does not prove to be possible, and if it is felt at some time by any section of the industry that Clause 9 would provide a possibility of getting agreement, it is not necessary to wait for the rest of the industry in order to use that remedy. And if the Ministry can do anything to help forward that task, we are only too anxious to play our part.

The Bill was not materially altered in Committee because we kept to the principle that, where we could not get agreement on both sides generally, we must rest on the Report. However, it received a searching technical examination, and for that my thanks are due to the right hon. Member for Southwark, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North and to my hon. Friends the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) and the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies).

As a result, we have made some minor improvements which make this a more workable Measure, and it is now clearly an instruction to the industry to get on with the job. We can now dispatch the Bill on its way, with an offer of the Ministry to bring the parties together if necessary. I want to make it plain, in reply to the point which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North put to me about discussions with the trade unions, that we will certainly do all we can to help and will be only too willing to do it at any time.

On these grounds, I hope we may now get rid of this Bill, and, when I say get rid of it, I mean exactly what I say. I notice that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends do not disagree with me on that score. I do not think that it is a bad thing, or improper, for this House to pass legislation and make it possible for an industry to escape the effect of that legislation. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland, North that it is in the tradition of our industries that we get on by that sort of joint negotiation rather than by compulsion from this House, and perhaps the less this House plays a part in industrial relations the better it will be both for industrial negotiations and for this House, too.

If I may end on a personal note, I should like to say that it has been a very pleasant task to be associated with this Bill so far as I am concerned, because, even though I tread on dangerous ground here, I think that this House sometimes needs a draught of co-operation and working together, which is a part of our life. If we do not have it for some time. I am not sure that this place is working as it ought to do, nor am I sure that it maintains its standing as a House of Commons, which I feel is very much more important than its standing as a place where, quite rightly, we sometimes have violent party political battles. It has been very pleasant to be associated with a Measure shortly to be placed on the Statute Book, but which I hope will never be used.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.