§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a 789 second time. I should like, at the beginning of my remarks, to remind those noble Lords who take an interest in factory legislation that it is thirty-six years since we had a comprehensive measure for amending the whole of our factory code, and although smaller Bills have been introduced from time to time, the whole of our present factory laws are based entirely upon the measure enacted by Parliament in 1901. I think it can be truly said that factory legislation was never a Party question, and although this measure is to a large extent amending and consolidating our existing law, the Government are anxious to give close and careful consideration to any suggestions which may be expounded during the discussions on the Bill in this place. As modern methods of manufacture continue to grow faster and faster, and as it seems to me that speed becomes the god of the day, the strain of manual labour requires more rest, relaxation and recreation than it did thirty-six years ago. If, as I believe, that is a correct understanding of the present conditions of factory life, it is incumbent upon us, in considering amendments to our present factory code, that we should take into consideration the wholesomeness of the buildings in which men and women work, their clothing and cleanliness, the hours of their employment, more especially for women and young persons, the medical and health services, and other safety measures. All those principles in some form or another will be found to be embodied in this Bill.
Probably my best course this afternoon would be to select for explanation those clauses which I think are likely to be of interest to this House, and to include other additional clauses Which were added during the passage and journey of the Bill through another place. It will be remembered by those noble Lords who take an interest in this form of legislation that the earlier Factory Acts dealt practically only with the textile industry, and the law, to-day, does still draw a clear distinction between textile and non-textile factories. In the opinion of the Government this distinction is obsolete, and we propose in this Bill to abolish it for ever. I come now to Part I of the Bill. The first eleven clauses deal with the general provisions as regards the health of factory workers. It is provided in these clauses that additional space shall be allowed for each worker, and that the minimum tem- 790 perature should be fixed at 60 degrees after the first hour's work for light sedentary occupations. A new proposal is embodied in this Part of the Bill dealing with the importance of good lighting in factories, and in view of the extremely bad conditions which prevail in factories to-day this clause is urgently required. The last clause in Part I gives power to the Secretary of State to require that reasonable arrangements shall be made for medical supervision of the workers in the cases enumerated in that clause.
I turn from that to Part II of the Bill, which deals with the safety provisions. Your Lordships will notice that Clause 17 deals with new machinery, and the proposal comes from a recommendation of the Departmental Committee on Accidents which reported as far back as 1912. Clause 20 is one of the chief provisions of the Bill, being directed specifically towards the protection of juveniles against accidents which may be caused to them by the cleaning of certain machinery. Clause 22 contains an elaborate code of requirements for construction and maintenance of all lifts and hoists. In 1935 there were twenty-five fatal and 352 nonfatal accidents in factories due either to lifts or hoists. I do not think it is necessary for me to refer the House to the subsections of that clause for they can be amplified at a future stage of the Bill.
Coming now to Part III, I ask your Lordships to observe Clause 42. Provisions are contained in that clause and in Part IV of the Bill for the setting up of washing facilities. Further proposals will be submitted to the House at a future stage of the Bill in accordance with the undertaking given by my right honourable friend in another place. Clause 43 is another important addition to the Factory Bill. It provides that suitable accommodation shall be provided for clothing not worn during working hours, and that such arrangements as are practicable shall be employed for drying any wet or damp clothing. Part IV of the Bill deals with the health, safety and welfare of those employed in factories. There is an important point here to which I desire to draw the attention of the House. It is in Clause 53, which enables a district inspector to certify an underground room as unsuitable for use in any factory, and not only in specified factories, as was laid down in the Bills of 1924 and 1926. This matter was the 791 subject of legislation introduced into this House in 1913 by my noble friend Lord Salisbury, and I feel that it will be some satisfaction to him to see this provision about to become the law of the land.
I need not at this stage go into Part V, but I must ask your Lordships to bear with me a short time while I give what I hope will be an ample description of Part VI, dealing with the question of the employment of women and young persons. The provisions existing to-day regulating the hours of employment for children in factories are now obsolete in view of the Education Act and the Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act, 1920. The age of entering into industrial occupations has been successively advanced under every Factory Bill enacted in the past. So far as my researches go I find that 1819 was the first year that legislation was passed prohibiting the employment of children under nine years of age, but that Act only dealt with a certain limited number of industries. In 1874 the age was raised to ten. It continued to be raised by other Acts until 1920, when the minimum age of entering employment became fourteen, and the Act also gave effect to certain international labour conventions. Under the Education Act which Parliament approved last year the local by-laws must require school attendance up to the age of fifteen, but local authorities are empowered to grant exemptions for beneficial employment for any child after the end of the term in which he or she attains the age of fourteen, subject, however, to certain considerations which have to be taken into account. Therefore, when that Education Act comes into operation it will be illegal to employ persons between the ages of fourteen and fifteen in industry except on a certificate granted by the local education authority.
I turn from that to Clause 70, which lays down the general conditions of employment for women and young persons. It is, I think, difficult to realise that in this year of grace, although it is still the law of the country, the statutory hours of employment, exclusive of meal intervals, is 60 hours per week in non-textile and 55½ hours per week in textile works. These are long hours, and I venture to think that they are quite unacceptable by modern standards.
792 Accordingly, it is now proposed to embody the principle of a forty-eight-hour week which was so widely adopted after the War and is now, by agreement with employers and workmen's organisations, being worked by a great majority of industrial workers in this country. It is, moreover, provided that not more than nine hours can be worked in any one day exclusive of intervals for meals and rest, and the period of employment must be fixed by the occupier of the factory between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., or between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the case of young persons under six teen years of age. On Saturdays the hours are between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Your Lordships will observe that that is an advance on the existing law which is in operation to-day, whereby a firm is allowed to employ women and young persons up to 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoons. I hope the House will realise that it is not the purpose of this Bill to fix optimum hours of employment, but only to lay down the protective maximum limits.
The governing consideration in fixing these maximum limits must be the health of the workers and the practical need of the industry. The fixing of forty-eight hours as a maximum does not imply in any way that women and young persons should in all cases be employed up to that limit, for there are undoubtedly very good arguments of other kinds in favour of shorter hours in a number of industries. I have reason to believe that in one or two instances these lower figures are being, or are about to be, observed in certain factories. Paragraph (c) of Clause 70 deals with the intervals for meals and rest and provides the time that should be given to women or young persons in their spells of employment. I now ask your Lordships to refer to Clause 71 which was inserted during the Committee proceedings in another place. It provides that after a period of one year from the date of the commencement of the Act the hours to be worked by any young person under the age of sixteen shall be forty-four instead of forty-eight. There is a saving provision in this clause, however, giving industry the right to apply for longer hours up to the maximum of forty-eight only if it can be established under certain important conditions set out in the subsections of that clause.
793 I turn to Clause 73, which is an important one and which deals with the question of overtime employment allowed to be worked by women and young persons over the age of sixteen. I might mention in passing that no overtime will be permissible to any young person under that age. It is important in discussing this point to take account of the fact that the great bulk of our industry is at present organised under collective agreements on the basis of a forty-eight hour week, which can be and is supplemented by overtime employment. These agreements have recognised the need for overtime, but as a rule they do not restrict its amount. The need to-day for it is more widespread, perhaps, than it was in the past, largely due to the modern practice of ordering from manufacturers in relatively small quantities, at shorter notice, and at more irregular intervals. The first subsection of this clause provides that overtime employment for women and young persons over sixteen is to be limited to a maximum of 100 hours in each year. Not more than six hours are to be worked in any one week, and overtime is not to be done in more than twenty-five weeks in any one year. It will interest the House to know that, under the existing law, women and young persons can work 600 odd hours overtime in non-textile factories and 390 hours in textile factories in one year, over and above the forty-eight-hour week.
Your Lordships will observe that it is a very large and substantial improvement which the Government are making in this clause. Subsection (2) limits the hours of work, including overtime, to ten each day and the period of employment to twelve hours. The other subsection to which I should like to refer your Lordships is subsection (5), which gives power to reduce overtime after public inquiry when it can be established that this can be done without causing serious detriment to the industry concerned. I pass from that to subsection (6) of the same clause which gives power to the Secretary of State to vary the hours of overtime employment in certain classes of factory subject to seasonal or special circumstances. Then it can only be for 150 hours in the case of women. I apologise for delaying the House for some time on these clauses, but they do contain provisions of exceptional importance and, by their inclusion 794 in this Bill, they vitally affect the employment of every woman and young person in this country. Therefore they are worthy of the very serious consideration of your Lordships' House. I would mention in passing that there are special exceptions to the employment of young persons which I need not detail at this stage. Your Lordships will observe that there are also two important clauses, Clauses 107 and 108, dealing with the extension of building and engineering works and these, I believe, can be more properly referred to on the next stage of the Bill.
I now come to the end of my remarks on the clauses to which I think it is necessary to draw the attention of the House. I do not for one moment pretend that I have covered all the principles and the new ideals which are embodied in the Bill, for I am most deeply conscious of the difficulty of presenting a Bill dealing with such a mass of detail to this House in any clear light. But I do maintain that by this Bill we are altering and revising the industrial code for some 6,000,000 men, women, and children. We are, by improving their conditions, making for greater industrial efficiency, lessening the number of accidents, and providing for the removal of undue fatigue. In conclusion, I may perhaps be permitted to add a personal note. For some years I was myself employed in factory occupation in the North of England, and I had reason to learn of some of the reforms which were necessary to bring the conditions of factory employment into line with modern requirements. This Bill undoubtedly achieves an enormous advance in factory life, and it does also compel a great amount of industrial reorganisation. I know full well, from the experience I myself have had, that the Bill will be welcomed by both young and old alike and that, for the successful operation of this measure, the support of the workers will be forthcoming. I know, too, that the employers are more and more showing themselves appreciative of the need for a higher standard in industrial and factory conditions, and I am sure that they also will co-operate in every possible way.
I hope the remarks that I have made to your Lordships this afternoon will give the House some idea of the large complexities which are involved in this Bill.
795 I wish myself that I could have taken considerably more of your Lordships' time in fuller explanation of some of the many principal items in the Bill, but I know there is other important work in regard to which many of your Lordships desire to speak, and I have, therefore, endeavoured to confine my remarks within the shortest possible time. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Munster).
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I should like first of all to congratulate the noble Earl opposite very warmly indeed on his performance this afternoon. I imagine it is the first time he has had to deal with factory legislation, and he could not have been presented with a much more difficult beginning than a Bill of 160 clauses containing as much detail as this Bill does. I observe that your Lordships associate yourselves with the expression of appreciation that has come from these Benches in regard to the manner in which the Bill has been explained by the noble Earl opposite.
My next observation is to echo a protest that appeared in The Times of Saturday last under the name of a member of your Lordships' House about the way in which this Bill has been brought before your Lordships this afternoon. This measure is, I suppose, together with the Marriage Bill, one of the two most important Bills to come before your Lordships for consideration during the present Session, and the full text of the Bill was not printed and circulated until the end of last week. I received my copy on Saturday morning, and I imagine that other members of your Lordships' House received theirs at the same time. I do not believe that it would be possible even for the most exceptionally able member of this exceptionally able House to master a Bill of 160 clauses in the course of one weekend; therefore I cannot help wishing that the Government had allowed us to take the Second Reading a little later on. We have, after all, the whole of the month of July in front of us. I cannot help feeling that it is a little unfortunate that most of your Lordships are here to-night to listen to the debate upon another and subsequent Bill. It is rather an unhappy situation that many noble Lords should have to listen to a debate for 796 which they were perhaps not prepared because the Government decided that these two important Bills should be considered on the same afternoon.
Our attitude on the Bill is this. We in the Labour Party have always wanted a Bill to consolidate and amend our factory code. We are exceedingly glad that a Bill has come before both Houses of Parliament, and that when it is passed into law there will be a distinct improvement in existing conditions of work in our factories. At the same time we cannot express sufficient satisfaction to be able to refrain from a great deal of criticism and vigorous amendment when the time comes. We will certainly not try to prevent in any way the Second Reading of the Bill, but when the Committee stage arrives I should like to warn the noble Earl at this juncture that he will have to cope with a vigorous and numerous collection of Amendments.
The only general observation that I have to make before dealing with a few of the clauses of the Bill is this. The noble Earl at the outset said that this Bill does not aim at prescribing optimum conditions for industrial workers but rather at laying down a minimum standard of welfare. That has always been the spirit behind Factory Bills since the year, I think it was 1819, when the first Factory Bill was introduced into Parliament, and that is not our view of the right conception that should inspire a Bill dealing with conditions of work in factories. When one surveys the treatment of factory hands by the successive Parliaments that have met in the last one hundred years one cannot help being reminded that a certain Latin tag would seem to apply to men as well as to animals: "Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes." We cannot consent to factory hands being regarded. as to a large extent they have been regarded, by legislation as tools or instruments that have to be perfected in order that those who run the factories and those who benefit from the sale of goods made in them may enjoy the greatest possible returns.
We regard factory workers as people whose happiness, comfort and general well-being should be the main object of industry and the whole legislation affecting industry. That is why we quarrel with the principle of laying down a minimum standard of health and wel- 797 fare and safety which is behind this Bill, and which, indeed, has been behind every Factory Bill. We should like to see a Bill which aims rather at establishing the best possible conditions of Work and at bringing up the general level of factory workers to that now enjoyed by those who are employed by the most enlightened employers, and by those who work in countries where factory legislation is most advanced. We have, unfortunately, lost the lead in factory legislation which we enjoyed in the nineteenth century, and it is most lamentable that an example that might inspire countries that are more backward industrially should no longer be available from the practice of the British Parliament.
Now I should like, if I may, to deal as shortly as possible with certain of the more important provisions of the Bill. I was particularly grateful to the noble Earl for dwelling at such length on Part VI of the Bill, which, indeed, contains its pith and marrow. We are sorry that there is no limitation whatever upon the working hours of adult men in industrial employment. The answer given was that such matters should be left to collective bargaining as a very large proportion of male industrial workers is enrolled in trade unions. But that surely is not an excuse for overworking those men who do not belong to such organisations as trade unions. A report of the Chief Inspector of Factories points out cases of men working as many as thirteen hours a day. I know myself a case of a man who works twelve hours a day. We cannot help regretting, on account of the hardship experienced by a certain number of male employees in industry, that this Bill does not impose any statutury regulation or restriction on the hours of men. We should like to obtain a forty-eight-hour week for men and women alike, which indeed is already operative in certain Continental countries. Our ambition soars still higher, because the Trades Union Congress desires in the course of time to reduce the working week to the length of forty hours, and this of course would have to be done without any reduction of wages, without any diminution in the remuneration of the employees.
These are our main objections to the provision regarding the working of adult factory hands, but we are equally dismayed because a working week of forty- 798 four hours is now laid down for boys and girls of fourteen and fifteen. The noble Earl pointed out that it would be necessary under the Education Act for industrial employment to be regarded as beneficial from the point of view of the child before a job could be accepted, but, surely, if the word "beneficial" has any real meaning at all, it must imply that plenty of opportunity is given to the child for physical education and for academic work in the classrooms at school. If there is any meaning in the word "beneficial" which the Government introduced into the Education Act last year, it surely must imply the best possible opportunity for children to obtain a reasonable sort of education. Is it at all conceivable that a child of fourteen or fifteen, who has already worked five or six hours in a factory, will be sufficiently fresh and sufficiently alert to benefit from sport and from instruction from its teachers? Surely the two things are at bottom incompatible. We should like to sec children allowed to stay at school and kept out of industry until the age of fifteen. I am perfectly certain that on educational grounds that would be the only reasonable course to take, and I am equally certain on other grounds, which I think appeal equally strongly to the Government, that that would be the right thing to do.
The Government are apprehensive about the state of physical health of the working-class population. There is a Bill which is to be presented to your Lordships tomorrow providing for more opportunities of physical education in towns and villages generally all over the country. I am perfectly certain that exemption at this tender age from factory work would probably do more, and would certainly do as much, for the physical well-being of the rising generation as physical exercises in gymnasia or games on the playing field. Another reason for the desirability of exempting children of fourteen from industrial employment is this. As the noble Earl opposite is aware, the accident rate for young persons is very considerably higher than the accident rate for adult workers and the reason is exceedingly obvious. The best way to reduce the number of accidents in industry would be to allow this youngest grade of workers to disappear because it would be no longer recruited from below. I cannot believe that the argument so often used, that industry cannot bear the burden of 799 not being able to employ this cheap labour, really holds water. This argument has been used whenever a Factory Bill has been introduced into Parliament and whenever the age of entry into industry has been raised. But I do not think any one would say that the fact that we no longer allow children of nine and ten years of age to go into industry has very seriously diminished the prosperity of this country.
I am sorry to have dealt at such length with this one solitary point about the Bill, but I do feel that it is perhaps the most important thing that might have been done if the Government had been willing to pursue the logic of its own Education Act of last year. We believe the same argument applies fundamentally to young persons of sixteen and seventeen. We cannot consider that overtime is desirable for children of that age, and indeed we would like to reduce their hours of labour to not more than forty whereas forty-eight is laid down, I think, as the figure in the Bill. There is just one word I would like to say about overtime. For the first time in the history of the factory code overtime is accepted as a general rule or principle applying to the factory population. Hitherto, overtime has been regarded rather as an emergency measure permitted to be employed by certain firms at moments when they have some exceptional need of labour. Surely, we ought to stick to the principle of not allowing overtime as a general rule, but simply permitting it on certain occasions when the seasonal pressure of trade or the need of the occupation demands a longer spell of work than the normal spell. I cannot help feeling that it is a retrograde thing in factory legislation to lay down overtime as being a customary and generally acknowledged practice.
There are only two other points with which I wish to deal and I will do so as briefly as I possibly can. The first of these is that we still retain in this Bill the historical anomaly of classifying women together with young persons. That was perhaps comprehensible in the nineteenth century, when women had no political rights and very few legal rights, and had hardly filtered through the net that prevented them from entering the professions. Surely to-day, however, it is ludicrous to put women in the same cate- 800 gory as children. I am not saying that women should be treated in exactly the same way as men; I would not go so far as that. But it seems to me to be even more ludicrous to treat women as in any sense identical with children than it would be to treat women as identical with men, not merely because women are fundamentally adults and therefore have abilities and characteristics different from those of children, but also because children have an educational need, which is their most important need, and which older people have not.
Finally, when this Bill deals with holidays in Clause 78, Part VI, there is no mention of an annual holiday with pay. The only holidays laid down by Statute are the religious festivals and the Bank Holidays, which together amount to less than a week and which do not run consecutively. What we desire is a whole week, one stretch in the year in which working people may obtain recreation and rest and which will also be paid for by their employers. It is obviously necessary that the holiday should be a paid holiday, because otherwise they could not obtain the rest and the recreation that they desire and deserve. This is already the practice in many firms of enlightened employers. It has become a statutory regulation in certain countries. A Private Member's Bill which has received a Second Reading in another place proposes to allow a week's holiday per annum with pay. Surely, in view of these recent trends in legislation and in the actual running of industry, the time has come when the Government might well embody a clause such as that in one of its own Bills. Those are all the observations that I have felt called upon to make this afternoon. The very many detailed criticisms that we on these Benches feel bound to level at the Bill will be formulated in the shape of Amendments when we reach another stage.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the indulgence which your Lordships are accustomed to extend to a member of this House who addresses it for the first time is needed not less by one who has taken part for many years in the debates in another place. There is the difference in atmosphere, and there are many small and subtle differences in procedure, so that if unwittingly I should err I would ask you of your kindness to extend to 801 me your forgiveness. I have taken this occasion to address your Lordships for the first time for the reason that for nearly six years I had the honour of serving in the Home Office, first for more than three years as Under-Secretary and afterwards in two terms as Secretary of State. During those years I was able to keep in very close touch with the industrial side of the very varied work of that Department, and I count it a privilege to-day to be able to extend a cordial greeting to this Bill, an important measure of social progress explained to the House so lucidly by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who speaks with a sympathy drawn from personal experience. I feel sure that I am expressing the views of my noble friends on these Benches in extending that welcome to this Bill.
There was a time when the evils of the factory system were a byword and the system itself was regarded as a blot upon modern civilisation. Hundreds of thousands of children were drawn yearly into the mills. During their working lives they were subjected to exhausting conditions; they were often degraded by sordid and squalid surroundings; they were worn out by middle-age. These workers had no effective voice in determining the conditions of their own employment. Your Lordships will remember how Blake, in his most famous poem, spoke of "these dark, Satanic mills" which had been built "in England's green and pleasant land." Thanks to a century of effort, there has been a great change, due partly to the efforts of Parliament in the Factory Acts, partly to the efforts of the workers themselves through their trade unions, and partly to the better standards set by enlightened employers. Now, as we drive along the great arterial roads out of London, we may see, and here and there in the industrial districts of this country we find many modern factories of a very different type from those "dark, Satanic mills": attractive in their architecture, often set in lawns and gardens, light, airy, clean, sanitary, the workers employed for moderate hours, with holidays without loss of pay—work-places that are fit for members of a civilised nation.
So far so good, but in these matters we have to beware of complacency. These modern factories she what is possible, but the average is far below them, and the worst very far below them. There are 802 altogether a quarter of a million factories and workshops, many of which are small and ill-equipped. There are, I suppose, approaching a quarter of a million employers. Some of them may be bad employers, many of them are negligent employers. So that here and there we may find features in the factory system which are a discredit to what we regard as an age of progress and enlightenment, what an indignant Irish orator once called "this so-called twentieth century"! So there is still need for pressure to bring the worse up to the standard of the better, and the State must take a part in that work. This Bill is a measure with that admirable purpose.
But there are defects, which forbid complacency, which run all through the system. For example, accidents are still numerous. There are upwards of 150,000 accidents every year in factories, accidents serious enough to incapacitate a worker for more than three days. This involves a very heavy cost to industry in compensation—many millions—but, far more important, it involves suffering and loss to all these tens of thousands of industrial workers. Further, the factory system as we have it in this country still imposes too heavy a tax upon youth and adolescence. Undoubtedly the time is ripe in this country for all children up to the age of fifteen to devote that time of their life to education. Whether that can best be achieved through the Education Acts or whether a step in that direction can be taken by means of this Bill is a matter which no doubt we shall discuss in Committee, together with the other important particular points which have been brought to the attention of the House by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who has just spoken.
There is another problem affecting the factory system as a whole to which the noble Earl who introduced the Bill drew some attention. That is the effect of machinery and of the speed of machinery. The workman has to keep pace with the machine. Its continuous monotonous movements govern the movements of the human being, and this sometimes involves a muscular strain but more often a great nervous strain from the very monotony, continued hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and year after year. It is sometimes said that modern man is the slave of the machine that he has himself 803 created. Emerson said: "Things are in the saddle, and ride mankind." There is an element of truth in that, but I believe that as a generalisation it is untrue. On the contrary, machinery does for mankind what slavery did for the ancient world. It has undertaken all the brute labour, and it has supplied us with commodities and amenities, and has brought them within reach of almost all classes of people, in such abundance and variety as our ancestors could not have imagined in their most sanguine dreams to be possible.
Nevertheless machinery does bring a new problem into this aspect of the modern world, and a Bill such as this must take that element into account. In its clauses and regulations dealing with young persons, hours, overtime and holidays, we must always have this important factor in our minds. Part of the nerve strain of factory life is noise—incessant and insistent noise. This is a matter which is seldom mentioned, because I suppose it is usually regarded as unavoidable, and I am glad that a movement has been started, led by the noble Lord, Lord Horder, which seeks to mitigate this very trying feature of modern life. I hope that it will not be long before the Factory Department of the Home Office may find the means to introduce, or promote the introduction of, some remedial and preventive measures into the work of factories.
There is another defect which forbids complacency, which I for one think might be dealt with by legislation. I am, however, speaking for myself and some others—they are as yet not many—when I say that we wish a beginning might be made in this Bill. We often in times of industrial conflict are inclined to say that labour is really a partner in industry, and that the workers should so conduct their affairs through their unions as to fulfil the responsibilities of partnership; but, as a fact, is labour as a rule treated in the factory as a partner? Very often the workman is only able to feel that he is merely a hand, and nothing more. A number of the most progressive firms realise the importance of this matter, and realise that unrest in the industrial world is not only a question of material conditions but also of status and self respect. They have established in quite a number of industrial firms, including 804 several of the most important in this country, Works Councils representative of the management and of the workpeople, not interfering with the business conduct of the enterprise but dealing, at regular meetings, with working conditions, and enabling the workmen to feel that their views can be expressed and heard as part of the normal conduct of the business. Within the general rules set by collective bargaining for the whole trade, local and special conditions of work are determined by these works councils. I am one of those who hold that this system ought to be general throughout the larger establishments—it may not be suitable for smaller ones—so that thoughtful workmen may feel that they are not merely subjects in the world of industry, but citizens.
Later, also, one may hope that the system of profit sharing may be introduced much more widely into industry than is yet the case. Some of us who have been studying these problems for a long time past are also of opinion that there should be a Ministry of Industry. It seems astonishing that in a highly industrial country like Great Britain there should be a Ministry for trade and a Ministry for agriculture, while industry is left to be dealt with by three or four Departments, and there is no one in a position to take the initiative with great measures of industrial reform, which is undoubtedly needed in the industrial world. So that if a Government should some day wish to introduce an extensive and bold measure of social progress these are matters to which they will probably be well advised to give attention. Meanwhile, the proposals in this Bill, though less far-reaching than the conditions of our times require, are useful and acceptable, and I have no doubt that the Bill will meet here, in its main lines, with almost universal agreement.
The outcome of the Bill as a Statute will depend upon its enforcement. The Factory Department of the Home Office contains some 250 inspectors and other officers, and the Home Secretary in another place announced that in consequence of the Bill that number would have to be substantially increased. Fortunately, the work of the factory inspectors in these days meets with co-operation rather than with obstruction from employers. There was a time when the inspector was regarded as a sort of inquisitor conducting a persecution. Now 805 he is more often regarded as a helper in a common object, that common object being the welfare of British industry, in which the welfare of the workers, who are the vast majority of those engaged in it, must be an integral part.
The close interest of His Majesty in industrial welfare is well known and widely appreciated, but it is not so generally known, though it is no secret, that one member of the Royal House has been actively serving as a factory inspector on the Home Office staff. When I was Home Secretary, five years ago, it fell to me to make arrangements for the introduction of the Duke of Kent to the Factory Department. His work there was not merely formal and perfunctory, but for nearly two years the Duke of Kent worked, for several days a week, the standard hours of an assistant factory inspector. He worked with admirable devotion and perseverance, and visited hundreds of factories, workshops and docks in the London area and elsewhere. Thereby he not only gained practical knowledge, useful himself, but also gave encouragement to the whole of the inspectorate through the recognition so extended to the value of their work to the welfare of the people.
This is a voluminous measure covering 139 pages of print. Of necessity it is complex and technical; it consolidates and modernises a century of legislation. I feel sure that it will receive the cordial approval of your Lordships' House, with gratitude to those Ministers, and civil servants also, who have been engaged for years past in the laborious work of its preparation, and to those who now present it to be finally fashioned and enacted by Parliament.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, we have all listened with the greatest interest to the speech which has been made by the noble Viscount, and we are glad that he has had the opportunity of making his first speech on a subject with which he is so familiar. We hope we shall often hear him on this and other subjects. I propose to take only a very few minutes in addressing the House. I venture to speak on this subject because for many years I have been very interested in the problems with which the Bill deals. I welcome the Bill. It was a good Bill when it was introduced in another place, ii was made a better 806 Bill in the Committee stage, and I hope that in this House we may be able to make it a very good Bill. I am the more encouraged in thinking that this may be so because the Government throughout the Committee and Report stages in the other House have always viewed with sympathy the various Amendments which have been moved, and to-day the noble Earl moved the Second Reading in an admirable speech, which was clear and audible—a great merit—and also was obviously very sympathetic.
The Bill, I feel, is really a great step forward. It makes new provisions for the cleanliness and the comfort of those who are working in factories; it sets a higher standard of requirements for health, especially the more thorough ventilation of the factories, and also has new provisions about lighting. There are additional safeguards against accidents, and throughout the Bill there are various regulations which will see that its clauses are progressively carried into effect. But here I should like to endorse an observation which was made by the noble Viscount who has just sat down. It is one thing to have excellent regulations, but these regulations must be carried into effect and they have largely to be carried into effect through the inspectors. The inspectors are doing quite magnificent work, but they are inadequate in number. The noble Viscount mentioned, I think, that there are some 260 inspectors. If I remember rightly there are something like 250,000 factories and workshops to be inspected. Two hundred and sixty inspectors is an inadequate number for supervising and carrying into effect the complicated regulations of a Bill like this.
Now may I turn to the Part of the Bill in which I take the greatest interest, the Part of the Bill in which I think there is greatest merit and also the greatest defect—that Part, namely, which deals with young persons? The present position of the law dealing with the hours of labour of young persons in factories is most unsatisfactory. That is generally admitted. It is, I think, almost a national disgrace that young persons, some of them not more than children, should be allowed to work such excessively long hours in our factories. They have been allowed to do this year after year, and the Chief Inspector of Factories in his last Report pointed out that there is a tendency to 807 increase the number of hours worked, a tendency to move towards the maximum allowed by the law. The effect of this on their health and on their energy is simply deplorable. The new regulations made in this Bill are here a great advance. The hours of labour are reduced. They are reduced in the case of those between sixteen and eighteen from sixty to forty-eight per week, and for juveniles, those between fourteen and sixteen, the hours are reduced to forty-four, subject to certain exceptions. In those cases the hours may be forty-eight. Overtime has been abolished altogether in the case of the younger children, but a hundred hours per year are allowed to those between sixteen and eighteen.
As far as that goes it is a real advance, but I think it is a matter of regret that children under fifteen are allowed to work in factories at all. This means that they can work forty-four hours a week—on five days in the week eight hours, and on the sixth day four hours. They start work at eight in the morning and work till twelve, and they work again from one or two o'clock onwards till they have done their eight hours in the day. The children—for they are children, just over fourteen—sometimes have to go a considerable distance to and from their work. At the end of a day like that how can you expect these children to take any part in continued education schemes, and how can you expect them to take any part in the physical exercises which in future are to be provided for them? I think the Government recognise that sooner or later the children will have to be prevented from working in the factories, at any rate till the age of fifteen. But why not stop it now? Every year means that some children are losing the opportunities of education and recreation which are available to those in another class of life. If that is not possible, I should like to see the exemptions removed so that these children never work forty-eight hours, and I should like to see overtime abolished, though this may possibly be an ideal in the case of those who are under eighteen. These matters will of course be discussed in detail in the Committee stage, and I hope that the Government may view sympathetically at any rate some of the Amendments which may be moved. But whether those Amendments are carried or not—and I hope 808 they may be carried—I am sure that this Bill, even if it is passed in its present form, will do much for the health and happiness of the six millions who are employed in our factories to-day.
My Lords, I regret to have to intervene in this debate, especially with the debate which is to follow, but it would be invidious if nothing were said on behalf of the manufacturers in regard to a Bill of this nature. I should like to say, speaking on behalf of the National Union of Manufacturers, that they welcome this Bill. They welcome it because it consolidates all the Acts which have been passed over many years, and also for the new provisions which have been included in it. These provisions have been arrived at only after very careful consultation, and there is nothing in this Bill to which any manufacturer would take exception. However, there is one point which I am constrained to bring before your Lordships. In this Bill there are two sets of regulations. There are regulations under Clause 60 for health and safety—these are what are called the special regulations—and there are certain general regulations under Clause 129 which refer to ventilation and lighting, a point which was mentioned by the noble Earl in moving the Second Reading. In the past there has been no cause at all for any feeling on the part of the manufacturers against the Home Office for the way they have made those regulations. They have usually consulted them, and regulations have been made with the consent of all parties. But in the Bill as now drafted, in the case of the special regulations, special procedure is laid down in the Second Schedule of the Bill which requires that they shall be published in the manner best adapted for informing persons affected, and the procedure may include an inquiry. In the case of the general regulations, the only safeguards are that notice of the proposal to make regulations has to be published in the London Gazette and that then the regulations are laid before Parliament and can be annulled by a negative vote of either House. So far as the general regulations, therefore, are concerned, there is nothing to determine that the Government shall consult those most interested before the regulations are made and laid before Parliament.
All I am going to ask the noble Earl when he replies is whether the Govern- 809 ment will give an assurance that when these general regulations are made they will consult those interested, not only after they are laid before Parliament, but actually before they are laid and whilst they are in draft form. I have confidence in asking the Government to give that assurance, otherwise it will be necessary to move Amendments when the Bill is in Committee to see whether that can be done. This Bill is a very important Bill, as other noble Lords have stated, and there are many points in it to which one would have liked to make reference, but the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has indicated in his speech that he is going to put down masses of Amendments. Therefore, no doubt, during the Committee stage there will be ample opportunity to go into the other points which one would have liked to mention. All I ask now, therefore, is that the noble Earl will consider giving the assurance I have asked from him.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I only ask to be allowed to extend a dozen sentences of welcome on behalf of the National Labour Peers who support His Majesty's present Administration. I think it should be said that this is a remarkable Bill to be brought before us at such a time. It is the best possible disproof of the once familiar prophecy that the drive for rearmament was going to stifle the Social Services, and, without undue flattery, it might be said that only a National Government could have brought it before your Lordships. No weak minority Administration could have shouldered the burden of these 160 clauses.
While I am distributing my humble congratulations, I should like to say a word or two regarding those who, outside both Houses of Parliament, have worked for many years to bring public opinion to the point at which it would accept some such measure as this. Many of them were themselves trade unionists, and many of them will be grateful to His Majesty's Government, even although they may not find everything they had hoped to find in this measure. I suppose none of us finds everything he had wished to find. Noble Lords with whom I am associated have, I think, been particularly regretful that it was not found possible to reduce the hours of labour of young persons under sixteen to forty instead of forty-four, but we quite recognise the force of the argument that it is perhaps better to enact 810 forty-four with the consent of employers than to enact forty and tie round the clause the deadweight of opposition from employers, which might then develop into excessive use of the exemption clauses. Of course, we remember that this is only a measure to round up laggards. It is a measure for bad employers. The good employer has already reached this standard, and in some cases has gone a long way past it.
The only other observation I should like to make is that I share the doubts of the right reverend Prelate regarding the ability of an inspectorate of 260 inspectors to enforce such a complicated measure as this. I think it was a Labour Member in another place who pointed out how often regulations on these matters, which are hung up in factories, are so obscured with the dust of ages that even the large print of their titles at the top of the placards is not legible. I have sometimes wondered, when in these places myself, whether something might not be done to assist effective inspection by bringing the relevant clauses more directly to the notice of the workers themselves, who are, after all, primarily concerned with these measures in the factories. I shall now content myself with extending a very warm welcome on behalf of the noble Lords with whom I am associated to a measure which, without undue flattery, may be called characteristic of the present Government, in that it is comprehensive, well-balanced, and has provoked the minimum of friction.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, I do not think there is very much for His Majesty's Government to reply to. If I speak with very great brevity, I hope your Lordships will really take it as an earnest attempt to suit your Lordships' convenience in giving the House time to get on to another discussion. I should be very sorry if it went out from this debate, because of the shortness of the debate and possibly because of the shortness of the Government reply, that we do not here consider this Bill to be of the very greatest and gravest national importance. The reason why this Bill has not been debated at very great length is simply that there is such unanimity on the need for it and on the usefulness of its provisions. Practically every point that has been raised is really a point that can be better dealt with at another stage of the Bill.
811 Certain Amendments have already been promised to us. These Amendments will doubtless mostly be concerned with the points which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester brought up—namely, the hours of women and young persons. No doubt these Amendments will be very good ones, and His Majesty's Government will, of course, do their best to consider them with the greatest sympathy. I would only make one remark with regard to them, and that is that of course no one would for a moment seek to contend that this Bill is the final word in factory legislation. Every one of us will admit that we would far prefer to have children working in the factories for forty hours than for forty-four, but this introduces the much more important question of how exactly we in this country are to tackle the problem of the improvement of our Social Services. Personally I far prefer to see the provision of forty-four hours in a Bill of this character with the full consent of all the parties concerned—with the sort of consent, for instance, from the manufacturers which the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, has given—which will ensure to us that the scheme will be worked with the greatest thoroughness and good will by all parties. Then, no doubt, the new system having justified itself, the State and industry will be prepared in due course to take yet one more step forward.
I think that is really all that it is necessary for me to say with the exception of mentioning one point that was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. That is with regard to the question of the time which was given to your Lordships for the consideration of the Bill before it was put down for Second Reading. That question was very seriously considered by my noble friend the Leader of the House. We are frequently in the position in this House of very much regretting the length of time which is taken in another place, and the delay which therefore occurs before legislation reaches us, but it was felt, admitting that there was a certain limited time before the end of the Session, that it was more important to have plenty of time at our disposal for the consideration of the Bill at the Committee stage and Report stage than on the Second Reading, particularly in view of the fact that 812 the Bill itself and the general principles that are to be enacted in it have been before Parliament and the country for a very considerable period. With those words I beg your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading.
May I ask the noble Earl whether he could give me the assurance I asked for, as I cannot be here next week during the Committee stage?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I must apologise to the noble Viscount for omitting his point. I most certainly can give him that assurance wholeheartedly.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.