HL Deb 06 August 1924 vol 59 cc438-59

Order of the Day read for receiving the Report of Amendments.


My Lords, in moving that this Report be now revived there are one or two matters to which I should like to call the attention of the House before we come to the Amendments on the Paper. They refer to one or two promises which I made yesterday as to matters which I would consider before the Report stage. The first of these matters regards the proviso in subsection (3) of Clause 2, and was taken from an Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton. The matter has been before the draftsman, Sir Francis Greer, and I should like to read to your Lordships the form in which we could accept that proviso. I hope it may be acceptable to the House, though I do not say that we go to the length that your Lordships desire on certain points. I may add that the Farmers' Union have been consulted, and consent to it, and therefore there is no objection from the point of view of the farmers, who are really the people chiefly interested.

The words would take the place of the proviso in subsection (3), after the words "complied with," and would run as follows: —

"If an application for a permit is not disposed of within twenty-one days after the day on which it is received then the employer of the worker to whom the application relates shall not be liable to any legal proceedings under this Act for paying wages to the worker at a rate less than the minimum rate during the interval between the expiration of the said period and the date on which the application is ultimately disposed of."

I do not know whether this would be a proper time to comment on these words but, at any rate, when we come to that point I will ask your Lordships to accept the form that I have suggested.


Will the noble Lord read it again?


I will hand it to the noble and learned Lord.


I think it carefully omits the twenty-one days which we discussed yesterday.


There is one other matter to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention before we come to the Amendments on the Paper, and it is in Clause 8, where the words " after such consultation as aforesaid " occur in reference to the appointment of officers. These words must have got there under a misapprehension. We were dealing with the secretary and that is a matter which will have to be discussed elsewhere, but in addition to the secretary question there is the question of the officers. Now an officer of the Board could not be appointed " after such consultation as aforesaid." He is an officer of the central Board, and of course an official of the central Board could not be appointed after consultation with fifty or sixty agricultural wages committees. " After such consultation as aforesaid " really deals with the secretary who is an officer of a particular committee, and I wish to call attention to that because when we come to it I hope your Lordships will agree to the deletion of those words. Another matter which I think I may mention is with regard to the efficiency of the woman worker. That has been gone into very carefully and considered by Sir Francis Greer and others and we have not succeeded in finding any definition which we think would be effective, and therefore we desire to leave the Bill as it is. I beg to move that the Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report of Amendments be now received.—(Lord Parmoor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 2:

Duties and powers of agricultural wages committees with respect to minimum rates of wages.

(3) If, on an application in that behalf, a committee are satisfied that any worker employed or desiring to be employed on time work to which a minimum rate fixed under this Act is applicable is so affected by any physical injury or mental deficiency, or any infirmity due to age or to any other cause, that he is incapable of earning that minimum rate the committee shall grant to the worker, a permit exempting, as from the date of the application, or from any later date specified in the permit, the employment of the worker from the provisions of this Act requiring wages to be paid at not less than the minimum rate, subject to such conditions as may be specified in the permit, including if the committee think fit, a condition as to the wages to be paid to the worker; and, while the permit has effect, an employer shall not be liable to any legal proceedings under this Act for paying wages to the worker at a rate less than the minimum rate if the conditions specified in the permit are complied with. Provided that an employer shall not be liable to any legal proceedings under this Act for paying wages at a rate less than the minimum rate to a worker in respect of whom an application for a permit has been made during the period that such application is before the committee unless the application shall have been considered and refused within twenty-one days of the receipt thereof.


My Lords, I beg to move that the proviso in subsection (3) be deleted and that the draft which I have read to the House be inserted in its place.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 9, leave out from (" with ") to the end of the subsection and insert:

"If an application for a permit is not disposed of within twenty-one days after the day on which it is received then the employer of the worker to whom the application relates shall not be liable to any legal proceedings under this Act for paying wages to the worker at a rate less than the minimum rate during the interval between the expiration of the said period and the date on which the application is ultimately disposed of."— (Lord Parmoor.)


My Lords, I should like you to realise exactly what is proposed. Yesterday when we discussed this matter, your Lordships were really not satisfied with the Amendment which was inserted in the Bill because there was an interval of twenty- one days during which the farmer must either give a higher wage than the man deserves or else expose himself to penalties for breach of the Act during the three weeks. Your Lordships, or some of you, were afraid that the effect of that would be that the farmer would be Very much disinclined to engage workers who were not able-bodied lest he put himself in the dilemma which I have explained and which no one who understands the subject denies will be his dilemma. That is the estimate of what farmers will be likely to do. On that there may be difference of opinion whether the farmer in those circumstances will abstain from employing disabled men. I think it would be a most deplorable result if such should be the case—if the result of the efforts of the two Houses of Parliament to help the working-class in this particular was to throw perfectly deserving but not able-bodied workers out of employment.

In those circumstances your Lordships were not quite satisfied with the Amendment which was put in the Bill, and an appeal was made to the Government— whether, in the watches of the night, they could not meet the difficulty of the twenty-one days. They have been unable to meet it; because the Amendment which has been read to the House and which, through the courtesy of the noble and learned Lord, I have had an opportunity of studying, is exactly the same in principle as Lord Clinton's Amendment. The drafting is in rather better language but the effect is exactly the same. There is no change in substance. The real question for your Lordships is whether you are satisfied to leave this interval of twenty-one days. If yon are not satisfied, of course you will have to amend the clause as it stands in the Bill as we fixed last night by leaving out the last phrase in the clause. In this I think we should be guided by those of your Lordships who have special knowledge of agricultural matters, and if they are satisfied with the Lord President's Amendment as it stands then I do not think that any other course could be taken except to accept the Government's drafting, which is an improvement on the Amendment we made yesterday. I have not been in touch with the Farmers' Union, but if those of your Lordships who have special knowledge of these matters are satisfied to leave the twenty-one days in, then I think it would be better to accept the Government Amendment. I hope those of your Lordships who understand the matter will give your counsel to the House.


My Lords, quite frankly I am not in the least satisfied with the Amendment, for this reason—I entirely dispute that this is principally a matter for the farmer. It is really a matter for the worker. It makes very little difference to the farmer whether he employs one man or another, and the point is whether an infirm or disabled man is going to be turned down because the farmer is not going to take the risk of the twenty-one days' gap. It is an extremely difficult point to bridge this gap of twenty-one days, and yet protect the country against the black sheep who might evade the Act by putting in the whole of his men as infirm or disabled, and so trying to escape the minimum. I think that might be got over by omitting the last two lines—all words after " unless "—of Lord Clinton's Amendment, and putting in some phrase such as " unless the application be countersigned by a justice ol the peace." I think that might protect the country against such a practice as I have indicated, and I think the twenty-one days' gap would be most unfortunate, particularly with regard to the infirm or disabled worker.


I cannot agree with the noble Earl. I think the difficulties to which he refers will never arise, and that the view which has been expressed by the noble Marquess is quite right.


I agree with the noble Earl that this twenty-one days' gap is absolutely absurd. If a man is incapable of doing full work why cannot he do What I suggested yesterday—namely, get from his panel doctor a certificate that he is unable to do a full day's work? That will enable such a man to get employment from a farmer, who will pay him what he thinks he is worth.


Our only desire here, as is natural in a Bill of this kind, is to solve such a matter not to the disadvantage of the workers—of that we can hardly be suspected—but to give them the maximum of opportunity in the circumstances. The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, yesterday raised the question of bona fides. We went into that most carefully, and we thought the matter was best provided for by the form of words which we have introduced. May I say a word with regard to the suggested alternatives? So far as the worker is concerned, I am sure there will be an infinitely greater difficulty if the magistrate has to sign the counterfoil. And as for what was said by the noble Earl behind me (Lord Kimberley) surely to introduce the panel doctor in a question of this kind, when you want to do your best to give work to a poor man, is useless. In many cases what they are suffering from is infirmity of age. I hope that the principle of this Amendment may be accepted and I think that the words— they are Sir Francis Greer's words— really put the matter on the best basis.


There is nothing in the Bill about the extra wages paid during these twenty-one days being recoverable?



On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, before we pass on may I call attention to a point which may seem small, but which has rather large implications? The noble and Learned Lord has quoted by name the Parliamentary draftsman. That really is a thing unheard of in this House. Your Lordships may remember that at an earlier stage of the Session, the noble and learned Lord himself on one occasion quoted the words of one of the permanent officials. We called the noble and learned Lord's attention to it, and he realised that he had made a mistake. I am sure he will equally agree that he has been guilty of a similar error on this occasion.


I am very sorry. I ought to have said " the draftsman."

Clause 8:

Appointment and powers of officers.

8.—(1) The Minister may appoint a secretary for the Agricultural Wages Board and (after consultation with the agricultural wages committee concerned) a secretary for each agricultural wages committee and, subject to the consent of the Treasury as to number and after such consultation as aforesaid, such officers as he thinks necessary for the purpose of investigating complaints and otherwise securing the proper observance of this Act.

(2) Any officer so appointed shall have power—

  1. (a) to require the production of and to inspect and take copies of wages sheets or other records of wages paid to workers employed in agriculture;
  2. (b) to enter at all reasonable times any premises or place for the purpose of such inspection or for the enforcement of this Act; and
  3. (c) to require any such worker, or the employer of any such worker, or any agent of the employer to give any information which it is in his power to give with respect to the employment of the worker or the wages paid to him.

(3) If any person—

  1. (a) hinders or molests any officer acting in the exercise of his powers under this section; or
  2. (b) refuses to produce any document or give any information which any such officer lawfully requires him to produce or give; or
  3. (c) produces or causes to be produced or knowingly allows to be produced any wages sheet, record or other document which is false in any material particular to any such officer knowing the same to be false; or
  4. (d) furnishes any information to any such officer knowing the same to be false,
he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.


moved, at the beginning of subsection (2), after "Any officer so appointed shall have power, "to insert" on giving reasonable and proper notice. "The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subsection would then read: —

"Any officer so appointed shall have power on giving reasonable and proper notice: —

"(c) to require any such worker, or the employer of any such worker, or any agent of the employer to give any information which it is in his power to give with respect to the employment of the worker or the wages paid to him."

This is in consequence of the promise given me by the noble and learned Lord yesterday that he would look into this matter and see whether or not he could accept some such Amendment as this. It is, I believe, more or less in accordance with the Act of 1917. It prevents an injustice being done. It would not in any way interfere with the power of an official to find out whether or not proper wages were being paid, but it would prevent an official entering unreasonably and without notice and interfering with the farmer in the course of his business.

Amendment moved—

Page 9, line 14, after ("power") insert ("on giving reasonable and proper notice"). —(Lord Banbury of Southam.)


My Lords, may I call attention to one matter? I do not know whether your Lordships would agree to the omission of the words at the beginning of line 11, " after such consultation as aforesaid." They are so inapplicable that I would ask your Lordships that the words should not be left in the Bill.


We have passed that point. We must have some respect for order.


I have mentioned the point; that is sufficient for my purpose. With regard to the Amendment the matter has had consideration and I am unable to accept the Amendment. I have already informed the noble Lord that if he would like to put in words to make that applicable to paragraph (a) the Government would have no objection to it in that place. That would meet what the noble Lord says with regard to entry at reasonable times.


And paragraph (c) too?


These were words which were considered in the agreement in the other House and considered also with the Farmers' Union who, of course, are the people immediately affected, and they also assented to it. The same provisions were in the Trade Boards Bill, and I say quite frankly that to make provisions of this kind adequate and satisfactory you must have the power of making surprise visits. There is no doubt about that, and I do not know any provision of a similar kind to this in which that power is not given. In trying to meet the noble Lord I would assent to his words being put in after "to require" in paragraph (a) but as regards their application to the whole subsection I cannot assent to them.


My Lords, I confess that I am a very new member of your Lordships' House, but I hear with positive impatience this perpetual reference to what somebody outside this House has told the Government, what the noble Lord has said to the Farmers' Union, or what agreement is supposed to have been arrived at elsewhere. We have to consider these questions on their merits. I cannot conceive on what ground the Government resist this Amendment. This is merely a question of wages. It is not a question of conditions of labour. If it were, then there would be good ground, no doubt, for surprise visits. The noble and learned Lord refers to the Trade Boards Act. My recollection is that in that Act not only wages, but conditions of labour, are dealt with. In that case, no doubt surprise visits were necessary. But how are you going to gain anything by a surprise visit to ascertain how much a labourer is paid? It can only be done by inquiry, by having the wage files brought before you and by asking the people concerned. You will be much more likely to get your information if you give fair notice, and if everybody is collected together, so that you can make your inquiries properly. If the noble and learned Lord can show that there is an advantage in having surprise visits I quite agree that we ought not to insist upon this Amendment, but so far as the account he has given of the matter goes at present this Amendment appears to be a reasonable one.


This is a matter of importance. I should say that in mentioning what I have done I did so only because of my wish to get the Bill into a reasonable form. As regards the effect of this Amendment, the experience gained during four years of the Corn Production Act showed that if an inspector was expected the employer might intimidate the, workers, so that he would not give correct information with regard to the rates of wages. I cannot see what is the objection to allowing the inspectors to proceed in the way we propose, when all experience shows that otherwise the agricultural labourer is subject to intimidation. That is a very real difficulty, and therefore the Government cannot accept this Amendment. We could introduce the words into paragraph (a), but beyond that we cannot go. If the noble Lord presses this Amendment we shall have to divide against it.


Is the noble and learned Lord not prepared to make any concession with regard to paragraph (c)?


No. Only as regards paragraph (a).


The noble and learned Lord has offered to introduce into paragraph (a) the words which my noble friend desires to make govern (a) (b) and (c)?


That is it.


Paragraph (b) already contains a provision as to reasonableness—the entry has to be " at all reasonable times." There is not a word about reasonableness in paragraph (c), because at any time and without any notice the official can require the worker, the employer, or the agent of the employer to give any information which it is in his power to give. Then if you look at subsection (3) (b), you will see that if the person so required to give information refuses to give it, however justified he may be by the inconvenience of the moment or the unreasonableness of the request, he is then liable to a fine. Is it not right to make a concession with

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

regard to (c) so as to introduce some reasonableness in it?


May I point out that there will be nothing gained by an official going into a farm in the middle of working hours? The noble and learned Lord says that unless the official has power to do this the farmer will intimidate his worker.




According to the noble and learned Lord the farmer can always intimidate his worker; but it does not follow that, as there is an obligation on him to produce his wages sheet, he can intimidate that wages sheet. The wages sheet must show what wages the worker is paid. In addition to that, the official can always go to the cottage of the worker in the evening when the farmer will not be present and ask the worker what wages he is receiving. He will then obtain all the information he requires without having been empowered to go at unreasonable times and interfere with the working of the farm, and the farmer will know nothing about it.


I regret to say that I cannot accept this Amendment.

On Question, Whether the proposed words shall be there inserted?—

Their Lordships divided; Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 11.

Bedford, D. Eldon, E. Peel, V.
Iveagh, E.
Curzon of Kedleston, M. Lovelace, E. Askwith, L.
Linlithgow, M. Lucan, E. Banbury of Southam, L.
Salisbury, M. Malmesbury E. Crawshaw, L.
Midleton, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Ancaster, E. Onslow, E. Gainford, L.
Bradford, E. [Teller.] Stanhope, E. Somerleyton, L.
Clarendon, E. [Teller.] Strachie, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Cecil of Chelwood, V. Sumner, L.
Chilston, V.
Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.) Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Chelmsford, V.
Denman, L.
Parmoor, L. (L. President.) De La Warr, E. [Teller.] Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]
Kimberley, E. Olivier, L.
Portsmouth, E. Stanmore, L.

had an Amendment on the Paper to omit the concluding words of subsection (3) "or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and imprisonment." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand from the noble and learned Lord that he is unable to accept this Amendment, and as I am desirous of assisting the noble and learned Lord in a reasonable manner, I do not desire to move it.

Clause 15:


15—(1) In this Act unless the context otherwise requires—

The expression "able-bodied man" means any male worker who is not incapable of performing the work of a normally efficient worker;


moved, in the definition of "able-bodied man," after the first "worker," to insert "who has attained the age of eighteen years and." The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have put this Amendment down again for two reasons—first of all, because several of your Lordships told me after the Amendment was negatived that it was done under a misunderstanding, and that they intended to support it; secondly, to enable the noble and learned Lord opposite to give an explanation to the House as to how he proposes this Bill shall work unless some Amendment of this kind is put in. As I pointed out on the previous occasion, it affects Clause 2, subsection (4), to a considerable extent; and I submit to the House that some Amendment of this character is necessary. I do not want to argue the whole thing again now. I move the Amendment formally in order to enable the noble and learned Lord to tell us the views of the Government upon it.

Amendment moved—

Page 11. line 23, after ("worker") insert ("who has attained the age of eighteen years and").—(Earl Stanhope.)


My Lords, I do not think anything fresh has arisen upon this matter. We accepted the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, as regards the definition. We are dealing with a definition here. I stated last night my view that it would be a mistake to put in any particular age, and that the best test to be taken is that which is taken in the Bill now—namely, that able-bodied man means "any male worker who is not incapable of performing the work of a normally efficient worker." He may be under or he may be over eighteen years of age. The test of efficiency is his ability to do a man's work. I think the definition is best as it is.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord to follow this definition as it really stands now? The expression "able-bodied man" means "any male worker "—that is to say, taking the word worker as defined in the previous definition, any man or boy—"who is not incapable of performing the work of a normally efficient" man or boy, because "worker" is "man or boy." The result will be that you secure the minimum wage to any boy who is capable "of performing the work of a normally efficient boy." That would be the effect of this, strictly construed, and, after all, the purpose of the definition is to make quite clear what you mean. I am afraid this is not likely to make clear quite what you mean. I cannot help recalling what Dr. Johnson said about the danger of definition. The House will recollect that he was discussing definitions and he said: "You may define a cow as a female cornuted ruminating quadruped, but after all cow is simpler." I. cannot help feeling that "able-bodied man" is simpler. I am rather disposed to think—I do not know whether I am right or not—that it would be better to strike this definition out altogether, and leave only "able-bodied man." That, I think, would be a better indication to the committee of what you are after than to try to define him as "a male worker who is not incapable of performing the work of a normally efficient worker." Personally, if that definition was submitted to me as a member of a committee, I should say: "Thank you for nothing."


My Lords, I would appeal to the noble and learned Lord to reconsider the question, though I rather differ from my noble friend who has just spoken. If you do not put in the age of eighteen, or some age, how on earth is the wages secretary or the committee to judge of the age of a man or his capabilities, unless they see him? In each case you will have the question coming up whether a boy of seventeen and a half, or eighteen and a half, is or is not to be included among the normally efficient workers. Your Lordships will notice that the expression able-bodied man means " any male worker who is not incapable of performing the work," etc. That is intended to mean the full work of a man. but it does not follow that the person will be' able to do the same number of hours' work as efficiently as a full-grown man. I would remind the noble Lord that, after all, the test for the Army has always been the same, that a boy must be eighteen years of age. He is then supposed to be a man. Surely it would be of the greatest possible assistance to the Committee to have some age put in which would be a standard. Of course, if a boy is over the age of eighteen and not fit to perform the work of a normally efficient worker he would not be entitled to the minimum wage.


My Lords, I agree that the age of eighteen is an undesirable limitation to place in the Bill. If any age be put in we should prefer that it should be twenty-one. There is a very good reason for that. If a person is of the age of twenty-one it is possible that he may have reached the marrying age, and may have to maintain a family, but boys between the age of eighteen and twenty-one should not be expected to marry, and ought not to be placed exactly in the same category as those of twenty-one. There are, of course, exceptions. There are very able young ploughmen of nineteen or twenty who may be regarded as able-bodied. I agree with my noble friend Viscount Cecil that it is far better to omit any definition as to what an able-bodied man is. There are a certain number of words in the English language which we all understand, but the moment we begin to define them we get hopelessly into difficulties. I recollect that at one, time we tried to define the word " residence," and got into a hopeless difficulty. One always understands what is meant when the term " able-bodied worker " is used, but it is very difficult to define it in an Act of Parliament.


My Lords, I agree with what my noble friend Lord Gainford has said, but the more I have listened to your Lordships' debate on this question the more convinced I am of the wisdom of my fellow countrymen in determining to have nothing to do with a Bill of this kind. They have much better conditions than this Bill will give. This is nothing more than a vote catching Bill, and it ought to have been left over until the autumn. The result of every Bill of this kind dealing with agriculture has been, over a long series of years, to depreciate our agricultural power as compared with that of other countries. In regard to the age of eighteen, subsection (4) of Clause (2) states that in fixing the minimum rates a committee shall secure for able-bodied men such wages as will enable a man " to maintain himself and his family in accordance with such standard of comfort as may be reasonable in relation to the nature of his occupation." It is not to be expected, and I do not think any of your Lordships would wish, that agricultural workers of eighteen should have large and flourishing families.

I admit that many youths of eighteen are efficient workers, but it is the practice in most cases that they do not get as high a wage as a man, for the reason that they have not a family to support. There is another great objection to it. We have heard a good deal about people not being employed because they are not physically fit, but I would point out that there are many young men of eighteen who have not the skill and experience of older men. Then there is the case of men who may take to the occupation without previous experience. Speaking as a farmer, I think any one, apart altogether from the question of age, is always prepared to give a good wage to an efficient worker, because a high wage for good work is much cheaper than a low wage for bad work. The whole thing seems so muddled in every way that I think the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Cecil is1 the only one to follow.


My Lords, may I point out this in order to shorten the matter? There is only one place in the Bill where an able-bodied man is referred to, and that is subsection (4) of Clause 2. I think there is something to be said for what the noble Viscount stated in regard to defining a term. After all, this term is only used once in the Bill, and if your Lordships will agree that the definition of the expression " able-bodied man " should be deleted, I should not dissent from that. I do dissent from any idea of bringing in the age. If it is thought desirable to omit the definition of the expression " able-bodied man " I would assent to that.


My Lords, I am afraid I shall have to trouble the Lord President for a second speech. If he had allowed me to say what I desired to say just now it would not have been necessary for him to make a second speech. It is true that the expression " able-bodied man " occurs only once except in the Definition Clause, but as I understand this Bill the difficulty is this. Subsection (2) of Clause 2 requires the agricultural wages committee to fix the minimum rate of wages for all workers, and " workers "includes boys, women and girls. They have therefore to fix the minimum wage for men and boys. Subsection (2) gives them power to make the minimum rates apply universally to all workers, or to a special class of workers. Unless you read " boys " as a special class of workers, whatever their qualifications may be, which I should think was not the meaning of the subsection, you will find that they have to make the minimum rate apply universally to all men and boys. Under the clause to which the Lord President has referred, subsection (4), they have, in fixing their minimum rate of wages, to fix it so as to secure as far as possible for able-bodied men, who are at present included in " workers "—able-bodied boys are therefore included as well—such wages as will promote efficiency and enable a man to maintain himself and his family. " Family," I suppose, means a family of his own begetting, but one can hardly expect anything to be clear in a Bill of this kind.

If you leave the thing as it stands, a minimum rate, fixed as a minimum rate for a man and his wife and family, will also be payable to a boy from the time when he is able to be employed in the industry and is no longer required to be -attending school. That, of course, is probably not intended; it seems to be absurd. There are some young men who are quite capable of doing a full man's work, but to place them in the same position as an able-bodied man with a wife and family is a policy which we should not encourage, because of the jealousy their position must create among men who have a wife and family to keep. If you take "boys" out, you strike them out on the ground that they are suffering from an infirmity due to age and not capable of earning the minimum rate. It means that every boy every year will have to be taken up to the county committee in order that his particular case may be determined with regard to this question: Is he now so far overcoming the infirmities of youth that he is capable of earning the minimum rate which is framed for the case of a man with a, wife and family? The work would never be got through.

I fail to understand why there should be an objection to stating the age, and stating that boys under such an age are not to have the benefit of the able-bodied married man's rate of wages. There seems to be a difficulty in agreeing on the age. I suppose there is some fear that youths will shortly be qualified to vote and may resent this restriction on their early prosperity. It is a difficulty which I do not appreciate. But merely to strike out " able-bodied man "leaves you in the old difficulty that you do not know what " man " means for this purpose. It is not to be assumed for the purpose of this Bill that an undefined " man " is a man of twenty-one years and upwards, and the result will be that each county committee will have to form its own judgment upon some materials which are not submitted to it as to what it considers a " man " to be. If that does not agree with the view of the county committee in the next county there will again be friction and jealousy. Subject to the difficulty of getting agriculture to agree on what the age of a boy is, it would be better to define what is really meant by " boy " and have done with it.


My Lords, I think this is a most convincing illustration of the utterly unsatisfactory way in which the Government desire your Lordships to do your duty. Could anything be more grotesque than that we should have to come to a decision on a difficult matter of this kind without proper consideration? If there had been a reasonable interval of time between the Committee stage and Report stage the matter could have been carefully considered, and if there had been another interval between the Report stage and Third Reading we should have had an opportunity of putting right any mistakes. Now we have to settle this matter, if the Government's scheme of business is to go through, here and now. I protest most earnestly against the way in which your Lordships' House has been treated.

With regard to the point that has been raised, I think, in face of the noble and learned Lord's most biting analysis of the situation, that we can hardly go on without a definition. I should not like to be responsible for advising your Lordships that we can do without a definition altogether. And we are then faced with the situation as to whether we should accept the noble Earl's suggestion as it stands. I am going to make a suggestion. The only difference is whether the age should be eighteen or twenty-one. If noble Lords think twenty-one is better than eighteen, I suggest that the Amendment should be amended in that particular. I think that would be the most businesslike way to proceed.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Amendment be amended by the substitution of " twenty-one " for "eighteen."

Amendment to the Amendment moved—

Leave out (" eighteen ") and insert (" twenty-one "). — (Lord Banbury of Southam.)


My Lords, I should like to say a word or two in answer to the careful analysis which has been made by Lord Sumner. I am afraid we are always in the difficulty to which the noble Marquess has so eloquently referred, and always shall be unless there is a very drastic amendment of our procedure. The noble and learned Lord points out that two phrases are used, one is " worker " and the other is " able-bodied man." If you look at the definitions the difference between them is quite clear. " Worker " includes boy, woman and girl, and I think " able-bodied man," whether you have a definition or not, cannot possibly be held to include either woman, girl or boy. To my mind that is clear and logical. I do not want to repeat myself on the other point. Last night when we were discussing this question more objection was taken to the age of twenty-one than to the age of eighteen, because you would exclude a man for two or three years from having the legitimate minimum wage because he is not twenty-one years of age. As a matter of fact, a large number of agricultural workers under that age are entitled to the minimum wage if they come, within the definition of able-bodied man.

As regards the definition, I have already said that I would accept the suggestion of the noble Viscount and not have a definition at all, but unfortunately, when I made that statement, other objections were immediately raised. The phrase occurs only once—I think there is something in the noble Viscount's quotation from Dr. Johnson—and, since that is so, we might do without a definition, and assume that even an agricultural committee would understand what we mean when we talk about able-bodied men. I do not think that the difficulties mentioned by Lord Sumner will be practical ones, nor do I think, from my knowledge of country committees, that there will be any trouble with any such subtle analysis as the noble and learned Lord has given us. I cannot accept either the Amendment or the Amendment to the Amendment, but surely we might agree in accepting the noble Viscount's suggestion, and not have a definition.


If the noble Lord will pardon me, my point was not so subtle after all. If a man makes a mistake about this he is liable to be fined. That is the difficulty.


My Lords, I have already expressed my view that you could do without a definition and I still, with all respect, hold to that view. But I do not think that the difficulty is nearly so great as the noble Lord suggested. What does it amount to? It is not a question of whether you will secure a minimum wage or not. You are going to have a minimum rate of wages for boys, women and girls, whether they are " able-bodied men " or not. They are all going to have the minimum rate of wages under subsection (1) of Clause 2. Where you have to secure that minimum rate for an able-bodied man, then in any case you are going to say that this minimum rate will be such as will enable him to support a family. That, broadly speaking, is the case. In those circumstances there is a good deal to be said for declaring that this minimum rate that applies to able-bodied men shall apply only to men of twenty-one or some other age. I believe that the result would be much the same in any case, whether you inserted the definition or not, and I am inclined to think that you would have considerable difficulties in applying this definition which have not been alluded to yet, and I do not propose to complicate the debate by alluding to them now. If the House desires a definition, I agree with those of my noble friends who think that there ought to be a limit of age of this kind.


My Lords, I hope that the Government will resist both the Amendment and the Amendment to the Amendment. Many of us are entirely opposed to there being any limit of age.


My Lords, there is one other alternative, and that is that we should omit subsection (4) of Clause 2 when we come to the Third Reading. As your Lordships will remember, I suggested in regard to an Amendment to that subsection that it was necessary to put in some sort of definition, but the noble Lord was unable to accept any definition on behalf of the Government. It seems to me that the logical course is to leave out that definition in regard to the wages of male workers in the same way as it is omitted in regard to other workers. Then the definition will naturally disappear from the Bill altogether.


We considered that point, and I could not accept that sug-

gestion. I think it right to state at once that I do not think that the word " able-bodied " can go out altogether.


As regards the question which is now before us, whether the age shall be eighteen or twenty-one, I should like to point out that the matter is not quite so important as some people seem to think. The Bill, as altered by the noble Earl's Amendment, would read thus:—

"the expression ' able-bodied man ' means any male worker who is not incapable of performing the work of a normally efficient worker, and who has attained the age of eighteen years "—

or twenty-one years, as the case may be. That is to say, if the boy can do the work, he would come within the definition. If he is a specially strong boy, even if he is only seventeen years old, he would come within the definition.


May I point out to the noble Marquess that the words proposed by the noble Earl would come after the first "worker"?


The noble Marquess is, I think, suggesting a new Amendment, but that is not the Amendment before the House.

On Question, Whether the words " who has attained the age of twenty-one years and " shall be here inserted?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 16.

Bedford, D. Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Cecil of Chelwood, V.
Chilston, V.
Curzon of Kedleston, M. Eldon, E. Peel, V.
Linlithgow, M. Iveagh, E.
Salisbury, M. Lovelace, E. Banbury of Southam, L.
Malmesbury, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Ancaster, E. Midleton, E. Somerleyton, L.
Bradford, E. [Teller.] Onslow, E. Strachie, L.
Clarendon, E. [Teller.] Stanhope, E. Stuart of Wortley, L.
Sumner, L.
Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.) De La Warr, E. [Teller.] Askwith, L.
Lucan, E. Crawshaw, L.
Portsmouth, E. Denman, L.
Parmoor, L. (L. President.) Gainford, L.
Chelmsford, V. Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]
Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Olivier, L.
Arnold, L. Stanmore, L.
Thomson L.

On Question, Amendment to the Amendment agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

First Schedule: