HL Deb 24 July 1939 vol 114 cc392-404



1. The Board shall consist of fifteen members appointed by the Board of Trade; and of the members of the Board, three (of whom one shall be designated by the Board of Trade as chairman of the Board) shall be persons appearing to the Board of Trade to have special knowledge of the industry, appointed as being independent persons.

4 p.m.

LORD STRABOLGI moved, in paragraph 1, to leave out "fifteen" and insert "seventeen." The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Snell and myself, I beg to move this Amendment. Your Lordships will notice that the Cotton Industry Board, representing all these different interests—ten more or less distinct interests—is to have fifteen members. By this Amendment we want to increase that number to seventeen, and if you will look a little further on in the Marshalled List of Amendments you will see the consequential Amendments, which would increase the number of persons representative of the operatives in the spinning and doubling from one to two, and the persons representative of the operatives in the weaving industry also from one to two. The object of the series of Amendments is to give one extra weaver and one extra spinner to represent the work people. On this whole body, with its highly important duties, out of fifteen members there are only to be three representing the operatives, the third representing the workers in the finishing industry.

We think there should be these extra members for two main reasons. The first is that the one man representing the spinners and doublers, for example, will be by himself, with immense responsibilities, and he cannot perhaps always be there. We think it is better to have a second representative. The same thing, of course, applies to the one member who will represent the whole of the vast weaving industry. The other reason is this. The noble Lord, Lord Templemore, when he replies will no doubt say that this is the result of long negotiations by the unions and the employers and the Board of Trade, that the union leaders accepted this representation, and that we should not go back upon it; but since that arrangement was come to the Bill has been radically altered by the Government, or by another place. The immense rayon industry has been brought in, and Lord Barnby wants to bring in the wool industry in a kind of indirect manner. Therefore the original basis of the bargain has been somewhat altered.

I do not want to put too much weight on that second reason, but I must defend the leaders of the great textile unions, who were admittedly in such a difficult position, and had to take an immense responsibility. They had to think of the interests of many thousands of workmen and workwomen, and were naturally exercised about the distress in the Lancashire textile districts and elsewhere. They therefore agreed to this small representation. Since then my friends and my Party have heard the case for larger representation, and we are convinced that a good case can be made out. These Amendments do not affect the principle of the Bill. They give a little more representation to the workpeople— five out of seventeen instead of three out of fifteen, and that is not a large proportion to represent workers who constitute something like half a million in the industry.

Amendment moved— Page 55, line 6, leave out ("fifteen") and insert ("seventeen").—(Lord Strabolgi.)


I trust the Government will accept this Amendment. The responsibility, as my noble friend says, of a single member representing the whole of the vast number of operatives engaged in the weaving industry, and another single member representing those engaged in the spinning industry, is too heavy, and those bodies would seem to be entitled to two representatives on a Board of this character. Several years ago, when the relations between capital and labour were unfortunately more strained than they are in these days, there was a strong movement to bring about a new spirit in industry, and to enable the working classes to feel that they were not merely hands employed by some indivdual for his profit, but that they really should have the status of partners in the industry, whose share in its prosperity was fully recognised, and who should be given some degree of responsibility for participating in any measures or activities affecting the industry as a whole. This is such a case, where an industry is being largely remodelled under the auspices of the State, and in those circumstances workers in the industry ought to play a full part in the organisation which is to be set up for the purpose in view. For those reasons I would venture to give my support to the proposal of my noble friend.


I am sure it is very difficult for me to resist the persuasive arguments of the noble Lord opposite, and of the noble Viscount, but I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment, and for reasons which I will give as shortly as possible. I will not, as the noble Lord opposite thought I was going to do, go into a long dissertation on the long conferences which took place on the Bill, although such did take place, but the present constitution of the Board is in accordance with proposals put forward by the Joint Committee of the Cotton trade organisations. As the Board is at present constituted, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government there appears to be adequate representation of the various interests. In their opinion additional representation for one section would be certain to give rise to requests for similar extensions to others, and in the result the Board, already very large—I think it consists of fifteen members—would become unwieldy. The present representation for operatives will enable them, we think, to voice adequately the Labour opinion on any problems that arise, and that is all that is necessary, and all that is possible, on a Board of this nature, where of necessity any particular interest must be in a minority with regard to all the others combined. In the circumstances I am afraid I must resist the noble Lord's Amendment. I trust he will see the reasons for my reply and will not press the Amendment.


We do not see the reasons at all, or if we do we see them rather remotely. The reply of the noble Lord is really very disappointing. Supposing this Amendment were accepted the representatives of labour would still be less than one-third. Labour in a great industry like the cotton industry is not a section. Labour is half, at least, of the whole enterprise, and that, if I may be permitted to say so, the more important half. Again, the men who represent the operatives in the cotton industry are men of long service, of very great capacity, with great technical knowledge, and their work on the Board would not be to divide the Board but to help the Board to arrive at decisions which would be good for the industry as a whole. The narrow view of the Government, I repeat, is very disappointing, especially on a matter of this kind.


In spite of what my noble friend has said I think we have agreed that we will not put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division, unless the noble Viscount below the gangway would care for it. Perhaps I might be permitted to say that I hope those remarks about the size of a body of fifteen reached the noble Lords who are members of the Cabinet, and may I particularly appeal to one of them present, the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman? He has a great deal of knowledge of that admirable body the Joint Maritime Board, which has done so much for raising the status of the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine, in collaboration with the shipowners. On the joint Maritime Board the officers, the engineers, the seamen, firemen and stewards have almost half the representation on the Board, and they get on very well. However, we do not want to trouble your Lordships on this matter. Perhaps later on it may be possible by mutual agreement to arrange that the Board can be increased. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.12 p.m.

LORD TEMPLEMORE moved, in paragraph 1, to leave out all words after "three" and insert: shall be appointed as being independent persons, of whom two shall be persons appearing to the Board of Trade to have special knowledge of the industry. One of the three persons so appointed shall be designated by the Board of Trade as chairman of the Board.

The noble Lord said: In the Bill it is required that all three independent members are to have a special knowledge of the cotton industry. During consideration in another place the functions of the three independent members have been considerably widened, and they will now have a great deal of administrative and semi-judicial work to do. It is highly desirable that among the independent members there should be some special knowledge of the cotton industry. In view of the important functions they will have to perform, however, it may well be desirable that the field of choice in the selection of these members should not be limited to the cotton industry. Accordingly, the Amendment proposes to make it possible, in appointing one of the independent members, to look outside the field of persons who have a special knowledge of the industry.

Amendment moved— Page 55, line 7, leave out from ("three") to end of line 11 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Templemore.)


This raises some question of principle, but I only rise to ask a question, and I hope that what I say will reach the ears of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. I hope that the appointment of a person who need not have any knowledge of the textile industry does not mean that we are going to have more lawyers on this Board. I have had to resist the tendency to make a sort of closed field for lawyers for this kind of appointment, and I hope that that is not the intention here. I am sure the whole of the cotton industry would prefer anyone to another lawyer on their Board.


I am afraid I am not authorised to say that the representative will not be a lawyer. I take it that if a lawyer were the most suitable person he would be appointed, but I should think it most likely, even probable, that he will not be. Further than that I cannot say.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.14 p.m.

LORD BARNBY moved, after paragraph 7, to insert the following new paragraph: (8) The Board of Trade may also, until such time as an Act for the reorganisation of the wool textile industry has been brought into force, appoint as attachés to the Cotton Industry Board three persons who appear to the Board of Trade to be representative of the said industry. Provided always that the appointments of the said persons shall be subject to such conditions as the Board of Trade may prescribe, including conditions that they may be present at any meeting of the Board but shall have no voting rights, and shall receive no payment.

The noble Lord said: In using this means of putting this suggestion before the Government I speak entirely for myself, and not as representing any trade federation. I have, however, taken steps to see that the proposal which I make is brought to the attention of the Central Employers' Federation of the industry, and that the President of the Board of Trade is informed that it is not put forward in any way authoritatively as representing the industry. I repeat, I put it forward purely as a personal proposal. I do so because I have been associated with the textile industry all my business life, and I was formerly Chairman of the Central Employers' Federation to which I have just referred. I have done it also because I have been familiar with the whole textile industry in various Continental countries, and more particularly in the United States. I have also made a study of the jute industry in this country, and more particularly in India, and of the linen industry in the North of Ireland.

As a result of all those examinations, I have been reinforced in my view that the requirements of the moment call for some action which the Government have taken in introducing this Bill. I am fully conscious that the matter has been one of great controversy among those interested in the industry. We have this very singular and perplexing position, that leaders of great standing and experience in the cotton textile industry take, with equal vehemence, opposing sides. For instance, you have Mr. Herbert Lee, of the Fine Cotton Spinners, on the one hand strongly urging what the Bill purports to do, and you have that brilliant industrial leader, Sir Kenneth Lee, taking, with equal insistence, an opposite view. It must be very confusing to the rank and file to find such divergence among those whom habit has accustomed them to regard as leaders. I remember that when I was President of the Federation of British Industries, it was frequently explained to me that this or that progressive proposal would be strongly resisted by Lancashire and the cotton industry. At that time they had been the oracles of leadership in industrial thought in England, but that was before their position of leadership was eclipsed. That situation in Lancashire, however, brought about action from outside the industry. Weakness and discord from within produced this Bill from without, and it is for the purpose of avoiding confusion in the wool textile industry that I urge that time should be taken by the forelock, and the industry should be encouraged to put itself in the limelight of progress.

