HL Deb 11 January 1916 vol 20 cc852-68


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a Bill the object of which is to amend the Munitions of War Act, 1915, without interfering with its principles. When my noble friend Lord Curzon introduced the original Bill last summer he alluded to it as in the nature of a tripartite treaty—that is to say, a treaty between the Government on the one hand and employers and employed on the other. The main principles of that measure, as your Lordships are aware, are three. First, the prevention of strikes and lockouts and the substitution of compulsory arbitration in their place; secondly, the declaration of munition works as "controlled" establishments, together with a limitation of profits and the suspension of trade union rules; and thirdly, the prevention of waste caused by the transference of workers from one employer to another. Those were, put shortly, the main principles of the Munitions of War Act. All those provisions have proved to be absolutely necessary, but at the same time it has been found desirable to enlarge to a certain extent the scope of the Act and to take further steps in order to insure its smoother working.

The principal changes proposed in the Bi11 the Second Reading of which I am now moving relate, in the first place, to the question of dismissals. In the second place, they are in the direction of giving the Minister of Munitions power to give absolute directions with regard to the wages and employment of women and of certain classes of men. In the third place, the definition of "munitions work" is extended; and lastly, certain changes are introduced with regard to the Munitions Tribunals, which, as your Lordships are aware, consist of two classes. I will deal shortly with these main points and begin with the question of dismissals, which comes under Clause 5 of this amending Bill and Section 7 of the principal Act. Under the law as it stands in the principal Act, no man on changing his employer can obtain fresh employment for six weeks unless he is able to produce a certificate either from his employer or from the Munitions Tribunal. This has been found to be a very necessary provision, but as it obviously considerably restricts the liberty of movement of workmen it has caused a good deal of friction, and a number of amendments with regard to this particular point have therefore been introduced into this amending Bill. These changes, I would like to point out, are the result of an inquiry which was conducted by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, in conjunction with a legal colleague, with regard to the grievances and friction which prevailed in the Clyde district. In fact, my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh is largely responsible, so far as I can see, for this amending Bill. Under the existing Act the employer certifies that the workman leaves with his consent. Under the amending Bill the employer will be obliged to give the certificate unless it can be shown that the man has committed an offence for the express purpose of being dismissed. As your Lordships are probably aware, there are two classes of certificate—one certificate is issued by the employer, and the other by the Munitions Tribunal. The grievance complained of by the workmen is this. Complaints have frequently been made by men that in consequence of their not having been able to obtain a certificate from their employer and having been obliged to provide themselves with a certificate furnished by the Munitions Tribunal, they have found other employers discriminating against them and objecting to employ them. Another provision in this clause has reference to cases where the employer gives less than a week's notice before dismissal. In cases of this kind, where only short notice is given, the employer is bound to report such cases, and is liable under certain contingencies to penalties. But the question to be decided by the Tribunal is not why the roan was dismissed but whether or not the notice of dismissal was sufficient. It ought to be clearly understood that the employer retains the right to dismiss. Another provision, introduced presumably on behalf of the employers, is that an employer suffers no penalty if he engages a man assigned to him by the Minister of Munitions whether he possesses a certificate or not; and another provision provides that the Munitions Tribunal, when considering an application for a certificate, shall also take into consideration whether the man can be employed elsewhere to better advantage—and when I say "to better advantage" I am not speaking of advantage as respects the man, but advantage to the Government. Lastly, upon this question of dismissal the certificates are in future not to be marked in any way so as to indicate the character of the workman.

I pass to that portion of this amending Bill which deals with the wages of women and of certain classes of male workers. This will be found under Clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill. It is the opinion of the Government that as fresh employment cannot be obtained by the worker without the possession of a certificate the worker ought to be paid what is called a sufficient wage. In the case of men there is no difficulty with regard to this point, because men are protected by the fair wages clause which prevails in all Government contracts. Women are also technically entitled to the same right but they do not effectively obtain it, because in many women's industries there is no well-established standard of what is a fair wage. Therefore under this Bill the Minister takes-power to issue directions with regard to wages, hours of labour, and conditions of employment of women in what are known as "controlled" establishments, and employers and workpeople will be naturally bound to comply with them. I ought to add that certain classes of unskilled men also come under these directions, and they come under them in consequence of a pledge which was given by the Prime Minister to a deputation representing the Amalgamated Society of Engineers who waited upon him a few days ago.

Clause 9, which is another important clause, deals with the extension of the definition of "munitions work" so as to cover certain classes of work which require protection as regards strikes and as regards men leaving them. The principal classes of work which are brought within this definition are the construction of munition factories and other buildings for naval and military purposes, including houses for munition workers; the supply of light, water, and power to munition factories; the construction of docks and harbours where those are certified to be necessary by the Admiralty; and finally, the construction of merchant ships. That is a point which was insisted upon by the Board of Trade.

Clause 17, which concerns the last of the important changes which I announced at the beginning of my speech, deals with the question of Tribunals, and there are three changes introduced. In the first place it is provided that the chairman shall always consult the assessors—the assessors, of course, represent both the employers and the employed—and where these assessors are agreed, then the chairman will be forced to give effect to their agreed decision except in a case where he considers that a point of law has arisen. The second change is that in cases where women are concerned there must necessarily be a woman assessor. The third change is that provision is made for appeal from the Munitions Tribunal to a Judge of the High Court. Those are the main provisions of the Bill; the other changes which are introduced are not of much importance, and I hope that I shall be excused from going into them at the present moment.

In urging your Lordships to facilitate the passage of this Bill, I feel almost ashamed to do so but I cannot refrain from repeating the expression which has been used so frequently with regard to this war—that the war is not going to be brought to an end solely by what takes place on the battlefield or in the trenches, whichever it may be, but is largely going to be decided by the countries which are best able to use their industrial resources. It would be perfectly useless to disguise the fact that in this country there has been far more of what is known as labour unrest, which has contributed to the hampering of our operations, than has been the case in any other country; and this Bill is an attempt not only to extend the principal Act but to allay the discontent which has prevailed to such a great extent up to the present time. I will not pretend that this Bill at the present moment is as urgent as it appeared to be when I had to say something about it a few weeks ago [December 21, 1915]. I was then told that it was imperative that the Bill should be passed without delay, and I was to ask your Lordships to pass it through all its stages at one sitting. I believe that the case at that moment was urgent and that considerable inconvenience has been caused by the delay; but the delay, as your Lordships know, arose from the fact that Mr. Lloyd George was called away from the House of Commons in order to attend a very important meeting in the North, and that during his absence the House of Commons declined to proceed with the Bill. It is, of course, possible—probable, in fact—that the concessions which have been made since then have rendered the Bill less urgent than it appeared to be at the time when I last spoke upon it; nevertheless, everybody must see that it is clearly desirable to pass it with as little delay as possible. I am not going to ask you to adopt the course which I suggested the other day, but I venture to express the hope that this Bill will be allowed to pass through your Lordships' House without much discussion, and I would earnestly hope that noble Lords will refrain from moving Amendments of importance when we reach the Committee stage, although for my part I own that I shall have to move a certain number of Amendments myself but they will be merely of a drafting and unimportant character. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Newton.)


My Lords, if I intervene for a few minutes before the Question is put, let me assure you that I do not do so with any intention of delaying the passage of this Bill or of offering any comment, much less any criticism, upon the speech which my noble friend has just addressed to your Lordships' House. I do so because of a strong feeling which I share with the London Chamber of Commerce and other bodies that the opportunity should be seized to give the Minister of Munitions in this amending Bill a discretionary power in fixing the standard of profit in the case of controlled industries whose expansion is desirable on national grounds, so that its effect may promote and not check that expansion; and if I desired any encouragement in the course I am taking I should find it in the striking speech delivered in another place last night by the President of the Board of Trade.

Your Lordships passed the Munitions Act to further the production of munitions of war, and incidentally power was given to take possession for the Exchequer of excess profits accruing to works that had been declared "controlled establishments." This power is being widely, and I dare say wisely, used, both as regards establishments actually providing munitions of war and others only indirectly connected with their production; but in the case of young industries not yet firmly established I submit that its operation may prove not only fatal to the industry, but, what is of far more importance, highly injurious to the future industrial prospects of this country. There are quite a number of such industries. But let me take as an illustration the case of the spelter industry, with which I am the more familiar, and about which much has been lately written.

My Lords, before the outbreak of war this country very largely depended upon Germany for its spelter supply, and when that supply was cut off the War Department and the brass founders had to pick up fine zinc and spelter wherever they could at abnormal prices, while industries that used spelter, such as the galvanising trades, were forced practically to cease production. And this though Australia can herself produce sufficient zinc ore to supply the whole of the Empire's spelter requirements did we but possess within the Empire adequate distilling plants. People connected with our Australian resources have been quite aware of the position in this respect for some years past, and, indeed, a company started smelting works in England as long ago as 1907 with the special object of treating Australian ores here and so ousting the German monopoly. That company, in spite of many initial difficulties, was before the war gradually establish- ing its industry on a permanent footing, but the capital outlay and the risks were great, and I understand that it has not yet distributed dividends to its shareholders. Then came the war and with it the demand for spelter, with the chance for the company to make profits and by their use to extend its operations so that after the war German competition need not have been feared.

But here the Munitions Department step in to claim all excess profits—all excess profits, that is to say, over a standard fixed by regulations under the Act on previous years which have yielded no profit at all. The country urgently requires an independent spelter supply. This company and other companies I know are quite prepared to put every sovereign of their excess profits, and more besides, into new furnaces and plant required for increasing production. Australia is clamouring for Government assistance in bringing that result about; but the officials of the Ministry of Munitions, though admitting the cogency of these facts, say—they said so as recently as the 21st of last month—that the Minister, given the will, has no power under the Act to fix a standard otherwise than as provided by the Act, and that excess profits must therefore be taken by the Munitions Department, however injurious such action may be to the country hereafter.

Since I came to the House to-day I have received a letter signed by the representatives of British zinc producing companies, who met to-day at the offices of the London Chamber of Commerce and adopted unanimously this Resolution:— In view of the fact that the profits of the British zinc industry in the face of German competition have been for many years past on a low scale and that it is a matter of urgent national importance that the production of spelter in the United Kingdom should be increased, this meeting, representing the British zinc producing companies, all of which have been proclaimed 'controlled' industries, urges upon the Minister of Munitions and upon His Majesty's Government that the best way in which an increase in the production of spelter can be brought about is by altering the standard so as to allow all excess profits during the war to be retained by the companies, provided they are set aside and employed for the purpose of increasing plant; and if the present Act does not allow of this, then the power of the Minister should be enlarged. It is in the hope of remedying the present state of things that I propose to move, when this Bill reaches the Committee stage, an Amendment to give the Minister discretionary power to fix a higher standard than the principal Act allows where it is proved to him that the expansion of an industry, whether during the war or after the war, is essential for national requirements.

I am no Parliamentary draftsman and am not wedded to its wording, but failing more appropriate words this is how my proposed Amendment reads— Where the fixing of a standard of profits in accordance with the provisions of the principal Act would, in the opinion of the Minister of Munitions, have the effect of checking the expansion of an industry of national importance, the Minister may, at the request of the parties interested and subject to such conditions as he thinks fit to impose, fix a higher standard at his discretion. In fixing such higher standard the Minister would be at liberty to impose such conditions as he might think fit with regard to the released profits, and then he would be enabled not only to avoid injury to industries which require development but actively to promote their growth by stipulating that war profits should be wholly employed for the construction of additional works.

I am sure that if Germany wished to wrest from England the control of an industry at present in our hands, she would not begin by taking away from struggling German works of the same kind all their war profits, leaving them naked and defenceless after the war. Rather would she by every means in her power seek to encourage them and to place them in a position further to increase and expand their plant. At present against a consumption of over 200,000 tons of zinc a year in this country, England only produces, from ores, about 30,000 tons. For the balance of 170,000 tons she has been in the past mainly dependent upon German works and upon Belgian works largely owned and controlled by German capital. Why? Because sufficient works do not exist within the Empire to treat the abundant supplies of zinc ores which the Empire produces. Efforts, have been made in the past to establish such works, but they have had a hard struggle against German competition and their profits, where they have made any, have been on a low scale.

The war, however, and the high prices to which spelter has risen owing to the cutting off of German supplies altered all this, and the English works for the first time in their history are now making considerable profits. At this juncture, as I have said, the Munitions Department step in, declare them "controlled" industries, and leave them with practically nothing except their former low scale of profits. At the same time the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Australian Government urge that as a matter of national importance, after the war as much as now, the production of spelter within the Empire should be increased by the building of new works and the enlargement of existing works in this country. But how are the regulations of the Munitions Department to be reconciled with this demand? At present, so far as I can see, unless such discretionary power as I suggest is given to the Minister of Munitions there is no way of doing so; and the Munitions Department, no doubt unintentionally, will have given the coup de grâce to hopes widely entertained of making this country independent of foreign, and especially of German, sources for its supply of one of the most indispensable of metals. On the other hand, if the Minister of Munitions is given a discretion and exercises it wisely he may, merely by stipulating that all war profits should be set aside and employed in the construction of new works, insure a substantial future increase in the British production of spelter. I believe further that in many cases works, if allowed to put their war profits into new construction, would also be willing to undertake themselves to find additional capital for the same purpose of increase of plant.

I hate to weary your Lordships, and I fear that I have already occupied your time too long. But I will sum up by saying that all I seek to do is to enlarge the discretion and the powers of the Minister in dealing with industries the growth of which he considers to be of great national importance. It would release him in such cases from what I may perhaps call the red tape of the principal Act, and with regard to such industries as the zinc industry it would enable him, instead of destroying all hopes of expansion, to make such expansion rapid and assured.


My Lords, I shall not presume to follow the noble Earl who has just spoken into the highly technical matter with which he has dealt. It will be time enough to discuss that and to settle what this House ought to do in regard to it when we see the precise proposal which the noble Earl is apparently going to put down for the Committee stage. I have some hesitation in rising at all to speak on this Bill, but the noble Lord who introduced it paid me the compliment of saying that I was largely responsible for it. It is true that I was, with a colleague, appointed to make inquiry into the causes and circumstances of certain apprehended disturbances affecting munition works in the Clyde district some weeks ago. We held an inquiry extending over a certain number of days; we heard a great many witnesses, both of the employed and of the employers themselves; and we made certain recommendations. A large proportion of those recommendations have been adopted by the Ministry of Munitions, but I am very reluctant to think that it is solely on account of our inquiry. I believe that what we found to be existing in the Clyde district was not unknown in other places, and although, perhaps, the possible disturbances and differences took a more acute form there than elsewhere, I am, as I say, reluctant to believe that it is solely on the ground of the difficulties in the Clyde district that the Minister of Munitions has thought it necessary to introduce this Bill. At any rate, it comes to your Lordships' House upon the responsibility of the Government and not upon that of our inquiry.

The principal Act was an emergency measure and it is not surprising that friction and difficulty should in various quarters have arisen under it, but there is one thing I want to make quite clear. It was brought out as one of the outstanding facts at our inquiry that while in some matters both munition workers and trade unionists had certain substantial matters of legitimate complaint, a very large proportion of the difficulties which had emerged and which were brought before us were not illustrative of disputes on definite matters of great importance but indicated local friction. I am afraid it is the case that in the Clyde district there is a certain minority — comparatively speaking, I believe, a small minority—of those engaged in industrial occupations who are not sufficiently careful whether their agitation does or does not at the present time tend to impede work and so indirectly to assist our enemies. A certain minority of those there are anxious to press their own particular cures for social difficulties and social evils, and have not, I think, sufficiently calculated the difficulties of the present time. These differences were also complicated in some respects by old-standing feuds in the relationships between some particular employers and employed, and were aggravated by circumstances more or less accidental owing to the incidental operations of the Act. These facts gave opportunity for those to whom I have alluded to air their special grievances and their special difficulties. But I do want to say, and I believe it to be absolutely true, that those who took this course in that district were a small minority of those employed and were in no way representative of the main body of the workers. But it is important to remember that when friction does arise, even if no definite principle be involved, the differences may be largely aggravated by slight indiscretions, by a slight want of consideration on one side or the other of the differences between opponents, and this does lead to irritation amongst organised workers which spreads and becomes exalted into a matter of principle between class and class. Therefore it seems to me of the utmost importance that the sources of these small differences, when they can be localised and settled, should be as far as possible removed. If, therefore, this Bill does not deal with a great many very important matters I do say, believing it to be thoroughly true, that it will ease friction, that it will reduce the possibility of differences, and so indirectly do a great deal of good to the cause which I am sure all in this House have at heart.

The noble Lord who introduced the Bill mentioned clearance certificates and the period of six weeks which must elapse before a man who was employed in one work and got his dismissal or wanted to resign could be employed elsewhere. If that man—taking a hypothetical case—was unjustly treated he had sometimes several days, very often a week or two, to walk the streets before he could get another employment; he was dismissed from the one place but did not for several days, owing to delays and the operation of technicalities, get his certificate which enabled him to obtain employment in another place. That caused real injustice. I believe the provisions of this Bill will go a very long way to stop that source of discontent and difficulty. The same sort of thing arose of difficulties about the settlement of prices for piece work; very often, too, as to whether a particular work on which a man was engaged was really munitions work or only work leading up to it. For instance, in one case that was represented before us men were transferred to work in repairing electrical appliances in the factory. Some of them thought that they would be better employed in doing actual munitions work in other places of employment. There was a considerable difference of opinion as to whether this electrical work had to be done at the moment or might have been postponed. Those are the class of matters which ought to be brought to a speedy decision, and, if possible, by a conciliatory and neutral tribunal.

Then, again, there were points of breaches of trade union rules on such matters as the importation of unskilled workmen to do work for skilled men, the transference of men from one trade to another, the employment of skilled men in unskilled work, and disputes as to whether the time had not come when their unskilled work should cease and they should be allowed to go back to the skilled work perhaps under another employer. Another very vexed point was as to whether the fines which had to be inflicted under the principal Act should be backed, in the case of non-payment, by imprisonment. I venture to say that the imprisonment of a man for the non-payment of fines—a purely trade union offence—was a bad piece of tactics. If a man commits a moral offence or any offence for which he can be prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act, it is right enough that to whatever class he belongs he should be imprisoned if he deserves it; but it never seemed to me—and my colleague agreed with me—that the particular form in which this alternative was put under the principal Act was an altogether wise or judicious one, and it was one of the leading causes of the difficulties in the area to which reference has been made.

We are face to face, as the noble Lord has said, with great difficulties. We require in these trades a great and sudden expansion of work, and it is absolutely necessary in the interests of public policy, and I go so far as to say in the interests of the safety of the country, that we must do all in our power to add to the ranks of those who are able to do this work. Unskilled men and women must be called in to do work which has hitherto been regarded as the monopoly of the members of trade unions. The side effects of this necessity at the moment have had bad results and caused real difficulty. I will give one instance. These people who are brought in casually do not pay trade union dues. Some of the less scrupulous of the trade union members say: "If you are going to have outside people who do not pay dues, we will not pay dues. What is the use of doing so?" And there was a real risk in some cases of the funds of the trade unions being eaten into and the unions seriously hampered. Those were real difficulties and placed the genuine leaders of the trade unions in a perplexing position. What is highly important is to make it plain that, while the present emergency requires emergency measures, advantage will not be taken of it to break down trade union rules of which, perhaps, there may not be altogether approval in high economic circles. What I think wants to be brought home to those concerned is that this is an emergency matter, and that derogation from strict trade union rules agreed to now will not in the future be pled against those who may want to support them hereafter.

No one can say more strongly than I desire to do that the nation has the right at this time to demand from us all that we can give, and I do not think it is asking the trade unions too much to derogate from their rules for the time being. But I do think that it ought to be made perfectly clear, and I think the right hon. gentleman the Minister of Munitions has done his best to make it clear to the trade union members, that the Government do not propose under these emergency necessities to break down the regulations which trade unionists value and which may come to be matters of discussion hereafter. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House, who is not here to-night, made an appeal to us the other day and gave an eloquent expression of the hope that Party spirit might abate after the war and in consequence of the lessons which we have learned during the war. I join with him in that. But I will add another expression of hope, and that is that nothing that we do in the war, nothing that we allow to be done in civil life during the war, will be done in such a way as to lay the foundation of bitterness between class and class. Whether we are employers or employed we should do our best to consider the difficulties of the other class, to try to see things as others see them, and not only to look upon the selfish interest of the particular class to which we happen to belong. I give this Bill a cordial welcome, and I sincerely hope that the House will assent to the proposition of the noble Lord who introduced it and pass it with as little delay as possible.


My Lords, this Bill in the main is a measure for giving statutory authority to arrangements that have already been made by direct negotiation with the trade unions. It is impossible, therefore, to discuss these arrangements, because promises have been made in regard to them which must now be fulfilled. We can only hope that the effect of this Bill will be to remove all discontent, and especially we may hope that it will remove those causes of delay in the production of munitions which arise from artificial rules formulated in peace time—rules which I believe are in a great degree injurious and demoralising to labour and might in war time be disastrous to the country.

There is one matter in this Bill to which I should like to call attention. Clause 19 seems to introduce a new principle of legislation by the very special and peculiar power which it gives to the Minister of Munitions. Under this clause that Minister may at any time and at his pleasure transfer any of his powers or duties to any other Department of State which is ready to receive them, and it is provided in this clause that the Department to which the powers and duties are so transferred and the officers of that Department shall have "the same powers and duties for the purpose as are, by the principal Act and this Bill, conferred on the Minister of Munitions and his officers." I may be quite wrong, but it does seem to me that difficulties may arise under that clause, and that they will require a certain amount of consideration in Committee. For example, the principal Act lays down that certain duties of the Minister of Munitions are to be performed in certain ways; but the Department to which those ditties might be transferred might wish to carry them out in some other and possibly in some better way. Would the principal Act apply to the Department to which the duties had been transferred and enforce upon that Department all its regulations? That Department, of course, cannot be named in the Bill as nobody knows to what Department any of the powers and duties may be transferred. Then, again, can powers which are conferred in a statutory form upon a Minister be transferred to another Department and to the officers of that Department as this clause provides? The provision in the clause may be quite wise, but it does seem to me that it requires examination by one of the great legal authorities in your Lordships' House, because it; might set up a precedent which would prove extremely undesirable.

The point raised by the noble Earl (Lord Kintore) is one to my mind of great importance, and I think he has most effectively emphasised that importance. It is quite certain that this legislation must lead to unexpected and perhaps to some very unpleasant results. The principle that no one shall derive excess profits during the war is perfectly sound; and is a principle which we should all wish to see applied, but we know that it would be quite impossible to enforce that rule equitably all round. I will give one single instance showing what I mean. A case was brought to my notice lately where a man who was receiving 32s. a week went to the Munitions Department and suddenly became in possession of £9 a week for carrying out an operation which to my mind does not at all seem to be a highly skilled one. That man gets an immense excess profit out of the war, and no one would wish to take it from him. On the other hand, there must be a large number of small shareholders who had been getting no, or very small, dividends before the war who will have what they expected taken from them under the operations of this excess profits provision. As the noble Earl pointed out, there will be cases in which the annexation of excess profits by the State will mean a real check to the expansion and development of industries which may be of national importance. He gave as an instance the very important case of spelter, but other cases of a similar kind have been brought to my notice, and I know that many people are anxious that this point should be carefully examined in your Lordships' House. After the war capital will be very difficult to obtain because of the great burden of taxation which will have to be borne; at the same time capital will be more wanted probably than ever, and capital will be vital to the creation and development of some of those great industries of which the Germans have secretly and very cleverly robbed us in the past. Surely, therefore, it must be better that the Minister of Munitions should not tie himself up in a knot, but should reserve power to deal with such cases as these on their individual merits, and if excess profits are not to go to individuals but to national objects and to the provision of employment which is sure to run short after the war, I can hardly think that the trade unions themselves would object to the Amendment which the noble Earl proposes to move in Committee. I therefore hope that his Amendment will be carefully considered when it comes before us, and I shall feel bound for the reasons I have stated to support it.


My Lords, I only rise to say a word with reference to what fell from the noble Lord on the Cross Benches (Lord Sydenham) and from the noble Earl, Lord Kintore. Heaven forbid that I should usurp the place, of the high legal authority who my noble friend desires should interpret this Bill, but I am under the impression that Clause 19, over which Lord Sydenham is perturbed, appears in the Bill because you have to face the contingency of the Ministry of Munitions coming to an end, and therefore it is necessary to take power to depute these functions to other Departments. I heard with regret that Lord Kintore proposes to move the Amendment, in question, and I confess I heard his proposal with some surprise because unless I am entirely mistaken no Amendment of this kind was moved in the House of Commons. The point was never touched upon. But I hope that I may be able to relieve the anxiety of the noble Earl and of my noble friend on the Cross Benches. If they will refer to Section 5 of the principal Act I think they will find that the Minister of Munitions does possess considerable discretion. Subsection (4) of that section runs as follows— The Minister of Munitions may make rules for carrying the provisions of this section into effect, and these rules shall provide for due consideration being given in carrying out the provisions of this section as respects any establishment to any special circumstances such as increase of output, provision of new machinery or plant, alteration of capital or other matters which require special consideration in relation to the particular establishment. I hope that between now and the day when the Committee stage is put down my noble friends will study the principal Act and perhaps realise that their fears are ill-founded; at all events, I trust that it may be so. I certainly cannot give any undertaking that this Amendment is likely to be agreed to in the form suggested by the noble Earl.

On Question, Bill read 2a.


Will the noble Marquess say when the next stage of this Bill is to be taken?


We propose to take the Committee stage on Thursday.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.