§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
My Lords, I do not think it necessary to detain your Lordships for any length of time in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to carry out two Conventions which were adopted by the International Labour Conference last summer and which the Government have announced their intention of ratifying, subject to the necessary legislation being passed. The first of these Conventions, contained in Clauses 1 and 2, is a Convention as to the employment of women at any industrial undertaking and it embodies the Convention on the same subject adopted at Washington in 1919 and later ratified by the British Government and also by many other countries. The substantial difference between the new Convention and the old one which necessitates this Bill is that the new 491 Convention contains a specific examination for women holding responsible positions of management who are not ordinarily engaged in manual work. Effect is given to the old Convention by the Factory and Mines Act, which was supplemented by the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, 1920. The purpose of Clauses 1 and 2 in this Bill is to modify those Acts so as to exempt from certain of the provisions women holding responsible positions of management who are not ordinarily engaged in manual work.
The other Convention dealt with in the Bill is of a technical character and is of a limited application. It relates to the system of shift working for persons employed in continuous operations in sheet-glass works where the machinery is automatic. The only firm of glass manufacturers affected in this country are the well-known firm of Messrs. Pilkington, who supported the proposal for the Convention and who are understood to agree in its ratification. In fact the Convention is substantially, if not entirely, in conformity with their present practice. I hope with that short explanation of a comparatively simple Bill your Lordships will not hesitate to give it a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Earl of Feversham.)
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition I need hardly say that we welcome most heartily this Bill and the decision of the Government to ratify the Convention. There are just one or two points that I want to raise. I will not detain for more than a few moments those of your Lordships who have remained. I think the pathetic belief which the Government have in the general lines of organisation of one firm, Messrs. Pilkington Brothers, is a little touching. They may have accepted this in full, but it does not follow that it is perfectly satisfactory to the workers engaged by Messrs. Pilkington, and it is important, when we are ratifying an International Convention, that we should apply very strictly the rules of that Convention to prevent other countries who adopt similar legislation providing loopholes through which unfair competition might be applied to this country or might adversely affect our trade.
The loopholes I venture to suggest are these. First of all it does not seem to 492 me that there is adequate provision in regard to the variations or extensions mentioned on page 3 of the Bill. For example, Clause 3 (1) (a) makes reference to a change over of shifts. A firm might change over every few days. I should have thought it would be a good thing—perhaps the Government will consider this—to put in something to ensure that notice is given to the Home Office or to the inspector concerned of arrangements or alterations of the periodical change of shifts. Again, there is the case of urgent work. We do not know what that means. There might be urgent work every day of the week for a year. Again, force majeure is mentioned in this clause, but it is not properly defined. Then there is a reference in the Schedule to raw materials subject to rapid deterioration. That, it seems to me, should be made the subject of inquiry. I refer to these points in order to show the need for safeguards in order to prevent loopholes being left through which a less reputable firm than Messrs. Pilkington's might escape from the conditions imposed upon them. The inclusion of some words which would ensure things being brought to the knowledge of the Home Office inspector would show that this country at least did not intend to leave any loopholes, and then other countries might perhaps follow suit.
THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that if this Convention is to be ratified, it is necessary for all parties concerned to have a statutory right to make any representations that they may find necessary. The noble Lord is somewhat concerned as to whether such a right belongs to the employees of Messrs. Pilkington, which I understand is the only firm affected by this particular Convention.
THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
At present. I think perhaps the noble Lord might be satisfied if he reads Clause 3 (3). He will see that that subsection says:… compensation for the hours so worked shall be granted by the employer in such manner as may be agreed between the organisations of employers and the workers concerned, or as may, in default of such agreement, be determined by such method as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State after consulting the Minister of Labour.493 I think that such a decision arrived at between the Department I represent and the Minister of Labour must rest upon the facts of the particular case. It seems to me that there is little doubt that the point raised by the noble Lord will be met by the provisions already contained in Clause 3, but if he so desires, I should be very glad to consider the point further, so that, if it is found necessary, an Amendment may be moved at a later stage.
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, I am extremely obliged to the noble Earl for his very helpful answer. The proviso to paragraph (d), however, does not seem to apply to the periodical change over of shifts. If he would look into the point and perhaps make the proviso in Clause 3 (1) applicable to the whole subsection, I think that would meet the case.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.