I am, however, resolutely against interference from without, or State control. The drift of the day is away from extreme individualism towards collective effort, but I want that movement to come from within. In recent times, in step with the change which is taking place throughout the world, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister for Overseas Trade have both repeatedly urged the country, and have gone down to the different industrial areas in the provinces and urged in more detail, that steps should be taken within different industries to prepare themselves for dealing with an entirely new set of conditions, which partly arise from within the country itself and are partly forced upon us from without. The Bill which your Lordships are considering has been described by The Times as a Bill which gives an instrument of self-help to the industry. The Manchester Guardian, that very conservative organ, described it as a highly democratic production.

Turning to the wool textile industry, the grounds on which I urge the Government to consider this proposal are the progressive decline in the number of operatives employed in the industry, the regrettable record of unemployment in the industry, and the undeniably low operating ratio of the machinery for the past years. Incidentally I would mention that the position has been impressively changed in recent months by the lavish expenditure of the Government in buying its products, and therefore any situation that exists is temporarily masked. I would also add, as grounds for consideration, the evidence given by Sir Harry Shackleton before a tribunal set up to consider the general state of the industry in connection with an application for wage advances, in which he recorded a very discouraging figure as the rate of return on capital employed in the industry. I would also instance the statement of Sir George Douglas, Chairman of the Bradford Dyers Association, who admits what has been the position of his own great company whose name is familiar to your Lordships, one of the great industrial concerns in this country; and he is a man who speaks with full knowledge and experience of the industry.

Personally, I am very indignant at the requirements imposed on the industry for excessive expenditure in connection with the interpretation of the Factory Acts and more recently the Civil Defence Act. I believe that more complete organisation in all sections of the industry would have permitted more authoritative and effective influence on this or any other proposal coming from the Government, with a view to emphasizing its requirements to keep in step with the national movement of these days.

I would except the combing industry, the application to which of a scheme based on the shipbuilding scheme has put in a much healthier situation, but even in that section, profits are nothing but modest. In the older industries, with their extremely individualistic conditions, one must admit prosperity has been much less than in the case of the newer ones with a different structure. Therefore it seems a national question whether the structure does not require reorientation, and that is the ground of the proposals which I have made to the Government. The world is changing fast. The Ministry of Supply Act, which your Lordships passed recently, confers revolutionary powers, and that in itself is evidence of an entire change in the national position.

My aim in this suggestion is to prepare for resistance to any possible Governmental control or interference, and to urge that there should be an entire policy of self-help within the industry. For that reason it would seem that the experience of observers or attachés such as I have suggested, would be helpful—indeed is essential—to ensure profits from the industry and good conditions for the workers, which it is the particular responsibility of Parliament to protect. I suspect in advance that it will be explained by the Government spokesman that to accept this Amendment with regard to the wool textile industry would be difficult unless similar privileges were extended to the jute industry, the linen industry, and so forth. It may be that that difficulty is insuperable. Nevertheless at this moment, when your Lordships are considering a Bill dealing with the cotton industry, a proposal for a more conscious survey of the position of the textile industries of the country other than that which falls under this Bill seems appropriate, and I hope may receive a sympathetic reply from the Government. In conclusion I would remind your Lordships that in my Amendment I have suggested that any action the Board of Trade should take is permissive and not mandatory. It is because of the fact that until recent years the textile trades of this country made such a very substantial contribution to the total exports of this country that, when a Bill which is considered revolutionary in its importance to the cotton industry is being considered, I suggest your Lordships should be prepared to consider whether the national interests do not call for the Board of Trade to consider what steps, if any, should be taken with regard to other branches of the textile industry.

Amendment moved— Page 57, line 22, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Barnby.)


The noble Lord who moved this Amendment was good enough to communicate with me and ask for my support. I appreciate the honour, but I must explain to him that we have grave objections to the principles of the Cotton Bill now before your Lordships. As the noble Lord's proposal is to make it easier to apply the same principles to the wool industry, I regret that we cannot possibly support him. The wool industry is comparatively prosperous. The noble Lord represented the City of Bradford with great distinction in another place. I have heard the City of Bradford referred to as "The City of the Golden Fleece." They did very well at a certain critical period. In the same way, I have heard Cardiff described as "The City of the Dreadful Knights."


