HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc850-67

The Minister may by special regulations prescribe that any factory employing more than one hundred persons on any shift shall include canteen facilities of a kind and general description necessary to furnish such persons with hot beverages and hot cooked food during breaks in work.—[Mr. Ellis Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Anyone who has had experience in industry will know the need for this Clause. I readily admit that in most large-scale establishments there are already relatively satisfactory facilities where no difficulties arise. I have been familiar with one of the most efficiently run concerns in the country, and probably in the world, which has over 20,000 employees, where there is no difficulty worth talking about. There are, however, many places employing from 100 to 400 people where the arrangements are not satisfactory.

Anyone who sees what goes on in offices and in other places knows that the provision of these facilities is a common pratice. I am not speaking critically of what goes on there, because I think we get the best results from this kind of arrangement. It has a good psychological effect. It tends to increase productivity, which is a word much used these days, and it has a very good all-round effect. Those of us who have suffered from ill-health know that a sip of warm tea at times assists to revive one and keep one going. It also assists those who suffer from respiratory difficulties. Therefore, I think that it is better to make these arrangements in an organised way.

We hear a great deal nowadays about efficiency and I accept my share of responsibility in bringing it about. If we need efficiency in regard to output and manufacture, there should be maximum efficiency in making arrangements of this character. Efficiency of this kind can be built up only in an organised way.

Mr. Nabarro

I rise to support the Motion.

Does the hon. and learned Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Niall MacDermot) wish to intervene?

Mr. MacDermot

I was a little surprised that the hon. Member took his name off the Notice Paper.

Mr. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman is wrong, as usual. I did not take off my name; I took off a complete and comprehensive Clause of the same kind as that which I am seconding, which is a different matter. I will at once explain why I did so.

After conversations with my right hon. Friend the Minister about this important principle of the provision of canteens in factories, he told me the precise position under the existing Statutes and said that he already had all the necessary powers to Implement what is called for in this Clause. I have risen to second the Clause because of the seeming illogicality of the position which has arisen this afternoon. We have just completed the discussion of a new Clause to provide washing facilities in factories. I claim that the principal Statute of 1937 gave factory inspectors all the necessary powers to require factory owners or occupiers to provide hot water supplies. The Minister says otherwise.

My right hon. Friend now tells me that he has all the necessary powers to require that canteens are furnished in factories. Plainly, the state of affairs today is that many factories employing more than 100 persons have no canteens, and no facilities for supplying hot food to workers during authorised breaks, or even for supplying hot beverages. I know of examples in Government Departments. One which springs to my mind straight away is the case of a maintenance depot in the General Post Office, where more than one hundred men are employed. It falls within the ambit of the Factories Acts, but it has no canteen and no facilities for the men employed to make themselves a hot cup of tea during a break. The argument there is that public funds would be employed, and therefore that it cannot be afforded.

But my right hon. Friend tells me that he has all these powers, and he calls in aid Section 46 of the 1937 Act, as extended by the Factories Act, 1937 (Extension of Section 46) Regulations, 1948, Statutory Instrument 48/707. I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary will have a copy of those Regulations available.

Mr Lee

The hon. Member has just said something which is most serious. He says that a Post Office depot employing many hundreds of people has none of the facilities which he outlines. Is he serious about that? If so, will he state where this depot is?

Mr Nabarro

Yes, in due course. I did not say "many hundreds "; I said " more than 100 ".

The regulations to which I have referred empower the Minister to require canteen facilities to be made available. What has my right hon. Friend done about it? All that he has done is to require that canteens should be provided, within the scope of the regulations I referred to, in the building industry in certain cases, in clay works in certain cases, and in the jute industry in certain cases. I suppose that all those employed in the three industries taken together would represent between 5 per cent. and 10 per cent. of the total number employed in establishments which the Factories Acts seek to cover. Ninety per cent. or more of the establishments are not required by Statute to provide canteen facilities, although they may employ more than 100 persons on one shift.

My right hon. Friend said that he singled out the building, clay and jute industries because of certain special circumstances. I shall not relate what those are, but if I wished to do so I could go on, industry by industry, pointing out many other industries, or particular factories, by virtue of their location, certainly have a higher claim to be required to instal canteen facilities than the three industries to which I have alluded. I know many private enterprise factories, employing more than one hundred people, which are well removed from towns and shopping centres and where the workers often have to travel considerable distances, and where there are no facilities for serving hot meals.

5.15 p.m.

My right hon. Friend will have the greatest difficulty in defending himself against what I am pleading for, because in the war years we all recognised the validity of the case. We then said that to economise in food, to provide greater nutriment, to improve food standards and to enable men and women to work long hours on continuous shift work by day and by night, all factories employing more than 250 persons should have a works canteen with facilities for serving hot food, and appropriate facilities for serving hot beverages during authorised breaks. Without doing a good deal of research, I am not sure which Defence Regulation was then invoked, but in any event it has now lapsed, and the Minister no longer uses powers of this kind.

In addition to the three industries in respect of which the Minister requires the provision of canteen facilities, there are many processes in respect of which, under separate special regulations, the Minister has required mess rooms to be installed. A mess room is an unsatisfactory place. It very often contains facilities for serving only hot drinks, and not hot food. It is very often merely a place where men and women employed in a factory go, with their sandwiches, thermos flasks and mugs, to pour themselves a hot drink and eat their sandwiches. In these cases no factory-provided canteen facilities are available. I do not regard a mess room as adequate.

My right hon. Friend has told me that it would not be right to make it obligatory for an employer to provide and run a canteen if it was not being used by a reasonable proportion of the workers. That is true up to a point; there are factories in certain places where shopping centres, restaurants and fish and chip shops are close at hand, and where the employees can go out and get a mid-day meal, or can even go home for their meal, but in the generality of factories—and the Clause requires the provision of canteens only where more than 100 workers are employed on a shift—there is a reasonable case for a canteen to be provided. Most enlightened managements—and I believe they represent the majority—take the view that good surgery facilities, to attend rapidly to minor injuries and accidents in factory premises, and good facilities for serving hot food, are essential ingredients of a high and rising level of production.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not reject the new Clause in an unqualified fashion. I consider that a numerical basis for requiring the provision of canteens in factories is preferable to the consideration of individual industries of the type now covered by the Minister's regulations. I want my hon. Friend to say, in reply, that he will use the powers which his right hon. Friend undoubtedly possesses with special reference to factories employing more than 100 persons on more than one shift, and that he will generally require them to provide facilities for hot food of a standard to which we grew accustomed in the war, and which have largely lapsed as a result of the withdrawal of the Regulations.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Richard Wood)

As he so often does, my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has liberally facilitated my reply. He has already given the House a good deal of the information that I was preparing to give it. In one or two respects, however, my hon. Friend was a little mistaken, and the first important respect in which he was mistaken was in regard to his impressions of my right hon. Friend's powers to require the provision of hot water and hot meals. As my right hon. Friend explained, because he had not the power to require hot water he was asking the House for it in our last discussion. Act. I will quote from it. It says:

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster pointed out that the power to insist upon provision of such facilities as is suggested in the proposed Clause already exists in Section 46 of the 1937 Where it appears to the Secretary of State "— which, as my right hon. Friend has explained, means the Minister of Labour— that owing to the conditions and circumstances of employment or the nature of the processes carried on, provision requires to be made in relation to any of the matters to which this Section applies for securing the welfare of the persons employed "— which includes this matter of canteens— …he may make special Regulations requiring such reasonable steps to be taken in connection therewith ". and so on. That Section has had a limited use, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster pointed out, although he thought is unreasonable that the reason for that limited use should be that it was extremely difficult to place obligations on factories to install canteens which, for one reason or another, might be very little used.

If we were to accept the proposed Clause the position would not be in any way altered. As my hon. Friend explained, the Section has been used in certain cases. There are many industries in which mess-room facilities are obligatory. Therefore we should not advance matters if we accepted the proposed Clause.

I will certainly consider very carefully what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster said about the need to extend canteen facilities. My right hon. Friend already has the powers to do this. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South if, after that undertaking, he would be good enough to withdraw his Motion.

Mr. Nabarro

Before my hon. Friend sits down, may I point out that there has never been any difference between us as to the powers being there? What I wanted to get from him this afternoon was that he would start using those powers in order to furnish the factory canteens for which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and myself have been pleading. Could not my hon. Friend be a little more expansive—not expensive—and give me a modicum of comfort in this important matter?

Mr. Wood

I thought that my hon. Friend would get a modicum of comfort, as he so often has before, from my undertaking that I would consider very carefully the weighty words he has uttered this afternoon, and consider further whether my right hon. Friend ought to use those powers more liberally than he has done in the past.

Mr. Lee

I was not clear whether the Parliamentary Secretary was saying that the powers now at the disposal of the Minister were to be used in a very different way in the future from what they have been in the past. Is that a fair interpretation of what he was saying? If so, the House will probably be more happy about it. I was not clear whether that was the undertaking upon which he was asking my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) to withdraw his Motion.

I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) about the good we had from wartime regulations. We established a tradition in which the actual figure was factories which employed about 250 people. It is a pity that we did not put that figure, which is about the right one, into permanent legislation. The figure in the Clause which we are now discussing is also probably about right. Merely to remove a wartime regulation which laid down that important principle without replacing it in any way is a retrograde step. Indeed, it takes us back beyond 1904, when the regulations were first applied. To leave matters as they are would be not merely to stand still but would be to condone a very retrograde step.

I am one of those who fed in workshop canteens during the war, and I certainly say that it was a very great advance on the prewar position. The Parliamentary Secretary said that in some cases factory people would not use canteens, which is true, but to discriminate is unfair to those who will use them. Take the wartime regulation figure of 250, of whom 150 would not use a particular canteen. Are we to argue that we shall not allow the 100 people to have the right to such facilities? That would be most unfair to them.

A most important health issue arises in connection with this matter. It takes one's mind back to one's days in factories. To have the proposed facilities for feeding is very important for reducing the amount of industrial time lost through bad health. I know of many places where men sit down, either on the benches or against the machines, in the very atmosphere in which they have been working all day and night. They produce sandwiches from their pockets and consume them where there are no proper facilities for eating or for brewing tea. To keep workers in the workroom atmosphere and to deny them facilities for obtaining a hot meal is very bad from the points of view of employee, employer and the nation.

The Minister knows that much time is lost in industry through industrial accidents and industrial disputes—a very small amount in this case—and that the time lost through illness attributed to industrial conditions is far above those combined figures. The proposed Clause would have a great effect in reducing that figure.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South and I know huge factories where the organisation is as high as one could get, but the majority of workers in Britain are employed in small factories and not in large concentrations of thousands of people. Therefore we are not discussing exceptions to the rule, which are really the large factories and not the small ones. I hope that the Minister will agree to look at the matter again, or will tell us that there is now a determination to use the regulations far more stringently in regard to industrial feeding than ever before.

5.30 p.m.

Mr Nabarro

In making this very important contribution to our debates, does the hon. Member know that I asked the Minister of Labour a Parliamentary Question on 20th March seeking to elicit from him the number of factories in this country employing more than 100 persons and I was told that there were 12,368? The Minister went on to say: I am afraid I have not the information to enable me to answer the other questions.… The " other questions " dealt with the number of factories employing more than 100 persons which did not have works canteens, so we do not even know the strength of the case we are talking about. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that he ought to repair the deficiencies in his statistical bureau in the Ministry at an early date.

Mr Lee

Was the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) asking about factories employing fewer than 100 people?

Mr Nabarro

No, my Question was: To ask the Minister of Labour how many factories in Great Britain employ more than 100 persons; and, in respect of such factories, how many, respectively, have works' surgeries, with a fully-qualified nurse or equivalent in attendance throughout working hours, and works' canteens to serve hot meals." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1959; Vol. 602, c. 78-9] The Minister could not give me the answer to that Question. That reveals a sad deficiency in his statistical arrangements.

Mr. Lee

I am grateful to the hon. Member. This is a vital point, because it shows that we do not know and have not the necessary data to understand the problem we are discussing. I have not got the figures, but I am fairly sure that a very considerable number of people employed within the provisions of the Factories Acts work in factories where fewer than 100 people are employed, which is the relevant point in this new Clause.

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary has now realised the importance which the House attaches to this matter. The human issue must be the centre of it, but we are also entitled to ask the Minister to take into consideration the economic issues and the industrial results which flow from this kind of thing. In these days I am sure medical authorities could give revealing figures of the results of having to feed in insanitary places and having to eat cold meals, sandwiches and so on without provision being made for hot meals to be served.

This is a very important subject, and I hope the Minister will find it possible to say that there is determination to ensure, by the use of regulations or by enshrining something in this Statute, that we shall have a big improvement in the feeding facilities available. If he could enlarge a little on what he said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South to show that he is seized of the points we are discussing and resolved that in one of the two ways we have mentioned there is to be an improvement, the House will agree to let this matter go. If he cannot do that, it may well be appropriate for us to register our worry about this matter in the Division Lobby. If the hon. Gentleman could say something which will make us feel that as a result of this discussion we are to see an attempt made by the Minister to introduce better conditions, I feel sure my hon. Friend would withdraw his Clause.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)

I have listened to every word in this discussion and the discussion going on this afternoon. In this case I must cross swords with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and fully support what the Parliamentary Secretary said. I do not think the two Clauses we have been discussing have any real connection in principle. Provision of hot water is something which every factory automatically must ensure. I have a fair amount of experience of compulsory provision of canteen facilities. It could not be lost on the House that the cost of the provision of some of these canteen facilities, particularly for small concerns employing only 100 workers or so, is very considerable. In almost every case their provision must be by means of subsidies, and very often it is very costly for any company to undertake that.

Often—I repeat often—such facilities are not used by the workers because their homes are near, or there are plenty of other facilities of a more varied nature within striking distance of the factory. Then, unfortunately, the canteen provided in the factory is a tremendous expense providing a facility for only a small number of persons. When we reach that stage we are asking manufacturers and businesses to do something which is quite uncalled for. The Parliamentary Secretary reminded us, and those of us in business fully recognise it, that factory inspectors can require facilities to be provided where the workers need them and there does not seem to be any alternative. I have always found factory inspectors very enlightened in these matters. We never find them particularly difficult. The workers get a very fair deal from them.

Mr Nabarro

How does the factory inspector come into the matter of canteens?

Mr Harris

I am surprised that my hon. Friend asks that. If he has had much to do with factories he should know that they have an extremely close interest.

Mr Nabarro

I do not wish to quarrel with my hon. Friend, but let us get down to the statutory position. The factory inspector has no power to direct a factory management to instal a canteen. The only person who can insist on such installation is the Minister by using more liberally the powers he already possesses, but he will not use those powers. That is my quarrel with him; he is idle. I am sorry, I did not see him sitting at the end of the Front Bench.

Mr Harris

Obviously my hon. Friend is prepared to find many more difficulties than many of us find. I have found fac- tory inspectors ready to discuss these matters with workers, and if the facility is obviously necessary they require that it shall be made available. It would be an unnecessary obligation on any business or factory to accept this Clause and have to undertake this provision irrespective of the number of people who would find it suitable to use the facilities provided.

I fully support all the words used by the Parliamentary Secretary. I noticed during the discussions this afternoon an extraordinary unholy alliance between my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster and the party opposite. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite are encouraged by that alliance.

Mr. Arthur Palmer (Cleveland)

There is nothing unholy about it; it is holy.

Mr. Harris

To many of us it may appear a little unholy, but that is only a passing reference. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster that the mere fact that one disagrees on this matter is based on one's own approach to the problem, but I have had a fair amount of practical experience, and I consider the view put before the House by the Parliamentary Secretary is the correct one.

Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)

I want briefly to support the proposed new Clause which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) with the usual sincerity which he shows for the welfare of the people. It seemed to me that the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary was not logical when he said that his right hon. Friend already had the necessary powers. If that is so, why does he oppose the Clause? It gives the Minister power to make regulations that employers in factories where there are more than 100 employees in a shift shall provide canteen facilities.

Hon. Members will remember that during the war the Minister used special defence powers to enable canteens to be set up so that employees got well-cooked meals, hot drinks and were able to avail themselves of the necessary canteen facilities that were so essential at that time. If it was essential for workers to get cooked meals and hot drinks in wartime, it is equally as essential in peacetime. If the Minister, in spite of the inconvenience of wartime and with the lack of facilities, could persuade employers to provide canteen facilities in factories, it seems to me that in peacetime the right hon. Gentleman has a much easier job.

I know that most good modern employers provide canteen facilities. I have been in some canteens, of both large and small employers, that are a credit to this nation. They are fine canteens. I have even seen some with flowers on the table and table cloths, with good cutlery and crockery. There are some factories, however, which have no facilities even to make tea or to eat sandwiches in comfort. There is little more than a shed.

The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) said that some factories are too small, or that some employers do not employ enough people to. justify the provision of a canteen. I do not think that that view will hold water. I know of an employer who employs fewer than 60 people, yet he has spendid canteen facilities. He has a deep freeze and each day his employees can get hot and well-served meals.

Mr. F. Harris

The basis of my main argument was that many workers do not use canteen facilities in sufficient numbers to keep them satisfactorily in existence.

Mr. Hunter

The argument that some employees will not use a canteen is not an argument if three-quarters of them want to use it. One must allow for those who do not want to fall in line with the rest. If some employees would rather have sandwiches in preference to a good hot meal when it is available, it is their own concern to some extent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said that there is probably no other country in which there is a larger number of small factories. Some of them are a long way from the shops. I can recall a number of factories which are probably two or three miles from a shopping centre. There is not a restaurant or café near at hand. During wet weather I have seen employees from a factory stand in the rain by a coffee stall, having a cup of coffee and sandwiches.

Mr. Lee

Quite a number of progressive employers will not permit employees to remain in the precincts of the factory during the meal break. They insist on their going to proper canteens.

Mr. Hunter

I agree with the point of my non. Friend. A room in the factory should be set aside where an employee can have his meal, read, talk, or play chess, draughts, or dominoes away from the warehouse, engineering shop, or workshop.

I feel that in moving this new Clause my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South is being up to date. The facilities which my hon. Friend suggests should not be denied to employees. Perhaps a worker has six, seven, eight or 10 miles' journey before he reaches his factory in some of the big towns and, therefore, often has a hurried breakfast. It is essential for the good health and welfare of workers that facilities for a well cooked meal should exist.

This proposal would also be of advantage to the employer as well as the employee. As hon. Members know, modern large firms realise that canteen and welfare facilities of the type suggested are for their own benefit as well as that of the employee. Even though the Minister said that he will not accept the new Clause, I hope that he will have second thoughts about it and will accept it.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

It seems to me that the Parliamentary Secretary proved too much in the answer which he gave. He referred back to the Factories Act, 1937. The war did not actually break out until 1939 and therefore during the whole of the war the Factories Act, 1937, was in existence. Yet it was found necessary during the war not to rely on the Factories Act, which was legislation, but to have a special Regulation under the Defence of the Realm Act, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) said, fixed the minimum number of employees where the provision of a canteen was compulsory at 250.

The Government made a clean sweep—they now boast that they did it—of all the facilities provided under the war-time legislation. We have been assured from time to time that where war-time legislation was beneficial it would pass from temporary legislation into permanent legislation. There can be no doubt from what my hon. Friends who are acquainted with the factory system have told us that there is a considerable lack of these facilities in factories which under the wartime regulations were compelled to have canteen facilities.

We all hold in very high respect the sincerity of the Parliamentary Secretary in the discharge of his public duties. I want to make it clear that I am not making a personal attack upon him. I have been a Parliamentary Secretary myself and have had to get up and rely on the brief brought to me from the box to the bench, and I know of his difficulties. I point out to him, however, that it is deplorable that my hon. Friends should be able from their knowledge of the factory system, which has not been impugned even by the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris), to point out we now have in some factories, apparently known even to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who knows only about factories run by good employers—

Mr. Nabarro

I know about factories that do not have canteens because they have the impertinence to ask factories that do have canteens to take in their employees who cannot get a hot meal in their own factories and who go to adjoining factories and use their canteen facilities. That is a wholly inequitable state of affairs.

Mr. Ede

I am thankful to the hon. Member for Kidderminster. I know that he expects to interrupt everyone, and he has done so fairly liberally this afternoon. However, what he said is helpful.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say something that will enable us to feel that at least the standard in effect during the war, suitably adapted to present-day circumstances, will be embodied in a special Clause, such as that moved by my hon. Friend, or that he will give a pledge that the powers, which he assures us are already in the 1937 Act, will be vigorously implemented by the Minister.

Mr. D. Jones

The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) spoke about factory inspectors discussing the matter with employers and employees and reaching an amicable agreement. The trouble is that in so many cases the final word rests with the employer. If the employer says " No ", nothing the factory inspector seeks to do can be implemented. As I understand it, there is nothing in the Statute, and I am not sure that Section 46 of the 1937 Act gives the Minister the power which the Parliamentary Secretary claimed that he has.

The Parliamentary Secretary called in aid Section 46 (1) of the 1937 Factories Act, which provides: Where it appears to the Secretary of State that owing to the conditions and circumstances of employment or to the nature of the processes carried on, provision requires to be made in relation to any of the matters to which this section applies for securing the welfare of the persons employed or any class of them, he may make special regulations "— and so. Subsection (2) has this to say: This section applies to the matters dealt with in the foregoing problems of this Act, to arrangements for preparing or heating, and taking meals… I submit that if an employer provides a mess-room with a gas cooker and a hotplate, he has met all the provisions of subsection (2). There are very many mess-rooms in factories in this country, both on the railways and elsewhere, where, when the employers are called upon to provide facilities, they do no more than provide a hotplate and a gas ring. That is all the men have.

I submit that a reasonable interpretation of these words means that, provided the employer provides a mess-room and puts in a gas ring and hotplate, he has met all the requirements of Section 46 (2). But that is not to provide a canteen. It means that a workman who has to take his meal on the job will probably be able to borrow a frying-pan, will fry a couple of sausages on the gas ring, put a plate on the hotplate, boil his can of tea, and have his meal in the mess-room. There are thousands, indeed millions, who are doing precisely that today. That is not a canteen. It is not even providing a hot meal.

When the Minister moved the Second Reading of the Bill many months ago now, he said that the primary purpose of it was to write into permanent legislation those powers which had been given to him and his predecessors under Defence Regulations. As I understand it, the Defence Regulations have been wiped out. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, what is wrong with writing this provision into the Bill? In the last analysis, it is the Minister who makes the regulations. He has the complete power. As he goes about the country, he must know that in very many parts of his constituency and elsewhere there are factories which are miles from anywhere where all the facilities the employees have are facilities to take their meals with them in the morning and queue up in the mess-room for the use of the gas ring or gas stove or hotplate and perhaps a kettle. That is all there is.

Is the interpretation 1 have placed upon Section 46 (2) a reasonable one? The interpretation of this Section may conceivably be the reason why, in the three industries mentioned by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), canteen facilities were provided not under the Statute but under the Defence Regulations and the Regulations made by the Minister. Is that the reason why they have not been extended? I should have thought that to write this new Clause into the Bill or, at least, to reconsider the matter with a view to writing something in in another place, would be desirable in the interests of efficiency.

Mr Nabarro

If I may correct the hon. Gentleman, the Orders in the three industries to which I referred were made under S.I. No. 707 of 1948 and Section 46 of the main Statute, the 1937 Act. They are in no way associated with Defence Regulations.

Mr Jones

If the interpretation I have put upon these words is not the right one, I shall be corrected. But, reading the Section, it seems to me that the provision of a mess-room with a gas ring and hotplate would meet the requirements. If I were an employer, I should be perfectly willing to challenge any request under the Act to do anything more.

Mr Wood

If I may take, first, the last point made by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones), it is still the fact, whatever he says about it, that if my right hon. Friend chose to make certain regulations under his powers under Section 46 those regulations would he the important matter which would have to be followed. As I see it, under Section 46 my right hon. Friend already has the powers which are asked for in the new Clause.

I want to be as helpful as I possibly can. I sense, in the discussion that we have had, a realisation of some of the difficulties which my right hon. Friend would inevitably face in trying to exercise his powers under the Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) made an important point about wartime experience. There are two things I want to say about wartime experience. The first is that the reason that the regulations that he mentioned were made under the Defence of the Realm Act and not under the Factories Act was purely the desire for speed.

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, regulations made under this Act have to go through a certain procedure, whereas regulations made under the Defence of the Realm Act could be much more quickly implemented. Secondly, it is necessary. when hon. Members are arguing from wartime experience, to remember the very different conditions which existed then and the far greater lack of eating facilities available in those days.

I have considered this point and what regulations my right hon. Friend would make extremely carefully. I am in this difficulty. To make some kind of numerical standard, either the one sugested in the new Clause or even a different one, would inevitably bear extremely hard upon many employers who provide perfectly adequate eating facilities, but in whose factories these further facilities, if they were provided, as certain hon. Members have pointed out, would be very little used.

I am quite convinced that these matters must he considered on their merits. I have undertaken to make a careful examination of the position in the light of the discussion we have had today. I will certainly consider whether my right hon. Friend could use more freely the powers he has under Section 46. I would only point out that acceptance of the new Clause, as I think hon. Members realise, would not make any difference to the position. I have given the undertaking, and I will certainly carry it out, to make an examination to see whether my right hon. Friend should use his existing powers more freely.

Mr. Lee

The Parliamentary Secretary has given us a clear statement, which, for my part, I should be inclined to accept, that he will ask his right hon. Friend to look at the powers which he already has and consider whether he can use them to better advantage than hitherto. I take it that if, in the course of his discussions with his right hon. Friend, it is found that the powers which exist now are not sufficient for those purposes the Parliamentary Secretary will consider tabling an Amendment in another place to implement what he has said to the House.

6.0 p.m.

I am sure that the discussion that we have had has shown the Government how keen the House is about this matter. I am sure that the House will be well advised to wait and see what happens in another place, or perhaps the Minister at some later date could say that he intends to do certain things along the lines laid down in Section 46 (2) of the 1937 Act. I would be willing to leave the matter there on the promises that the hon. Gentleman has given to the House.

Mr Ellis Smith

I have no right to speak again except with the permission of the House and I will not take advantage of that.

Mr Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles Mac-Andrew)

Yes; the hon. Gentleman has a right to reply.

Mr Ellis Smith

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with this, as it is another concrete example which shows the correctness of the line that was taken earlier. As we get one undertaking after another we shall soon want to consult you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with a view to printing a new Bill before the Third Reading. That question may come up later. As I am confident that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider the matter with his right lion. Friend before the final stage of the Bill, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.