HL Deb 24 June 1925 vol 61 cc752-69

LORD BIDDULPH rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are able to state what number of private associations there are in existence which undertake to apprentice boys in various trades, and whether His Majesty's Government could see their way either to help the existing ones to extend their operations or to promote similar associations in counties where they do not at present exist. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in addressing your Lordships for the first time I must ask for that indulgence which you are always ready to extend on these occasions. Although this Question only refers to the apprenticing of boys in country districts, I venture to say that it is not an unimportant one at the present day. The system of apprenticeship is a means not only of reducing juvenile unemployment but of enabling boys, when they leave school, to become proficient in particular trades and of ensuring that they do not drift from one trade to another, thus failing to gain proficiency in any one. It also facilitates the obtaining of employment by a boy near his home.

There used to exist in many country districts, I believe, in former days a number of these associations for apprenticing boys, but in a great many cases they have, unfortunately, died out. There must be, however, a considerable number which still exist and for which it might be possible to provide some support. To show how easily the work of these associations can be carried out I should like to give your Lordships a short account of one which operates today in a county in the West of England and which may be typical of others in the country. This is a, very old association. It has been in existence for some 250 years. It has certain invested funds, the income from which goes to pay premiums to employers. The majority of boys are about fourteen or fifteen years of age when apprenticed. The parents of a boy find the employer to whom they wish their son to be apprenticed. A petition is sent up to the committee of the association, signed by both parties, who have to be vouched for by local residents. The term of apprenticeship is generally four or five years. The employer states the wages he is prepared to pay and these are on an ascending scale. The committee approves of them, or gets them raised if it thinks that they are insufficient. A premium of £15 or £20 is paid to the employer.

The committee of the association consists of five or six gentlemen who are resident in the county, one of whom acts as honorary secretary; so that the working expenses are very small, a solicitor being employed only to get the indentures signed. The employers are those who may be found in small towns and villages in the county and comprise, among others, builders, joiners, tailors, blacksmiths, saddlers, cabinet makers, hairdressers, wheelwrights, etc. The experience of this association is that there are fewer applications for apprentices than there should be. No doubt a premium of £15 or £20 is not a large one nowadays, and if it were possible for a higher premium to be paid many boys could be apprenticed. May I instance a builder in this county who employs, I know, seven boys, the sons of well-to-do parents who have been able to pay premiums of £30?

The system of apprenticeship is not only a most valuable one but is by far the best way of solving the problem of juvenile unemployment. I know that there is much that is adverse to apprenticeship in these days, but I believe the difficulties could be overcome if some policy were adopted by means of which the apprenticeship of boys in country districts could be encouraged, either by assisting those associations which already exist so that they can expand, or by promoting them where they do not exist. Juvenile unemployment, I believe, would be lessened thereby and boys would be better fitted for their careers in after life if they were apprenticed.


My Lords, as I have on the Paper a Question in regard to the subject of apprenticeships, it may be for the convenience of the noble Lord who is going to reply on behalf of the Government to the noble Lord, Lord Biddulph, if I say what I have to say now. I am delighted that other noble Lords are beginning to take an interest in this question of apprenticeship in addition to those who, from time to time, have spoken on this subject in this House. The Question that I have asked His Majesty's Government is as follows:— To ask His Majesty's Government whether they would state what are the causes of the delay in completing the inquiry into the subject of apprenticeship which has been undertaken by the Minister of Labour; whether in view of the importance of a decision on this matter in the interests of employment and the provision of skilled labour and of the trade of the country, steps could be taken to expedite the investigation in view of the fact that the Minister has announced that he may not be in a position to complete the inquiry before the end of the year. I put that Question to obtain further information regarding the reply sent by the Minister of Labour to the Association of Chambers of Commerce in relation to this matter.

The resolution which was sent to the Ministry was in the following terms:— That having regard to the large amount of juvenile unemployment at present existing and to the imperative need for efficient and highly-trained workmen if Great Britain is to maintain its position as a great manufacturing country, this association urges the Government to set up a Committee of Inquiry into the present position of the system of apprenticeship with a view to ascertaining, and suggesting means for the removal of, the causes which at present operate to limit the scope of its usefulness in some industries, and to exclude it entirely from others. A very courteous reply was received from the Minister, and the association was very pleased to learn that His Majesty's Government were taking up the matter at once; but it was rather vague on two points, to which I will refer.

In reply to our representations, the Minister of Labour wrote:— The Minister fully appreciates the importance of the question and in order to supplement the information in his possession he has instructed that an exhaustive and comprehensive inquiry should be undertaken. This inquiry is at present being carried out with the co-operation of the National Federation of Employers' Organisations. The Ministry proposes to consider, when the inquiry is completed, what steps it may be desirable to take in the light of the information obtained. It is hoped that the report of the present inquiry will be completed by the end of the year. That reads as if there was a Committee already organised and that, instead of making a special inquiry by means of a special committee and getting the information together as rapidly as possible, the question was going to be transferred to another committee and that the Ministry hoped that at the end of the year they might be able to tell us something about the results of the inquiry. Why should we waste more months before dealing with a matter of such importance as the apprenticeship of boys and girls?

The noble Lord, Lord Biddulph, referred, in his speech this afternoon, to all sorts and kinds of difficulties concerning apprenticeship, and there are many more. When I brought the question before your Lordships the other day I did not profess that I knew all about it. All I professed to know was that these youths were eligible to become apprentices, but that there was a barrier which prevented them doing so. I wanted an inquiry to find out what is the obstacle that is placed in their way and whether any remedy can be found. What I should like to point out to your Lordships is this. There are hundreds of thousands of boys and girls at the present time who are idle and becoming degenerate through no fault of their own, but because they have never had employment. They are not included in the long list of the unemployed that we read of from time to time—these children have never had an opportunity—and no statistics of employment can be accurate unless they include these hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people.

This is not the time to delay measures. These young people should be trained in skilled occupations, and I put this Question because I am not satisfied with the official answer that I received from the Ministry of Labour. I hope that the noble Lord will be able, this afternoon, to assure me that this matter is looked upon by His Majesty's Government as a very serious one. When one looks at the competition that we have to face with the rest of the world, one cannot but take a gloomy view of the future of the country. I should like to quote your Lordships a few words spoken by my noble friend Lord Burnham, who gave utterance to what I regard as practical common sense. He said:— Every day international competition was getting keener and every day Great Britain was losing more of those accidental advantages which enabled her to conquer the markets of the world. We are no longer conquerors of the markets of the world. We are losing them, and the reason for that is, I think, the careless manner in which we have dealt with technical education.

We had a debate some time ago on education, in which the most rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Southwark, and my noble friend Lord Haldane took part. They talked about extending school hours, but there was nothing practical said, from my point of view, about technical education. I contend that something must be done, and done speedily. I have doubts as to whether the Government are really in earnest, and I should like to know whether it is their object to refer the matter to a Royal Commission. I am an old Parliamentary hand; I know something about Royal Commissions and Departmental Committees. If they are really going to work, of course they can do a great deal of good. On the other hand, they can be great obstacles and I do not at all like the communication of the Ministry of Labour as to this reference to a Committee or as to the time at which their conclusions are to be made public. I am asking for a special inquiry and one which will take place with expedition.


My Lords, I am quite sure that your Lordships will be grateful to my noble friends who have brought these Questions before you, and particularly, if I may venture to say so, to my noble friend Lord Biddulph for the extremely clear way in which he put the point he desired to bring before your Lordships. I should like to assure the noble Lord who spoke last, and also the House, that there is no question about the seriousness with which the Government view this subject. I am sure I am speaking for all my colleagues and for the Ministry of Labour when I say that we recognise the immense importance of the question of juvenile unemployment, and consequently of the question of apprenticeship, which is part of that very much larger and graver question, I might, perhaps, remind my noble friend that quite recently the President of the Board of Education announced in the other House that the Government were setting up a Committee to inquire into, and advise upon, the public system of education in England and Wales in relation to the requirements of trade and industry, with particular reference to the adequacy of the arrangements for enabling young persons to enter into and retain suitable employment. That is the broad question of how far our educational system is now discharging its duties in connection with juvenile employment.


May I ask whether the letter states that they had already referred this to that Committee?


This is a totally different Inquiry to the one to which my noble friend is referring. It is a much wider Inquiry into the general question of the relation of the educational system to unemployment, not to the apprenticeship question solely, but to the general question, which is a much larger one. Though the Government would not in any way seek to undervalue the importance of the apprenticeship question it is only a part of the very large question of juvenile employment and unemployment, which stretches far beyond the apprenticeship question. I think it is the duty, it certainly is the object, of the Government to assist apprenticeship wherever they can do so, but I am afraid that my noble friend, Lord Biddulph, is a little sanguine in thinking that if you deal with the apprenticeship question that alone will be a remedy for juvenile unemployment. After all, apprenticeship only deals with a small part of the question of juvenile unemployment. It only applies in the first place, obviously, to skilled trades, which necessarily do not occupy anything like the whole, or even the larger part, of the working population. That is one thing that has to be borne in mind. I am afraid it is true that even in that restricted sphere apprenticeship is probably diminishing.

The figures do not seem to be available at present, and that is one of the reasons for the Inquiry, but there seems to be a general impression, such as that to which Lord Biddulph gave utterance, that apprenticeship is diminishing. There seem to be several reasons for that. One is the greater tendency towards what is called mass production, or standardised production, which involves more and more the employment of machines, and consequently the substitution of the semiskilled labour of those who are attending to the machines for the completely skilled labour which used to exist for these purposes. Undoubtedly, the War exercised a discouraging effect on apprenticeship. A very large number of the juvenile population were able to obtain employment in munition factories and otherwise of a very remunerative character, and they did not, therefore, think it necessary to obtain a thorough grounding in skilled trades. And not only was that true of the juvenile population, but even the skilled population were, as we all remember, so very hard pressed that they had not the time and opportunity which they used to have to teach apprentices. That dislocation, I am informed, has not yet been made up by anything that has happened since.

Moreover, the general depression of industry, through which, unfortunately, we are passing, has operated in the same direction. It has discouraged employers from, as it were, sinking capital in the education of skilled workmen, because they do not know whether there really will be any opportunity for employing them when they are trained. Similarly, the artisan teachers are less ready and willing to devote their time to this purpose than they were. The same thing operates with relatives—the fathers and near relatives of the juvenile workers who used to encourage their sons and juvenile relatives to enter the apprenticeship system—because the prospects are, unfortunately, so discouraging in many of the skilled trades, particularly, as the House is only too well aware, in the engineering trade, where the pay of the skilled workman is very often no greater, it may be less, than that of the semiskilled and unskilled labour in other trades. And that operates conversely also. The fact that the families from whom apprentices were drawn are now far less well off than they were makes them more anxious to begin earning money earlier and less able to undergo the delay and expense which attaches to a considerable training as apprentices. It is often said that trade union rules and action have discouraged apprenticeship, but I am informed that there is little ground for saying that, apart from the building trade, as to which special conditions apply.

This state of things is undoubtedly disquieting. I do not at all disagree with anything that fell from the noble Lords, Lord Southwark and Lord Biddulph, on that point. It is disquieting that inadequate means are apparently being employed at this time for training the skilled workers of the country. It is quite true that the skilled workers are not the most numerous class of workers, but in many ways the prosperity of the whole country depends upon an adequate supply of skilled workers. Therefore it would be a disastrous state of things if, when the trade depression passes, as undoubtedly it will pass sooner or later, we should find ourselves in this position: a great demand for goods and articles manufactured in this country but no sufficient supply of the skilled workers, without whom that demand cannot be fulfilled. That is felt very strongly by the Minister of Labour and the Government, and anything they can do to encourage apprenticeship they will do. It is not a question of waiting for an elaborate inquiry before they do anything. They are ready to do what they can to encourage it; and they do so whenever an opportunity offers. But in this matter, as in so many others, it is essential to observe that the Government cannot do everything. The Government cannot, indeed, do very much. The prosperity of the country depends not on the Government but on the people of the country, on the employers and the workpeople, and the efforts that have to be put forward must be put forward by these classes, though the Government's duty is, and ought to be and will be, to do everything they can to help and encourage and assist those efforts when they are made.

In other words, this question of apprenticeship, like so many other questions, must be solved primarily by the industries concerned. The Government can encourage, assist and advise, but they cannot do the thing. That must be done by the industries; we must rely on their enterprise, on their patriotism, properly understood, to supply the industrial needs of the country. But, subject to that, the Government are most anxious to do everything they can to help, and it is for that reason that they have decided upon, and are engaged already in, a very thorough and elaborate inquiry into the whole subject. It is not a question of going to do something; the thing is in process of being done, although I am bound to say that I think it will take longer than the noble Lord, Lord Southwark, appears to imagine. The matter is one of great complications. If you are going to do it properly, and it is no use doing it unless you do it properly, you have to make a very elaborate inquiry. I have been furnished with the conditions of that Inquiry, and I do not think I can do better than read them to the House.

The Inquiry will cover all industrial and commercial occupations and certain professions in which young persons are undergoing a period of training, whether as apprentices or learners. In the main the Inquiry will be carried out by means of a questionnaire which is being circulated to from 15,000 to 20,000 firms. The detailed information to be obtained with regard to each of the trades in the industry will include: —

  1. (a) The number of young persons employed:—
    1. (i) As apprentices under indentures or other written agreements.
    2. (ii) As apprentices under verbal agreements.
    3. (iii) As learners.
  2. (b) The amount of premium, if any, paid by apprentices.
  3. (c) The age at commencement of apprenticeship or learnership.
  4. (d) The length of apprenticeship or learnership.
  5. (e) Wages: —
    1. (i) In the first year.
    2. (ii) In the second year.
    3. (iii) Annual increments.
Information of a more general type will also be obtained as follows: —
  1. (a) Recruits—sources from which apprentices and learners are obtained; difficulties experienced in obtaining apprentices.
It is most essential we should know that.
  1. (b) Training.
  2. (c) Technical education.
  3. (d) Improvership—if the young person has to serve a period of apprenticeship on the conclusion of the term of apprenticeship.
  4. (e) Length of probationary period, if any.
The information as secured by means of the questionnaire will be supplemented in appropriate eases by consultation with the organisations of employers and of workpeople in the industries concerned. The Inquiry is being carried out with the co-operation of the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations.

In addition to that, there will be, of course, the information which the Ministry of Labour has already in its tiles and archives, and probably a certain amount of personal investigation will be required. That is the scope of the Inquiry, and I do not think it could be curtailed or made simpler without a very great loss of the advantages which will accrue from it. I may, perhaps, say, as illustrating the complications which it involves, that in the forms of inquiry that are sent out some fourteen special forms have been found to be necessary in order to deal with the particular circumstances of each trade, apart from the general forms which go out to the trades as a whole. Then, in choosing the 15,000 or 20,000 firms, a good deal of care must be exercised in order to have them thoroughly representative. They have to be chosen out of some 280,000 firms in existence, and the collection of a great mass of information of that kind necessarily involves very careful consideration of details with everybody concerned. Otherwise you may obtain, not information, but confusion.

Something was said of the danger of special or other committees. It is not a question of a committee. This Inquiry is being made by the staff of the Ministry of Labour, and of course there is a certain limit to the amount of staff available for such a purpose, but I am assured that every man that can be spared to be put into the Inquiry is being put into it and every possible means is being used to expedite the collection of information. Even when that has been done a good deal will remain to be accomplished. The information will have to be digested and put into the form of a Report. I am told that the experts of the Ministry of Labour contemplate a volume of more than 600 pages when it is complete, so that it is evidently a thing that must take time. Of course, the rapidity with which this can be done must depend upon the amount of assistance and co-operation that the Ministry are able to obtain from the firms who have the information at their disposal. All that I can say on behalf of the Ministry is that every possible effort will be made to expedite the Inquiry, but. I should be misleading the House if I were to say that it could be done very rapidly. My information is that it must take some eight or nine months at least, and it may possibly take a little longer than that, though certainly not much longer.

With reference to the particular Question put to me by Lord Biddulph, I have asked as to whether the Government have any information as to the number of societies such as that which he so interestingly described for the assistance of apprenticeship. I am told that no such information exists, and I am not sure that it would be worth the expense of obtaining that information specially and separately. As to the other part of his Question, suggesting that financial assistance should be given to these societies, I am bound to adopt an attitude of the most extreme caution. It is customary for Ministers and for members of this House to urge economy, and I am sure that no one who considers the present financial position in the world and in this country will doubt the necessity for economy, and, even more than economy, for the actual saving of money. It is not enough to say that such and such an expenditure will in the end bring in a good result.

We are now definitely in a position that makes it necessary to consider the actual expenditure of money, whether it will be remunerative or unremunerative expenditure in the end, and I am afraid that it would be really hopeless for the Ministry of Labour to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask for financial assistance for this kind of society. After all, we do spend money, we do maintain a national service aiming at securing employment for juveniles. It is provided for to some extent in the employment exchanges and employment bureaux which already exist. Consequently my advisers tell me that the policy of paying premiums, however desirable it may be in the case of relatively small societies which are closely acquainted with the circumstances of everybody concerned, is of very doubtful benefit if it is to be extended widely or largely. It might even degenerate into a mere subsidy to employers without really increasing to any very great extent the employment of apprentices.

My noble friend must not forget that, even if it were possible to obtain such financial assistance, it could be done only in exchange for Government control. If he thinks as I do about the value of Government control, he will doubt very much whether it is worth purchasing the payment of premiums in exchange for being put under the somewhat iron heel of a Government Department. For these reasons I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope whatever that the Government, will be able financially to assist societies which, as we recognise quite as much as my noble friend, are doing valuable work and which we desire to see prosper and succeed to the utmost of their power. But we do recognise, and we do feel as strongly as any noble Lord present this evening, that the question of apprenticeship is one of the very gravest importance to the prosperity of the country, and whatever seems to us possible to do to encourage and assist it will be done, though we hope that we shall not be pressed to take steps which would not be of advantage to apprenticeship and would be of disadvantage to the finances of the country.


My Lords, the first observation which I have to make is one of sympathy with the two noble Lords who have put these Questions. Each of them desired in his own way to hear that something was going to be done, and all that they have got is the announcement of a vast questionnaire which is going to be addressed to the already somewhat harassed employers of this country and from which it is hoped that valuable information will come. But it will not assist the movement towards further apprenticeship. The difficulty in the way of that movement is the obvious one that this is a time of very small employment and the only persons who are apprenticed are apprenticed without any certainty or likelihood that their apprenticeship will lead them into an occupation for which they are paid. That is a state of things inherent in the depressed condition of industry in this country, and you cannot put it right. As the noble Viscount said, all that we can do is to prepare people as best we can for the state of things that will arise when employment in this country becomes more general.

But, while I have expressed that amount of sympathy with the two noble Lords, I am entirely with the noble Viscount in the critical attitude which he assumed towards the policy implied in the two Questions. I do not think that this is a case in which the Government can usefully embark upon efforts or expenditure to promote apprenticeship. This is not a time when apprenticeship is likely to lead to any immediate results in the form of extensive employment. There will come a time when there is more employment in this country—that is a thing which I, for one, have never doubted—it will come, as it has come before, though it may take time, and the question is what we can do best to prepare the boys and girls who will be required when that period comes.

I agree with the noble Viscount that, one of the most serious things for this country is that we should have a revival of industry without people being prepared to take up positions in which to co-operate in that revival. How is that best avoided? Surely not by apprenticeship in the very narrow sense in which we have heard of it to-day. What is apprenticeship? It means that an employer takes a young person and trains him in the peculiar technical industry in which the employer is engaged, and in very little else. It is a very wooden and mechanical thing. It does not expand the mind or the spirit. It is all very well, when there is a great deal of employment and people are looking about for young workmen to go into their service, to say that they prefer those who have gone through some kind of apprenticeship. But what if there be no such employment available? Then what good does that training do in the way of giving a chance to a person who has had it to get into another and more hopeful sphere of life? The real thing to do is to train the mind and to educate the young person in the wider sense, to enable him to turn his attention to a variety of things, and if he cannot find employment in one way to find it in another, because he is better capable of entering employment than another person who is not so well educated.

What we hear now is that employers of labour are looking more generally to education, not in the direction of technical training or some particular narrow little channel—that what they want are young persons or men educated more generally, it may be, in the direction of humanism. It is better that they should have had training which enables them to read and speak accurately, to appreciate literature and to appreciate the difference in the quality of work—between quality which is high and quality which is low. That can only be the result of general education. To-day the Government have made a compromise about those things. We had a debate the other day about blind-alley boys. If we are going to make the younger population better fitted we should aim at more general education, rather than at anything which can be given by the Ministry of Labour, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, in the interstices of education.

We all know the difference it makes where education goes on to the age of fifteen, instead of to the age of fourteen. We all know what could be done if education went on to the age of sixteen. I believe that a young person who was kept at education for another year, or two years, would find employment far more easily than a mere technically-trained apprentice can hope to find it at the present time. I am not saying that the Government are likely to find themselves in a position to insist upon continuing education up to the age of fifteen or sixteen, but I am sure that that is the ideal which we should have before us. It may be that through the medium of part-time education, which it is the policy of the Government to give in the interstices of occupation, something can be done in that direction.

I do not believe that much or enough can be done in that way, but it is something wider than the rather narrow substitute suggested in the Questions put to the Government to-day, and I am glad that the noble Viscount has given what is really a most unsympathetic answer to the suggestions made in the two Questions, and has not promised anything more than a long, rather harassing and tedious Inquiry, which will no doubt make miserable many clerks in the offices of the different firms to which the form of inquiry will be addressed. Such inquiries will, I hope, lead to some information, but I believe it will result in little information which will be of value in the solution of the question before us


My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot quite agree with the noble and learned Viscount opposite, when he said that what was required was more general education all round. I am interested in the subject of apprenticeship, and I think the whole of our successful trade in past years has been the result of that system of apprenticeship. It is through that system that England has obtained all its most skilled workers—those men who have been able to do the finest work in the past, and who have prepared the way for the great machines of the present day. I have been connected, like Lord Biddulph, with an apprenticeship fund, and it also is a very ancient one. Lord Biddulph has described a fund in the West of England. I am connected with one in existence in Gloucestershire, and almost on the same lines. It has existed for two or three hundred years, and is called "The John Edmonds Charity." A person named John Edmonds left a fund in the hands of trustees, for the purpose of apprenticing in London boys and girls from this little town in Gloucestershire. I remember that forty years ago every year a meeting was held and there was a dinner in a dim and distant pothouse in the City. All these boys and girls apprenticed under the fund had to come there, and were given a supper, and the chairman of the trustees presented them each with half a crown. Of course, that is a thing of the past.

It is found that apprenticeship cannot now be found for the children in London, and they are apprenticed in our own little town of Cirencester. Many of the local tradesmen take them and teach them their trade. For the fact that this system has done good work I can vouch, because there is one at least of the apprentices, a cabinet maker, who has attained such skill, and is able to do such beautifully fine work, that he was able to make furniture small enough and worthy to go into the Queen's doll's house. That is one result of these apprenticeships. They turn out men who are really skilled in their work, and who, when they have finished their apprenticeships, are able to go into business on their own account and get on really well in the world. My idea is that this is much more useful than giving a man what the noble and learned Viscount called a general education. Such a man goes into a factory and can simply pull over the lever of a machine.

I am very glad to hear that the Government are making such close inquiries. Trustees of societies like Lord Biddulph's and mine co not ask for any assistance. Our funds are ample for what is wanted, and I fancy that the only reason why there is some diminution in the applications for apprentice fees is that the system is rather disliked by the trade unions, because the pay given to these boys is very much smaller than they would get if they came under ordinary employment terms. As a rule £15 is given in the first place, and perhaps for the first year a boy only gets 2s. 6d. per week, but meanwhile he is taught his trade. In the second year the weekly pay is increased, and at the end of the time he gets very nearly the full pay. That is simply because during that time he is learning his trade. I think it is a most excellent way, and one which has turned out some of the finest workmen we have in this country.


My Lords, I have been somewhat entertained by the speech of the noble Viscount who spoke for the Government this afternoon, and who gave an assurance that the present Government are anxious to do everything they can in this matter. First of all, it does seem to me that to postpone a matter of this kind till the end of the year in order that a Departmental Inquiry shall take place is a little absurd when the matter is one of some urgency. I can tell the noble Lord of a way in which he can really do something to help in a practical way the education of boys who were employed until January of last year in connection with apprenticeship work.

In January of last year the last act of Mr. Bridgeman, who was then at the Home Office, was to issue an order preventing all boys from being employed in the coke oven establishments of this country in connection with work which they were performing. In the last few years a continuous process of coke oven working has been perfected at great cost in this country, producing a large number of by-products. No two plants are alike. They are chemical works, producing dyeing materials, sulphate of ammonia, tar, and a great number of by-products. Under this process it has been necessary to employ men continuously, and obviously night shifts, as well as day shifts, were necessary. The custom of the trade was for three men and a boy to be placed on a plant continuously, and to work for a fortnight during daylight, and during the third week at night. Thus, these boys were employed once in three weeks on night work, and, owing to that, the Government have stepped in and have taken away their work. When the permanent officials at the Home Office objected to this night work of boys, I pointed out how valuable such an education was to the boys. They were first brought into these chemical works to do nothing but to daub the waste places and the oven doors, so as to prevent waste, as heat was coming out of the oven doors. In a few months' time the boys were able to understand the whole of the chemical arrangements connected with the plant. And we have been able to educate and train a great number of these boys, working together with the three men, without any of the boys suffering in any way from this night employment once in three weeks. The result has been to teach them to become practical chemists, and some have risen to be quite good chemists in different industries.

The result of the Government forbidding the employment of the boys has been a great deal of waste heat from these plants, because it is not worth while to employ a full-grown man at adult wages to commence such operations on a plant of this kind. It was apprenticeship work to all intents and purposes of a very practical character, and 100 boys have been deprived of it. I have once or twice crossed swords with my noble friend Lord Haldane on educational matters, and I have always believed in practical training rather than theoretical training. I realise the advantage of scholastic education, but for those who come from the ranks of the wage earners and have to earn their living, I believe that practical work of this kind is far more helpful even than going up to the Universities, though, of course, I should like to see exceptional boys climbing the educational ladder. In this case it does seem a great pity to deprive these boys of the practical education which would help them to become chemists and to be very useful citizens, and I rather hope that this arbitrary action on the part of the Home Office may be reconsidered.