The wool textile industry is always ready to respond to whatever national requirements may demand.


At any rate they are very prosperous, and I have not heard of a demand from them such as we have had from the cotton industry. I do not think my friends who represent the workers in the wool industry wish to have a Bill brought in for them, and therefore I am sorry we cannot support this Amendment.


My noble friend has raised an important Amendment, but I am sorry that, for reasons I shall give, the Government cannot accept it. First of all, the Government have no reason to think that the wool textile industry would desire that three persons from their industry should be attached to the Cotton Industry Board in the way proposed by my noble friend. At all events, no representations on the subject have reached them. The Government are aware that certain sections of the wool textile industry, and in particular the section dealing with worsted spinning, have for some time past been considering plans for reorganisation and they entirely agree that the wool textile industry should keep under review the schemes of reorganisation developed with the machinery provided for the cotton industry by the Bill, with a view to considering in the light of the circumstances of the wool textile industry whether, and if so, to what extent, similar powers could usefully be sought at some later date by the wool textile industry. So far the Government are in agreement with my noble friend, but they cannot agree with him regarding his proposal that the wool textile industry should be enabled to keep the matter under review by appointing representatives on the Cotton Industry Board, even though by the terms of his Amendment he would limit the proposal by the condition that such members should have no voting rights and should receive no remuneration.

Your Lordships will appreciate that the experiment in reorganisation which is being embodied in the Bill is a matter of the greatest interest to a number of industries. There is in the lace and embroidery industry, for example, a feeling that similar measures are required for that industry. Interest is by no means limited to the textile industries, but the attitude of other industries seems to be rather like that of the wool textile industry—namely, that they have at present an open mind on the question and would like to see how the cotton trade schemes work out in practice before committing themselves to a corresponding line of action. But these other industries—and there are a good many of them—would have the right to claim, and no doubt would claim, any special facilities for observing the progress of reorganisation in the cotton industry that may be granted to the wool textile industry. If the Amendment were passed it would be very difficult to revise a scheme and a very large addition to the membership of the Cotton Industry Board would be necessary. Such an extension of the membership of the Cotton Industry Board would be wholly impracticable. Many of the matters that would be discussed by the Cotton Industry Board concern questions of the policy to be adopted by the cotton industry, they would be entirely confidential and might be quite unsuited to discussion in the presence of representatives of a large number of other industries. Indeed, it should be borne in mind that on some of these questions, the Cotton Industry Board may subsequently be engaging in negotiations with those other industries. In the opinion of the Government the membership of the Cotton Industry Board must be confined to persons directly concerned with the industry.

I should like to point out to my noble friend that there is no possibility of the woollen industry or any other industry being unable to obtain such information as is necessary to them as to what the Cotton Industry Board is doing. Anyone who has read this Bill will be under no misapprehension as to the publicity that will attach to sectional schemes proposed under it. Reports on the schemes by the Cotton Industry Board and the Cotton Industry Advisory Committee will be presented to Parliament and Parliament itself will no doubt on occasion debate the schemes. Moreover, the Cotton Industry Board will under Clause 32 make a report each year on the discharge of its functions which will be presented to Parliament. The Government are fully satisfied that the wool textile industry will have adequate information about the operations of the Board and I regret that I cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment.


I appreciate the sympathetic way in which the noble Lord has explained the difficulties which operate against the Government accepting my proposals. I shall read with care the statement which he has been good enough to make. I remember that he clearly assured me that there would be every opportunity for the wool textile industry to have the fullest information as to the experiences of its sister industry under this Bill. This is the first attempt at constructive and progressive action as the outcome of much controversy within the industry, and I would like to say that I was pleased to hear the assurance which the noble Lord gives that all the examination which is necessary will be undertaken by the Board. I would also like to say that I feel that these reassurances will have an effect upon those of my colleagues in the industry who would doubt the wisdom of any collective examination of the industry. With regard to what was said by my noble friend who has spoken for the Labour Party, I would say that it will be consoling to them to be told that far from the suggestion being hazardous from the point of view of Governmental control it would be insufficiently progressive. I appreciate what was said quite frankly by my noble friend as to what the situation is, and I am glad to think that he is personally sympathetic to anything which will safeguard the interests of the workers in the wool textile industry. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.34 p.m.


The next Amendment on the Paper is drafting. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 58, line 3, after the second ("or") insert ("for").—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next two Amendments also are drafting. I beg to move.

Amendments moved— Page 59, line 7, after ("Board") insert ("and any members of a committee of the Board who are not members of the Board") Page 59, line 22, after ("Council") insert ("the Rayon Committee").—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third Schedule: