§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
I beg to move,That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to implement in full, and without delay, the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into the Health, Welfare, and Safety in Non-Industrial Employment and Hours of Employment of Juveniles (Command Paper No. 7664, 1949), and the Report on Closing Hours of Shops (Command Paper No. 7105, 1947).I very much doubt whether this Motion would have been put on the Order Paper today, and whether the House would have had to spend today in debating it, if it had not been for the fact that the Leader of the House was not very forthcoming when he announced to the House that, because of lack of Parliamentary time, the Government proposed to drop the Shops Bill dealing with early closing hours.
35 It was because the right hon. Gentleman, having been asked by my hon. Friends and myself whether he would give a pledge to reintroduce this legislation in the next Parliament, refused to give any such pledge or to say that the Government were still of the mind that they had been for so many years—in reply to Questions from hon. Members on both sides of the House upon the Gowers Reports—that we felt it absolutely essential that the House should debate today a matter which is to us, and, I believe, to many hon. Members opposite, an extremely serious one.
The Gowers Reports deal with the health, welfare, safety and protection of 12 million working people, of which it is suggested that at least 1¾ million will be juveniles. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman treated the House in less than his customary courteous way when, before the Recess, he refused to answer any questions as to the Government's intentions on this matter when the new Session began.
It would be of some interest to trace the beginning of the Gowers Reports; to consider why we had Reports at all, and for how long we have been discussing this matter. During the Recess, I took the opportunity of spending some time in the Library going through the mass of Parliamentary records. Although I do not propose to weary the House with the results of those investigations, I want to try to draw upon some to illustrate what I have to say this afternoon.
The first approach in the House came in 1942, at a time when we were at war and when we had a Coalition Government, which lasted until 1945. It was then that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in reply to the then hon. Member for Doncaster, said that because of the difficulties at that time there was no immediate prospect of embarking upon inquiries and upon the necessary consultations to deal with complex provisions such as were contained in the Shops Act. At the same time, he indicated that the Coalition Government were sympathetic to the whole subject.
We then find, in 1943, the then Home Secretary again giving assurances on behalf of the Coalition Government. Questions continued to be asked, and not only from one side of the House, until we reached April. 1945. Then the hon. 36 Member who then represented a Birmingham constituency—Sir Patrick Hannon—asked specifically what was to be done about closing hours of shops. The Secretary of State for the Home Department then said, on behalf of the Coalition Government:The Government have been giving attention not only to the closing hours of shops but also to other related questions including the hours of employment of young persons and the question of the further regulation of health, welfare and safety conditions in shops and other non-industrial premises and they have decided to appoint a Committee to examine these matters. I am not yet in a position to announce the composition or the precise terms of reference of the proposed Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1945; Vol. 410, c. 970.]So in April, 1945, despite what the Government then had to do in relation to the prosecution of the war and all the matters that would be arising in the post-war years, they had nevertheless considered this question most carefully—so carefully, indeed, that they had taken it beyond the earlier questions which had been put three years before, relating solely to shop closing hours, and were giving their attention to the whole question of non-industrial workers and their need for protection similar to that given to industrial workers under the Factories Acts, and to miners under the various mining Measures. The setting up of the Committee, therefore, became a decision of that Government.
It was not set up during the term of office of the Coalition Government; indeed, we had a General Election, and it was not until 1st January. 1946, that the Committee was appointed and Sir Ernest Gowers invited to be its Chairman. I should like to express the appreciation of myself and my hon. Friends—and I am sure, also, of the whole House—to Sir Ernest Gowers and his colleagues, who worked with him for three long years in that Committee, produced such excellent Reports, and spent so much time investigating evidence upon this matter. They reported on 5th March. 1949, and in June of this year the then Home Secretary stated that Government Departments were considering the Reports of the Gowers Committee.
The Reports covered all the workers not covered by protective legislation; those in shops and offices, hotels, restaurants, catering, indoor and outdoor entertainment, rail and road transport, 37 agriculture, fishing, shipping and domestic employment. It is fair to say that the Government did introduce a Bill to deal with agriculture. That Bill became law in 1956. Nevertheless, many millions of people are still outside protective legislation. In fact, there are 12 million—less those in agriculture, which number probably 800,000—and this large number of juveniles, who are only partly protected by other Acts of Parliament.
The Shops Act of 1950 may appear to some people to be a relatively recent Measure, but it was only a consolidation Measure. It consolidated three previous Acts the most recent of which was passed about twenty-three years ago. The Gowers Committee's Report dealing with the Shops Act makes a number of references to the vagueness of the cover and protection given to shop workers. Office workers have been completely neglected by all Parliaments. At present, there is no specific legislation relating to them. Reliance is placed upon the Public Health Acts for whatever protection they afford for clerical workers and others working in offices. Anyone who has been connected with local government, and has studied the Public Health Acts, knows how difficult it is to apply them to the hundreds of thousands of little offices scattered up and down the country.
I do not propose to go into details about the conditions under which shop and office workers have to work. Many of my hon. Friends are specialists in this matter and know the conditions of railway, shop and office workers. I have no doubt that from their own experience—most of them are, or were, trade union officers—they can tell the House precisely what are the conditions.
Anyone who has read the evidence, or the Committee's Reports and recommendations, must know how seriously the Gowers Committee considered this whole question of public health. As we go through the Reports on health, welfare and sanitation in industrial employment, relating to shops, catering, hotels, entertainment, rail and road—and a miscellaneous section which includes dental technicians, workshops and matters of that kind—it is interesting to note that in every recommendation attention is drawn to the lack of sanitary convenience in every industry dealt with, 38 That is a shocking and disgraceful state of affairs.
The Committee found that elementary sanitary conditions were so bad that the Government Departments concerned came to the conclusion—it was certainly announced by the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), when he was Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department—that, even if a Bill, or Bills—we will come to the question whether there should be more than one Bill in a moment—became law, because of the conditions and the sanitary conveniences offered in offices and shops, provision would have to be made for a period of five years' grace to enable owners to put their premises into the state required by law. If it would take five years to put this right, it seems to me that fact in itself is evidence that conditions are very bad and unfitted for a nation such as ours to impose upon its work people.
The Minister of Labour will recollect that the International Labour Office had a recommendation on hygiene in offices, and that the Government accepted it with reservations. Why did the Government accept that recommendation with reservations? "Because," they said, "we are going to introduce legislation in our own Parliament, so we must make reservations before we accept this recommendation of the International Labour Office."
From the period in 1949, when the Gowers Committee reported, there have been many occasions when Ministers of the Crown have stated in this House that the Government's policy was to implement the Reports and to introduce the necessary legislation. It cannot now be said that adequate consultations have not been held with all the interested organisations. There were 76 organisations, trade organisations and other associations, which were consulted by the Government. One of the excuses, made by right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government, for not bringing in legislation was that this matter of consulting with 76 organisations was a very long job.
In 1952, the then Home Secretary, the present Lord Kilmuir, announced that the consultations with interested organisations were going on. In November, 1953, he said that consultations were still proceeding. In 1954, the then Home Secretary indicated the size of this 39 task, because of the large number of people with whom the Government had to consult. Then we had a very interesting interpolation, the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), which was called the Non-Industrial Employment Bill. Many hon. Members who are present today took part in the debate on that Bill and subsequently in the Committee stage which we had on that Measure.
The hon. Member for Hendon, South was then the Joint Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office and I hope I shall not do him an injustice if I quote what he said during that Committee on 26th April. The hon. Gentleman was challenged by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He asked the hon. Gentleman whether, after the General Election—because the Election had then been announced—the Government would give a pledge that they would introduce legislation to implement the Gowers Reports. My right hon. Friend gave a pledge on behalf of the Labour Party that if we were returned to power we would implement the recommendations of the Gowers Committee's Reports, and he asked the hon. Gentleman whether he would do the same on behalf of the Government.
I also put the question directly to the hon. Member for Hendon. South, because the hon. Gentleman indicated the difficulty of bringing in this sort of legislation. He said that it would be difficult to have one Bill, because it would be a big, complex and difficult Measure, and he thought that there might be three Bills, one for agriculture, one for offices and shops, and so on. We were not arguing about whether there should be one Bill or three. We adopted a flexible attitude at that time.
Nevertheless, he was asked at that time by me, in association with my right hon. Friend, whether it was one Bill or three, if he would, in fact, give an undertaking that the Government, if returned to power, would implement the Gowers Committee's Reports. I now quote from column 32 of the debate in Committee on that Bill. He said:Upon the main question whether the Government are willing to give a pledge that it is their intention to introduce a Bill to deal with the matters mentioned in the Gowers Report as 40 soon as possible, I can certainly say that that is the intention of the Government, and I am most willing to give that pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 26th April, 1955, c. 32–3.]The hon. Gentleman does not occupy the same position at the Home Office today. Indeed, he is not a member of the Government, and one cannot blame him for not carrying out that pledge, but that pledge, I have no doubt, was not given on his own responsibility, but was made on behalf of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench opposite, and, indeed, on behalf of the whole Government. They have failed to carry out their solemn word, and the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with one other part of the Gowers Committee's Reports, namely, that dealing with the early closing hours of shops, refused, only a week or two ago, to assure us that the Government's policy was still the same as when the hon. Member for Hendon, South gave that pledge. Indeed, he remained silent, and, I thought, a little shamefaced and crestfallen when he was unable to answer the direct question whether the Bill would be reintroduced in the next Session.
In the debates on the Non-Industrial Employment Bill, many details were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek, who introduced it, and by many other people who had a lot of experience in this field, and who spoke in that debate. Finally, in 1955, there was a reference in the Queen's Speech to the implementation of the Gowers Committte's Reports. The T.U.C. approached the Government on a number of occasions—in May, 1953, in November of the same year, in October, 1954 and in March, 1955. In July, 1955, the T.U.C. took a delegation to meet the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Minister of Labour on this question of the Gowers Committee's Reports.
Let me say, in parenthesis, that the Minister of Labour has on more than one occasion, as have other members of the Government, paid tribute to the co-operation that he has had from the General Council of the T.U.C. Little or no legislation dealing in any way, even remotely, with the workers ever comes before this House without the right hon. Gentleman consulting the T.U.C., and he has more than once indicated that on every occasion when he has done so he has been met with courtesy and a readiness to co-operate. There may, of course, be differences of 41 opinion on some matters, but a readiness to co-operate and to consult has always been the attitude of the T.U.C., and many tributes have been paid to that body for the way in which it has co-operated with Governments of different political colours.
At present, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are anxious to take industrial relations a step further by having a body which will be regarded as a super-body dealing with the whole question of the effect of wage increases on the economy. The right hon. Gentleman expects that this body could be of tremendous use in stabilising the cost of living and in advising on wages policy, which is one of the most difficult and delicate of the matters with which he has ever been concerned.
This is what I do not understand. Here is a Government wanting the help of the T.U.C., but which refuses the co-operation of the T.U.C. How much longer can the Government get the co-operation of the organised workers of Britain when, on a non-political matter like the health, welfare, safety and protection of the workers in their daily jobs, the Government refuse to find time for a Measure to implement the Gowers Committee's Report? What kind of an association can the right hon. Gentleman look forward to? I do not complain when the T.U.C. says to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some weeks before Budget day, "This is the sort of Budget that we think you should produce," and then he does not produce it. That is a difference of opinion on political and economic matters, but there is no difference of opinion on the question of the Gowers Committee's Reports if we are to believe all that the right hon. Gentleman and other members of the Government have said in this House.
I warn the right hon. Gentleman that co-operation is a two-way traffic, and we on this side of the House, on matters which are so non-political as this, expect that concerning the welfare of the people in the trade union movement, who, in the main, we represent, and politically very largely on these benches, the Government will play their part in producing the sort of legislation that will give protection to the 12 million people who are outside protection of any real kind, and that we expect the same kind of protection as is given to workers in factories and in the mines as a result of legislation.
42 The Leader of the House told us that it was not possible to proceed with the Shops Bill because of lack of time, and, of course, he was perfectly right. At the time when this Bill came down from another place, anyone could see that in the short period between then and the end of the Session, it could not possibly get a Second Reading in this House and go through Committee and Report stages. But why was the time so short? I have been looking at the list of Bills which have been introduced into this House by the Government since they won power in 1951.
There are many Bills for which they have found time which are not as important as this one. They have found time—a very long time, indeed—for a Rent Bill which was designed to put burdens upon a very large number of householders. They are entitled to do that, because they are the Government, but they are also entitled to find time for a Bill to protect the workers, and I say that the reason why the Government have not found time to implement the Gowers Committee's Reports—apart from one small part of it dealing with the early closing of shops—is due very largely to the dissident reactionary group of back benchers who, at this stage in their political career, they cannot afford to antagonise.
Many of those who sit on the Front Bench opposite today, who have made great speeches about protective and social legislation and who have boasted about what the Conservative Party has done through the years, and who are still sitting over there today, have run away from it because they cannot afford to have this dissident group behind them failing them in the Division Lobbies.
§ Mr. Robens
If the Government were brought down and sought an Election, they would lose it.
In reply to the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), may I say that the bulk of the work on the Mines and Quarries Bill was done at the Ministry of Fuel and Power, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) was the Minister and I myself was the Parliamentary Secretary. All that the Government had to do with the Mines and Quarries Bill—[Laughter.] The hon. 43 Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) laughs, but these are the facts. All that the Government had to do in relation to the Mines and Quarries Bill was to carry out the work which was started by a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Robens
I do not want to argue with the hon. Lady, because she knows so little of this subject that it is not a fruitful thing to pursue it with her.
The answer to the Lord Privy Seal is that the Government have picked up what was done by the Labour Government. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields who brought the Gowers Committee into operation. All that we ask the Government to do is to carry out the pledges they have made to implement these Reports. I say very definitely that if the Government had had any real intention they could have found time to implement the Gowers Committee Reports by now and could have carried out the pledges which they have given on this matter. I say very definitely from these benches that unless the Government themselves implement the Gowers Committee's Reports we shall do it when we come back to power. It will be done.
In the meantime, I assure the right hon Gentleman and his hon. Friends that we do not propose to leave the Government in peace for one moment. We shall go on making life difficult for them until they have provided protection for these 12 million workers in respect of health, safety and welfare in the way which we believe Parliament ought to do, which we, for our part, have striven to do through our trade union movement, and which will now require legislation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have a little more courage and, before the debate is over, will say that the Government propose to implement the Reports and that we shall have references to them in the Queen's Speech for next Session.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
On this side of the House, we welcome this debate. We certainly have no complaint at the 44 tone or content of the speech which the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) has made.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that many of these matters are not essentially political, although it so happens that throughout our political history no party has done more for social reform for the workers than has the Conservative Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That may be the main subject of contention between us and I shall elaborate and explain some of the things that we have achieved.
§ Mr. Butler
The Shaftesbury tradition is one that we intend to maintain. The right hon. Member paid tribute to Sir Ernest Gowers and his Committee, and to their two Reports. I should like myself, on behalf, also, of my right hon. and hon. Friends, equally to pay tribute to those Reports, which have already been the subject of legislation, although there is, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, a great deal of work still to be done.
In the record of the party to which I belong and of the Government of which I am a member, we have a long history of legislation designed to protect the worker from a variety of evils to which he might be subject if he were left entirely exposed. Take, for example, the industrial field we have already fairly comprehensive legislation there. In non-industrial employment a good number of workers are protected by the law, perhaps rather more than was suggested in the impression given by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. As the right hon. Gentleman quite reasonably pointed out, however, there are also a good many workers who are not yet sufficiently protected by the law.
As I see it, the broad purpose of the Gowers Committee was to survey existing legislation about non-industrial employment and to consider how that might be improved and extended. Anybody who has studied the Reports which I have here, and which I see the right hon. Gentleman himself had in his hand, will realise that they cover many different occupations and varieties of work, and many degrees of protection. It is, therefore, impossible to generalise.
45 In response to one point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I should say that it would certainly be impossible to include the whole of this legislation in one Bill. That is why previous Answers—all of which I have here for the sake of record—given by Her Majesty's Ministers or, indeed, given when the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends were in office, have assumed that it would be impossible to achieve all the Gowers results in one piece of legislation, which would be too comprehensive, and, I think, too controversial.
What was the principle covered in one or other of the Committee's Reports on Health, Welfare, and Safety in Non-industrial Employment? It would be profitable if, for a moment or two, I considered some of the detailed objects which the Committee had in mind. As we see it, the Committee's objective, taking the two Reports together, was to ensure that no worker in non-industrial employment should be compelled by force of economic circumstance to put up with working conditions which were dangerous to life or limb or to general health, or which—these are my own words—were in any way inconsistent with human decency or dignity.
I would say at once, and without qualification, that Her Majesty's Government fully subscribe to those objectives. Those are our aims, and we have gone a great way to carry them out, although—and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in this—there is still a way to go. We believe that to pursue these aims is morally right and economically wise. In legislative form these ideals would involve a code of minimum working conditions. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, who is, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, in his place today, has probably done as much in his time at the Ministry of Labour to indicate, not only to the Trades Union Congress but to the country as a whole, that he is desirous of carrying forward the possibility of having for every worker a decent code of life.
Having been at the Ministry of Labour himself—as I have been—the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt wish my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary well in their efforts to achieve this result. I hope that important bodies like 46 the Trades Union Congress and trade unions generally will give them the utmost co-operation in carrying out for example what we did so much to publicise and to proclaim in our period of Opposition in 1947, namely, what is known as the "Workers Charter." We are not ashamed of our record and I shall spend some time talking about it today.
In implementing the Gowers Reports, the question arises to what extent we can make a good employer by law. That is a very difficult thing to do. We can prevent an employer from being bad, and this would be in accordance with legislation in our history. Good employers are not necessarily made by law. However, most people would agree that, however far removed from perfection human nature continues to be, there is now better appreciation than there was ever before of the importance of the worker as an individual and of his having a good life. This includes decent working conditions.
Of course, we cannot leave everything to good will because, human nature being what it is, good will is not always present. So the Government have believed, and still believe, that legislation of the type to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is justified. The House should remember for a moment what we have already accomplished. Let me take the three props of the existing industrial welfare legislation, namely, the Factories Act, 1937, the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954, and the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956.
§ Mr. Butler
All those Acts were passed by a Conservative Administration. They cover a very wide range of workers and, whether the right hon. Member is amused or not—
§ Mr. Butler
—they are following up and, as I shall explain, in some ways going beyond some of the Gowers recommendations.
This achievement is in keeping with a Conservative tradition which goes right back to 1802, when a Conservative Government passed the first welfare legislation which limited the hours of employment of children. This record goes right on unbroken through the long history 47 of factory legislation and social reforms of Shaftesbury and Disraeli, workmen's compensation, the Holidays with Pay Act, 1938, and on to the present day with the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act, 1956, leaving aside the three major Measures to which I have already referred. That is our record and that is our answer to the charges of the right hon. Member.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, is it not a fact that Section 151 of the 1937 Factories Act specifically excluded locomotive running shops from the provisions of that Act and that there is no legislation which protects workers in them who are doing work which is as dangerous as any among industrial processes?
§ Mr. Butler
I will try to deal with the present position of railwaymen before I conclude, because, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, in response to the right hon. Member, there are many workers who are not yet adequately protected. I said that, so I have no objection to what the hon. Lady has said.
Coming to the Gowers Reports in detail, the most important of the recommendations, of course, refers to the safety of workers and I shall describe the progress we have already made. The Committee's recommendations, for example, for the agricultural industry, it is worth remembering, included such matters as protection against poisonous sprays and chemicals, the provision of first-aid equipment and powers for looking after dangerous machines, which, as those of us who represent agricultural constituencies know, before were not properly looked after. At the same time, there is the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act of 1952, which dealt with the first point I have mentioned. The House may be glad to know that regulations have been made laying down the precautions which must be adopted when using certain chemical substances.
I propose, in the course of my observations, to describe progress in the making and laying of regulations under the 1956 Act and under the Mines and Quarries Act. In these regulations under the 1956 Act there are a number of miscellaneous provisions designed to protect the agricultural worker by means 48 of duties and obligations laid upon his employer and upon himself. The regulations are revised as necessary to meet the constantly changing circumstances of what is new British farming practice. Ministers are helped by an advisory committee; we are also in touch with the chemical industry to ensure that before new chemicals are put on the market their hazards will have been assessed and calculated so that suitable precautions may be taken.
The other recommendations dealing with safety in agriculture have been carried out in the recent Act. Indeed, as I said, this Act actually goes beyond the Gower's Committee recommendations, because it enables Ministers to make regulations covering a very wide range of risks. These regulations will cover new ground. We are not at present in a position to lay them before Parliament, but the first regulations, those relating to the provision of first-aid items by employers of agricultural workers, have already been made and will come into force on 1st August this year. That is the progress under that Measure. Work is also in progress on regulations for the guarding of power take-offs, safe ladders, fencing of apertures and staircases, the guarding of fixed and portable machines and of circular saws, weights to be lifted, and measures to protect children.
The House might like to know, what is a progress report on this, namely, that the Chief Safety Inspectors in London and Edinburgh have been in their posts now some months and the appointment and training of the other officers forming the Inspectorate are now taking place. The Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland are also publishing leaflets designed to lessen the risks in farming. These refer to the difficulty from tractors overturning and similar subjects and also to dermatitis, which, as anyone who lives in the country knows, is something which needs very particular attention.
The House will see that not only have we passed a Bill to deal with our major industry, if I may so call agriculture, but that progress is also being made with the regulations and with the administration of that Measure. We are also continuing with the details of the administration actually provided for in regard 49 to those sanitary facilities to which the right hon. Member referred.
So much for agriculture and the progress made there. The right hon. Member referred to safety and health in mines and quarries. I do not grudge the right hon. Member or his Leader any credit for any preparatory work which may have been done on this matter in what was then called the Ministry of Fuel and Power, but the fact is that the Act was passed under the late Administration and it came into operation on 1st January, 1957. This, again, is a sign of progress under our Administration. In general, the Act deals with principles; the detailed requirements may have to be altered to suit varying technical progress. That is why a great deal under the Act is left to regulations to be made by the Minister of Power.
There is one new provision which actually conies into operation in a few days, on 1st July, 1957. So the right hon. Member can see that progress is being made in these matters all the time. This new provision, which is to come into operation a few days after this debate, by coincidence, prohibits the employment of boys below ground under the age of 16 and so keeps up the continuous tradition of social legislation.
Among others, are provisions dealing with the suppression of dust, which, as miners' Members know, is such a menace to health, with fires underground, which may be the cause of serious loss of life and with the height of travelling roads. The welfare of miners was also dealt with under the Miners Welfare Act, 1952, again passed by a Conservative Administration, under which the National Coal Board was made responsible as its normal management business for the provision of baths, canteens, medical treatment centres and other facilities at the pits.
We also have to remember the provision of institutes, playing fields, and so on, which was made the general responsibility of the Board and the mineworkers. As the right hon. Member knows, that is organised through the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation. A statutory obligation was placed on the Board to give the necessary financial aid to the organisation. There is progress and there are indications, even in the next few days, of steps being taken to carry forward this historic task which is the subject of 50 our debate today. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman's charge that we do not believe in Gowers legislation.
§ Mr. Robens
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is saying that Conservative Administrations, over the last hundred years, have done all these things entirely off their own bat, and have thought out and devised them without any pressure at all from anybody?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. I did not say that. I went out of my way to say that we did not grudge the right hon. Gentleman any interest which he may have taken in the subject.
In my opening remarks I went out of my way to say that many of these matters were largely non-political, but when the right hon. Gentleman stands at that Box, in righteous indignation, and says that we have done nothing, I suggest that he will find that there is a great deal more to the credit of Conservative Governments over the years than there is to the credit of any other party, Liberal, Labour, or anybody else. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. If their record were anything like as good as ours, they would have a great deal more justification in moving a Motion of this sort.
The right hon. Gentleman referred, in particular, to the Shops Bill and, if only in deference to the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), I should deal with this question for a few minutes now. I think we ought to look back at the record of right hon. Members opposite when they were in power. The Closing Hours of Shops Report was received in April, 1947, in the early days of the Socialist Administration. In July, 1948, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was asked whether he contemplated introducing legislation based on this Report, and he replied:A Bill to deal with shop closing hours is contemplated, but I cannot say how soon it will be possible to find time for dealing with this matter.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1948; Vol 454, c. 135.]Nothing further was done by the Socialist Party when it was in power and, apart from the consolidation Measure, which was introduced in 1950, a decade passed before the Shops Bill, 1956, was introduced in another place.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that that 51 is not a fair description of the Labour Government's record? They annual]) renewed the six o'clock closing under the Winter Closing Order, which was a very adequate measure of shops defence and was in anticipation of legislation under Gowers.
§ Mr. Butler
In view of the statements made, I think that my observations are perfectly fair. The hon. Member will have every opportunity of expressing his own opinion if he wishes to take part in the debate. The fact is that the Labour Government had the Report on Closing Hours of Shops before them for four-and-a-half years without taking any action to implement its recommendations.
§ Mr. Butler
I come to the Shops Bill of 1956. I think it has been somewhat misunderstood by those who have criticised the action which I was obliged to take as Leader of the House—namely, to declare, evidently with the approval of the right hon. Member for Blyth, that there was not time to get it through this Session. I explained the facts then and I will explain them again now.
The Shops Bill was not and was never claimed to be a revolutionary measure of social reform. In many ways, I wish it had been. It is true that Clause 1 contained proposals for limiting to some extent the hours worked by shop assistants, but practically the whole of the remainder of this very long and complicated Measure was related to the Sunday closing problem and the question of getting a fair partition between street trading and trading within buildings, namely, within shops.
The Bill also attempted to clear up the law in relation to which type of comestible or foodstuff can be bought at a certain time on a certain occasion and whether it should be on Sundays or should not be on Sundays. It was a tidying up Measure of intense complexity, giving a target for amendment such as has been given by no other Measure which I have seen since I have been a Member of the House over the last quarter of a century.
It is true that the law needed clarifying. The difficulty was that in the process of 52 clarifying it, so complicated a Measure was produced that it presented a problem for anyone like myself, who has responsibilities as Leader of the House as well as Home Secretary, namely, that adequate time must be provided for getting the Bill through.
The Bill did not come to us until the middle of May. As I said, we were occupied at the time with financial business and the concluding stages of legislation which had already been introduced, including certain new Bills which had to be introduced. I therefore came to the conclusion, as I announced on 30th May, that it would not be practicable to proceed with the Bill this Session. That is a fact which I repeat.
If we had left the shop worker without protection, I think there would be something in the right hon. Gentleman's criticism, but let us consider for a moment how the shop worker stands in respect of statutory protection. I hope that the hon. Member for Ogmore will take part in the debate, so that I may hear whether what I say is correct, because we respect his specialised knowledge of this subject. I think that the House forgets the present statutory protection and that hon. Members have misunderstood what is in the Shops Bill, which is a tidying up of the law, a reference to Sunday closing, and an attempt to clarify the type of food which one can or cannot buy at various hours of the day.
The shop worker is at present guaranteed by the State what amounts in effect to a five-and-a-half day maximum working week. He must be given every Sunday off or a compensatory holiday if he works on a Sunday. If he is employed for four-and-a-half or five hours on a Sunday—any period in excess of four hours—he must be given a whole day off in compensation. He gets this regardless of whether he is paid a specially high rate for Sunday working. The Shops Act also requires that he should be given a further half-holiday every week, making a total of one-and-a-half days guaranteed holiday per week. Furthermore, the Act fixes a maximum spell of work so as to ensure that he is not kept standing behind a counter for too long a period without a break. He has to be given specified lunch and tea breaks within specified periods.
53 This is surely not a picture of a worker left exposed to exploitation by his hardhearted employer. I think we should remember that and get the matter into perspective when we are considering the present state of shops legislation.
The law contains still more protection for the shop assistant. A great majority of shop assistants are covered by orders made under the wages councils or the Catering Wages Act. The House is aware that these orders fix maximum rates of pay for both ordinary time and overtime and specified paid holidays, including annual leave with pay. If an employer wants an assistant to work for more than the regular number of hours per week, he is required by law to pay him a higher rate. This is a fairly effective safeguard against exploitation. Indeed, it might well be held that an extension of such orders as these might make statutory closing hours of less importance or, indeed, unnecessary as a measure of protection for shop assistants.
Let me turn to paragraph 11 of the first Gowers Report in support of what I am saying. It reads:…legislation fixing the hour at which shops must close cannot in itself ensure to shop assistants working hours which are in line with present-day practice in industry, or indeed any definite maximum at all. It is not an instrument apt for the purpose.The Report also acknowledges, in the same paragraph, that in the past legislation has shielded the shop assistant fromhaving to work hours grossly excessive.I would like to say that the Government agree with all those observations made by the Gowers Committee, namely, with that limitation, and also that in the past there has been necessity for stopping shop assistants working hours which were grossly excessive. We agree with all those sentiments, but we also agree that in any future action we may take we have to find the right equation between the shopworker and the worker, i.e., the shopworker and the consumer.
In that connection, I should like to quote some words which were used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) on 18th November, 1952, when he spoke on a Motion moved at 1.29 a.m. by the hon. Member for Ogmore. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman, who is now translated to higher spheres than these, spoke at 2.48 a.m., does not make his words any less 54 sensible in regard to the sort of equation that the country must come to in relation to shops and shop assistants. The right hon. Gentleman then said:There is a real conflict here between the interests of the shop assistants on one hand and the workers on the other. There always is a very great danger—against which one must always guard—that the worker or the producer is sometimes inclined to give himself a black eye as a consumer. The shop assistant can protect himself as a producer and, at the same time, give himself great difficulties as a consumer—and he can also cause other workers difficulties.What may be a narrow and short view in the interests a the shop assistant as a worker may be against the general interest of the workers and also against his own interests in the long run.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1807.]We must remember that in facing the problem of shop assistants, their hours, and shop legislation in the future. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth concurs by nodding, because I think that that is a thoroughly sensible way of looking at the problem of shop workers' hours.
I should like to add that we are not complacent about the present law but, in the light of the experience we have had of the Shops Bill in another place, we are keeping under review the whole range of shop workers' conditions and of the law relating to shop hours, whether it be Sunday closing or otherwise. We have also in mind the rest of the Gowers Report, Part II, which is not included in the present Shops Bill. Although the present Shops Bill runs to 73 Clauses, the main provisions relating to welfare—that is, the main social provisions—are, in fact, in Gowers, Part II, which covers not only working conditions in shops but in offices and in other work places as well.
The subject is a vast one, and the Clauses of a possible Bill must, of nature, be very complicated. I can, therefore, today give no assurance about future legislation. All that I can do is to assure hon. Members that our review of this whole question, in the light of the common sense observations which I have read, will be comprehensive, and that we are fully aware of the anxieties of hon. Members on all sides of the House. Further than that, I cannot go this afternoon—
§ Mr. Butler
It is not a bad Bill. I said that it was an extremely complicated Bill, which it would be impossible, in view of its complications, to get through in the present Session. I have said that, in the light of having had, by necessity, to withdraw the Shops Bill rather than let it die a lingering death in Committee, which would have been its fate, we are keeping under review now the whole subject of shop workers' conditions. I cannot go further than that, because I am not in a position to make any statement about the Sessions' programmes which lie ahead. It would not be constitutional for me to do so, and I was aware of that when this Motion was tabled by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I am not prepared to go further.
§ Mr. Robens
May we have some clarification of the right hon. Gentleman's statement? Do I understand his statement that the Government will keep under review the question of early closing of shops to mean that that is the only consideration which is to be given to the Gowers Committee Report, or does he mean that the Government propose to keep under review all the other matters contained in the Gowers Committee Report? Is the question of review related solely to the closing of shops?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. I do not want to be misunderstood by shop workers, but hours of closing are, in many ways, less important than are the social conditions in which the workers work; because in many cases it is economic conditions rather than the actual closing time which keep the hours short. What has come to my attention in studying shops legislation is that most shops do not stay open until the statutory hour in any case, the reason being that the employers cannot afford to pay any more under the provisions provided by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to which I have referred. No, our review must be comprehensive, and not confined only to the hours of closing.
I should like now to turn to that part of the Gowers Committee's Second Report, which deals with the hours of employment of young persons. Legislation already exists to limit working hours 56 in jobs where they are liable to be unduly long and where long hours would do special harm. For example, young persons who work in factories, in mines, in quarries, in retail trade, and in a variety of occupations such as those of messenger boys, van boys, and cinematograph operators, are already protected, and that is good.
Now, of the young people who are not protected—which is a subject of great interest to us all—the great bulk, by and large, work in offices. From what study I have been able to make of the subject, which is less than that of many experts, it appears that the working hours of young persons in offices, as elsewhere, depend very much on the working hours of adults. In recent years there has been a marked tendency towards shorter hours, and young persons have benefited like everybody else.
Here, again, our approach is the practical one. This subject is one which is, humanly, of the highest importance, but it is also one of considerable controversy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields welcomed the Second Report in 1949, and said at that time that, as a necessary first step, arrangements had been made for detailed examination of the Second Report by the Departments. Well, as I said earlier, the Labour Government had the shops problem before them—except for the one point made by the hon. Member for Ogmore—for four-and-a-half years; they had this before them for two-and-a-half years, and progress was not made on this under the Labour Administration, though the right hon. Gentleman put in force all the necessary inquiries. Consultations have taken place on this matter with the great variety of organisations which exist.
We are now aware of some of the problems. The Gowers Committee tried hard to find some compromise solution to these problems, but our finding and our experience is that the employers' organisations are convinced that the Committee's recommendations would cause very great practical difficulty. The trade unions, on the other hand, think that they do not go nearly far enough. Therefore, before we undertake, or consider undertaking, what will amount to multi-clause legislation even longer than the shops legislation, we must attempt to obtain a more agreed outlook.
57 If the right hon. Gentleman, who is associated honourably with the trade union movement can help us, we shall be very much obliged. That is the answer that I would give, on behalf of the Government, to his reference to the trade union movement. We value the assistance of the trade unions, and if they can assist us we shall be very much obliged. We also have to assess the effect on the economy of proceeding with such a measure.
So far, I have touched on the question of legislation on health, welfare and safety in such places as offices, warehouses and shops. In the great majority of these places—offices, and so on—safety is not nearly so important a consideration as it is in factories where potentially dangerous machinery is in use. It is the general health and comfort of workers that we are most concerned with—lighting, ventilation, sanitation and so forth. Few employers nowadays are blind to these problems, but where an employer fails, as some undoubtedly do, it is not so much because they do not care; it is because their work places are in old buildings with a limited life.
Here, we are up against a problem which is quite beside that of legislation, but we have to strike a balance between imposing severe economic burdens by insisting on new buildings and so driving people out of business—and that would not do the employees or anybody else any good—or, on the other hand, doing what I think we have done to the maximum limit—encouraging investment in this sort of building.
Hon. Members cannot at one and the same time criticise the extent of our investment programme, especially in commercial building and offices, and then suddenly ask for the creation of good working conditions in these offices. They cannot have it both ways. We think that by expanding the economy, by a very considerable increase in our building programme and in office building, we have taken the first steps towards improving the sanitary conditions. and this is, just as important as legislation, but in view of the economic circumstances of the time we cannot make progress without some regard to the effect on the economy.
I want to refer for a moment—I am sure that the hon. Member for The 58 Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) and other hon. Members will be interested—to working conditions on the railways. Legislation, as I said earlier, is not the only method of making progress with the Gowers ideals. Working conditions on the railways have been considerably improved in recent years as a result of the progressive policy of the British Transport Commission to which I should like to pay a tribute.
The original Joint Welfare Advisory Council was established in 1948. This drew up an agreement about the kinds of standards which should be aimed at in railway premises. These standards have been printed and are available to all members of the Commission staff who are concerned with the provision of welfare and similar facilities on railway premises. In any new installation, staff amenities of a high standard will automatically be incorporated, and that ties up with what I said about new buildings having almost as much effect as legislation. Existing installations are being improved so far as the present financial and economic circumstances permit.
I should, however, like to give the following figures. A recent analysis of welfare expenditure on the railways, which I have obtained from the British Transport Commission, shows that the annual expenditure, which was about £11 million a year during 1951–54, rose in 1955 to nearly £1,900,000, and in 1956 to over £3 million. The Commission expects to maintain expenditure on welfare on at least this level during the next five years. This is a considerable improvement and shows that the conditions on the railways are very much in the heart and mind of the Transport Commission.
I realise that hon. Members, particularly those to whom I have referred, are keen to see legislation in this field. I cannot give any undertaking about the contents of future Sessions' programmes, but it is at least satisfactory that the Commission has itself made so much progress up to date.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that £3 million spent on welfare is for the improvement of offices? Surely that is not the position.
§ Mr. Butler
It is spent on welfare generally, in improving conditions and providing new installations—expenditure generally on welfare under the Transport Commission.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in July, 1954, both Mr. Webber, of the T.S.S.A., and Mr. Campbell, of the N.U.R., called attention to the disgraceful condition of offices and locomotive depôts, and that they are very little better today?
§ Mr. Butler
I am saying that the Transport Commission has raised the amount of money which it is spending on welfare. I have acknowledged that there is progress to be made. I have acknowledged that so far as we can encourage the building of new installations there is rather more progress here than some hon. Members may have imagined. The more progress there can be the better we shall be pleased.
I will sum up by saying that I realised when the right hon. Member for Blyth moved his Motion and the Opposition decided to choose this subject for debate that whoever was the first Government speaker would have one severe limitation imposed upon him, namely, that it would not have been my intention, nor would it have been proper, to give definite undertakings about future legislation. This is not the time to do so, and I have not given or made any pledges.
I have indicated, however, that we have a past in this matter of which we are proud. I have indicated the nature of the Acts which have been passed under Conservative Administrations. I have indicated that progress has been made by methods other than legislation, and will continue to be made by such methods, thanks largely to the enlightened economic policy that we have been pursuing. I have indicated that the ideals which inspired the Gowers Committee remain our own. When there is a case for Government action we shall not hesitate to take it, and when we can encourage enterprise or ventures such as the Transport Commission is undertaking 60 in proceeding with the development of welfare facilities, we shall do so.
I have indicated in detail that regulations are being laid in July and August under the Acts which have already been passed, and I hope that now for the rest of this debate Members of all parties will press on us their own valuable contributions to which I can assure them we shall listen and pay attention, as indeed we should to any constructive suggestions that are put forward. We shall be receptive of all ideas, and we shall remain true to our own and to the Shaftesbury tradition.
§ Mr. Robens
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question which is extremely important, in view of his speech? Do I understand that the pledge which was given by a former Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), upon which pledge he withdrew his Bill, that the pledges made by previous Home Secretaries and by the Prime Minister on 28th July, 1955, to the T.U.C., and the promises in the Queen's Speech are now all broken and that the Government, through the mouthpiece of the right hon. Gentleman, now propose only to review the position in the light of the Gowers Committee Report? May I have a straight answer?
§ Mr. Butler
I cannot go further than I have done, because I am not prepared to announce ahead the content of future legislative programmes. I have given an indication of the way in which our minds are moving, of the progress we have already made and which we hope to make, but I do not intend to give any pledges about the content of future legislative programmes. I think that the content of future legislative programmes should be announced at the time of each Queen's Speech. That is the best way to conduct Parliamentary business, and I myself feel that, both as Leader of the House and as a member of the Government.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
If the trade unions were perturbed at the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman a week before the House rose for the Whit-sun Recess, his speech today will be 61 greeted with dismay not only by my own union but by the Trades Union Congress as a whole.
Today the right hon. Gentleman played down the Shops Bill, which was called in the Queen's Speech a Measure to improve the social and working conditions of workers, who, in fact, total some two million. He has seriously modified the promises made by Home Secretaries and a Prime Minister of Conservative Governments since 1951. He has even modified the general reference to non-industrial employment and the implementation of the Gowers Report in the Conservative election manifesto of 1955.
The right hon. Gentleman has lived up to the reputation which he earned when he was at the Foreign Office before the war in the days of non-intervention and appeasement—the ability to stone-wall and to talk on subjects other than those under debate. He referred to the magnificent history of social reform under the Tory Party and to the Mines and Quarries Act. As his hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) knows full well, the miners of this country, and the miners of Ogmore in particular, were so appreciative of that record that when the hon. Member for Barry was my opponent in 1950 he could not find a miner in the constituency to go to his meetings, let alone display window bills.
Of course, the Mines and Quarries Act has been passed. It has been passed because of the economic power wielded by the miners' union. I say, quite frankly, that if I had the economic power of the miners in the distributive workers' union, the Shops Bill would not have been attacked in The Times or abandoned by the Government. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman realises that the action of the Conservative Government is producing in me, the Member for Ogmore, a leader of the distributive workers, what the action of a Tory dominated Coalition produced in my distinguished predecessor, Vernon Hartshorn.
Standing at the Dispatch Box when the Tory-ridden Coalition refused to implement the Sankey Commission's Report, Vernon Hartshorn said that the men in the pits would say that they had been duped, tricked and betrayed. Today I say that the men in the shops and warehouses will say. "We have been tricked, duped and betrayed." Inevitably 62 it will inflame class feelings among the ordinary distributive workers of Britain in the same way as the Sankey betrayal inflamed class feelings among the miners of Britain. The Mines and Quarries Act is on the Statute Book because of the economic power of the Miners' Union, backed by the Labour movement which, politically and industrially, is twice as strong as it was in the days of betrayal in the 1920s. I hope that as the years go by the growth of the economic power of the distributive workers trade union and the return to power of a Labour Government will redress the wrongs of the distributive trade, as the Labour Government of 1945 redressed the wrongs in the mining industry.
The right hon. Gentleman painted a glowing picture of the existing protective legislation under the Shops Act, 1950. That Act is really the Shops Acts, 1912, 1928 and 1934. Does he not know that a Select Committee of the House of Commons in the 1930s showed that more than 100,000 shop workers were working more than 60 hours a week and that a 70 hours' and 80 hours' working week was not unknown? Does he not know that those conditions of abominable sweating were not finally rooted out until the greatest war in history, when the imposition of six o'clock closing was made under the wartime closing order?
Today I propose to speak mainly about Part I of the Gowers Report concerning shop closing hours. Let me make it clear that this is not because I regard health, welfare and safety and the hours of employment of juveniles as unimportant. When my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) introduced his valuable Private Member's Bill I spoke in its support, and I described how every day of the year members of my union have their fingers and thumbs cut off and their arms lacerated by bacon-slicing machines, coffee grinders, fruit stoners, etc. The shocking thing is that in the overwhelming majority of cases the victims are young girls of 15, 16 and 17 in cleaning these lethal weapons. Despite all the legislation to which the right hon. Gentleman referred there is no control, and despite all the attempts of good employers and of the trade unions these things still happen.
In the same speech I described some of the slum conditions which exist in the 63 shops and offices of Britain; shops with no lavatories, where the assistants use public conveniences, shops in which there are scarcely any adequate washing facilities, and so on. Therefore, when today I speak mainly of shop closing hours, it is not because I underrate the importance of the other matters. It is simply because, on 18th November, 1952, in the middle of the night, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us, when the Conservative Government abandoned six o'clock closing under the Winter Closing Order, which had been in existence for 13 years, Lord Kilmuir, then Home Secretary, gave a pledge of immediate consultation with the organisations concerned on the preparation of a Bill. Heaven knows how many hours I have spent with trade colleagues and trade union colleagues at the Home Office discussing Government draft proposals, amendments to Government draft proposals and so on.
Finally, the Government produced a Bill. We now know its fate. First there is a high-powered Committee of inquiry presided over by Sir Ernest Gowers. If any hon. Member looks at its membership he will come to the conclusion that it was a responsible Committee, a representative Committee, representing different shades of political opinion and women as well as men, representing industry and representing the distributive trades. It took evidence from 58 national organisations. It conducted a social survey. It studied the evidence of shop legislation in Britain and other countries. It published a report. That Report was discussed by the Government with almost every representative organisation in Britain and, at the end of it, even a Conservative Government introduced a Bill which, for practical purposes, contained the Gowers Committee recommendations in their entirety. Then—I suspect, because of the splenetic campaign by academic journalists, who know little and understood less about the distributive trades—the Bill was first mangled in the Lords, where its principal progressive portions were cut out, and finally dropped on the allegation of lack of time.
This subject has a long history. I turn to the Webbs' History of Trade Unionism. The first reference to shop workers is to the early closing riots in Sheffield in 1825. Going on a little further, one finds the shop workers contingents of Robert 64 Owen's Grand National Consolidated Trade Union engaged mainly in the fight to stop shops opening all day and half the night. So it went on to the eighties and nineties, when, long before the sons of shop workers were in this House and long before Jim Seddon came here as the first shop workers' M.P. to represent the constituency now represented by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), Sir Charles Dilke fought our battle in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Against the Tories."] Yes, against the Tories indeed. I was not going to say this, but I am provoked into it. In fact, my father's generation of shop workers believed that Dilke was framed in the Divorce Courts by the Establishment as much for championing us as for his other heretical views. Sir Charles Dilke was the only man from the traditional ruling class whom my father ever called one of us, so fiercely did he denounce the brothel-like conditions of "living in." It is within the memory of men and women in this House that shop workers had to live at the shop because they were working all the hours God made. That is our history.
It was a bitter struggle, and all the arguments advanced by these so-called respectable organs of opinion today were advanced against Dilke and against Herbert Gladstone, who became Liberal Home Secretary and tried to do his best in difficult circumstances. When Dilke died we raised a five-storey monument to him opposite London University. So long as there is a free trade union organisation of shop workers, it will stand, while his traducers have been long forgotten. This long and bitter story is not something which belongs to days very long ago. As I reminded the right hon. Gentleman in almost the opening sentence of my speech, in the days when I worked in the distributive trade there were 100,000 or more shop assistants working sixty hours or more a week.
In some of the recent discussions, the whole need for shops legislation has been called into question. The right hon. Gentleman himself got dangerously near to that earlier on. The fact is that until six o'clock closing was enforced in 1939, the average working week of my people was between fifty-five and sixty, and the trade union was able to protect only a very small minority of them. My father and I worked for a relatively good 65 employer. As a little boy I would be in bed when he came home for supper, only to go back to work again until the early hours of the morning. I asked why the union, of which he was branch secretary, tolerated it, and I was told, "We could stop that employer doing it, but we cannot stop the others". That is why in Britain, and in any other country in the world which has a democratic tradition, only shop hours legislation has enabled the trade unions to conduct normal negotiations to defend their members. The pirates and the "rogue elephants" will break voluntary arrangements.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to chase another hare which has been put up recently, that because actual shop closing hours in Britain today are well below the statutory maximum there is no need for legislation. For thirteen years, from 1939 to 1952, there was the Winter Closing Order. Since that time, there have been three barriers against the drift back to pre-war conditions. The first is the existence of about 1,200 local authority closing orders under the 1928 Act, many of which provide for seven o'clock closing of all shops or groups of shops or shops in some localities. I will go no further than to say that, under those local authority orders, a very substantial part of Britain is covered.
The second barrier is the fierce resistance not only of shop workers but of working shop keepers. As hon. Members may have seen in the Press, my union has been engaged in mass picketing in Portsmouth. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should realise that, in that action, our union has enjoyed the support of all the working shop keepers in the district. There is very fierce resistance. It is only when a case occurs where resistance inside the shop is not sufficient that the pickets go out and front page news in the newspapers is made.
The third and the decisive barrier is that, since 1952, we have lived not only in conditions of full employment but in conditions of inflation, which blunts the competitive struggle for trade. Shop workers, like elephants, have long memories; they never forget. Between 1918 and 1921 six o'clock closing was in force. I saw one hon. Member opposite reading P. C. Hoffman's book, They also Serve.
§ Mr. Padley
If the hon. Gentleman checks the text, he will find, I am certain. Hoffman's references to 1918 and 1921. With the slightest turn of economic climate, we were plunged back to eight and nine o'clock closing. I say, therefore, that the need is as urgent today for a modern Shops Bill as it was on 18th November, 1952, when I spoke in this Chamber in the middle of the night, And 500 odd hon. Members went into the Lobbies.
The Gowers Committee, when it took evidence, considered the interests of consumers. The Home Secretary quoted a speech made in support of my Prayer to annul the Government's abandonment of the six o'clock closing Order. I regarded my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who, after all, was a shop worker before he was a miner, as a powerful ally. Of course, there must be a reasonable balance between the interests of consumers and of shop workers.
The Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, representing two million women, far and away the most representative women's organisation in Britain, in giving its evidence before the Gowers Committee, stated that it hadgiven special attention to the views and needs of housewives who comprise the great majority of the members of some of the organisations represented on the Committee, and also the views of our members who are in industrial or other employment and have to do their shopping outside working hours".The Standing Joint Committee made these proposals:
The right hon. Gentleman will see that far and away the most representative 67 organisation of both women workers in industry and housewives went rather farther than the Gowers Committee itself. The Trades Union Congress, which, after all, has a women membership of 1½ million, went rather farther than the Gowers Committee and held the view that six o'clock, with seven o'clock on the one late night, with a power in local authorities to extend it, gave a more exact balance between the interests of shop workers and consumers than the Gowers recommendation of seven o'clock and one late night at eight, with the local authorities having power to reduce it.
- "(1) The general closing hour for all shops should be not later than six o'clock in the evening, with seven o'clock on one late day.
- (2) Local authorities should have the power, in cases where local need is established, either (a) to fix two late days instead of one; or (b) to fix general closing hours later than the hour laid down in the Act, with a limit of seven o'clock or eight o'clock on the late day. (Our view is that six-thirty closing or seven-thirty on the late day would generally meet the needs in such special cases.)
- (3) The discretion of local authorities in regard to local closing orders should include power to make orders for closing hours earlier than the general closing hours laid down in the Act."
The consumers' Co-operative movement, representing nearly 12 million members, gave evidence, and it, too, took a line more advanced than the Gowers recommendation or the Government's Bill. The Co-operative movement has a large women's organisation attached to it. Co-operative quarterly meetings are attended mainly by women. Has there been a single demand in any Co-operative meeting in Britain during the last ten years for Co-operative shops to remain open later? If there has been such an occasion, I have not come across it and I doubt whether my hon. Friends who are associated with the Co-operative movement have come across it.
What the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations understood, and what some of the Press critics do not understand, is that the distributive trades themselves are by far the largest employers of women. In the retail distributive trades today there are 1,002,000 insured female workers. If one takes the evidence of the occupational tables from the 1951 population census, about 400,000 of those women are likely to be married. Therefore, the very idea that the way in which to encourage women to go into industry and to ensure that working women get a square deal is to keep about one million women, about one-seventh of the total engaged in gainful occupation, working late in the shops is as fantastic as most of the arguments advanced by academic journalists in recent times.
Many critics of the Gowers Committee Reports have talked glibly about the experience of other countries which enjoy a liberal regime where shops have unrestricted hours. "Enjoy", "liberal" and 68 "freedom" are words taken from articles in the Economist and the Manchester Guardian. The odd thing is that if one looks at the other countries one finds that the main allies of the unrestricted shoppers are General Franco and the Communist dictatorships, with the military dictatorships of Latin America thrown in. The truth is that not only British experience but world experience shows that without advanced legislation covering shop closing hours the exploitation of shop workers cannot be avoided.
In Europe, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, West Germany, Austria, the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland and even Luxembourg, and in the Commonwealth Australia and New Zealand have shops legislation more advanced than the Government were proposing a few months ago. In the main general closing hours range from 5.30–7 p.m.
Neither I nor my colleagues in the Distributive Workers' International accept the French position as being desirable, but even in France there is some protection in the shape of the five-day week law, dating from Leon Blum's Popular Front Government of 1936, which provides for two consecutive rest days. I wonder whether that proposal would get a better reception from some sections of the British Press or from hon. Members opposite than the Gowers Committee Report.
Judging by the action of the British spokesmen at the I.L.O. in June, 1956, when the British Government almost led the forces of reaction on the question of recreation and leisure for non-industrial workers, one cannot help feeling doubts. All I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that I do not know how British spokesmen at the I.L.O. feel now when conferences are discussing questions of non-industrial employment. All I know is that when I was in Germany three or four weeks ago at a world conference of shop workers on the day I was elected to the chair colleagues from Denmark and Holland, men of pro-British sentiment, spoke in most hostile terms about the conduct of the British Government when the new convention on recreation and leisure for non-industrial workers was under discussion twelve months ago.
I now turn to North America. I want to hit the ball for six. The Economist 69 published some alleged facts about the situation in the U.S.A. I give the editor of the Economist this bouquet, that of all the people who expressed criticism, he speedily and prominently published my rejoinder, and did it without editorial comment.
What is the position in the U.S.A.? If the branches of my union are to believe some letters from hon. Members opposite, the U.S.A. is an Eldorado of labour conditions for shop workers though there are no shop closing laws. It may interest the Economist and some hon. Members opposite to know that just twelve months ago the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations launched a campaign on behalf of the shop workers of America to bring them within the federal wage-hour law. In opening that campaign, George Meaney, President of A.F.L.C.I.O., described the shop workers of America as "the forgotten workers of America."
§ Mr. Padley
Exactly. What has happened to that campaign for the legislative protection of American shop workers? It is still stuck in Congressional committees, partly because the one dollar an hour federal minimum wage is vastly higher than the wages being paid in some parts of the United States, particularly in the South, but, perhaps decisively, and certainly important, because the federation minimum wage-hour law prescribes time and a half beyond forty hours, though there is administrative discretion in the Department of Labour to waive those provisions where necessary. At any rate, shop workers have still not been included.
The trouble is that the U.S.A. is a continent rather than a country. It is true that in California the agreement covering grocery workers is probably the finest in the world, providing for a five-day, forty-hour week and a wage of 89 dollars a week after a year's experience. The leader of the workers' side of the Anglo-American Productivity Team found that while employers were paying something like those wages for those days and hours in well organised California, in Texas even in the same firms the rate was 29 or 30 dollars a week with no five-day week of forty hours. It is true that in the large towns and 70 cities union contracts providing for five-day weeks of forty hours are common, but even there the managers work what the Americans call the "B-to-B" shift; that is "Be there when it opens and be there when it closes".
The Anglo-American Productivity Team Report in its non-food section—for the benefit of hon. Members opposite, I would say that its members were almost household names in the distributive trades; Maurice Catesby, of Catesby, the Tottenham Court Road furnishers was a member—referred to serious concern about the long hours, the six-working-day week, of shop managers. and excessive occupational illness. No one has been able to tell me how in any normal sized shop in the world one can have managers on shifts. Obviously, managers, being responsible for cash, stock, leakage and so on, must always be on the job. Wherever one looks in the democratic world one sees either advanced legislation on shop closing hours or exploitation of shop workers.
Fancy-fancy schemes are put up. For example, the Economist at first put up a doctrinaire fantasy, but later, while still resisting my view of the problem, did come down in favour of shop hours legislation, but said that it should prescribe the maximum number of hours people should work and not the maximum number of hours shops could be open. I would ask the Economist to publish its precise proposals on that, because many people have been spreading this idea around.
We have some experience of trying it in Britain. The Dilke Bill of 1896 tried to legislate for it, tried to put the maximum at 60 hours. Herbert Gladstone's Bill, which eventually became the Act of 1912, tried to make 60 hours a week the ceiling for my father's generation of shop workers. That 60-hour maximum working week for my father and his generation was removed from the Bill at that Dispatch Box after a wrecking campaign not only by the Tories but by what my father's generation called the false friends and hypocrites of the Liberal Party as well. Are we to go back on that track? I doubted very much whether, as it was not possible to get a 60-hour maximum working week for my father's generation, we should get any reasonable provision in modern legislation.
71 However, it is not only British experience. New Zealand is a country not unlike our own, and the people there are of the same stock as we. In New Zealand, it is true, the State arbitration courts play a bigger part in fixing wages and working conditions than in Britain and most other countries, but when the State arbitration courts in New Zealand came to the question of fixing wages and working conditions for shop workers after exhaustive inquiry they came to the conclusion that the only way to discharge their statutory function was to regulate the hours during which shops should be permitted to open as well. That is the reason why New Zealand, with Denmark, leads the world in advanced shops legislation in the interests of the people who work in the shops.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned wages councils. Of course, wages councils were mainly the work of the late Ernest Bevin. The last thing Ernie Bevin said to me was, "Well, boy, I hope you do not think I let you down." Even when the bombs were falling on London Ernie Bevin was dictating draft constitutions for joint industrial councils for the distributive trades. He did it in a bomb shelter below the Ministry of Labour, and I would not underrate the contribution of wages councils, but anyone who believes that wages councils are the answer to this problem cannot have studied the matter.
It is true that wages councils provide a normal working week of 46 hours, and it is true that they provide conditions for overtime, but wages councils rates are statutory minimum rates. They are fixed to cover the least efficient firms in the industry. The result is that comparing wages councils rates with negotiated trade union rates, negotiated with the Cooperative movement or with the multiple grocers, and so on, one finds it is possible for shop workers on the minimum to work 50 to 55 hours a week before reaching the trade union rate.
Let me put this in more detail. There is one trade in Britain which has had the right since 1921 to open all day and half the night seven days a week. I refer to the confectionery trade. What has happened in this trade of unrestricted hours? In 1950 the National Institute of Economic and Social Research published the findings of an inquiry into the whole 72 of the distributive trades in 1938. It discovered that in retail confectionery there were about 300,000 selling outlets. It collected manufacturers' distributive costs, wholesale distributive costs and retail distributive costs, and it discovered that when they were all added together they came to 49.5 per cent. of the retail selling price of sweets and chocolates: almost half.
It is true that during rationing and control and shop licensing those distributive costs were squeezed a little, but I assert once again, from my knowledge of the distributive trades, that I am convinced that a similar inquiry by the National Institute now would reveal that the position today is not very different from that revealed in the last inquiry.
That is one side of the picture—the multiplicity of retail outlets and high distributive costs. The other is that the wages councils rate for the confectionery trade is scandalously low, by far the lowest in the distributive trades, and the hours are the longest. Yet when the campaign was going on to exempt confectionery from the Government's Bill, the adult male rate for a 48-hour working week under the wages council was £6 10s., and the rate for women was 94s. 6d., in large provincial towns. Since then, in the teeth of opposition by the employers, those rates have been put up by 7s. and 5s., respectively. When I say "in the teeth of the opposition from the employers", I have in mind that the employers even lodged an objection to the Minister of Labour saying they could not afford to pay the increase because overhead costs were so high and distributive margins so low.
Of course, the reason why the working week is still 48 hours and wages are still very low is to meet the longer hours confectionery shops keep open. I say, therefore, on the basis of our experience of wages councils, that if statutory provision for maximum shop closing hours were removed in other sections of the retail trade, that would inevitably have for them consequences similar to those I have described in retail confectionery.
It is important to note that unrestricted shop hours mean higher prices to the consumer. It may be asked, why did shops keep open much longer before the war? The answer is that some members of my union and most other distributive 73 workers were doing from 55 to 60 hours a week without any overtime payment. Today there are about 100,000 fewer workers in the distributive trades than pre-war. A strict calculation based on overtime and manpower requirements shows that if there were a return to prewar opening hours it would cost a family of four between 6s. and 7s. a week. Both the Economist and the Manchester Guardian have had a look at the figures, and neither has challenged them. All they said was that they were irrelevant. I am sure the housewives of Britain would not consider them irrelevant.
I refer again to America. One of the things which the Anglo-American Productivity Team report shows is that one of the direct results of unrestricted shop hours in parts of America is that higher distributive costs mean higher prices for the housewife. The report even quotes precise figures for large departmental stores, showing that in 1951 the retail distributive costs were about 4s. in the £ in Britain and about 7s. in the £ in the United States of America. So let no one be under any illusion. There is a consumer interest in this question quite as much as there is a shop worker interest.
The idea of shifts inevitably presupposes additional labour, that is, additional wages. Absence of shifts means overtime payments, which, presumably, would have to be paid for. Of course, the objection to these theories about shifts is not only that the cost would have to be passed on to the consumer; the real flaw in the shift argument is that in the vast majority of shops in Britain it would be physically impossible to run a shift system.
On a narrow definition, there are 550,000 shops in Britain, and on a wider definition 700,000. The average number of workers per shop is 1¾ and, since averages are deceptive, I might add hat 75 per cent. of the shops employ four people or fewer, including the manager or working proprietor, and 64 per cent. three persons or fewer, including the working proprietor or manager. Therefor, clearly in the vast majority of shops a shift system would be impracticable. The only way longer opening hours could be worked would be with additional staff or overtime.
I have spoken on these matters at some length because I felt it was necessary for 74 me to put on a wide canvas the arguments in favour of the recommendations of the Gowers Reports as an absolute minimum in legislation on shop closing hours and related matters. Not only the experience of Britain and not only the weighty Gowers Report but also the experience of the entire democratic world show that without effective laws relating to shop closing hours there is no escape from a brutal exploitation of shop workers, with working weeks of fifty-five to sixty hours. I hope, therefore, that those who have waged their miserable and contemptible campaign against the Government's Bill will face the reality that now, as in days gone by, the real result of their campaign would be to put the clock back in working conditions for shop workers.
A leader writer in the Manchester Guardian says today that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers can he relied upon to defend its members. It can, but, for the reasons I have indicated, including the existence of between 500,000 and 700,000 shops many of them employing nothing but family labour, the section of the trade susceptible to strong trade union influence is limited. That does not mean that if we fail in the campaign for legislation we shall not put up a considerable struggle, by the use of industrial action where we have the membership strength, and by mass picketing where we have not that strength. I remind right hon. Members opposite that the history of mass picketing is certainly not the history of peaceful negotiation to which the leader writer of the Manchester Guardian refers. It is a history of violence in which presidential predecessors of mine were put in Wormwood Scrubs not so many years ago.
The trade unions have been lectured in recent times in newspaper articles and in speeches from the Front Bench opposite that they should accept the findings of arbitration courts and committees of inquiry. We have had our committee of inquiry. Its findings have been accepted even by a Conservative Government, but because we have not the economic power to have a national strike we find not only betrayal but the preachers inciting the Government to betray us. I hope that the Government and the Leader of the House will reconsider this retreat before the forces of reaction. It is said that the Home Secretary desires to be known as the man who dragged the Tory Party into 75 the twentieth century. If he will countermand the withdrawal of the Shops Bill he will go some way towards deserving that title.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Miss Mervyn Pike (Melton)
I should like to ask for the indulgence of the House. This is a very difficult occasion for me, but I know that I can trust the customary generosity and understanding of hon. Members to help me in this difficult task of speaking in the Chamber for the first time.
The things that we are discussing today are of vital interest to the people of Melton, whom I have the honour to represent. Many of them are engaged in agriculture. They will welcome the news that we had today from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary of the progress that has been made in agricultural legislation and in the provision of safeguards for agricultural workers. Many of the people of Melton are also employed in the varied and vigorous commercial life of Leicester, and the matters which we have been discussing this afternoon are of vital importance to them in their everyday working lives.
The Gowers Committee foresaw that there might well be considerable delay in implementing many of its recommendations. It knew the need for giving priority to building our ecenomic strength and our national prosperity and security. If I may draw upon my own experience, in the post-war years, in my own pottery industry, we gave all our strength and all our resources to building productive capacity. New machines, new equipment and new workshops had precedence over welfare amenities and improved working conditions, but with increased production the emphasis changed to improving working amenities and facilities for our people.
This was done not only because these were good things in themselves and increased the industrial efficiency of our workers but because in conditions of full employment and a shortage of labour these things were necessary if we were to attract the manpower required to increase our productive capacity and our sales organisation. Prosperity and full employment produced the pressures which led to improved working conditions.
We should not have been able to help ourselves forward in industry and commerce in this way if Her Majesty's Government had not put first things first. We 76 all agree that it is desirable that the recommendations in the Gowers Reports should be implemented but, first, we must rebuild our national prosperity and our productive capacity. Many difficult and complicated Measures have been put before the House since 1951, dealing with monopolies, agriculture, finance, rents, housing and other matters, and action has been taken in the vital national interest of the country. All these things have added to the pressure on our legislative programme, but they have done more—they have led to higher production and more exports, and with the increased buoyancy of our economic life we have been able to improve working conditions. Increased economic buoyancy has led to industrial and commercial conditions leaping ahead of our industrial legislation.
Since it was first conceived, over 150 years ago, industrial legislation has set the pattern of our working life and of our industrial conditions. They are conditions of which we may well be proud. They compare favourably with those in any part of the world. From the very first, the whole emphasis of our industrial legislation has been on protection against exploitation, protection against physical hardship, protection against industrial diseases and accidents and, for the individual, social and moral protection in the interests of society. It is within the framework of this protection that our working life has been formed. We all welcome the recommendations in the Gowers Reports, which complete this pattern and make it a more comprehensive picture of our industrial and commercial life.
Having built up this protection against exploitation, against harsh physical conditions, having built up the great mass of social legislation which we want to maintain and strengthen in the future, we must recognise that at this time there is a change of emphasis. The protective legislation which we have built up fulfilled the requirements of the first industrial revolution but now, in this second phase of development, we are seeing great changes. I believe that the greatest change at this time is the need for opportunity, because the economic forces themselves are pushing ahead with increasing safeguards and increasing improvements in our economic conditions. It is in this 77 context that I want to suggest some of the ways in which I believe we can give greater opportunity, greater freedom and flexibility in our industrial and national life.
At present, we are experiencing great changes in our industrial techniques and in our industrial developments. Hon. Members who went recently to the Office Efficiency Exhibition need not be reminded of the great changes that are taking place in our commercial life. Great changes are also taking place in our social habits. We have, for instance, pre-prepared food, packaging, "Expresso" coffee in the tea room, refrigeration, slot machines, supermarkets. All these things may well cause a revolution in our social and shopping habits.
In the face of these changes we need a flexible and adaptable society, a society which is able to use the abilities and the new techniques at our command. We shall never have economic progress if we have a rigid and a repressive society. It is because we think that some of the recommendations in the Gowers Reports may lead to greater rigidity in our society, and because we feel that the provisions contained in the Shops Bill may be out of tune in some respects with the conditions of the age, that we feel they need the greatest examination possible and, if necessary, revision.
Because of that we feel that we have a responsibility at this time to view our legislation in the light of our need to go forward and build our economic prosperity and the prosperity of our people. It is in this context that we feel that there is room for delay, for examination, for revision and examination of much of our industrial legislation.
There is much at this time that we must do. Last week scientists met together at Harwell to discuss the application of thermo-nuclear energy to peaceful industrial uses. These great new powers are causing new pressures in our society. The greatest and the most fundamental power, manpower, must exert the greatest possible ability and technical skill and conscientiousness in output in his, or her, duties. He must exert and command the widest possible opportunities. These things can only be done if he himself is an integrated personality, if he is part of a mature set of human relations. There is 78 no one single answer to this great problem of present-day employment. We all recognise that the greatest needs are flexibility, adaptability and reliability. These are qualities that only come from good human relations and, at heart, good human relations are the integration of the whole personality.
There is not one answer, but at the heart of the problem is the necessity for the right man being in the right job, a round peg in a round hole, having the confidence that comes from knowing that he is the right man in the right job, having the confidence that gives him the ability to face the working conditions and the stresses of the present day with the least possible emotional strain.
The medical profession is now increasingly recognising the influence of emotional stress on mental health, physical health and the great problem of absenteeism. if we can do something to build the integrated personalities of our people, to help them have a feeling of oneness with their work and with society, we shall be going a long way towards building those good, mature human relations which can do much to solve some of the problems in our industrial life.
To do that we must make certain that there is the right kind of vocational guidance and training. I know that a great job is being done by youth employment officers, but they do not go far enough. Vocational guidance does not stop at the age of 18. It is a continuous process which should go on all through one's life. It is a process which must concern itself with problems such as changing employment due to age or changing circumstances—for instance, when women go back into employment after married life or after having brought up their children.
The recommendations in the Citizens of Tomorrow Report of the King George V Jubilee Trust lay emphasis on the need for fresh exploration in the field of vocational training, selection and guidance. Certainly, all the big industrial concerns accept the value of vocational training and selection in the development of the human personality and in the efficiency of industrial production.
We could do much in using the services of the labour exchanges which have a large fund of knowledge and accumulated 79 human experience, and good will. They do much now, but I think that they are suffering from a sense of uncertainty because so many of their functions are being taken away. They need encouragement and assurance that we believe they have a vital part to play in the vocational guidance and selection and training of our people.
This aspect of vocational training is most important in the forms of employment we are discussing today. I am referring to non-industrial employment, often made up of small concerns which have not the means to grapple with these problems individually, This form of employment attracts a large proportion of our young people at the very beginning of their careers, the most formative period of their working lives. I believe we must look at the regulations governing the employment of women in industry so that they can make their full contribution to the economic progress of this country. I believe that we must press on with schemes such as the commercial apprentice scheme, which has been inaugurated recently.
It is in these ways that I believe we can progress and build good conditions, good human relations in our industrial life. However, human conditions and human relations depend not only on good working conditions. They can attract the right kind of response, they can attract the right kind of mentality in our everyday life, but of themselves they are not enough.
Hon. Members must bear with me if, in my attempts not to be controversial, I range too widely on the important subjects we are discussing this afternoon, because they are subjects which lie close to my heart. My war service and my industrial service and experience has always been concerned with these great problems of work study and vocational guidance and training.
I cannot see our industrial legislation as a jigsaw puzzle of which there remain only a few more pieces with which to complete the picture. I believe that it is a journey that we are all making together and that in mapping the course of this journey we must not dissipate our energies in going over the outworn prejudices of the past. We must not look over our shoulders to the mistakes that were 80 made in our early industrialisation. Mistakes were made which left bitterness and misery which are still with us. What we must do is to look to the future and realise that in this journey our responsibility is to ensure that we get the greatest possible human understanding.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
I have been a Member of this House for nearly twelve years and this is the first time that I have had the opportunity and pleasure of congratulating a maiden speaker; but, having regard to the fact that in the very nature of things we congratulate our political opponents on these occasions, I cannot think of any other time during those twelve years when I would rather have had this opportunity than today.
It is most appropriate for a Norman-ton woman to congratulate a Castleford woman. For those who are unaware of the geography of the West Riding, Normanton and Castleford are adjacent but rival mining towns. It is difficult for the stranger who comes in to know where one begins and the other ends. The hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) was born and lived for many years just on one side of the border and I was born and have lived for a long time just over the other side of the border.
When, some years ago, the hon. Lady's mother and my mother sat on the many local committees on which they served together, I doubt whether they realised that the time would come when one of their daughters from this side of the House would be congratulating the other's daughter on the other side of the House.
In spite of the fact that we sit on opposite sides of the House, in spite of the fact that we were born and have lived on opposite sides of the border, I sincerely congratulate the hon. Lady on the speech she has made this afternoon. It was a speech which showed a great deal of human understanding, considerable experience in the industrial sphere and a great deal of specialised knowledge. I hope—I am sure we all hope—that as long as the hon. Lady represents Melton—and we on this side, of course, hope that that will not be any longer than the time until the next General Election—we shall hear her on very many occasions.
81 I speak today as the only hon. Member from this side of the House who was a member of the Gowers Committee. I was a member of that Committee for two years and three months. I was a member for the whole of the time that it considered the shop closing hours and for part of the time that it considered the conditions in shops, offices and other places not covered by the Factories Acts.
It has been said today that the Gowers Committee sat for a long time. It did—it sat for three or four years—and we heard a great deal of evidence. As has been pointed out, the Committee came to many important conclusions and made many important recommendations. I stress that we did not make those recommendations lightly. We put a great deal of thought into them.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), who is now Joint Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, is no longer in his place although he has been present during most of the debate. I see on the benches opposite the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), who was also a member of the Gowers Committee. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation signed both of the Committee's Reports and the hon. Member for Banff signed the Report which I signed. I think that both hon. Members will agree that we did a great deal of work and made a great many recommendations only after serious consideration.
Today, many compliments have been paid to the Gowers Committee. It would be presumptuous for me to acknowledge them on behalf of all the members of that Committee, but I can, perhaps, speak for all the members of the Committee in saying that the very best thanks and the greatest compliment that could be paid to us would be if our recommendations could be implemented as soon as possible. It is no use thanking a Committee which sat for three or four years, congratulating us on the work that has been done, and, at the same time, refusing to put into operation the recommendations of that Committee.
The Shops Bill, which has been through another place, has now been scrapped and as far as we on this side can see, there is not the slightest intention on the part of the Government to reintroduce this 82 Measure. It seems to me that as long as this Government remain in office, we shall not have that part of the Gowers Committee recommendations implemented.
Anybody who has read the Gowers Report must recognise that shop closing hours are in a great muddle and that the law is frequently broken. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the law concerning shop hours is broken practically every day, in every city of the country, and we all know it. Surely, it is a bad thing to have laws which can be broken in this way.
I do not pretend that shop closing hours are a simple matter. Those who sat on the Gowers Committee know that the problem is very complicated. We had to consider some very strange things. I remember having to sit for quite a long time one morning to discuss when a shop was not a shop, because it is difficult to legislate not only for shops, but for street traders, hawkers, and so on. It is a complicated subject. In addition, there is the question of exemptions. I remember a serious discussion we had one morning as to whether the tripe that we saw in shops was uncooked, partly cooked or fully cooked. All these things come into the matter of shop closing hours and exemptions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), who made an excellent speech, talked about the hours of shop assistants, which enter very largely into the question of shop closing hours. This is not a matter only of the regulation of the hours of shop assistants. Many other factors are involved. Indeed, history shows that the agitation for compulsory shop closing hours has been not only from shop assistants, but also from small shopkeepers, who have been anxious to protect themselves from one another.
It is worth noting that the first shop closing hours were introduced during the 1914–18 war as a means of conserving light and heat. We know that there are a great many arguments which can be put forward and that it might be wonderful to have all shops open late at night. It would be very attractive to have a much brighter evening with shops open much later.
Apart from the hours of shop assistants, however, and from the fact that small shopkeepers would like the hours to be 83 properly regulated, it is very uneconomical to keep shops open later. Not only would the goods in the shops become more expensive. Even if, in keeping the shops open, we could devise a proper rota system by which to ensure that the shop worker had reasonable hours and conditions, a great increase would be involved in the numbers of people engaged in the distributive trades. Surely at this time in our national life, in particular, it would be wrong to attract people from the productive trades into the distributive trades. We must look at the situation from the point of view of the economy as a whole. In my opinion, we cannot afford late shop closing hours.
This is not a public versus shop assistants argument. Those who have read the Report of the Gowers Committee will see that there are two points of view on shop closing hours. At present, the legislation provides for a closing hour of 8 p.m. with a late night of 9 p.m. The Gowers Committee Report and the Bill which was before another place recommended a general closing hour of 7 p.m. with 8 p.m. closing on the late night, but the discussions which took place inside the Gowers Committee were not whether the hour should be 7 p.m. with 8 p.m. on the late night or 8 p.m. with 9 p.m. on the late night; the discussions which took place were whether the hours should be 7 p.m. with 8 p.m. on the late night or 6 p.m. with 7 p.m. on the late night.
Paragraph 18 in page 9 of the Report states:Our witnesses on this subject fell in the main into two classes, advocates of six o'clock with seven on the late night, and advocates of seven o'clock with eight on the late night. Opinion was practically unanimous"—this was the opinion of those who gave evidence—that the hours laid down by the Act of 1928 (eight and nine) were unnecessarily late. We accept this view.As far as I can remember, hardly anybody who gave evidence wished to retain the present shop closing hours, yet by the scrapping of the Shops Bill the Government will retain the shop closing hours which nobody recommended.
Many other very important matters about shops were dealt with in the Shops Bill and will have to be dealt with later if not sooner. For instance, there is the difficult question of exemptions for 84 sweets, tobacco and the hundred-and-one other things. There is the question of mixed shops—those which sell some things which are exempted from the shop closing hours and other things which are not. We all know the difficulties which arise if a customer goes into a shop to buy one thing which can be sold up to a late hour and also asks for something which it is illegal to sell after a certain hour. These matters were to be tidied up in the Shops Bill.
There are also the religious problems, such as those affecting Jewish shops. For instance, the kosher shops are allowed to open on Sundays and are closed on Saturdays. The whole question was to be tidied up in the Shops Bill, which has been shelved because of pressure from the back benches opposite.
I agree entirely with those of my hon. Friends who have said that although the Shops Bill is extremely important, we regard as of equal importance the other part of the Gowers Committee Reports—that part which deals with conditions in shops and offices and other places not regulated by the Factory Acts and which deals with the hours of work of juveniles. In some respects it is of more importance than the first Report. I sat through part of the evidence which we heard in the Gowers Report. Some of it was shocking. Some of the conditions in shops, offices and many other places are shocking.
Let us not forget that 80 per cent. of the employed people other than those in industry and in domestic employment are working in shops and offices. When we discuss people who work under these terrible conditions we therefore discuss a very large part of our working population. We were told of badly lit, very dull, inadequately ventilated offices, in particular. Over and over again we were told of inadequate toilet facilities and washing facilities in offices and shops. We feel that the time has come when these things should be put right.
In talking of offices and shops we must not forget some of the other establishments where conditions are extremely bad. I was particularly impressed by the evidence which was given by those people who work back-stage in theatres, particularly by musicians. I recall the musicians who told us that they had not even a place to hang their coats. 85 We were amused by the story of the member of an orchestra who went around with a hook in his pocket which he screwed into the corridor of the theatre when he entered in order to hang up his coat.
Those are the kind of conditions which exist in many establishments in the country. The hon. Lady said that immediately after the war we had to concentrate on building up industry and that welfare conditions had to wait. There may be some truth in what she said, but it is now twelve years after the end of the war and it is time that some of these conditions were put right. Indeed, it is past time. It is now time for the worker to receive some consideration. It is time that some of our capital resources were put into remedying these conditions.
Hon. Members have referred to the hours of work of juveniles. There are LI million people whose hours are not regulated as we should like them to be regulated. I feel very strongly about this, because I believe that our youngsters leaving school ought to be assured of good conditions and proper hours of work when they go out into the world and out to work at the far-too-early age of 15.
As I have said, I regard the second part of the Gowers Reports as more important. perhaps, than the first part, although both are extremely important. As far as I can tell from the debate this afternoon, we have been given no promise by the Government that these reforms will be introduced. We know that they have been shelved for this Session. We do not know what will happen in another Session, although I have a grave suspicion that these conditions will not be altered as long as the party opposite is in power.
I was very glad to hear the pledge given by my right hon. Friend that when we become the Government of the country we shall put these things right. We therefore know that we can hope for nothing from the present Government and that we can only look forward to the day when we have a General Election and when we can implement the proposals of the Gowers Committee.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. A. Hudson (Hull, North)
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not follow the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) in all 86 that she said, although I may be able to refer to one or two of the points which she made. I speak against a background of about forty years in retailing, for I have been particularly concerned with work in shops, and the emphasis of my remarks will be placed upon shops.
I know that it will be said that I have an interest in the matter, as I have; I always make a point of declaring that interest at the beginning of my speech so that I do not overlook it. My interest is not of the kind which has led me in any way to put a brake on the efforts to improve working conditions and I claim absolution from any suggestion of interest in that respect. On the contrary, for twenty-five years, with others, I have directed all my efforts in the opposite direction. I have with others—and I emphasise "with others"—played no small part in bringing about certain improvements.
When I refer to collaboration with others in this matter, I ought to make one other point clear. I am associated with at least three trade organisations whose attitude towards the implementation of the Gowers Report has generally been favourable. They have differed in detail, and so on. Therefore, in view of that connection with those organisations I must make it perfectly clear that what I am now saying is entirely an expression of personal opinion. I differ from them in some respects.
The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who opened the debate, suggested that the criticism from this side of the House had its roots in the desire of those hon. Members who were criticising the Government for carrying on with the Shops Bill from the other place not to antagonise the small shopkeeper. I can claim not to have any such feeling in my mind when speaking in the debate, because some of the shops with which I am concerned are, in fact, competing with the small shopkeeper. In that respect, therefore, it does not matter very much to me whether I antagonise them or not.
For over forty years I have seen some very great improvements in the working conditions of shop workers. In his impassioned speech, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), took us back many years to a time when it is well known that the conditions in shops were nothing like as good as they are today, and when, in 87 fact, they compared, in many cases, with the industrial conditions which then prevailed generally and which we as a party have done so much to ameliorate.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred in his speech to the great amount of legislation that is on the Statute Book for the protection of shop workers. There is the five and a half day week, the Sunday off, the wages councils and all that these matters involve in improved pay and conditions. I suggest that shop workers today are among the happiest workers in the country. They are happy because their conditions are reasonably good and because their work brings them many human contacts which industrial workers do not have. I think that, altogether, they have a very interesting life. Incidentally, I think it would be found, if the figures were checked, that the incidence of accidents in the case of shop workers, to which the hon. Member for Ogmore referred and which we all deplore, stands favourable comparison with any other industry.
Having listened to the speeches made from both sides of the House, I am not convinced that shop workers are really in dire need of the protection which the complicated legislation about which we are concerned this afternoon would involve. The improvement in conditions has come about not only through past legislation, but through the voluntary efforts of many people who are really concerned with shopkeeping. As an example, I would like to cite my own district. I checked up on the shop hours before I came down this week and found that in my district in many cases the hours worked are 44½ per week. The shops open between 8 and 8.30 a.m. and close between 5.30 and 6 p.m. They close at 6 p.m. on a late night. Many close for a half day on Thursdays, but quite a lot close on Saturdays.
I feel that with such conditions prevailing, and in spite of all that has been said about what has happened in the past, the need for this legislation today has not been proved. It was suggested that where conditions were good, as they are in the case to which I have referred, the pirates were undermining the job. I have no evidence of that. Attempts have been made to remain open perhaps 88 a little longer—certainly not later than 7 p.m.—but in those cases it has been found in our district that the demand has not really prevailed. The people who wished to regulate their shops hours to reasonable times were able to do so.
I want to refer to two main points. One is of general application and the other of more particular application. I believe that we in this country are suffering from a surfeit of legislation and that since the end of the war we have had all the legislation, and more, that we can reasonably be expected to absorb. The point was very well made by the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike), in her admirable maiden speech, if I may say so, when she said that we on this side of the House want to make quite certain that the complicated legislation involved in connection with these Reports is really justified and really will achieve anything that is worth while in view of all the time that it involves both in this House and in the other place.
I believe it was claimed on behalf of the Opposition, when they were in power before 1951, that in their six years of office they had put more legislation on the Statute Book than any other Government in history. I do not know whether that is a proper claim or not, but it seems to me to be quite tenable. While I feel that during our period of office since 1951 that process has slowed up a little, I still think that the country can do with less legislation and more time in which to absorb the legislation already passed.
The Food and Drugs Amendment Acts and the regulations which derive therefrom have done quite a bit to ameliorate the conditions of work in shops. Those Measures, of course, are primarily concerned with food hygiene and like matters, but as an ancillary operation they have made conditions in shops, particularly food shops and shops of that kind, much better from a working point of view. I am quite certain that the sanitary conditions to which the hon. Gentleman opposite referred no longer exist, but, even if they do, the powers are already on the Statute Book to remedy them.
§ Mr. Robens
Would the hon. Gentleman explain why the Government spokesmen said that they would have to have five years' grace after the Bill became law during which to put the sanitary conditions right?
§ Mr. Hudson
Certainly. I welcome that interruption, because it may be that I did not make it quite clear that in this case I was speaking of the food trades. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking in connection with the general application to office workers, and so on. In the food trades, there has been a considerable amount of legislation, which has had favourable repercussions upon the conditions of work in shops.
My second point is of a rather more particular nature. It can be argued—as it often is—that retailing is a factor in the cost of living. Incidentally, we should pay tribute to the great strides which have been made in retailing during the last few years, when it has been possible to equip food shops and other shops in the most modern fashion so as to lead to the development of such things as self-service and modern methods of distribution within the shops.
While being an attraction to the shopping public in themselves, in the long run these efforts are bound to have the effect of reducing the overall cost of distribution, as it affects labour. I am not suggesting that there will be a lot of unemployment in the retail distributive trades; I do not think that for a moment. It is difficult enough to secure staff in the retail trades, not because of the conditions prevailing therein but because of the general conditions of full employment.
I have referred to retailing as a factor in the cost of living. In thinking over this question today I was reminded that a little over a year ago I had the great privilege of opening the conference arranged by the British Institute of Management on this topic. The theme of the conference was "Retailing and the Vitality of the National Economy ". It was then part of my argument to show that costs of distribution are a valuable factor in the cost of living. In the course of my remarks I said:If we are agreed that retailing is a factor in the cost and volume of production and in the standard of living, and that the retail shop or store is virtually the retailer's plant or machine, then clearly that equipment must be employed to capacity as regards both volume and working time. Such conditions under present circumstances are not achieved for three main reasons; first because shopping pressure is highly concentrated at the weekends, secondly on account of the statutory limit on hours of work and thirdly, because of the legal 90 restrictions upon hours of opening. I do not overlook the need for reasonable working hours for retail staff and I am not advocating the extension of their hours as individuals, but I am convinced that means of employing our plant to greater capacity must be found. Such conditions, as you well know, exist in …Continental shops. Incidentally…there full weight is given to the point… that shopping can be and is a source of real enjoyment when the right facilities and atmosphere are available.The hon. Member for Ogmore drew our attention to the conditions which prevail on the Continent, and he suggested that, in general, because of legislation there conditions are better than they are here. That is not my experience in regard to the opening hours of shops. I should like to ask the hon. Member whether he would exchange the conditions that prevail there for those which prevail here. I very much doubt it.
§ Mr. Hudson
I was speaking of the Continent in general, as was the hon. Member. I want to illustrate what I mean by a story which came to my notice directly a few weeks ago. The hon. Member mentioned Germany, among other countries. I was travelling home when I could not help hearing the conversation of a lady sitting in the corner of the carriage, talking to a friend. She said, "My husband has just got back from Germany and he has bought me this beautiful leather handbag. He bought it before breakfast one morning." I was aghast to think that he could go out and shop at 7.30 in the morning.
§ Mr. Padley
What was the date of this conversation? Last year, legislation for German shops was drastically revised by the trade union side of the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. Judging by my own experience in Munich, only a month ago, I doubt whether the circumstances which the hon. Member describes do obtain. The general hours of closing are now 6.30 p.m. and, from 1st January next, there will be 2 p.m. closing on Saturdays.
§ Mr. Hudson
General closing hours may well be what he has stated, and I will say no more about that, but there appears to me to be far greater flexibility in the matter of opening hours on the Continent. Within recent months I have been in another part of the Continent 91 and I have found that shops remain open until very late hours. I am not advocating that, in any way—
§ Mr. Hudson
—but I am asking whether the hon. Member would exchange the conditions which prevail there, with all their flexibility, for those which prevail here.
I want to return to my main point, about the use of shops as plant. Shortly after I made this point at Eastbourne I found that in Greater London certain facilities had been introduced for late-night shopping during the week. I do not believe that the introduction of those late hours in these cases has led to any discontent on the part of the staff. They were offered as a public service, and I very much question whether, over the week—and in view of the short working hours on other days—there was any need for extra stall or the working of overtime.
I realise that in that respect I am in direct conflict with the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East who said that where shopping hours were extended there was a need for overtime or a working of a shift system.
§ Mr. Padley
If the hon. Member wants the names of two large firms who now work overtime I can give him them—Premier Supermarkets and Lewis's Limited.
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Member may be well informed about that, but I am not prepared to depart from the general trend of my argument. I do not concede the absolute necessity for this in every case. The cost of retailing today depends very greatly upon the equipment which it is necessary to provide, the modern materials which have to be used, and the construction of the shops themselves. As a matter of what I would call logic, it is reasonable to assume that we ought to be prepared to make the best possible use of that plant, and that to restrict hours beyond the present level would be an economic mistake.
Can we afford to restrict the use of that equipment still further? In my view, we cannot. I think it time that in matters of legislation the needs of the community—in particular, the needs of 92 the working housewife—should be given full consideration. I do not know of cases where late hours are being worked, but others may be better informed. In my district, it is not happening. Where it does happen, it may be that there is a demand for the smaller shop to be kept open, and I question whether it is right and proper that we should legislate to prevent that. In saying that I realise that I may be speaking against my own interests.
I wish to quote from the second paragraph of the Report on Health, Welfare and Safety in Non-Industrial Employment; and Hours of Employment of Juveniles. Under the heading, "Economic Setting it states:We are considering proposals for shortening the hours of work of juveniles at a time when industry must devote all its energies to increasing output. We are considering the need for fresh legislation"—and this is the matter to which I wish to direct particular attention—that could only be enforced by new or augmented inspectorates at a time when every available man and woman is wanted in productive employment.I believe that those conditions still prevail. I believe that every available person is wanted in productive employment. I feel that the complicated legislation which would result from the implementation of the matters we are discussing today would, as is indicated in the Report, need "new or augmented inspectorates." I do not feel that anything which has been said, or anything in my own experience, convinces me that the workers in shops are in such dire need as has been suggested.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)
The speech of the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. W. R. A. Hudson) will add to the fears of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and to the fears of shopkeepers throughout the country, that it is the intention of hon. Members opposite as soon as possible, in some way or other—either by staggered hours or by an increase in overtime—to extend the opening hours of shops. We on this side of the House believe that there is no demand for this, and that if it be a question of more labour the manpower resources of the country cannot cope with it.
§ Mr. W. R. A. Hudson
Anything which I said cannot be interpreted in that way. 93 I was making a case on quite different lines and I think it entirely wrong to impute those motives to me, or to the people from whom I deliberately dissociated myself.
§ Mr. Irving
We can only interpret the speech as we heard it, and I am sure that when the hon. Gentleman looks at the OFFICIAL. REPORT tomorrow he will find that he said that later hours were a service the consumers would wish to have and ought to be given.
Those workers and consumers who have waited for ten years for legislation to implement Part I of the Gowers Report will find in the remarks of the Home Secretary today confirmation of their fears that the Government have capitulated most miserably to those back benchers opposite who have brought pressure to bear on the Government in this connection. The fine phrases will have an empty ring to workers who have waited for such a long time; who noted the promise contained in the Gracious Speech and the special undertaking given by the Lord Chancellor in 1952 and by the then Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, in 1955, and who recall that, as recently as February of this year, the noble Lord the Minister of Education protested that it was not the intention of this Government to abandon the Bill.
Practically all the trade organisations have lent their support to that piece of legislation, including the Trades Union Congress and the Co-operative movement, for which I am speaking tonight. The Co-operative movement represents 12 million consumers and 250,000 shop-workers, and is well fitted to speak on these matters. The Minister of Education admitted that these were substantial bodies of opinion and, in addition, about 80 organisations were consulted. There may be no doubt that every opportunity was open to the Government to consider this complicated legislation long before it got to another place. Therefore, we find ourselves in the present position only because of the capitulation by the Government to pressure from back benchers opposite.
What, in fact, is the tremendous social revolution which the Government were initiating by the Bill? What is the world-shaking piece of legislation the effect of which caused the Government to step back, frightened by their own audacity, 94 and timidly to retire? There is a nub to this controversy which we find in one issue. The "great roaring lion" which panicked the Government and stirred up the back-benchers opposite was the question of closing hours in the piece of legislation recently before another place; the proposal to close shops at seven o'clock on ordinary days, with one late closing day when the hour would be eight o'clock, and to exempt tobacconists, newsagents and confectioners almost entirely.
This is no great social advance. The Home Secretary can hardly take credit, as he attempted to do today, for tremendous advances and improvements brought about by a Tory Government, and then shy at a piece of legislation in connection with a matter in which we lag behind almost every country in Europe, and most of the major countries of the Commonwealth.
As recently as November of last year, U.S.D.A.W., which represents a considerable number of shop workers, held an inquiry in London and the provinces. As a result, it was discovered that an overwhelming number of shops already close between five o'clock and six o'clock in the evening and that only 1½ per cent. to 3 per cent, proved exceptions to this rule. It was ascertained that 66 per cent. to 67 per cent. did not observe a late night closing hour at all, and that of the food shops, only 1½per cent. to 3 per cent. stayed open after six o'clock. It is clear that, taking the whole of the retail trades with the exception of confectionery, 98 per cent. of the shops close at half-past five or six o'clock, and of the exceptions, such as confectioners, newsagents and tobacconists, only 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. opened after six o'clock. It follows, therefore, that the proposals in the piece of legislation which the Tory Party is burking lag behind the practice in most progressive countries in Europe and the Commonwealth.
Incidentally, the only countries in Europe which lag behind us in this respect are those countries where, as was indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), there is great discontent among the workers resulting in powerful Communist influences. Surely, this state of affairs can only add to discontent in this country. The case of North America 95 has been mentioned and we also heard that the facts are clear, in the Anglo-American Productivity Report on Retailing, that where longer hours prevail that has resulted in higher costs which have to be paved on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. In the food trades all the economies effected by the introduction of super-markets, and so on, have been swallowed up in higher costs resulting in higher prices.
We need only look at the sugar confectionery trade in this country, where a seven-day week has been worked, in some cases late night working, for the last thirty years, to see the waste which results. There are the multiplication of selling points and the high distributive costs, and, incidentally, the shamefully low wages paid to many of the people who work in these shops. They are now about to get for a 48-hour week £6 17s. per week.
The excuse for abandoning this legislation, this major piece of reform, has been that Parliamentary time is limited. The Bill was in another place for six months, but of that period only eight Parliamentary days, and not full ones at that, were taken up in consideration of the Bill. I feel myself—and I think that this is the opinion of many hon. Members—that if the indecent haste with which the Rent Bill was shoved through had been applied to this Bill, and the Rent Bill had been abandoned, the general interests of the country would have been more readily served, and incidentally, the interests of the Tory Party in the by-elections.
Many arguments have been used by Tories both in this House and outside it. We have had it said that we ought to separate conditions of work and shop closing hours, but the noble Lord the Minister of Education disposed of that when he said that unrestricted shop hours could only lead to a deterioration in working conditions. It has been said that by shift working we could provide longer shopping facilities for the consumer. We do not believe that we can provide longer shopping hours without involving additional cost, and without losing manpower which ought to be properly used in other industries and which is vitally needed for our industrial recovery in the future.
Some of the Government's supporters have said that the interests which they 96 are protecting are those of the small shopkeepers, but they ought also to remember that if, in fact, we did get staggered hours or longer hours the death knell would be sounding for the small shopkeeper, because he would be unable to compete in staggered hours, longer hours and shift working, which the supermarkets and the like could undertake and would set themselves out to do. I would also warn the House that there is no worse exploiter of labour than the shopkeeper, boarding-house, or small hotel keeper who employs his family in the business, and for that reason alone I think that this legislation is required for their protection.
The difficulties that arise in shift working are immense, particularly for the smaller shopkeepers. Indeed, it has been shown in a recent survey that of the half million shops in the retail trade, about 355,000 employ three people or fewer in the business. It would be extremely difficult for a shopkeeper employing such a small staff to run a satisfactory shift system or get satisfactory results without exploiting the workers through longer hours.
The attitude of the Co-operative movement is quite clear. It is wholeheartedly in favour of this legislation, and we welcome the undertaking which has been given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) from the Opposition Front Bench that a Labour Government will carry out this legislation, together with the rest of the Gowers Committee's recommendations, at the earliest possible moment. I would say, however, that that is not to say that the Co-operative movement was at all enamoured of certain sections of the Bill and some of the Amendments as presented in another place.
We believe that there is no substantial evidence—and the movement represents both consumers and shop workers—for later closing hours than 6 p.m. for ordinary days and 7 p.m. for the late night. We believe that any new legislation should include such a proposal to limit shopping hours, but we were disturbed to see that the power was removed from the Bill for local authorities to fix earlier closing hours, as were to be found in the 1950 Shops Act and as was recommended by the Gowers Report.
97 We were also disturbed by the interpretation of "holiday resorts", by the exemption for sweets and tobacco businesses, and we were very disturbed indeed on the subject of Sunday trading and the refusal of the Government to apply the restrictions on Sunday trading to Scotland. Above all, we envisaged quite considerable difficulties in trading because of the arrangements for compensatory time for pharmacists in these days of a very great shortage of qualified pharmacists.
I should like to comment on two other matters. We have seen a lot of comments about the quality of shop inspectors, and we have had examples given by the Institute of Shops Administration in its journal, and a very curious situation is uncovered. We find that in one case a retired master builder aged 75 was getting £10 per annum as a shops inspector. Another, a retired retailer received £26,. and a local newsagent was getting £50, while a mineworker also acted as an inspector on Saturdays because he worked a five-day week elsewhere.
§ Mr. Hudson
Surely that emphasises the point that I made, in the closing remarks of my speech, that if it is necessary in these days to employ that type of shops inspector, when we cannot enforce new regulations, what will be the predicament of the country if further inspectors are required?
§ Mr. Irving
The case is clearly established by the hon. Gentleman for the complete revision of the shops inspectorate under proper conditions and with proper remuneration.
I would also point out the great need for legislation because of the present state of the law itself. We have, in fact, seen that in Parliament, in the local authorities and in the courts there have been severe criticisms of the condition of the law and of inability to enforce it. We have had the criticism of the Lord Chief Justice himself that something ought to be done to revise the law in this respect, and we ought also to remember that in Glasgow last year there were 616 prosecutions for breaking the Shops Act alone. Therefore, we ought to realise that the law is being brought into contempt because of the lack of clarity about our present legislation, and that itself is another reason for the revision of the law and the presentation of a new Shops Bill.
98 We believe that there is no justification for the dropping of the Shops Bill. We believe that it is only because a small group of Tory back benchers have brought pressure on the Government, and because of the unwillingness of the Home Secretary to give any undertaking at all as far as this Government is concerned, that the Bill is dead.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)
I am very happy to be able to follow the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving), though I shall not deal in detail at the beginning of my speech with many of his points, because my own speech will take in some of the arguments that I should wish to employ against him. I am very glad that we accept the reason given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the removal of this Bill for this Session, because it must be obvious to all of us that there is no time in the few weeks that remain before the end of July in which to deal with such a great Measure.
I also want to say that I do not think that at this time of day any of us should debate which side of the House has done most to solve human problems over the last hundred years. We have all shared in it—all parties, and even the party which is not even represented here today. Not only party politicians, but many people outside politics have also helped—men of ideals who have strived and struggled to achieve them and have achieved them, and, as a result, the whole nation has been moving on to a higher plain.
There was a day when the most precious commodity to a business man was stock, because of lack of production. There came another day when the most precious commodity happened to be machines. There is now a third period when the most precious commodity is workers, and the most costly things in our commercial and industrial life are accident and illness among our staffs. There is, therefore, a complete change of atmosphere in our industrial life. It would be well if hon. Members opposite remembered this fact. At the moment the greatest protection that juveniles in our offices, shops and industries have is their scarcity. Even now, in my own city, businesses are queueing up for the 99 juveniles who will leave school at the end of the summer courses.
When we consider these matters we ought to put first things first. We have dealt largely with the industrial hazards. In the last twenty-five years there has been a great advance in safety devices in industry. Even in this Parliament we have dealt with many of the hazards suffered by agricultural workers. I expect that Her Majesty's Government, like all Governments, will inundate the farmers with new regulations in the middle of the harvest, but we must forgive them because regulations for safety and health in agriculture are essential.
We must see this problem in its perspective. Before we scrap all the out-of-date office accommodation in my city I would like to see 30,000 back-to-back houses removed. I would like to see new hospitals. Some of the hospitals have the worst office accommodation of any place of business. Many hospitals were built more than 100 years ago, and hospitals did not write letters in those days. Legislation has put on the shoulders of hospitals many additional tasks although the space to carry them out is not there. Before we begin to transform our office accommodation, important though that is, let us deal with the more important things. Let hon. Members who have slums in their divisions get rid of the slums and deal with office accommodation later.
Someone has mentioned that musicians have nowhere to hang their hats in some theatres and that the cloakroom accommodation is bad. We have mental hospitals in which patients, who have been taken there to have their minds restored and their lives rebuilt, have to suffer the degradation of rolling up their clothes and Muffing them under their pillows. What do hon. Members opposite want first, palatial offices or new mental hospitals?
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Is the hon. Member forgetting that already, under the present Administration, Her 100 Majesty's Government have authorised and allowed the building of up to £100 million worth of new office blocks and luxury buildings in the City of London alone, regardless of the needs of places like Bradford and Manchester, where people are still working in cellars? In the provinces we are getting the worst of both worlds.
§ Mr. Tiley
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) is helping my argument. I want us to deal with the essential things, like the homes of the people, before we deal with new office blocks. As a matter of fact, I always think that the City of London is over-full of motor vehicles and administrators, and I have spent the Recess in the company of those who administer looms and spinning frames. I did not find them anxious about their accommodation. They were happy that the economic policy of the Government is keeping them in full employment.
The passion has gone out of this problem. I have asked many shop assistants, "What do you think of the Shops Bill?" Some thought it was something that ought to be hung in the window. They did not know the details of it. They asked me, "What is it?" The matter was only interesting to those who had political motives and had the objectives of the trade unions at heart. The awful days of 1898 have gone; we have left behind the evils which existed then; but a few political minds are trying to take us back fifty years, as though the conditions that existed then exist today.
It is a gross exaggeration to say that shop conditions are now terrible and that shop assistants are oppressed. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), with all his great sincerity and knowledge, is a standard bearer, but I am afraid that he has no army behind him. We are not even in the days of 1920, when John Lewis in Regent Street was defied by his staff. At that time a strike did a tremendous amount of good to shop assistants. The men who were involved in that strike showed great courage, because there were not other jobs to go to nor were the benefits for those who went on strike what we have today.
Two or three weeks ago I went with the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) to attend a meeting of representatives of the Union of 101 Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. As I was leaving, the chairman gave me a book to read. It was They Also Serve, by P. C. Hoffman. He said, "I expect you, as a Member of Parliament, will be too busy to read it". The meeting was on Friday night; I had read the book by Saturday midnight. It is a great story of fights against oppression.
§ Mr. Tiley
I will read to the right hon. Gentleman who agrees with me something that Mr. Hoffman says in the book. He was at one time a Member of this House. Towards the close of the book he says:On May 13th, 1948, the first Wages Council for Retail Distribution met and, as may be imagined, it was for the Grocery Trade. I attended, by good fortune, at the offices of the Federation of Grocers' Associations, on the afternoon of September 28th, 1948, the hearing of a case before the Appeals Tribunal of the Wages Council …It was a recognition of the rights and dignities of the shop worker.This passage is taken from the book of a man who spent his whole life campaigning for shop assistants. He says that that was a recognition of the rights and dignities of the shop worker. He went on:At last, if so minded, the shop assistant had gained full stature."—He is not saying that there are still great things to be campaigned for.—He was an equal in making and administering the law in his trade …At last I felt we had arrived and the pioneers had been justified in their faith and work.The great battle for recognition was over and the oppressive days were gone.
In these days, if there is oppression, the remedy, happily because of full employment, is open to the workers; they can go to other jobs. There are many ways of achieving reform, and all have been indulged in in our history, but necessity is the quickest path to reform. It is only fair to say that the book deals only with the struggle and makes no reference to the willing compliance of thousands of employers with the new stature accorded to the shop assistants.
There are no more important debates in this House than those which deal with people, their desires, their jealousies and ambitions, but hon. Members opposite 102 are apt, when we deal with human relations to put the clock back fifty years. The Golden Rule says:Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.Hon. Members opposite are apt to alter that and to say, "Do unto others as you would have expected fifty years ago that they would have done unto you." When we contemplate the history covered by this debate, we ought to bear in mind that twenty-five or fifty years ago life in this country, even with all its besetting evils, compared with life abroad shows that no oppression suffered in any part of our history has been anything like the oppression suffered in these days—in 1957—in Hungary and Poland.
I want to say a word or two for the little shop keeper. We have had a long debate, but he has been referred to only by the hon. Member for Dartford. I certainly would resist any attempt in any part of our legislation which would destroy the little man. Who is the little man among the shop keepers? He is the ex-Service man who has spent his gratuity on buying a small shop, on many occasions he is a man who has been injured in industry and has a leg or an arm missing who has employed his lump sum compensation payment in the purchase of a shop. There are widows who have invested their savings, spinsters who are keeping their aged parents, and semi-invalids striving to keep themselves. Look at the service they give. I wonder if the Co-ops will deliver the newspapers to us at 7 o'clock in the morning?
§ Mr. Tiley
I wonder who is to deliver the newspapers when all these little shops are done away with? I wonder who will deliver the Sunday newspapers. Our Sundays would be ruined without the Sunday Express—[An HON. MEMBER: "You have been reading Cross Bencher."]—The hon. Member is quite wrong; we do not read it in my family, but run a sweep on it to see who is to apologise next.
I have no reason to love the Co-ops. I do not stand here by the divine right of the Co-ops. My opponents at the last election was Co-op and Labour—I beg the pardon of hon. Members opposite—Labour and Co-op. I do not regard the 103 Co-ops in the same enmity as hon. Members opposite regard "Mr. Cube." We must bear in mind the immense amount of service which these little men give to us. We must consider also the full requirements of our people. I have been impressed, as I am sure all hon. Members who represent industrial cities have been impressed, by the fact that in the last few weeks when we have had lovely weather the "lungs" of a city like Bradford—its parks—have been full of members of trade unions and workers from factories and shops disporting themselves in games and swimming. If a little shop keeper with his shop alongside a park wants to stay open to make a little profit in serving those people, why should we legislate in this House to prevent him doing so?
§ Mr. Beswick
I wonder if the hon. Member has read—I have no doubt he has—the remarks on page 6 of the Gowers Report, which says that the original stimulus to the early closing movement came at least as much from small shop keepers themselves seeking to protect themselves from one another.
§ Mr. Tiley
Yes, exactly. Hon. Members, opposite ought to remember that we always have a minimum of people who do not wish to have laws of this nature made on their behalf. Why should they? If a little man wishes to keep open, even if the majority want to close, why should he not be allowed to do so?
§ Mr. J. T. Price
To put the point on the argument of the hon. Member, anarchists do not like any laws at all. It is the anarchist who does not like law. What the hon. Member is referring to is the anarchist minority who want to do just what they like.
§ Mr. Tiley
I am sorry, but I have not that depraved type of mind which allows a Member of this House to compare an old woman who keeps a shop open outside a park in order to supply a few lollipops with anarchists in Hungary. One needs to have an extended course of travel into Communist literature to make that point.
I wonder if any hon. Members have considered the accounts of many of these little shop keepers. I have taken the trouble, because I have been interested in this subject, to see a few of the shop keepers who have premises alongside 104 parks and cinemas and who have paid through the nose because their businesses are in those positions and because of the additional turnover which accrues to them as a result of their proximity to parks, cinemas and so forth. From their accounts one can almost pick the fine days and pick out the best hours of business, from 6.30 p.m. when the workers are going home until 8.30 p.m. as the peak shopping hours.
I should be sorry of we did not get a promise that this Bill will be revised and restored in the new Session. It needs revision because it would be wrong for us to put out of business those people who are giving such a great service to their customers and enjoying an independence in their little businesses. I wish to say one or two words to my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench. I hope we shall not expect to recover our standing in the by-elections merely by saying that we did not put the Shops Bill through because over the years the Gowers Report has made such a wonderful survey of these problems. Further, promises have been made by Ministers and there was the reference in the Gracious Speech twelve months ago setting out our programme. I think the Government are committed in promise, in print and in word, to deal with shops legislation and many of these other problems enumerated in the Gowers Reports.
I wish to emphasise the argument which the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) used in his very reasonable opening speech. In this country in May we had the record figure of £300 million for exports. That was a wonderful effort on the part of those engaged in industry at all levels in the face of fierce competition and it did not obtain when hon. Members opposite were in power. Yet, in spite of those figures, the nation finds itself poorer at the end of the month.
Surely both sides of the House will agree that we have tried every palliative which economists can suggest. We have tried freezes, rations and import licences. Surely we can agree that the only solution is to be found in greater production. That can be achieved only by better industrial relations. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has focussed the country's attention at long last not on figures, economic measures and bank rates, but on the human relationships in industry. It does 105 not matter which Government is in power; the answer lies only in solving that problem. It does not matter whether we nationalise everything or not. Since I became a Member of the House I have dealt with more complaints of unfairness from people in the nationalised industries than from people in private enterprise.
As the right hon. Member for Blyth rightly said, this co-operation can be achieved only by building up the link between the trade union, representing the workers, the employers and the Government. He was right to say that we cannot expect this full co-operation from the trade unions if we do not honour our promises. There are many sections of the Bill and many sections of the Gowers Reports which are important to our well-being and to industrial relations. There are also many anomalies in our shopping laws and in the conditions in this country. Lord Hewart said, in 1939:It might be possible but I doubt if it would be easy to compress into the same number of Lines more fertile opportunities for doubt and error.It is common sense to take the Bill and to apply the beneficial sections of it to life in these islands. I hope that we shall review and amend it. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal promised that we should constantly review the whole field covered by the Gowers Reports. Surely it would be possible for the arrangements made in the present Bill for seaside trading to be extended to the little shops in the country, in respect of the form of trade and hours. I do not think it is beyond the wit of the House to make this instrument effective in a new Session.
We on these benches can find all the protection which we need, but I wish hon. Members opposite and those who can influence the trade unions would give a great deal more thought to the scientific requirements of distribution and to cheaper costs of distribution. I wish they would give attention to it with as much passion as they are displaying—and which is not warranted—in respect of this Measure. In the New Year we can still have the progress which many parts of the Bill will give us. I think we can still carry out the promises which have been made, and I hope that we shall do so.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
After listening to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley), I am not sure whether he was supporting the Motion or opposing it. I am not certain whether he was praising it with faint damns or damning it with faint praise. In any event, when considering the Shops Bill I prefer to rely on the evidence submitted to and the recommendations produced by the Gowers Committee.
The Gowers Committee points out, in page 38 of its Report on the Closing Hours of Shops, that evidence was given to it by the Caterers' Association of Great Britain, the Multiple Shops Federation, the National Federation of Grocers' and Provision Dealers' Associations, the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations, the National Federation of Off-Licence Holders' Associations and—for the benefit of the hon. Member for Bradford, West—the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Booksellers and Stationers. Having considered that formidable amount of evidence, the Committee came to the following conclusion:We accept as settled policy the principles of compulsory evening closing and compulsory half-day closing once a week.In this respect, I should much prefer to accept the evidence which was examined and considered and the conclusions which were reached by the Gowers Committee. In case the hon. Member has not noticed it, his hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) and his hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary of State to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation were signatories of the Report. That certainly indicates the evidence which was submitted to the Gowers Committee.
When I listened to the Home Secretary's speech this afternoon I was amazed, for in my experience of the House I have never heard a speech so full of repudiation of his colleagues and of his party as was the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon. In reply to an interjection by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger), the right hon. Gentleman said he would deal with the railways. He did so later in a very cursory way. What are the facts? On 9th June, 1955, the then Leader of the Opposition called attention to the very meagre instalment of the Gowers Report contained in the Queen's 107 Speech being debated that day. In reply to that interjection, the then Prime Minister said:…we carefully considered whether proposals for the railways might be included in this Session, but, as we could not be sure that it would be possible to get the necessary separate Bill in time, we thought it wiser not to put it in the Gracious Speech. If the opportunity offers, it will certainly be included. With other Measures, it will be examined and put in in due course. We have made a start with the industry where we thought the problems most immediate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June, 1955: Vol. 542, cc. 62–3.]There was no qualification about that at all. It was a definite undertaking that as soon as the Bill was ready it would be presented to the House for debate. The subject which was under discussion between the two right hon. Gentlemen at that time was the part of the Gowers Reports dealing with the provisions for safety, health and welfare on the railways.
On 14th July, 1955, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) asked the then Minister of Labour when he wouldintroduce legislation to safeguard the health and provide for the safety and welfare of those employed on railway premises on the lines recommended in the Gowers Report".The then Minister of Labour, now a noble Lord, said:This legislation will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time is available."—['OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1955; Vol. 543, c. 193.]The present Home Secretary was the Lord Privy Seal at that time. If I understand the duties of the Lord Privy Sea/ correctly, his duty in that Parliament was to lead the House and to decide on the legislation. As I shall attempt to show in a few minutes, if the promise of the then Prime Minister were to be carried out, immediately that legislation became available it was, I think, the Lord Privy Seal's business to introduce the Bill into the House at the earliest possible moment.
On 30th May, the Home Secretary came to the House to explain that the Shops Bill would not be proceeded with in this Session because there was not sufficient Parliamentary time. I should like to refer to the issue of the Economist on 8th June, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) made some critical comments earlier this afternoon. Judging by the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon, the Economist was right at 108 least in one respect, for on 8th June it said:The dropping of the Shops Bill—nominally because Parliament no longer had the time, but in fact because the Government no longer had the stomach …That comment has been amply justified and corroborated by the right hon. Gentleman's speech today.
That is not the end of the story. During the Second Reading of the Non-Industrial Employment Bill, which my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) introduced on 1st April, 1955, we had this from the present Minister of Agriculture:…and I want to say straightaway that we are in entire agreement with the general object of the Bill. I am sure that that is not what he would regard as a kind of sugary observation from me, but a sincere affirmation of the Government's view.I feel that there is a gap in our legislation in this field, and we mean and intend to see that that gap is fill cd."—[OFFICI AL REPORT, 1st April, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 750.]I assume that the present Minister of Agriculture was speaking for the Government. The Bill introduced by my hon. Friend provided legislation to embody all the recommendations of the Gowers Report, and I assume that that reply was given on behalf of the Government. However, if we are to believe the Home Secretary this afternoon, it seems to me that an entirely different story is being related. If ever I heard a speech which sought to justify the non-introduction of a Bill embodying the Gowers Reports, the abandoning of those Reports completely; if ever I heard a speech which sought to justify doing nothing at all by statutory action and leaving it all to negotiation, it was the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon.
Unless I am very much mistaken, the Government made up their mind a considerable time ago to introduce this legislation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who was Joint Under-Secretary at that time, said on 26th April, on the one and only day of the Committee stage of the Non-Industrial Employment Bill:I can, of course, give the Committee the assurance that a Bill will be drafted—that is the Government's intention—and will be introduced in due course, but by no stretch of imagination can that be before 6th May …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 26th April, 1955; c. 4.]109 He went on, as quoted earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), to give further indications of the Government's point of view.
Then, Mr. Speaker, we come to the General Election of May, 1955. In a document, an official document issued by the Conservative Party, and a document for which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary claims some degree of parentage, there appear these words:We intend to launch a vigorous drive to promote the health, welfare and safety of the working population with the aid of our new Mines and Quarries Act and of the recently established Industrial Health Advisory Committee. Legislation will be passed to promote a steady improvement of conditions for other workers, including those in transport and in farming, in offices and in shops. We shall also introduce new legislation to safeguard the employment of children.I suggest that that was a very definite undertaking on behalf of the party that now forms the Government, that it would, in the lifetime of this Parliament, introduce legislation to bring into operation the recommendations of the Gowers Report. But how hollow these words must now sound in the ears of millions of workers on the railways, in the shops and in the dingy, and very often the dirty basement rooms used as offices in many of our towns.
On 9th June, as I have said, we had part of the debate on the Queen's Speech. Meanwhile, the Social Committee of the Trades Union Congress was getting concerned about the inactivity of the Government, and on 28th July, 1955, Dame Florence Hancock led a strong deputation to the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour might have been in his place, because I understand that he was one of the Ministers who received that deputation, which asked for the programme of legislation arising from the Gowers Reports to be expanded.
Dame Florence Hancock, who led the deputation, was supported by Mr. Webber of the T.S.S.A. and by Mr. Campbell of the N.U.R., both of whom stressed the bad conditions prevailing in very many railway offices and locomotive depots. In reply, the then Prime Minister stated that the Government had attempted to draft a comprehensive Bill dealing with the full 110 range, but had decided to deal with agriculture and forestry first. With regard to railways, he said, as was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, that the Government hoped to introduce a Bill in that Session—that was the 1955–56 Session.
He then proceeded to outline the following programme of legislation. and having regard to what has been said this afternoon by the Home Secretary we had better get this again on the official records of this House. He is reported to have said that the Bill on health, welfare and safety in agriculture would be introduced in the 1955–56 Session. That part has been carried out in part. He said that a Bill on health, welfare and safety on railway premises was being drafted and that it was hoped to introduce it in the 1955–56 Session.
At this stage, I would call attention to the fact that whereas the then Minister of Labour had told my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow that the Bill had been drafted and was merely awaiting Parliamentary time, we get a statement from the then Prime Minister, fourteen days later, that the Bill was being drafted and that it was hoped to introduce it as soon as it was drafted.
Thirdly, and I hope that the House will note this particular undertaking, the then Prime Minister said that the Bill on shop closing hours was about to be drafted and that it was hoped to be able to introduce it in the 1955–56 Session. As we now know, it was introduced in the Session of 1956–57, but because, to quote the words of the Economist, the Government did not have the stomach for the Bill, it has been dropped on other pretexts.
The question of the hours of employment of young persons, said the then Prime Minister, had not been settled but was under consideration by the Home Office. His fifth point was that a Bill on health, welfare and safety in shops and other non-industrial places of employment would be a Measure of great magnitude which could not be introduced in the 1955–56 Session but might possibly be introduced in that of 1956–57. We now know that that, too, is not true.
All this took place about two years ago, and, apart from the Bill to safeguard the interests of workers employed in the agricultural industry, no progress 111 has been made. In regard to that particular Bill it might be of interest to record what the Trades Union Congress has to say in June, 1957. I have in my hand a document issued by the Trade Union Congress, in June, entitled, "What the T.U.C. is doing." This is what it says:As a result of our efforts the Gowers Committee was appointed just after the war to examine the whole position. It reported in 1949. In the Report were suggestions designed to improve working conditions in such places as shops, offices, railways, agriculture, road transport depots and places of amusement. In the eight years which have elapsed no Government action has been taken on behalf of any of these industries except agriculture, and legislation here is not fully operative as a number of important regulations have still to be made.Is the House to believe that if there had been any wish to bring about these desirable changes no Parliamentary time would have been available in the past twelve months? Indeed, a further eight or nine months must now elapse before anything can be done about implementing the promises which were so glibly made at the Election of 1955. We have since heard the Home Secretary, and he was not so very optimistic. Indeed, I thought he sought to spend the greater part of his time in attempted justification for having done nothing at all about the Gowers Reports.
The Gowers Reports, according to the Government spokesman in 1955, have been divided into five separate parts, and if we are to assume that it takes from 1955 to the end of 1957 for one-fifth of the Gowers Reports to be implemented, it looks like being 1965 or 1966 before some of these people who look to Gowers for amelioration of their working conditions and for their safety can get any relief.
Why is this legislation so important? It is important to the whole of the non-industrial workers whose conditions the Gowers Committee was examining; it is of vital importance to the railwaymen. According to the Gowers Reports, there are about 500,000 railwaymen employed on or about the railways, who do not enjoy any statutory protection, and they include clerical workers, running shed staff, operating staff, permanent way staff, signal and telegraph department staff—all 112 men employed in and around the passenger and goods stations and staff employed in signal boxes.
They seek better lighting, heating, ventilation, sanitation and washing facilities. I am as much aware as the Home Secretary is that a good deal of improvement has been effected during the past ten years. I am aware that a joint committee on safety and welfare was established, and I hope that the Government spokesman will not claim credit for the Tory Party for this, because it was embodied in the Transport Act, 1947. I thought this afternoon that the right hon. Gentleman was claiming credit for nearly all the social benefits which the workers in this country have enjoyed.
The trouble with the right hon. Gentleman is that he wants to sub-edit history to suit his own book. If the history of the past is examined it will be found that whereas a Conservative Government introduced many of these improvements, this was only as a result of the strongest possible pressure from the organised trade union movement outside, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore pointed out this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that a good deal had been done, and I agree with him, but, if one is to believe the words of the Gowers Committee Report, when the railways were taken over, in 1948, conditions in many of the offices, cabins, and so forth, on the railways were substantially below the minimum standard prescribed in any undertaking coming under the Factories Acts.
§ Mr. Jones
As my hon. Friend says, they still are.
I hold in my hand a copy of a report dated 24th June, 1956—that is not so very long ago—of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Railwaymen, expressing dissatisfaction at the progress that was being made on health, safety and welfare provisions on the railways. I hope that someone will draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this, because the Joint Committee on Safety and Welfare on the Railways comprises in part representatives of the British Transport Commission and of the trade unions.
The right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon that a good deal of money is 113 being spent. I suspect that the Transport Commission now takes precisely the same view that the Railway Executive took when it gave evidence before the Gowers Committee prior to 1949. This is what the Gowers Committee said, at paragraph 111:Both the Railway and London Transport Executives thought that the joint advisory councils (or the bodies functioning in lieu of them) would ensure that railway workers enjoyed satisfactory conditions of employment and that there was no need for minimum standards to be prescribed by statute. They pointed out that the councils were fully representative of employers and employed and that their powers of making recommendations to the Executives and, through the Executives, to the Commission were quite unfettered.I hope that the House will note this.They admitted that neither the Executives nor the Commission were hound to accept such recommendations, and that there was no right of appeal to an independent third party such as the Minister of Transport, but they contended "—and I hope that hon. Members will also note this—that if the recommendations were rejected there were means by which the employees, if they so desired, could with propriety pursue the matter in Parliament and elsewhere. Finally they suggested that the present system, which had scarcely begun to function, should be given an extended trial before anything different was proposed.The Cowers Committee, in a later paragraph, points out that the Transport Commission differs in no way from the National Coal Board. The Report says:It would certainly have been our duty, if the railways had not been nationalised, to recommend a statutory code of welfare and safety for them, and we cannot accept the argument that this has become unnecessary because they are now nationalised and special machinery has been provided for consultation between management and workers on these matters. No one suggests that industries previously subject to protective legislation such as the Factories Acts should be exempted from it on nationalisation—the witnesses from the National Coal Board emphatically disclaimed any such idea—and we see no case for treating the Transport Commission differently.That is my reply to the right hon. Gentleman when he bandies about figures relating to what has been spent on the railways during the past few years. I say, on behalf of the organised railwaymen, that we want statutory provisions on the railways, so that minimum standards may be prescribed, so that we can ensure that the regulations, when they are made, are enforced. If one turns to a later paragraph in the Report one finds 114 that the Commission recommends the establishment of a special inspectorate on the railways to ensure that the provisions of the Statute, when it is passed, are carried out.
Finally, I want to refer to a matter which I feel is of vital importance to our railwaymen, particularly those who have to work on the permanent way. I want to refer to the provisions that are now made for look-out men on the railways when men are working on or about the running lines. May I remind the House that with the modernisation programme of the Transport Commission which is getting under way, with the introduction of diesel engines, electrification, higher speeds and heavier trains, less noise will be created on the permanent way by these much more silent locomotives and this makes the position of the men working on or about the lines far more difficult and dangerous than it is at present.
The position at present is that it is the ganger in charge of a gang of men who has to decide whether or not a lookout man is necessary. It is frequently found, in practice, that this places an intolerable obligation on the ganger whose gang of men may have a big job to undertake, such as changing two or three sleepers or a point blade, which requires the whole of his gang to be in attendance to undertake the work. He may decide that a look-out man is necessary. To provide that man he has to withdraw one of the men from his gang.
I say that this is putting an intolerable responsibility on the ganger and that this safety regulation for railways ought to be placed fairly and squarely on the Transport Commission. When the Cowers Report on the railways comes to be debated in the House, as I hope it will, some of us who know something about this work will have something to say.
I would call attention to a report in the Yorkshire Post on 9th February, 1956. It concerns the tragedy of two platelayers who were killed in a snowstorm, but because it has special significance to the point I am now making I should like to read this extract:Returning verdicts of accidental deaths on two platelayers killed in a snowstorm on the Sheffield-Manchester Railway at Wadley Bridge "—115 that is one of the railways which has been electrified—the jury at the inquest yesterday suggested that if rules exist concerning look-out men they should be properly applied. This was after Mr. Charlton Hibbert, permanent way inspector, had said gangers were instructed to use look-out men when necessary. Questioned by the Coroner, Mr. A. P. Lockwood, he said that regulations and instructions given to men on the matter could be `usefully tightened '.I want to say, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth said earlier, that the Minister of Labour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, at Stockton Racecourse some weeks ago, talked about the need for creating a super committee and introducing it into negotiations between the two sides of industry in this country in an attempt to avoid difficulties. I suggest that if ever such a committee is established it can only work successfully if there is mutual trust and confidence on both sides of that committee.
How can the trade union leaders of the railwaymen, the clerical workers and the shop assistants have the slightest possible faith in the words of the people who occupy the Front Bench opposite after this exhibition?
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
I should like to apologise to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for missing the latter half of his speech, and also to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) for missing the beginning half of his speech, but I was in a Committee upstairs which was set up by the Home Secretary.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House may have read a leader in today's Manchester Guardian, a paper which cannot be considered unduly favourable to Her Majesty's Government, that pointed out that within the conventions of party warfare the Labour Party must make appropriate noises about the dropping of the Shops Bill, and it adds that it hopes that "little time will be wasted today on the obsequies of an unlamented Measure."
The leader goes on to express the hope that much more time will be spent on debating those other sections of the Gowers Report which contain so much which we all desire to see introduced eventually in the working conditions of the people of this country.
116 I was glad indeed that the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) widened the debate to take in the case of the railway workers, and I apologise for not following him in that regard. I am glad that he has widened the debate, and I apologise again to the House for the fact that I propose to restrict my own remarks to the Shops Bill. I hope that in commending the Government for deciding not to go ahead with the Shops Bill—
§ Mr. Rodgers
I realise that the Motion does so, but I said that I proposed to deal only with that section of it which refers to shops and the Shops Bill. I hope that I shall be excused and not thought to be a dissident and reactionary element in the Tory Party when I rise to support the Government in their decision to delay consideration of this matter and to postpone it for at least this session. It is obvious that a Bill with 72 Clauses would take far more time than is available now, and I hope that if another Shops Bill is introduced it will be a totally different Measure from the one which has been presented in another place.
The Bill, as introduced, as I understand it, introduced no new principle. It merely sought to codify the existing law and reduced the number of anomolies to which reference has been made. No doubt, as right hon. Members in all parts of the House have pointed out, the present law is chaotic and should be tidied up at the right time. If hon. Members have read the report of what happened in another place they will have seen that there is considerable doubt whether this legislation removes those anomalies and, if it does, whether it does not create far more anomolies in the process. Therefore, I support the Government in their determination not to go forward with this legislation.
Everyone in the House is, I am sure, deeply concerned about matters affecting the health, safety and welfare of people engaged in industry and, not least, in the retail shops. Quite frankly, I slightly deplore it when one party tries to claim major credit for introducing social legislation which has been beneficial for our people and the other side makes derisory noises and tries to claim that it has done it. Let us admit that we have all done a lot in this matter; the Labour 117 Party in their day, the Liberal Party in their heyday, and ourselves in the past few years, and, in fact, for many years. I was delighted by the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike). If I may say so in her absence, it was a most brilliant speech in so far as it showed great tolerance, depth of human understanding and great knowledge of industrial conditions. I think that is the attitude in which we ought to approach this problem. We ought not to get so hot under the collar about these things that the studs begin to burn.
This is a matter in which there can be doubts and differences of opinion as to whether some of the points of view advanced by the Gowers Committee are right or not. Indeed, the Committee itself had some doubts. In its preliminary remarks, it said:We are considering conditions of employment in shops and offices at a time when the labour and materials necessary to improve them are not sufficiently available. We are considering proposals for shortening the hours of work for juveniles at a time when industry must devote all its energies to increasing output. We are considering the need for fresh legislation that could only be enforced by new or augmented inspectorates at a time when every available man and woman is wanted in productive employment Some witnesses have gone so far as to deprecate in present circumstances even the preparation of plans for the future, on the ground that it is bound to be unsettling to the people concerned to know that proposals to benefit them are afoot which are unlikely to be realised for some time to come.In expressing those doubts, the Committee showed a great appreciation of the situation. Much has happened since the Gowers Reports were published, and much may happen in another ten years. After all, in this House we legislate not just for this year or next year but for many years to come, and the pace of change in the industrial scene is continuing at a terrifying rate.
I am glad that the Government have decided not to proceed, at least for the moment, with the Shops Bill. While I am deeply concerned about working hours and conditions of employment of people engaged in the retail and distributive trades, with general sanitary conditions there, and so on, I do not believe that the Shops Bill would have achieved the improvements desired. It would not. I think, necessarily have led to those improvements which we should all like 118 to see in offices, on the railways, in the shops and elsewhere.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
We are all following with sympathy the views expressed by the hon. Member in this section of his speech, but, surely, he is missing the whole point in applying his argument to prevailing conditions. We complain that, because of the failure of this and previous Governments to implement the Gowers Committee's recommendations on health, welfare and safety, millions of our fellow citizens in these employments are suffering a permanent legal disability in not being able to have the same legal remedies when accidents occur or when they are working, as many of them are, in contact with dangerous machinery. It is because of this time-lag, which places the people for whom we are speaking today at a permanent disadvantage, that we condemn and stigmatise the Government for dropping those sections of the Measure which would give equality at least to shop and office workers and people in exempted employments.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I have every sympathy with that intervention by the hon. Member, and, of course, the Government equally are well aware of the need to take such steps as they can to improve the safety of workers.
Indeed, the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act which we passed last year was a step in the right direction; and there are other measures such as the Mines and Quarries Act which have been taken during the life of the Government.
I find it hard to understand the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) that in order to limit the hours a person may work in a retail establishment it is absolutely essential, as he says, to regulate the hours of opening and closing of shops. I find that hard to accept. I believe that one of the most offensive Clauses of the Bill as drafted was Clause 1, which was intended to shorten the hours of opening of retail establishments by one hour. If I own a factory, there is no law on the Statute Book which stipulates at what hour I should open or close my factory. There are very many regulations as to the number of hours people may work, as to conditions of safety, and as to the general well being of workers. If I have an office and employ people there, there is no law to 119 tell me at what hour my office should open or close.
Offices and factories are establishments which affect merely the lives of the people working in them. A factory affects only the lives of people working in that factory; an office affects only the lives of people in the office. Shops are different. Not only does one have to consider the matter of retail distribution from the point of view of the person working in the shop, but one has also to consider the effect on the community in general, on people who have to use the shop day after day for their daily needs. I find the argument of the hon. Member for Ogmore very difficult to understand.
Why should we seek to pass legislation to make shops shut one hour earlier than they now do? Indeed, it has been revealed that the hon. Member for Ogmore would like shops to shut even one hour earlier than that, and, in fact, he urged that course before the Gowers Committee. I fail to understand the need for any such legislation when it is borne in mind—I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not refute my facts—that the vast majority of shops today shut between 5 and 6 p.m. and nearly two-thirds do not operate a late closing day at all. Under existing legislation which allows them to go on until 8, they still shut at 5 and 6 p.m. Why is legislation necessary to make statutory a closing hour of 7 or 6, when people already, exercising common sense and allowing the law of economics to come into play, close the majority of shops earlier? I do not believe that it is necessary to introduce any legislation to make it more difficult for the ordinary housewife or man and woman of this country to supply themselves with their daily needs from the shops.
The great fallacy in the hon. Gentleman's argument is this. He believes that, because we say that shops should be allowed to stay open longer, we mean that all shops must be forced to stay open all that time. Of course, we say nothing of the kind. The vast majority of shops, under whatever regulations, whether we abolish closing hours altogether or whatever the circumstances might be, would still close somewhere between 5 and 6 o'clock. I see no reason for introducing legislation to stop those few people who may want to go on later in order to supply the consumer's legitimate demands.
§ Mr. Padley
I am glad that the hon. Member has developed his point. In my speech, I said that the existing practice was a direct result of the Winter Closing Order which was in operation from 1939 to 1952. As yet, those shopping habits have not been unscrambled, mainly because of inflation. I ask the hon. Gentleman if he can quote to me the example of any country in the democratic world where, in the whole of human history, my thesis has been proved untrue.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am grateful for that intervention, and I will deal with it in a moment or two; I am coming to contrast conditions in this country with those in America, a country which, I think the hon. Gentleman would agree, is a democratic country within his own definition.
I am entirely in sympathy with the desire of hon. Gentlemen to limit the hours that any person in retail distribution may work.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Simply by doing as we do in factories and offices. We do not require people to open or close factories or offices at specific times in order to give that safeguard to the workers.
We must face the possibility of introducing shift working in, not all, but some retail establishments. I read a speech, not delivered in this House, by the hon. Member for Ogmore in which he maintained that the shift system could be introduced only by introducing (a) a fundamental re-organisation by State planning to eliminate all small shops, or a large proportion of them, or (b), an enormous increase in the manpower engaged in distribution, or (c), a great increase in overtime leading to working an average of 50 to 60 hours a week. That was, I think, his argument. Certainly, I came in at the tail end of the hon. Member's speech this afternoon when he was developing his theme of the fifty to sixty hours.
I find it impossible to understand the hon. Member's argument, and I am at one with the Manchester Guardian and with the Economist when they said that not only was his argument irrelevant, but that he failed to produce any facts in support of it.
121 The hon. Member went on to say, if my quotation is correct:To restore pre-war shopping hours, let alone go back to unrestricted opening, would cost on a conservative calculation 6s. to 7s. a week in higher prices to the average family.That means that one extra hour on the hours of shop opening would cost 6s. or 7s. a week more on the average family. By the same token, does the hon. Member say that if he succeeded in persuading the Gowers Committee and the Government to regulate for shop closing at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., he could equally promise the community that their costs would go down by 6s. or 7s. a week?
If the hon. Member does not mean that, his economic argument seems to me to be nonsense. He cannot have it both ways and complain that by extending the hours of opening there would be an increase in costs, whereas by shortening the hours there would be no reduction in cost. One would like to know the basis of the hon. Member's allegation that an extra hour of opening would result in these increased costs.
§ Mr. Padley
There are today, on Ministry of Labour figures, about 100,000 fewer persons in the distributive trades. Secondly, in 1938–39 the average working week was about 55 hours and today it is around 45 hours. If the hon. Member gets the Ministry of Labour Wages Council Orders and the Ministry of Labour figures for the total number of people employed in the distributive trades and divides the figure into the population of Britain, he will find that my figures are absolutely accurate, as the Manchester Guardian and the Economist found when they looked into them.
§ Mr. Rodgers
It is the fallacy of the hon. Member's argument that he assumes that all shops would remain open for all the time. I suggest that the vast majority of shops would always shut at a reasonable hour and that only a certain small percentage would remain open later.
I turn now to America and to other equally democratic countries, such as France, Italy and the like, in Western Europe. They have a small percentage of shops which remain open late into the night. It may be that they do not open until late in the day. It is not necessary that a shop should be working all day. Some persons might prefer to open their shops much later, while keeping open for 122 the same number of hours. We must think over this whole business again.
Since I read the speeches made by the hon. Member outside the House, I have gone into some of his facts to see whether there was truth in them. From what researches I have been able to make, there is no evidence that the operating costs in the United States, where, as everybody who has been to America knows, there are a number of shops which stay open all during the night, are relatively higher than here, bearing in mind the differences in wages and other costs. Indeed, the margins in the food tract:, for instance, are higher in this country than in America. The cost of wages as a percentage of turnover is still higher in this country than in the United States. It would be futile to start bandying different facts and figures, but I am quite prepared to go into this in private with the hon. Member and give him the source of these figures. It is simply not true that overall the American system is more expensive than the British.
As I have said, the Government are greatly to be congratulated on their decision not to proceed with the Shops Bill and to give us more time to pause and think what kind of distributive arrangements we want in the future. This is a quite different problem from that of the conditions of the retail workers. I believe that it is the job of the hon. Member's union to make quite sure that the workers whom he represents are adequately paid, work in good conditions and do not work too long hours. I think that we on this side have as good a record in the pursuit of those aims as any party. There is no need for me to say more than that, however, because this is not a matter in which we should compete.
I want to pause for a moment to try to visualise the sort of world that is likely to emerge in the next ten or twenty years. Things are happening at a staggering pace in the world of industry. There have been many discussions and debates by the T.U.C. and by individual unions as to what automation is likely to mean in the lives of the ordinary workers. My hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) referred to the revolutionary changes in office conditions which will be brought about by the introduction of electronics. In addition, there is the vast problem of the application of atomic 123 energy, which is yet in its infancy, for peaceful industrial purposes. All this will revolutionise our industrial concept, but one thing which is quite certain is that if we have to install these very expensive machines in order to bring automation into industry, it is vital that those machines should be worked to the utmost and amortised as quickly as possible. There can be no doubt of that.
If we are to compete with the rest of the world, we must have this most up-to-date machinery and we must work it all the time to the maximum extent we can. Obviously, that will involve a great deal of shift working, because we must amortise this plant quickly to produce even more revolutionary and improved machines, which are all the time being produced. This is the law of industry and of progress and we must keep pace with it. We cannot ignore it if we are to keep our place in the world.
If the shift system is right and proper in the industrial sphere, it follows as night follows day that there must be a change in the retail trading habits of the country to satisfy the needs of those who are producing all these goods for us, both for home and for export. This really should not have to be argued. It cannot be right to say that it is proper and economic to work three shifts and work at night in producing goods but absolutely wrong to sell them except during certain limited hours. The people who are working on producing them will want different arrangements so that they may provide themselves with the ordinary commodities of life.
It is up to the hon. Member's Union to face up to these economic changes. The Shops Bill, with which I am delighted the Government are not proceeding, was something from the past and contrary to the economic trends which are emerging. This is not a matter of party politics, but of trying to help our country by producing such legislation as will be helpful to the conditions of the workers without imposing economic straitjackets on a vital industry.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
Is the hon. Member saying that the Government, who presumably introduced the Bill in another place in good faith, were completely blind and unaware of all these tremendous factors with which he is now regaling the 124 House? Were the Government completely incompetent to know the trend of industry and distribution when they introduced the Bill? What has forced them to have this tremendous change of feeling in the last couple of months since all the hullabaloo started in the Economist and one or two other highbrow papers?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I have not changed my mind. I could not express myself earlier until I saw the legislation, which, I understand, was prepared a long time ago, although it was not introduced until the present Session. Many things have happened since the Gowers Report was first produced and many more revolutionary things have happened in those ten years and more, no doubt, will happen in the next ten years.
I should like to glance for a moment at the United States, which gives us a picture of something which might happen here. This might seem to be contrary to my main argument, because at the moment all of us, on both sides, would recognise that what we require is as much manpower as possible in productive industry. We are short of manpower. But what has happened in the United States? In the last ten years, there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the United States factory output. This has been achieved by only a 2 per cent. increase in the number of people working in the factories on production. There has, of course, been an enormous number of new jobs created in the United States as a result of this 50 per cent. increase in factory output with only 2 per cent. more labour. That increase has gone into services, into distribution, it is true, and into other forms of service which the community can now afford.
This position is not one necessarily to he regretted because, quite frankly, as a result of this the American economy is now in a position to withstand an economic depression far more securely than it could have done earlier. When goods are piling up in the factory men at the bench are laid off, but if more and more people are now put on distribution we are merely putting the pressure, as less people are working on the production side, on the distribution and service side in order to move the goods off the shelves.
Although we now have a labour shortage, we may well come to the position, 125 as in the United States, when we wish to employ, on the distributive side, those people who will be made redundant because of automation. I am not arguing whether the Government ought to have known this or not, although I think that the argument that I am putting forward is a sound one. I maintain that all matters of this sort ought to be viewed against that background.
The other element which was left out of the speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore, at least that part of it which I was privileged to hear, was the whole question of the introduction of self-service stores and super-markets which supply more human needs with less labour. We ought to think what effect that is going to have and not tie ourselves down to restrictive shop hours.
I work in a business which employs about 800 people, the great majority of whom are women. I know how difficult they find it now to shop. A great many of them are married women. They live in the suburbs and come up to the West End of London to work. They find it extremely difficult to shop for their husbands and their families. Indeed, we are now forced into the position of giving them time off to do their shopping, so that we are really subsidising the retail distributors.
If the hon. Gentleman has any doubts about consumer requirements, he has only to go along Oxford Street on late opening night to appreciate that this is something greatly appreciated by the housewives of London and of the London area. If he is going to put his pickets outside those shops, then all I can say is that he is going to give a great advertisement to them and will increase their turnover during their late opening. Although there is no doubt that the average shop will shut between five and six o'clock, there is yet a great demand for some shops to he allowed to remain open in order to supply those who have not, for one reason or another, been able to shop during the normal shopping hours.
Before I come to my second point I should like to quote from the evidence given to the Gowers Committee. This is very relevant. The Government undertook in 1947 through the Social Survey an investigation into shopping hours. The Report was published in June, 1947. 126 Even at that time, when food was still rationed and when many things were in short supply, the Report said that most shops shut around 6 p.m. Existing shop hours suited about 75 per cent. of shoppers, but left about 20 per cent. greatly inconvenienced. At least one-third of working shoppers found the then existent closing hours inconvenient. That is the Government's own Report issued in 1947. I believe that a far greater percentage of housewives, if asked, would say today that they found existing hours extremely inconvenient.
I really would urge the hon. Member for Ogmore, who leads U.S.D.A.W., to think again about whether he is right to try and force into a straitjacket the opening and closing hours of shops or whether he would not be better employed trying to improve conditions and pay and the working hours in shops. By all means ensure that the workers get adequate compensation for working late and regulate the number of hours they can work.
I believe that the Government have shown great wisdom in pausing for a moment to see whether this restrictive legislation, for such it is. is in the best national interest, and, which is most important, is really even in the interest of those engaged in the retail trade itself. I have serious doubts about that. The Government have shown their good will. They have already introduced the Mines and Quarries Bill to improve the health, welfare and safety of people working in mines and quarries. They have introduced the agricultural section of the Gowers Report which has given more protection and much improvement to those who work on farms.
Let us not forget that the Gowers Report is not Holy Writ. It is full of admirable suggestions for improving the conditions of people in the country. But we must not stick to every little paragraph of it and say that it must be implemented. The world is changing fast. and nowhere is it changing more rapidly than on the industrial front. Therefore, I most strongly urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to pause before they press the Government to bring in legislation which is restrictive and which would put into a straitjacket that might take a long time to remove an industry, retail trade, which is so vital to the people of the country.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I hope that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) will forgive me if, in the interest of brevity, I do not follow his arguments on the particular question of shops legislation except to say two things briefly. Very much the same kind of arguments used by the hon. Gentleman tonight were used a hundred years ago concerning the factory legislation of that time. We were then in the midst of a great industrial revolution. The same kind of arguments about the country being ruined were then used in this House to prevent legislation forbidding children under 11 working, twelve, fourteen or sixteen hours a day.
§ Mr. J. Rodgers
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that we can learn, in this second industrial revolution, from the mistakes made in the first one?
§ Mr. Mulley
The hon. Gentleman must allow us to interpret his speech, and my impression of it was that in the twentieth century his arguments and general observations about the country being ruined in competition with other countries, and so forth, were about on the same level as the remarks made about the first factory legislation.
The second point I want to make is that our complaint today is not only about the postponement of the Shops Bill in the present Session. Our complaint is about the general delay in approaching the legislation and the other legislation that would be necessary to implement the Gowers Report. I think that the dates speak for themselves. The final Report was published in 1949. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was then Home Secretary, said in reply to a Question of mine on 26th July, 1951, that substantial progess was made in considering the recommendations, and that at the end of a period he hoped to have consultations with the unions and interests concerned with a view to speedy legislation.
I believe that in 1952 proposals were submitted by the Government to the unions. In 1955, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, the then Home Secretary, Lord Tenby, said that legislation was already being prepared. But here we are in the middle of 1957 and no further forward in tackling the problem of the Gowers recommendations except for the 128 important but by no means substantial section dealing with agricultural workers. That is our main burden of complaint over the question of delay.
I wish to be brief, because many hon. Members still desire to speak, and I shall refer only to office workers and that part of the Gowers Reports which relates to their conditions. I speak for the Clerical and Administrative Workers' Union, which has 50,000 members working in offices of all sorts and sizes; excluding railways and public services, where the workers are catered for in separate unions. No doubt their point of view will be put, if time permits.
I consider that in his opening remarks the Home Secretary was disappointing and very misleading. To sum up his doctrine in a sentence, it appeared to be that no Government can ever promise anything because no indication may be given of what might be put in a future Gracious Speech. If the right hon. Gentleman follows that doctrine to its logical conclusion, at the next General Election the party opposite will ask the electorate for a blank cheque and say that it cannot tell the voters anything about what it proposes to do because it would be unconstitutional to divulge what might be included in successive Gracious Speeches. That would be in great contrast to the bogus promises about the cost of living and other matters which have been used by the party opposite in the past to obtain electorial support. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider that new constitutional doctrine which he tried to lay down.
It was interesting to hear views about the past, but what the workers of the country want to know is the Government's plans for future legislation. They are not interested in the past achievements of the Tory Party. We can see no excuse for the Government having failed to go further than they have in implementing the recommendations contained in the Gowers Committee Reports. If the Government do not think it in the interests of the country to implement those recommendations, at least they should be honest enough to say so. Then we could argue whether they were right. But to say, as they have done time after time, that they believe in all these things, and are trying to get them done, and then to do nothing, is, in my opinion, grossly dishonest.
129 In this matter, as in many others, a Bill on the Floor of the House is worth three in the Home Office pigeon-holes. As the Bills mount up in the Home Office pigeon-holes one wonders whether it will be necessary to have them put on microfilm in order that there may be sufficient room to store them. I understand that between 1923 and 1936 there were 11 office regulation Bills introduced into this House by private Members. When we debated the last such Bill, the twelfth, which was introduced in 1955 by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), we were given to understand by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that this is a matter in which the initiative of private Members is not appropriate.
We know the difficulty which is experienced by private Members over the question of Money Resolutions and, of course, the subject is a technical one. But if the Government advances the argument that they can do it better as a reason for rejecting Bills promoted by private Members, at least the Government should, within two years after that speech by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, have implemented more of the recommendations contained in the Reports of the Gowers Committee.
One of the difficulties which is encountered when we are trying to deal with conditions in offices is that there is no legal definition of an office. I think that an office is said to be a work place within the meaning of the Public Health Acts, but, as will be known by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, one cannot invoke the Public Health Acts unless a nuisance has been created, or unless it can be shown that a particular situation is prejudicial to health. As the hon. and learned Member will know, learned counsel can advance strong arguments to show that a serious situation is not technically a nuisance. Although something may be extremely unpleasant and, in the long run, prove prejudicial to health, it is often difficult to prove it legally.
One of the principal reasons why clerical workers wish for legislation is that they want some form of inspectorate to see that conditions are satisfactory. As hon. Members will know, the early Factories Acts proved practically useless, because there were no inspectors to 130 enforce the statutory provisions. While the Tory landowners of those days were enjoying themselves, and paying off old scores against the Whig industrialists—let us be frank about it, that was the main reason why the Factories Acts ever got on to the Statute Book—even those Tory landowners realised that without inspectors the Factories Acts were useless.
So the main reason why office workers want legislation is so that there may be inspectors to whom they can complain. They also wish to share with their industrial brethren the feeling that they may look to Parliament for regulations setting out what should be the condition of the premises in which they work, and to ensure that the minimum standards laid down are complied with. That is a different matter from asking that the lack of sanitary accommodation, or whatever it is which is prejudicial to health, should be declared a nuisance.
The desire for such legislation is not only because of academic interest or for the convenience of reference. It is also because there are many offices where conditions are deplorable and would not be tolerated in premises to which the provisions of the Factories Acts apply. It is true that such conditions are more often found in small offices than in large, but there are examples of disgraceful conditions to be found in offices of public authorities, large corporations and even the Civil Service.
I wonder whether the sloth of the Government in this matter is because they fear the consequences of such legislation. Were legislation introduced to implement the recommendations in Part II of the Gowers Reports, dealing with health, welfare and safety provisions, it would probably meet with as much if not greater resistance from vested interests than was offered to the shops legislation in another place. There would be great resistance offered by bodies and organisations which would be obliged to spend money to provide better working conditions for their workers. While some offices are admirably designed, and the clerks working in them enjoy good conditions and amenities, they are, I am sorry to say, the exception rather than the rule.
In many offices, there is overcrowding and the premises are dirty, badly lit and ventilated. In many cases, windows are 131 cleaned only if the clerks clean them, and the sanitary accommodation is inadequate. Washing facilities either do not exist or are inadequate. Usually, there is no hot water. Rest room facilities are rare and, in many cases, there is nowhere for the workers to eat their sandwiches. Canteens are completely out of the question and clerks have to eat their lunch at their desks. They are lucky if they have facilities for obtaining hot drinks even in winter weather. First-aid equipment is not obligatory and very often is not available.
It is perfectly true that there has been a revolution in office techniques, but with the development of mechanisation in offices I would have thought that it had more rather than less relevance that office workers should be covered by the Factories Acts or something equivalent. Clearly, the danger of accident is much more likely in mechanised offices than in the old-fashioned sort dealing only with pens and ink.
I could give many examples, but I do not want to detain the House. I would just recall one example of bad conditions which was explained at my union's annual conference by a colliery clerk, who said that in the area served by his branch the National Coal Board had provided a new mortuary and yet the clerks were working in a tin hut with a leaking roof.
