§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD STRACHIE)
My Lords, 011 behalf of my noble friend the Master of the Horse, I beg to move the suspension of the Order made on April 22 with a view later to moving that this Bill be react a second time.
§ Moved, That the Order made on the 22nd of April last, "That no Provisional Order Confirmation Bill brought from the House of Commons shall be read a second time after Thursday the 19th day of July next" be dispensed with.—(Lord Strachie.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, I now move that the Bill be read a second time, and in doing so I should like to explain why the Bill has come up to your Lordships' House so late. As the House knows, the 1549 present session of Parliament did not begin until March 10. Representations were made to the Board of Trade that it would be desirable to further extend the provisions of the Trade Boards Act, 1909. The Board of Trade therefore had to make very full inquiry into the matter upon these representations in order that they might see whether there was a strong case for the extension of the Act and whether the employers would be damnified at all by having the Act extended in the manner proposed. As your Lordships are aware, the Board of Trade are very anxious to extend this Act to other trades where a clear case is made out for it. This Bill went before the House of Commons for First Reading; on May 1, but owing to the long Whitsuntide holiday it was not read a second time until June 16, and the Select Committee did not report until July 17. The Bill now comes before your Lordships' House as an unopposed measure, though in the House of Commons it was opposed in regard to the question of steam laundries, but this provision has since been dropped out of the Bill.
The Trade Boards Act, 1909, applies to the trades specified in the Schedule to that Act, and to any other trades to which it has been applied by Provisional Order of the Board of Trade made under section one of that Act, and time Board of Trade have power under that section to make a Provisional Order applying that Act to any specified trade to which it does not at the time apply if they are satisfied that the rate of wages prevailing in any branch of the trade is exceptionally low as compared with that in other employments, and that the other circumstances of the trade are such as to render the application of that Act to the trade expedient. The trades to which the Act of 1909 is extended by this Bill are sugar confectionery and food preserving, shirt-making, hollow-ware making, and linen and cotton embroidery. These trades are defined in the Schedules of the Bill. The trades have been consulted in the matter, and there is no organised opposition whatever to these four additional trades coming under this Act. Therefore we may take it that employers generally are satisfied that it will be an advantage.
It is very satisfactory from the point of view of the Board of Trade that up to the present, moment the working of the Trade Boards Act has given general satisfaction, 1550 and we are glad that in consequence of the Act wages have been considerably raised in those trades where employers were cutting prices and sweating their work-people. Some 200,000 persons come under the present Act, 70 per cent. of whom are women and girls; and it is considered that by the new Provisional Orders included in this Bill between 150,000 and 200,000, a vast proportion of whom are women and girls, will be added to the number of employees who will have their rates of wages settled under the Trade Boards Act. As the object of this Bill is to do something for the benefit of those who are unable to help themselves, I hope that your Lordships will consent to give it a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Strachic.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I dare say that what the noble Lord has said is all perfectly true, but at the same time this Bill has never been circulated to your Lordships and I cannot see a copy of it upon the Table.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I hold the Bill in my hand. It bears the endorsement that it was brought from the House of Commons on July 24.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
But I do not hold it in my hand, and that is why I have called attention to the matter. The Bill has not been circulated and is not on the Table, and I have never seen any print of it.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
I think there is one answer which I might offer to the noble Earl by way of explanation, and that is that it is not usual to circulate Provisional Order Bills. A copy of the Bill is, of course, at the disposal of the noble Earl in the Printed Paper Office if he wishes to see it. I can assure him that there is no sinister intention in the Bill not having been circulated. That fact is due, as I have said, to its not being usual to circulate these Provisional Order Bills. But if the noble Earl wishes it, I am sure my noble friend in charge of the Bill would have no objection to postponing it so that the noble Earl might have an opportunity of looking at the Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
It seems to me to be a Bill of considerable importance. I understood the noble Lord to say that it affected 100,000 people.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Then surely a Bill which has that application is a very important one, and one of which the House ought to be informed. As your Lordships know,' in the closing days of the session every sort of measure is brought up; it is not circulated, and then some Minister rises and proposes that it be read a second time and that all the Standing Orders be suspended. I am not accusing the noble Lord the Paymaster-General in the least personally, but I say that this thing has happened in my recollection constantly in the last fortnight of the session. Unless there is some very special reason why this Bill should be taken to-day, I certainly think it should be postponed until we have had an opportunity of seeing the Bill and studying its points.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
This is a matter of considerable importance. We are all watching with sympathetic interest the working of the Trade Boards Act, which as your Lordships know, was not the subject of any Party controversy when the measure was passing through your Lordships' House. I gather from the noble Lord's statement that this particular Bill will almost double the number of persons who are subject to the Trade Boards Act. Therefore it is a Bill of very great importance, and although we were very much interested and gratified to hear the account, the brief account necessarily, which the noble Lord gave of the working of the Trade Boards Act, yet I think your Lordships would have liked rather longer notice and an opportunity of studying the whole of the provisions proposed in this Bill before being asked to give it a Second Reading. I understood the noble Lord to say that the trades concerned had been very carefully notified of what was proposed to be done, and that all the necessary steps had been taken to put them in possession of what it was proposed to do. That is very satisfactory. We should have, perhaps, liked a little more detailed information as to how far these trades had been consulted, what steps had been taken to consult them, who had been seen, 1552 and what the Board of Trade thought it right to do, for this is almost the first Occasion on which the Trade Boards Act has been extended under the section permitting its extension. Perhaps the noble Lord would not mind postponing the Second Reading until another day in order that we might have an opportunity of looking at the Bill. I see that one or two copies of the Bill are now upon the Table, but they were not there just now, and as far as I know the Bill was not circulated to your Lordships with the Minutes. That being so, I think there is a strong case for the postponement of the Second Reading, though I hope His Majesty's Government will understand that we do not in any sense wish to stop the operation of this Bill, but merely desire that a Bill of this importance should be properly considered before it is given a Second Reading.
§ LORD STRACHIE
If the noble Marquess and the noble Earl opposite are anxious that the Second Reading should be adjourned, of course the Government will readily consent to that course. But may I appeal to noble Lords opposite upon the urgency of this Bill? It would be very unfortunate if it were to fail for want of time. The reason it did not come up earlier, as I have explained, has something to do with the late period of the year at which the present session commenced and the long Whitsuntide holiday. The noble Marquess asked whether the employers concerned had been given full time for the consideration of the proposals in the Bill. That, my Lords, was one of the reasons why the Bill took so long to go through the House of Commons. It was put down on May 1, and the Second Reading was deferred until June for the very object of giving the employers concerned ample time to consider it. Provisional Order Bills are circulated to Members of the House of Commons, and I should think it would be well for the future for instructions to be given that all Provisional Order Bills should be circulated also to your Lordships.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I hope His Majesty's Government will agree to the short postponement asked for by my noble friend. I do not think that it need involve any interference with the ultimate fate of the Bill. There will be plenty of time next week to consider it.
§ Further debate on the Motion for Second Reading adjourned till Tuesday next.