HC Deb 02 July 1954 vol 529 cc1714-6

2.8 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, to leave out "four." and to insert "three."

In Committee, I undertook to have a look at the question of the early start. Throughout the course of the Bill we have tried to look at these things from the practical aspect. During Committee we had the benefit of a great deal of expert knowledge from both sides of the Committee, and I think the Committee was impressed with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. W. R. A. Hudson), who both speak with considerable experience of the industry. They said that an early start would make the preparation work a good deal easier and that the starting time which appeared in the Bill would place a handicap on the efficient operation of the industry.

Since that time we have looked carefully at the matter and have had consultations with both sides of the industry. It is only right that I should say that from the employers' point of view the Amendment does not go far enough and that from the workers' point of view it goes a good deal too far. It is perhaps the middle course. We have thought most carefully about the matter. We felt that the case made was a practical case, although I appreciate that the Amendment does not go as far as my hon. Friends would wish.

We remembered, as I think it is right to remind the House, that in their proposals to the Rees Committee the trade unions themselves recognised that a two-hour start was necessary. I admit that it was a two-hour start from a different period, but they recognised that the two-hour start had some relevance. I personally have not been satisfied that quick fermentation processes are far enough advanced to get over that difficulty.

In commending this Amendment to the House, I would say that we have looked at it most carefully. It does not go quite so far as my hon. Friends and, I think, the employers would like it to do, and it is objected to by the unions on the grounds that it makes some inroads on what they want. But I think that it is a practical compromise, and I commend it to the House in that spirit.

Mr. George Isaacs (Southwark)

We have heard what the Minister has had to say, and as all parties concerned with this Bill are anxious that we should get it today, we do not think that it is necessary to make long speeches, although we could, of course, go over the old ground again.

The operatives are not satisfied that this provision is necessary, and that the technical efficiency of the industry today cannot give them what they are asking for but because they desire to begin this new phase in the baking industry on a basis of give and take, we shall not oppose the Amendment.

The two sides of the industry have not got as close together as they should, but we think that the unions will have an opportunity, by the acceptance of this Amendment in the spirit in which it is submitted, of going forward, meeting the employers and discussing the situation with them. In all probability they will be able to come to an understanding with the employers, which, in the long run, will be far more valuable to them than an Act of Parliament. Therefore, without saying that they like it, they desire it very much, and we shall not oppose the Amendment.

Mr. W. S. Duthie (Banff)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way to the extent of the two extra hours. Personally, I do not think that it is enough, but it is a step in the right direction. It makes the Bill a much more practical proposition than it was in its original form.

So far as the three-hour start, for which we are asking, is concerned, that will still be necessary in Scotland. We have the advantage in Scotland of having an agreement entered into by the unions and employers which calls for a three-hour early start in the morning. That three hours has been determined because it is absolutely necessary. The same conditions do not apply in England, where there is not the same early morning trade, and I believe that two hours will make the Bill from that point of view a more practical proposition.

Amendment agreed to.