§ Mr. Mulley
I do not want to go into detail on the recommendations of the Gowers Committee except to say that my union regards the Gowers proposals as modest rather than generous, and that in a number of particulars we should want to see the standard envisaged by the Gowers Reports improved in any legislation that may be enacted. These are matters which we can debate in detail later, because today we are dealing only with the principles behind the Reports.
The Home Secretary has said that it is impossible to make a good employer by law, but surely the whole history of the Factories Acts and industrial legislation generally is that we can only get some of the employers to come up to a given standard of their own accord. We must have an Act of Parliament to provide a minimum standard for everybody. and I 132 freely admit that this is an immense problem. We all realise that we cannot suddenly get ideal office conditions, and we appreciate that a period of time will be necessary.
I do not think that the unions would complain about there being reasonable transition provisions. No one has suggested that all the old offices should be pulled down overnight. Certainly, the problem is not in the clear black and white terms which the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) indicated, when he suggested that if we want new offices, we cannot have such things as houses and mental hospitals.
What is very important is that new office buildings are going up over the whole country, and it may well be that they do not conform to the standards that would be laid down by the Gowers legislation. If that be the case, and if because the Government have been so slow in making their views known people are going ahead with office blocks and will later have to adapt them, they will be very irritated and involved in a great deal of unnecessary expense.
I mention that because I want to draw the attention of the House to a very scandalous example of this kind of thing which has been perpetrated by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. I refer to the Queen's Building, at London Airport. As the House knows, this building was built by the Ministry and in the central area there is what I understand is technically known as buried accommodation. There are offices there without any access to daylight, with no natural air and no proper system of air conditioning. There was no consultation between the Ministry, the British European Airways Corporation and the trade unions concerned, despite the fact that in civil aviation, as the Minister knows, there is an excellent National Joint Council. A modicum of consultation would have saved the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation between £40,000 and £50,000 of the taxpayers' money. This would not have been the case if there had been legislation in force, for the Ministry would have been bound to take some notice of the working conditions of the clerks.
The fact is that a ballot has been taken by the clerical workers who would have to work in this accommodation, and by 133 a majority of five to one they have decided not to work in this part of the building. I have here the text of a resolution passed last Thursday by the trade union side of the National Joint Council. It states:That, in the opinion of the trade union side of (he National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport, no employee should be required to work without natural light and air unless and until his organisation is satisfied that the artificial substitutes are adequate. The trade union side supports the action of any employee who refuses to work in conditions which violate these requirements.This resolution was passed unanimously by the trade union side of the Council, on which, as the Minister knows, 18 unions are represented, and it was reported the same day to the full Council. Here we have a situation in 1957 in which a brand new building has been built by a Government Department in direct contradiction to the whole trend of social legislation and in violation of the principles of the Gowers recommendations.
That involves a very substantial loss to the Government, even if they are able, by installing artificial means of air conditioning, and so on, to make the building fit for clerks to work in, but I am not at all sure whether that is possible. I understand that new walls, floors and ceilings have been ripped apart at a cost of £40,000 because of this aspect of the planning of the building.
Another very unfortunate feature is that the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation is trying to shunt the cost on to B.E.A. by charging it a higher rent to recover the full cost of alterations that have to be made because of the Ministry's own fault in its original planning. I hope at least that this course will not be pursued. There is no reason why British civil aviation should bear the cost of the Government's own mistakes. I hope that the Ministry will not only be able to find a way of making the building fit for the clerks to use, but also a way to pay for it that will not put an additional burden upon B.E.A.
It is important that this aspect of new building should be stressed because, apart from the cost to the lives of the clerks who work in bad conditions, there is a very complicated and immense problem being made even more difficult by the delay that is still occurring. I hope that in framing their Gowers proposals the Government will give priority to an office regulation Bill. At the same time, I would 134 make it clear, on the part of my union and myself, that in confining these remarks to offices we do not feel that we have any greater claim to consideration than other workers. We should like shop workers, railway workers and others to get their part of the Gowers Reports, too.
I have confined my remarks to office buildings in the interests of time. I hope, therefore, that in their reply the Government will give us more encouraging news of the future than was given in the debate by the Home Secretary.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Boardman (Leigh)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) is no longer in his place. While he made a most interesting speech, he probably knows very little about the distributive trades.
He said that he had missed most parts of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). He probably missed that part wherein my right hon. Friend said that three out of four shops had staffs of four or fewer, including the owner or manager. He probably also missed the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), who said that in the smaller trading establishments it was impracticable to divide up managerial responsibility for cash and for goods.
What the hon. Member for Sevenoaks had to say about self-service and supermarkets was quite interesting. It is all right to sit here talking about self-service and supermarkets, but do not let us do this in the same breath as talking about the little man. The little man will have no place in that distributive world of self-service and supermarkets. I did not want to say that in the absence of the hon. Member, but probably it had to be so.
I suppose there must have been a number of my hon. Friends who sat, as I did, through the admirable speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth and my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore hoping to catch Mr. Speaker's eye and having to go through the demoralising process of striking out lines from their notes because those speeches were so detailed and comprehensive. Those hon. Friends must have wondered, as I did, whether it would be worth while trying to catch Mr. Speaker's 135 eye at all. Nevertheless, I wish to make one or two observations about the closing hours of shops.
An incident during the Premiership of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) may be within the recollection of many hon. Members present. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman was being severely criticised from our Front Bench about the difference between Tory promise and Tory performance. Probably hon. Members will recollect that the right hon. Gentleman replied to the taunt by saying, "It does not say because you put something in a political manifesto that you have to carry it out." We remember that quite well, but we rather pride ourselves on this side of the House that what goes into a political manifesto must be carried out, even if that means working through the night for three or four nights a week.
It is generally taken for granted, and I certainly believed it, that if a reference to projected legislation is made in the Gracious Speech that should be good evidence of the intention of the Government. Therefore, it is quite obvious that there was a great deal of bewilderment and consternation when the Government decided to withdraw this Bill. The Government have had some support. Some of my hon. Friends seem to know what particular pressure has influenced the Government, but I have not a clue. The whole thing is incomprehensible.
There have been some very weird criticisms of this idea of amending shops legislation. For instance, some of the newspapers have been talking about the delights of tourists, particularly in places like Switzerland, when they are able to shop until practically midnight. They say that as we are trying to attract tourists here it might be a good thing if we had some freedom in shopping hours, so that shops would remain open late and make the towns gay.
I am as interested in attracting money from tourists as is anyone in this House, but I would not start by keeping the shops open until midnight. Most people with money do not want to spend it at bed time but in the morning. If I wanted to increase the tourist trade, I should start with the hotels and raise the general efficiency in the hotels. In the shops I 136 would concentrate not on giving greater facilities for spending money, but on giving greater value for the money spent than is provided under this Government. I thought the effect on the tourist trade was a particularly weird criticism, but it was put out seriously by some newspapers.
When we talk about the attractions of later closing in countries such as Switzerland, let us not forget that we had our basinful of late closing of shops in this country. Let us not forget that when our shops kept open longest our people had the least to spend. Shop keepers were not keeping open these terrible hours and retaining their staffs until 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock at night because they were conscious of the fact that they were doing a public service. The shop keepers were doing that because they were frightened of the man next door and the man across the way. They were scared to death in case someone ran into the shop next door for a packet of tea.
Surely we have got rid of that attitude once and for all. Full employment has had an impact on the distributive trade as great as, if not greater than, its impact on many other industries. It has altered the whole pattern of staffing in retail shops. It has presented the retail trade with many difficulties. As a result, we now have in the distributive trade and behind our shop counters a far higher proportion of married women than ever before. I have spoken to a number of these women because I am interested in the distributive trade. If hon. Members talk to them they will find that married women find serving in shops an attraction because generally it enables them to get jobs nearer home. They also find that it is convenient, because if the shop opens at 9 a.m. they probably have time to get the children to school before they go to work. In the evening they finish work at a reasonable time and can get home to serve the husband and the family with an evening meal.
If by this negative process of withdrawing the Bill and by any other method we encourage the later closing of shops, these married women will leave the staffs of shop keepers. I must stress that if we add to the difficulties of shop keepers we must add to the difficulties of their customers. The hon. Member for 137 Sevenoaks spoke glibly of a shift system which, even if it were practicable, would cost money. Such systems would either add to the customer's bill or, alternatively, would mean that the waiting time in shops would be considerably longer, from which the customer would suffer.
A time when the greatest national need is increasing national efficiency strikes me as being a very odd time for the Government to tell the shopkeepers that they must lower their standards of service. That is what they are doing by telling them that they must increase their overheads and their wages hills, in full knowledge of the fact that even if they keep the shops open for twenty-four hours a clay they will not add a single penny to the country's purchasing power. To tell the shopkeepers that is absurd.
The Home Secretary told us today that the Government will keep the question of shop closing hours under constant review. I hope it will not be too constant for too long, because those words sounded very ominous to me, coming from the Front Bench opposite. I hope that before long the Government will have second thoughts on this matter and will introduce an even better Measure than that which they have just withdrawn.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Sir Harold Webbe (Cities of London and Westminster)
I shall 'not detain the House for more than a few minutes, for I have not the intention or, indeed, the ability to discuss the many major problems which are raised by the Gowers Reports, nor do I wish to argue the general question whether it is possible, wise or even desirable to attempt to implement all the Gowers recommendations by a series of Bills, each one of which requires very careful thought and consideration. I want, however, to say a few words on two aspects of the problem with which, in my own forty years of business, I have been brought closely into contact.
My first point relates to conditions in offices. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) is not here, because I listened with great interest to his speech and would like to make one or two comments on it. Of course I agree, and everyone who has seen a great deal of office accommodation in this country must agree, that there are very many offices where the conditions leave a very great deal to be desired. There is a great deal 138 of overcrowding, partly due to the fact that businesses, essentially, are concentrated in comparatively small areas, and that the successful ones grow and find increasing needs for staff.
The reason for the overcrowding may be a sound one, but there can be no argument whatever that an overcrowded office is a bad and an inefficient office. No one can deny that, in many cases, the provision of lavatory accommodation, washing facilities, and so on, things which in these days are accepted as being essential, is often inadequate. We should like to see that state of affairs remedied, and I believe that it is being remedied as fast as it can be. I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Sheffield. Park, was right when he said that even if legislation were passed tomorrow there would have to be a considerable transitional period before we could hope to bring the very large number of existing offices up to the standards that we would like them to reach.
In one sense, however, good has come out of the tragedy which visited places like the City of London in the war. We now have very large blocks of new offices going up, not only in London but in every one of our big cities. I have had an opportunity of seeing a great many of them, and I have no fears whatever that those offices would not generally reach, and, indeed, pass any standard of amenity and convenience and efficiency that this House of Commons would be prepared to embody in legislation. I am not afraid, as the hon. Member seemed to be, that the people who are building these new blocks of offices may find themselves in a year or two obliged to pull them to pieces to meet some new requirement imposed by this House.
The hon. Member referred in some detail—and very much to my interest—to what has happened at London Airport. It is a sorry story. I am sure that he would not expect me, at any rate, to express any very great surprise that nationalised and Government-controlled industry falls so far behind private enterprise. I know of no comparable muddle in the case of any private enterprise building. Had there been, I am quite certain that several people would have been sacked—indeed, the muddle would not have arisen, because the matter would have been better looked after.
139 We are now getting office accommodation as good as can be found in any country in the world. Personally, I am glad of that, not only because of the improved conditions which it offers to those who work in the offices, but because I am also certain that it is a good thing in itself. My own experience in building up in my own business, from ground floor, a fairly considerable clerical staff, has convinced me that to provide good accommodation and conditions for the people who work in the offices is about the best commercial investment that can be made.
Therefore, while I hope that the conditions in offices will be improved, as I am certain that they will be, and that we shall gradually adopt a high standard willingly, and by desire, and because we see the need for it, I also hope very much that no Government will too hurriedly seek to codify those conditions, and to lay down conditions which will certainly become maximum as well as minimum. I hope that they will give much more time for modern ideas in office building, office lay-out and office equipment to indicate the right requirements, and will limit any legislation to requirements which impinge on such things as public health.
I want to say a word or two about another aspect of the matter, and that is the Shops Bill. I have not been a shop keeper, but I think I may say that in my own division I have as big a proportion of the distributive trade as have most hon. Members. I am happy to think that most of the shops in the West End of London would not be criticised even by the most critical and unreasonable member of a trade union or shop worker. In most of the shops, so far as I know, the conditions are extremely good.
Of course, those shops would not be affected by early closing hours because they already observe them as a matter of commercial practice and sense. They meet the needs of their shoppers who mostly come in from the suburbs, and they do that within the ordinary hours from about 9 a.m. to 5.30, or sometimes 6 p.m. They are catering for their customers in the proper way, and the Shops Bill would affect them very little.
I wish the conditions of those who work in the shops to be as good, healthy and easy as they can be made. I know that 140 in the "silly season" we read letters in the newspapers about discourteous shop assistants and that kind of thing. My own experience—and I am rather a persistent shopper, because I like it—is that, on the whole, and with very few exceptions, the men and women who work in the retail shops are doing a job which deserves honour from all of us.
It surely must be one of the most difficult jobs that there are. It is not only physically arduous—and it can be no fun to stand behind a counter for hours on end, even though there may be a seat to use when the opportunity occurs, which is seldom; a shop assistant, to be successful, needs not only physical strength but needs the patience of Job and the tact of an archangel. More than once I have tried to imagine what the language of a shop assistant must be as soon as he gets behind the scenes and can really let off steam about the customers who have treated him so abominably.
We have to remember one thing, however, and that is that the distributive trade serves the public. In my division, I hear very little either in support or in condonation of the Shops Bill from those who work in shops, for reasons which I have indicated. They are not touched by it; they are not worried by it. But I hear a very great deal from the more numerous people who are in and about the West End during the day—not visitors, but people who earn their living there as clerks in offices and similar places.
Those people feel very strongly about the proposal in the Shops Bill, which is now dropped for the time being, to insist on enforcing the earlier closing of shops not because they mind what happens in the West End, but because they are very much concerned with what happens in the suburbs, and often the comparatively distant suburbs where they live.
Most offices today close at about half-past five. Many of the people who work in those offices have a long journey in the rush hour for a considerable distance. If we cut down by one hour their shopping possibilities, it means that they can never do daily shopping. It is true that in many cases they will have Saturday mornings when they can do shopping. It is also true that sometimes they can put in an hour's shopping in the mid-day in the West End, and some of them do so 141 at the expense of having a proper meal; but they cannot shop in the evening unless the shops are open for them to make the purchases which they need to make.
I know that our theorists and our brilliant housewives will tell us that if housewives use their brains they can always buy in advance and that they should never want anything at the last moment. Most of those brilliant housewives are often hopping mad because they have forgotten something themselves. It is not practical politics to expect people so to order their lives that they never need to shop after they get home in the evenings. By all means let us have a limit placed on the total time shop assistants may work. No one can say that that is an impossible proposition. It has been done for children, it has been done in factories and it has been done in all sorts of other directions, and it could and should be done in retail establishments.
Reference was made to America. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) did not quote an example which comes to mind at once. I think that everyone has heard of Wanamaker Stores, perhaps the first of the most important big stores in the world. For two days of the week, the stores open at 12 noon and close at 9.30 or 10.0 at night, with no inconvenience to the shop assistants and certainly with no objection by the shop assistants who very much like to have a couple of mornings off when they can amuse themselves in the mornings and not only in the evenings.
§ Sir H. Webbe
Yes; perhaps they can do some shopping for themselves certainly, it is very much to the convenience of late shoppers.
I do not want to suggest that we should go so far as that—certainly not as a general rule—but surely there can be no objection to that happening in isolated cases, as it does in America with everyone's approval and to everyone's advantage. I want to see conditions of work in shops made healthy, comfortable and as easy as it is possible to do having regard to the difficulties and the nature of the job. I want to see the hours of labour in shops limited, but I want also to see freedom given to the 142 shops to meet the needs of their customers.
I am not appealing tonight on behalf of workers in shops. I am appealing on behalf of the very much greater number of people who work in the West End of London and in the City of London, and whose needs cannot be served if we start by imposing quite ridiculous closing hours compulsorily on every trader in the country. For heaven's sake, let us keep some reasonable freedom for the exercise of discretion. Control general conditions and do not allow people to be exploited, but allow people to think, and do not let us imagine that all the wisdom in relation to these matters rests in this House of Commons or even in another place.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I am sorry it was necessary for us to hold a debate on this subject today. It has, I think, been redeemed by two features. The first has been a series of speeches from this side of the House, beginning with that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), which have shown a real experience of industrial conditions and of conditions in shops and offices. It may perhaps be significant that whereas every one of us who has spoken from this side of the House tonight is a fully paid up member of a trade union, trade unionists on the benches opposite have not been prominent in the discussions. The other redeeming feature was the maiden speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike). It was a speech of humour and generosity, which I greatly appreciated, and which, if I may say so, was characteristic of a Yorkshire woman.
I am sorry that we have had this debate today, because it is a little unfortunate that we should have to take up Parliamentary time in discussing one Report which was submitted to us in 1947 and another Report submitted to us in 1949. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) said that he was glad that the Shops Bill had been dropped so that we could have a little more time to think. The hon. Gentleman must think very slowly if he has not been able to reach a conclusion after ten years of thinking. It is even more unfortunate that the welfare of the 11 million workers and 1½ million juveniles 143 should have been neglected during this time.
The most unfortunate aspect has been the way in which the Home Secretary today has abandoned all the pledges which have been given by the Government in the past. I say quite frankly to the right hon. Gentleman that the speech he made today was, I thought, the most apologetic we have had from him since the time he defended the Suez adventure in the autumn of last year. We had formed high hopes of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman was going to conduct himself as Home Secretary from some of his earlier sorties upon such matters as prison reform. Today, I am afraid, we have been extremely disappointed by what he had to tell us. We hoped that he would dissipate the clouds of torpor and apathy which have hung over the Home Office for so long. Perhaps, if his predecessor had been able to unglue his ear from the telephone, he would have left a smaller legacy of neglect to the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that, of course, he fully subscribes to all the objectives set out in the Gowers Reports. He talked far more about the past than he did about the future, and I, too, should like to talk about the past. The terms of reference of the Cowers Committee, as my hon. Friends have reminded us, covered those workers not already covered by the Factories Acts or the Mines and Quarries Act. So far, we have had legislation implementing the recommendations of the Committee in respect of workers in agriculture only. But the Government's proposals on that part of the Reports which deals with non-industrial employment were issued in October, 1952, for discussion with the various organisations interested. This is where the right hon. Gentleman's stand is so surprising. The Trades Union Congress was taken into consultation and itself had consultations with the various unions affected. Deputations went from the General Council of the Trades Union Congress to the Home Office on 2nd May, 1953, 2nd November, 1953, 18th October, 1954, and on 24th March, 1955.
Shortly after that last date my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), to whom the Labour movement 144 will always owe a debt of gratitude, himself introduced a Private Member's Bill seeking to do what the Government so signally failed to do. It was during the course of the one day's Committee stage debate on that Bill that we had a pledge from the Government. The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth)—I apologise for quoting this again—before he left, to my regret, the deep peace of the Home Office for the comparative hurly-burly of the back benches, committed the Government to legislation upon this matter. He said:Upon the main question whether the Government are willing to give a pledge that it is their intention to introduce a Bill to deal with the matters mentioned in the Gowers Report as soon as possible, I can certainly say that that is the intention of the Government, and I am most willing to give that pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 26th April, 1955; c. 32–3.]I shall return to that pledge at a later stage. After the Election, of course, the right hon. Gentleman the then Home Secretary repeated that pledge in the House of Commons, and the Minister of Labour, the present Lord Monckton, also gave a pledge in somewhat similar terms.
A fortnight after that the Trades Union Congress met the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Minister of Labour. On that occasion, the Prime Minister appears to have indicated to the General Council of the T.U.C. a programme of legislation which the Home Secretary now tells us is quite impossible. On that occasion, however, the Prime Minister laid down in the clearest possible terms the four stages in which it was proposed that the Government would implement the Reports of the Gowers Committee.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The hon. Member must not be too quick in this matter. I made no such statement that legislation was impossible. I said that I was not prepared to foretell or to tell the House about forward legislative programmes. That is a perfectly honourable position to take up, and the hon. Member has no right to say that I said no legislation will be envisaged.
§ Mr. Greenwood
So we may take it that the Home Secretary is not saying that legislation is impossible; he is saying that it is impossible for him to say that legislation will be introduced.
§ Mr. Greenwood
We at least respect the right hon. Gentleman for being more honest than his predecessors and not making pledges which, obviously, it will not be possible to carry out.
I am not surprised that the Trades Union Congress General Council, having over a period of years failed to get any satisfaction whatever from the present Government, should have written to the Prime Minister on 14th June protesting emphatically at the delay and saying:The General Council regard further delay in implementing these proposals as indefensible and unnecessary.If that was the view of the General Council before the speech of the Home Secretary this afternoon, I hate to think what the members of the General Council will be saying tomorrow.
Passing on from the general considerations of the health, safety and welfare section of the Report to the various categories of employment, I dc not want to touch upon the question of the railways, because it was adequately dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones). I should, however, like to say how appalled all of us must have been to have heard him read the resolution, passed by the executive committee of the National Union of Railwaymen in January last year, deploring the lack of provision for safety on the railways.
That is all. I want to say on railways, but I regret very much that the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to give us some assurance about legislation for improving conditions in shops. If we look at the provisions of the Shops Act, 1950, a consolidation Measure, we find that the references to conditions which must be observed in shops are wholly unsatisfactory. They are very vague in their terminology, they permit of wide variations in conditions, they give virtually unlimited discretion to the enforcing authority, and in many cases they can be wholly ineffective. It is not surprising that the (lowers Committee reported very adversely indeed upon the existing provisions in the 1934 Act, which was reenacted in the Act of 1950.
In the case of offices too, the right hon. Gentleman was unable to give any pledge 146 about legislation and yet at present there is no specific legislation dealing with conditions in office buildings. In so far as they are regulated, conditions are regulated by the Public Health Acts and they tend to be negative rather than positive, and to be laid down in the interests of the general public rather than in the interests of the workers who are involved.
I was interested, as all of us were, at the note of fiction which the right hon. Gentleman introduced into the debate when he told us of the record of the Conservative Party in social reform. As one of my hon. Friends reminded the House, we had eleven Private Members' Bills seeking to regulate conditions in offices introduced into the House between the last war and the war before it. During that time, the House was dominated by Conservative majorities and it is not surprising to find that not one of those Private Members' Bills seeking to improve conditions in offices reached the Statute Book in the face of opposition in the House of Commons.
Since the Gowers Report was published there has been a barrage of representations from the Trades Union Congress and also from the various unions providing for clerical workers, from the National Union of Clerks and Administrative Workers, for which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) spoke. and from the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association and also from the National Union of Bank Employees.
I have with me tonight a letter from Mr. Webber, the Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, complaining of the fact that, although there has been an improvement in conditions on the railways since nationalisation, there is still inadequate provision of rest rooms and that too many underground rooms are being used for clerical staff. I have a report from the National Union of Bank Employees which paints a rather terrifying picture of conditions in some bank buildings, particularly in the rural areas, of bank premises where there are no facilities for washing and in many cases no lavatory accommodation at all.
I wish that there was more time to develop these two points, but I want to touch upon the question of implementing the recommendations of the Report so far as the working hours of juveniles are 147 concerned. This comes in the part of the Report which was issued in 1949, and we have still got from the Government no promise whatsoever about legislation to protect the conditions of 1½ million young workers. I was extremely disappointed today to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he could not give a pledge upon this and then to go on to say that we had to consider the effect on the economy of such a Measure. That is the kind of argument that has been used against every social reform, even the social reforms which the right hon. Gentleman claims to have been carried out by the Conservative Party during the last 100 years. It was used to defend the system under which little boys were used for cleaning chimneys.
I think that the answer was given to the right hon. Gentleman by the Trades Union Congress Report of 1949. In paragraph 134 the General Council said:Conditions of young workers cannot be determined solely by reference to immediate economic circumstances: they constitute the reserve of future economic power of the community and considerations of their long-term welfare and development are therefore more important than any but the most pressing of contemporary economic requirements.I very much regret that the right hon. Gentleman who proved to be a good Minister of Education should have been led into making an observation of that kind today.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks quoted with approval one of the few leading articles in the Manchester Guardian which it would be possible for hon. Members opposite to quote with approval. I am sorry that the Manchester Guardian seems to have been in one of its bilious moods this morning because it is one of my two favourite newspapers. The Manchester Guardian accuses us really of being doctrinaire upon this matter and says:There is nothing to be said for a Measure that would force all shopkeepers to close earlier than they do irrespective of whether they themselves want to serve their customers or not.I cannot understand where the hon. Member for Sevenoaks or the Manchester Guardian get this extraordinary idea of what we on this side of the House are standing for. What we have said as a party has been said by the Union of Shop. Distributive and Allied 148 Workers, it has been said by the Trades Union Congress representing 1½ million women workers, it has been said by the Transport and General Workers' Union, which has a very large women's membership, and it has been said by the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, and by the National Federation of Professional Workers.
We say that there should be a general six o'clock closing time; that there should be one late night when shops will close at seven o'clock; that local authorities should have the power to fix earlier times if they wish to do so; and that in cases of proven need local authorities shall have the right to fix a later time. I do not think it possible for anyone to devise a more reasonable and more elastic approach to this extremely difficult problem of the closing of shops.
We do not believe in the view expressed by some hon. Gentlemen opposite that it would be in the interests either of the shop assistants or of shopkeepers to allow later opening than the time we have in mind, except, as I have said, in the case of proven need. If there is an intensification of economic competition, we believe that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would be weighting the balance far too much on the side of the big shops were they to allow an indefinite extension of closing hours of the kind some of them have been arguing in favour of tonight.
The question of Sunday closing raises many difficult problems and rouses strong emotions. It involves religious considerations and raises questions of conscience among many hon. Members. I do not wish to go into that aspect. I wish to argue in favour of having a law which does not bring Parliament into contempt in the way the present Sunday closing legislation tends to do. The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) quoted a comment of the former Lord Chief Justice in the case of the London County Council v. Lees in 1939. The Lord Chief Justice said:It might be possible, but I doubt if it would be easy, to compress in the same number of lines more fertile opportunities for doubt and error…Another learned judge, Mr. Justice Humphreys, said in the case of Binns v. Wardale in 1946:…Parliament starts by declaring that every shop shall…be closed for the serving of 149 customers on Sundays.' Then it was thought necessary to make exceptions to that. What are the exceptions and why are they made? I have found it quite impossible to arrive at any conclusion as to what was in the mind of those who put in this list of exceptions unless it amounts to this…that wherever you can think of anything which people are likely to want on Sunday, then a shop may be kept open for that purpose…That is a position which is not going to increase the respect of shopkeepers or the public for this House.
I was interested to read on Sunday in the People an article entitled, "How does Blackpool get away with it?" The writer of that article, Mr. Neville Stack, quoted an interview with Mr. John McDermott, chairman of Blackpool's Fancy Goods and All-Seasonal Shopkeepers' Association. He said:People want to spend their money every day of the week so there's nothing you can't buy in Blackpool on a Sunday. Many shops happily take the risk. If they are caught they regard their fine as a normal business overhead. I will give you a pound for any little shopkeeper who has bothered to find out what he is actually allowed to sell on Sundays.That is a ridiculous state of affairs, and the Home Secretary ought to be anxious to clear up confusion of that kind at the earliest possible moment. We believe that the existing law is in a mess and we say that reform of the law is urgent. We say, quite simply, that we want a law which is intelligible, which is respected by the public, and which is enforceable by the local authorities.
We have heard a great deal today about the reason for the Government jettisoning a Bill which would have regulated shop hours. The Home Secretary described it as a tidying up measure of intense complexity, and we have heard how it would have been quite impossible for the Government to introduce it at this late stage in' the Session. Of course, that is true. But what the right hon. Gentleman did not tell the House is that the Shops Bill was first introduced into Another place on 29th November last year. It had only nine days of discussion, and on one of those days only one minute was devoted to the Bill. Nevertheless, it took until 16th May for the Bill to conclude its passage through another place.
The Second Reading lasted an hour and twenty-nine minutes. Altogether the Committee stage took sixteen hours and fifteen minutes. Recommittal took six hours and fifty-two minutes. The Report 150 stage of what, according to the right hon. Gentleman was a highly controversial Measure, took twenty-one minutes. The Third Reading, which was moved formally by the Minister of Education, took only thirteen minutes. Altogether, this "tidying up Measure of intense complexity," which aroused such strong opposition according to the right hon. Gentleman, which nevertheless occasioned only two Divisions in another place, one of which was called by the right hon. Gentleman's own friends, only took up twenty-five hours and ten minutes of Parliamentary time in another place.
I think it is not without significance to compare on the other hand the amount of time which the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the House was prepared to devote to the Rent Bill. Upon that, we spent thirty-nine and a half hours in the House itself and approximately seventy and a half hours in the Committee Room upstairs. That means altogether over one hundred hours the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to devote to the Rent Bill, but this Bill which took only twenty-five hours in another place he finds quite beyond his capacity to steer through the House of Commons.
I quoted earlier the pledge which the hon. Baronet the Member for Hendon, South gave to the Standing Committee on the eve of the General Election of 1955 before he left the deep, deep, peace of the Home Office for the comparative hurly-burly of the back benches. He promised then that legislation would be introduced at the earliest possible moment. On the other hand, when in the course of the last General Election, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said:There are five to six million rent-controlled houses in Britain, and I prophesy all these rents will be increased if they"—that is to say, the Conservatives—return.the Conservative Central Office was at great pains to issue a denial two days later, saying:This is reminiscent of an earlier canard of Mr. Hugh Dalton, who said at the Margate Conference on 2nd October, 1951, that 'a general permission to raise rents everywhere was what the Conservatives wanted'.151 The Conservative Central Office went on to say:There was no more truth in the report circulated by Mr. Bevan than there was in Mr. Dalton's insinuation of October, 1951.Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been able to find time to pass through the House a Measure which they promised in April, 1955, they would pass through it, but they have found three or four times as much time in order to pass through a Bill which they denied in May, 1955, that they were going to introduce. It is quite clear that when the Government had to choose between devoting Parliamentary time to safeguarding the working conditions of 10 million workers and producers of wealth, and, on the other hand, giving £100 million to the landlords, they had no difficulty in coming down on the side of the landlords. In the light of our experience, I say it is quite clear to us that where the service of Mammon is concerned, there is no early closing for the Conservative Party.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)
By a strange coincidence, having been silent in this House for many months, I now find myself making my fourth speech in two days' sittings. I was, as it were, a "not-out batsman" when we adjourned for Whit-sun, having had to reply to no fewer than three subjects which were raised on the day before we went into recess.
One of those speeches had to deal with one particular aspect, namely, the prevention of accidents in factories, of the important subject of safety, health and welfare in employment, and now, tonight, I have to deal with the subject on a much wider canvas. I am glad about this, because it is one of the most important matters in the field of social policy.
Before I come to the debate itself, I am sure the House will agree that it is both right and proper, as well as pleasing, to congratulate my hon. Friend the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) on her maiden speech. We congratulate her with sincerity, because she did what this House always likes, namely, she drew on her experience in making her maiden speech. The hon. Lady was extremely fortunate to have such an occasion and took advantage of it. I say that with 152 some feeling, because I can still conjure up the sense of terror which I had, I remember, too, the good fortune I had in my maiden speech to be able to talk on the subject in which I was most interested, joint consultation in industry and the improvement of human relations. So I share with my hon. Friend her feelings in having this opportunity today, and I congratulate her.
The hon. Lady made one point which was particularly important and which we should all do well to bear in mind when considering this subject, the great influence of economic conditions upon working conditions. The driving force of full employment has itself created better working conditions. We welcome the tendency of material conditions to run ahead of legislative requirements. The point of my hon. Friend's argument was that in following policies that maintain full employment the Government may well do more to improve working conditions than by any legislation.
My hon. Friend also made the very important point of stressing the need for flexibility in these changing times. She sounded a slightly warning note that while we should welcome legislation to protect the conditions of the workers we should also be aware of the danger of rigidity which can sometimes occur in legislation when conditions are changing as rapidly as they are now. We have a long history in this country of the fight to improve working conditions. We led the world in the Industrial Revolution. Without that lead, the people of this country could never have enjoyed their standard of life, which has been very high by comparison with almost every other country in the world.
Just as we reap the benefits of being the pioneer in this field so, also, have we suffered from some of the mistakes which are inevitable when we break new ground. Paradoxically, the same development which created the wealth and high standard of living of the country also created, because it was allowed to take place at the time under the system of complete laissez faire which was the fashionable doctrine of the political intellectuals of those days, industrial conditions which too often led to squalor and degradation in factories and living conditions. This was a curse on our society the spell of which we are even 153 now only beginning completely to outlive.
Great progress has been made. The long struggle to obtain better working conditions has been carried out by many people; by trade union leaders, who have played a great part; by enlightened employers, increasing in numbers as the years go by; and by social workers and others. All these people have produced these results by their direct influence in their own fields of activity and by more general efforts to inform and arouse public opinion.
The main battle was, of course, won a long time ago and the people who fought it successfully were of all parties, and none. I think it is right—I do not want to do anything but acknowledge this—that this matter should go beyond party politics, yet it is an indisputable fact that, so far as Parliamentary action was necessary, the party to which I belong and which forms the Government of the country today, has a notable record of legislation in this field which is acknowledged by all objective observers, and tribute has been paid to it by men who, in other matters, have been our political opponents. I only mention this because right hon. Members—
§ Mr. Steele
I have been following the hon. Gentleman as closely as I could. He started by saying that this was above politics altogether, above party, and then went on to explain what the Tory Party had done; and took great delight in doing so.
§ Mr. Carr
If the hon. Member will be patient, he will see why I am doing so.
I only mentioned it because right hon. and hon. Members, in today's debate, have sought to extend their criticisms of certain specific measures relating to the Gowers Report into a general charge that the Conservative Party and Government are indifferent and neglectful about the improvement of working conditions and that no further progress will be made until a Labour Government is returned. So said the hon. Lady the Member for 154 Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). Who, then, injected party politics into this debate? What, then, is the purpose of this debate, except party politics on the part of the Opposition?
§ Mr. Carr
Quite properly I should pay tribute, as anyone interested in this work should, to those of all parties and of none, inside the House and outside, for the work they have done in this field of social progress, but such a charge against the Conservative Party and Government which the Opposition is making today is both intemperate and quite contrary to the facts. It is only right and proper that I should rebut it.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The hon. Gentleman should remember that a definite pledge was made, not only to the whole of my party, but to the country, and especially to myself, when I introduced the Bill in April, 1954. We could have defeated the Government that afternoon, but we withdrew the Bill on the understanding that legislation would come before us shortly. If the battle of the hon. Gentleman was against anyone, it was against the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), when he was Chairman of the Early Closing Association, in 1906.
§ Mr. Carr
That is very interesting, but I think that if the hon. Member will allow me to develop my speech in my own way we may get a little further.
I am justified in pointing out once again to the House the record, not of the past hundred years—my right hon. Friend has dealt with that—but the record of the Conservative Party since it was returned to power in 1951. Almost the first Act to be put on the Statute Book by the Conservative Government when elected in that year was the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act. [Laughter.] The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) laughs, but I wonder whether those who benefit by that Act laugh.
§ Mr. Carr
We have had a lot of talk about what the Labour Government would have done but for some unfortunate accident, perhaps loss of power 155 or failure to win power, which prevented them from carrying it out. That Act was followed, first, by the Miners Welfare Act in 1952, then the Agricultural (Poisonous Substances) Act of the same year, the Mines and Quarries Act and the Industrial Injuries Benefit Act, in 1954, and the Agricultural (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, and the Night Baking Act—
§ Mr. Mulley
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is nothing relating to these Measures in the Motion we are discussing.
§ Mr. Speaker
I see no reason why I should check the hon. Gentleman. This matter has been referred to on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Carr
There can be few, if any, Governments who have put on the Statute Book more legislation dealing with this subject in the period of only six years. [Laughter.] When I hear right hon. Members opposite laughing and only able to deal with these points by interjections and noises of that kind I cannot help thinking that their cause is a weak one.
Whatever one may say about the merits of this legislation or whether this or other legislation should be passed, the right hon. Member for Blyth, in opening the debate, made a great point about the fact that time was necessary. The list I have given shows that this Government have provided more time for the purpose of legislation of this kind in six years than many Governments have done in our history.
Our progress in this field has been not only in the form of legislative action. We have taken action such as the setting up of the Industrial Health Advisory Committee to watch over and encourage the growth of proper health services within industry. Was not that something which the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends could have done? We have brought the Factory Inspectorate up to full establishment for the first time in many years; and having achieved that, we have increased its establishment, and further recruiting is now starting. Are not these practical achievements in the direction which is the subject of the debate?
156 Of course, there will always be scope for further improvement in working conditions in every sort of employment, and what has been achieved is by no means any ground for complacency, nor do the Government have any complacency about what remains to be done. But against the record which I have just outlined, it is nonsense, and worse than nonsense, to charge the Government with lack of interest and action in this important field of social policy.
If I may, I will turn my attention to the railway aspect of the Gowers recommendations. In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to the Gowers proposals for railways among all the other important fields covered by the Gowers Reports. I should like to deal with the question somewhat more fully, both because I know that it is a matter of great concern to hon. Members and also because it is a matter which is a direct concern of my Department. I also recognise that the railway unions believe, as a matter of principle, that railway workers should have, as far as is practicable, the same legislative protection for their safety, health and welfare as other workers possess.
But we must not confuse the substance with the shadow of the matter. The passing of an Act of Parliament does not of itself automatically improve working conditions. An Act of Parliament is a means and not an end of itself. The practical purpose which we all want to see achieved is that the conditions of railway workers should be improved as much and as quickly as is practicable, and this depends on the application of real resources of men, money and materials.
The crucial question, therefore, is whether legislation at this stage would, in practice, enable more to be done more quickly. Is progress on the railways in fact being slowed down by the lack of an Act of Parliament? If it were, the case for bringing in a Bill quickly would be a strong one. If not, its need is clearly less immediate.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Is the hon. Member now saying that the Joint Welfare Advisory Council has had every recommendation it has made accepted by the B.T.C.? Or is it in the hands of the B.T.C. to reject any recommendation, in which case there 157 is no appeal? Is it not the case that the Gowers Committee had this point of view put to it by the Railway Executive and that it rejected it and said that a nationalised industry ought not to be in a different position from any other industry?
§ Mr. Carr
I am not saying that. That is not the argument which I am following. I am saying that our answer to the practical question which I have put to the House depends on our judgment of the effort which the British Transport Commission is already making in this field.
Let us look at what the Commission is doing. First, we must remember that the Transport Act, 1947, itself placed certain specific duties upon the Commission in respect of improving working conditions, and there is no doubt that the Commission has been taking these duties seriously. As the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) well knows, a joint welfare advisory council was established for the railways in 1948. This council has produced an agreement setting out the standards which should be aimed at in railway premises, as my right hon. Friend mentioned earlier. It also, as I am sure the hon. Member knows, constantly examines and makes recommendations as to the order of priority in which work should be carried out. For this purpose, this Council is supplied with regional priority lists of major welfare schemes that it is desired to introduce.
In addition, the Commission has, in recent years, expanded the welfare side of its own management organisation, and the fact that the concern of the Transport Commission with welfare is by no means just paper work or window dressing is proved conclusively by the large and increasing sums of money which are being spent on it year by year. Here I should like to make clear—in view of interjections made in my right hon. Friend's opening speech—that the word "welfare", in the sense in which I am using it, and in the sense in which the Commission uses it, in relation to the figures I am about to give, definitely relates to the matters concerned in the Gowers proposals.
Welfare expenditure on the railways was about £1½ million per year for the four years from 1951 to 1954. This was. 158 in itself, a substantial sum of money, but in 1955 welfare expenditure went up to almost £2 million, and last year it jumped to more than £3 million. The Commission now states that it expects this new 1956 level to be at least maintained during the next five years, making a total expenditure for that period of about £16½ million on welfare. Thus, the expenditure of no less than £7½ million for the five years from 1951 to 1955 is to be more than doubled in the next five years, and expenditure at this higher rate has already commenced.
All this is already being spent, without the compulsion of legislation, in providing the amenities for railwaymen, which was the purpose of the Gowers Report. Is it reasonable to expect that the immediate passage of a Bill could enable the Transport Commission to expend more than the large amount of resources it is already expending in this respect? I do not think that it is, and in making this judgment I ask the House to remember that it is not only a question of money but also of the availability of design staff, labour and materials—resources which are all highly taxed by the modernisation of the operational side of the railways which is now going on, as the hon. Member knows, and which, in itself, in the long run, will do more than anything else to improve the lot and status of railway workers.
It is possible, of course, that the existence of a Bill might, to some extent, change the pattern of the present expenditure on welfare, because the Commission might have to put aside some of the projects already planned to give priority to complying with some of a Bill's new legal requirements. But would this necessarily be to the benefit of railway workers, remembering, as we must, that the existing programme of welfare work is being planned in close consultation with the railway unions, and that the Joint Welfare Advisory Council makes recommendations about the priority in which different projects should be tackled?
There is also another consideration, which I think we ought not entirely to overlook. It has been agreed that any railways Bill ought to be supervised and enforced by the Factory Inspectorate. As the House well knows, the Factory Inspectorate has been at very full stretch 159 for many years in carrying out its existing commitments. I was able to announce to the House in a debate last summer that, as a result of an intensive recruiting drive, the Inspectorate was up to establishment level for the first time in many years. Moreover, as I have already mentioned, the Government, having achieved this, are now increasing the establishment of the Inspectorate and undertaking a reorganisation of its work and methods further to improve its work and effectiveness.
In other words, at a time when the accent has had to be so strongly on economy, the Government have been increasing expenditure on the factory inspection of health, safety and welfare. That development was welcomed by the whole House, and I can assure the House that it is being prosecuted vigorously. But it is neither an easy nor a quick task, and I suggest that it is necessary to consider most carefully how far it would be wise to throw on to the Inspectorate, while in the process of recruiting, training and absorbing this extra staff, the further commitment which would result from a railways Bill.
The answer to this question must surely take into account the size of the practical benefits to be expected from such a Bill. On this, I submit to the House that the immediate passage of a railways Bill would not, in fact, speed up the considerable progress which is already being made in improving working conditions on the railways. From the practical point of view, the Bill has become less urgent with the achievement by the Transport Commission of these much higher levels of welfare expenditure.
Indeed, it could well be argued, although I am not seeking to do so tonight, that legislation ought not to be required at all to safeguard the welfare of workers in an industry which is publicly controlled, particularly in one where, as in the case of the railways, the nationalisation Statute places upon the only employer in the field specific duties to promote the health, safety and welfare of its employees and to do this in consultation with the appropriate trade unions.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that his remarks about the nationalised railways ought to be applied 160 to the National Coal Board? Would he also say something about the safety side of the railway regulations?
§ Mr. Carr
The Gowers Committee was set up before the railways were nationalised, and although it reported after nationalisation had taken place it was surely still much too early to see how the welfare provisions of the 1947 Act would work out in practice. It is at least possible that if this problem had been examined against the background of today's conditions, when welfare expenditure on the railways has risen to the large amounts I have mentioned and is guided by a joint council of management and workers, it might not have been considered necessary to recommend special legislation.
All I want to do tonight with reference to this railways Measure is to make quite clear that the Government are committed in the spirit of the findings of the Gowers Report to seeing that progress is made as quickly as is practicable in improving working conditions on the railways and will make sure that this progress is not retarded through lack of legislation. As I have shown, that is certainly not happening at the moment. What we are concerned to see is practical progress going on as fast as possible in the health and welfare conditions of those who work on the railways.
Although the Opposition attack has covered a much wider field, it is obviously the Shops Bill that was their call to battle, but if it is as important as they make out, have they not good reason to feel ashamed that they did not introduce it themselves? After all, they had plenty of time and opportunity to do so. The first Gowers Report on which the Shops Bill was based was published as early as 1947. Thus the Labour Government had no less than four years of office in which to introduce this Bill, but they did not do so; nor, significantly, did they include it among the proposals they made in their 1951 Election manifesto. Obviously, they cannot have thought that the Bill did constitute a major Measure of reform in the conditions of shop workers; nor can they possibly have believed, as they pretend to do, that not to pass this Bill is a betrayal of the shop worker.
The truth is, of course, that the only measure in this Bill affecting the conditions of workers is the Gowers' proposal 161 to reduce by one hour the latest time for shops to remain open. The main legal protection of the shop workers—and it is already a fairly comprehensive protection—rests in other legislation which already exists and which will still exist even if such a Bill were not to be passed. Indeed, the main proposals made by the Gowers Committee for giving further protection to shop workers are contained in the Second Report, which was never intended to be dealt with in this Bill.
These new proposals for protection will, of course, cover not only shop workers. Office workers and others would have to be included, and were always intended to be included, in a further instalment of legislation. A Bill to cover all those provisions would involve, as the House knows and as right hon. Gentlemen opposite were certainly very well aware when they were in power, an extremely long and complicated Bill. In response to the advocacy of many hon. Member for such a Bill, I cannot go further tonight than to repeat what was said by my right hon. Friend.
We are not complacent about the present law and the whole field is to be kept under comprehensive review. But there is a question of priorities, and I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) make the point about priorities so well: everything cannot be done at once. This Parliament is not over yet. We cannot make our long-term plans for legislation
§ on a first in first out basis, by which all the Measures on which we would like legislation are put on a waiting list and taken in some predetermined order. There must be flexibility; both needs and resources change from year to year.
§ All I can say, in conclusion, is that the Government will pay heed to all that has been said in today's debate. Further, before this debate blew up—[Laughter.] There certainly have been a lot of flatulent speeches from the Opposition—the Prime Minister offered to meet representatives of the T.U.C. in the near future to hear their views. My right hon. Friend and I have shown that a great deal is being done in the light of the findings of the Gowers Report. The Government are committed to seeing that progress is made as quickly as is practicable in improving working conditions in the spirit of the Gowers Report, but for well-known reasons we cannot give undertakings about the legislative programme for future Sessions.
§ I suggest to the House that the record of the Government over the last six years in taking action in this field is many times better than that ever achieved by any Labour Government, who are fine pedlars of words but poor when it comes to action, and that our record is a far better promise of things to come than the verbiage of hon. Members opposite.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 309.165
|Division No. 142.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Callaghan, L. J.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Carmichael, J.||Finch, H. J.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Champion, A. J.||Forman, J. C.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Chapman, W. D.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Clunie, J.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Baird, J.||Coldrick, W.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Balfour, A.||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Cove, W. G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Beswick, Frank||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Blackburn, F.||Cronin, J. D.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hale, Leslie|
|Blyton, W. R.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hannan, W.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Deer, G.||Hastings, S.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Dodds, N. N.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Healey, Denis|
|Brockway, A. F.||Dye, S.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edelman, M.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hoy, J. H.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fernyhough, E.||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mort, D. L.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Moss, R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Moyle, A.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hunter, A. E.||Mulley, F. W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Steele, T.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oliver, G. H.||Stonehouse, John|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Oram, A. E.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Orbach, M.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Janner, B.||Oswald, T.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Owen, W. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Padley, W. E.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Pargiter, G. A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Parker, J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Parkin, B. T.||Thornton, E.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Paton, John||Timmons, J.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Peart, T. F.||Tomney, F.|
|Kenyon, C.||Pentland, N.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Usborne, H. C.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Popplewell, E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Prentice, R. E.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Lewis, Arthur||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Probert, A. R.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Proctor, W. T.||West, D. G.|
|Logan, D. G.||Pryde, D. J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Randall, H. E.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|MacDermot, Niall||Rankin, John||Wigg, George|
|McGovern, J.||Redhead, E. C.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McInnes, J.||Reid, William||Williams, David (Neath)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Rhodes, H.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Mahon, Simon||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mason, Roy||Ross, William||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Royle, C.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Woof, R. E.|
|Messer, Sir F.||Short, E. W.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Monslow, W.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Moody, A. S.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons|
|Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bossom, Sir Alfred||Cunningham, Knox|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Braine, B. R.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Ashton, H.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bryan, P.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Duthie, W. S.|
|Balniel, Lord||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Barber, Anthony||Campbell, Sir David||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Carr, Robert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove)|
|Barter, John||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliott, R.W. (N' castle upon Tyne, N.)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Channon, Sir Henry||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Cole, Norman||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Cooke, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Forrest, G.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fort, R.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Foster, John|
|Black, C. W.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Body, R. F.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Gammans, Lady||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Leather, E. H. C||Rawlinson, Peter|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Leavey, J. A.||Redmayne, M.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Leburn, W. G.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Glover, D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Godber, J. B.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Gower, H. R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Green, A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Russell, R. S.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McAdden, S. J.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Gurden, Harold||McCallum, Major Sir Duncan||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Sharples, R. C.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Shepherd, William|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Soames, Christopher|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Hay, John||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Speir, R. M.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Maddan, Martin||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Storey, S.|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Marshall, Douglas||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mathew, R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hope, Lord John||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Teeling, W.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Temple, John M.|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Mott-Radolyffe, Sir Charles||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Neave, Airey||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hutchison, A. M. C. (Edinburgh, S.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co, Antrim, N.)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Osborne, C.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Page, R. G.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Partridge, E.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Kaberry, D.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland)|
|Keegan, D.||Pitman, I. J.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Kerr, H. W.||Pott, H. P.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Powell, J. Enoch||Woollam, John Victor|
|Lagden, G. W.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lambton, Viscount||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Mr. Oakshott and Mr. E. Wakefield.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Profumo, J. D.|