HL Deb 21 July 1954 vol 188 cc1312-9

6.27 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Woolton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair]

Clause 1:

Hours of work at bakeries other than night-bakeries

1.—(1) Except at an establishment with respect to which a notice under subsection (1) of the next following section is for the time being operative, and subject to the other provisions of this Act, a person shall not be employed as a bakery worker between the hours of ten o'clock in the evening and five o'clock in the morning:

Provided that a person may be so employed on dough-making or oven-firing at any time in the morning not earlier than three o'clock.

LORD AMMON moved to add to subsection (1): and that a person may not be so employed between the hours of six o'clock and ten o'clock in the evening during more than twenty-six working weeks in any one year.

The noble Lord said: For those who were not present during the Second Reading debate, I would explain that this Bill deals with a subject which has been before the public and Parliament for as long as one can remember. Seventeen years ago in another place a Bill on somewhat similar lines was introduced. Since then the Rees Committee has inquired into the matters concerned. As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, pointed out in the Second Reading discussion, it very succinctly set out in the interpretation clause, Clause 11, of the Bill that: 'night bakery worker' means a person employed as a bakery worker at a night bakery. I am sure that that has made quite clear what the purpose of the Bill is. It is a pity that, having waited so long, and admitting that we have an excellent Bill in many ways, it should be marred by certain blemishes. However, seeing that we have a member of the Cabinet in charge of the Bill, I am hopeful. I hope that he is going to say that he will grant that for which we are now asking.

The Bill, as it stands, has, in a very large way, met grievances of which complaint has been made, but it is somewhat marred because it takes away a good deal that has already been given. A permanent "back shift," as it is called in the Report, is something that would in fact be as great an evil as a permanent night shift. This clause of the Bill, as it stands, is contrary to the Rees Committee's Report. In paragraph 66 of the Report, the Committee say, with reference to "back shift" working: We think that as a permanent working period it is open to many serious objections, some of them perhaps different from those which are put forward to night work, but in their practical effect not much less disadvantageous to the operatives, We believe that any action which had the effect of substituting a permanent back shift for a permanent night shift or an alternation between those two shifts would not in fact be a worthwhile solution of the problem.

In paragraph 211, the Committee emphasise this yet again. They say there: We recommend:— (1) that legislation should be introduced to provide that every bakery establishment should be required to adopt one of two courses as follows:—


(a) It should employ no person in the manufacture of bread and flour confectionery between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.


(b) It should employ no person in the manufacture of bread and flour confectionery between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than half the weeks worked in any particular calendar year."

Apart altogether from questions of remuneration, health and hygiene, the great problem that arose was because the people who were on permanent night work in this particular trade were divorced from all social contacts and had to live a life that was not as full as it might be. That has continued for very many years until at last we have the opportunity of passing this Bill. The purpose of the Report and of the Bill is to lay it down that night workers are entitled to a minimum of twenty-six weeks' day working in a year. It is in accordance with that purpose that this Amendment has been framed. It is designed to ensure that the clause shall carry out fully the purpose of the Bill—to give these men at least half a year in which they will be free from night work. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 13, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Ammon.)

6.34 p.m.


The noble Lord has told us that after seventeen years he is in a state of hopefulness, and I must congratulate him on his optimism if he thinks that because a member of the Cabinet is taking this Bill at this stage the argument which he has put forward will be admitted. I do not think that at this hour, when I know your Lordships have other matters to occupy your attention, matters on which I have been given to understand some of you feel rather deeply, I am going to enter into long arguments about this Amendment. In this Bill there is a good measure of what many people have been hoping for a long time. I have had some association with this trade. I remember very clearly my experiences with it during the war. I remember with gratitude the way in which the trade unions at that time postponed their efforts to get legislation until the circumstances of the country were more suitable.

This Bill has been based on the Rees Report. That Report was drawn up by very competent people. The Bill which has been discussed in another place and has now come here is the result of an endeavour to carry out what was recommended by the Rees Report. I do not think that the noble Lord opposite can quite get away with the idea that the members of the Rees Committee really wanted something which they did not express quite clearly in their final conclusions. In point of fact, I am given to understand that if they had made the recommendations that the noble Lord is suggesting, they would have been going beyond their terms of reference, which were, in fact, limited to night work.


I hope the noble Viscount is not challenging what I have read. I read it from the Report of the Committee. They made that recommendation. I have given the reference.


It would not have been within their terms of reference. It is not a matter upon which they were invited to report. I hope that the noble Lord is not going to press this Amendment. I cannot agree to it. I hope he will join with me in feeling glad that we have got so far in this quite admirable course. I hope that the Committee are going to enable me to get this Bill through this House to-day in order that it may be brought into law at the earliest possible moment. I beg the noble Lord not to press me further on this matter, because I cannot give way.


May I say a word on this matter as one who originally introduced a Bill in another place in 1938? I have just been reading through the Report of the debate that took place. I find that I made a ten column speech at that time which was answered by a nine column speech on behalf of the Government. I do not propose to repeat that speech or even half of it. But I do suggest that we have had a large amount of experience since then, and I should like to draw attention to one or two points. In Scotland, they have managed, by industrial arrangement between employers and employed, to abolish night baking altogether. If I am not out of order in referring to it, may I say that I hope some attention will be given to that fact. I said on Second Reading that I welcomed this Bill, and I welcome it because it effects an improvement. But it does not go far enough. Legislation on this matter has been going through this House, or rather has been discussed in this House, for something like a hundred years. I think it is time now, in this century, that we should come to a final conclusion and emancipate the bakers from night work.


I wonder whether the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, would clarify the doubt as to whether the Rees Committee really did make a recommendation which was not in keeping with their terms of reference. As my noble friend, Lord Ammon, has said, he quoted from the actual Report of the Committee.


My information is—obviously I have not been through the whole matter myself—that they were not entitled to make a recommendation on the lines which the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, has suggested, because it was not within their terms of reference.


But a recommendation was made?


I must say that I cannot quite accept the point which the Minister has sought to put, because the terms of the recommendation were for the abolition of work between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for a certain time. The proposition in the Amendment is that the hours 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. fall within that period, and the recommendation is specifically made along that line. However, I have to accept the fact that the noble Viscount cannot see his way to agree to the Amendment. Though not at all convinced by what the Minister has said, I accept the position and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Notices, applications, records, etc.]:


This is a drafting Amendment. I do not think I need occupy your Lordships' time with it, and I hope you will be good enough to give it to me. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 15, leave out ("paragraph (b)or (c) of subsection (2)") and insert ("subsection (4)").—(Viscount Woolton.)


May I be magnanimous and say that we accept this Amendment, with thanks?

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6:


(2) An officer acting for the purposes of this Act shall have power for the performance of his duties— (b)to enter any premises or place at any time when, or when there is reasonable cause to believe that, any persons are being employed as bakery workers thereat;

6.41 p.m.

LORD AMMON moved, in subsection (2) (b), to leave out "there is" and insert "he has." The noble Lord said: Perhaps, with your Lordships' permission, I may discuss the next Amendment together with this one. They concern the same point. This Amendment proposes to put in words that were in the Bill when the Government originally introduced it in another place. The alteration was made on Report stage, and during the discussion a promise was given by the Minister in charge of the Bill that he would seek advice to see whether or not it was sound, because there was a good deal of doubt about the matter. Both the Attorney General and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack were consulted and they were not wholly in agreement with each other. To be fair, I should quote what was reported on the matter: The Lord Chancellor's opinion is that the Amendment is desirable. The Attorney General said he did not think it makes much difference. If that is the advice given, it looks as if there would not be any harm in restoring this clause to its original form.

Among other bodies, the Trade Union Congress regard this phrase as touching on a vital principle, and after considerable discussion they took the view that the original words were necessary. They differentiate between the factory inspectors engaged in inspecting night bakeries and the factory inspectors who deal with other businesses. In the latter case, the word of the factory inspector would be final, but in the case of night bakeries the factory inspector will not be able to give a final verdict and the matter may have to be taken to court. It is thought that this will cast a reflection upon the factory inspectors themselves and will introduce confusion into a matter where we had hoped we were getting rid of confusion. There is both this question of the standing and position of the inspectors who have the right to inspect night bakeries and the possibility of all sorts of complexities which will make the working of the Bill more difficult than it otherwise should be. The words proposed in the Amendment are incorporated in the relevant sections of a number of Acts of Parliament and I would ask that they should be re-inserted here. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 8, leave out "there is" and insert "he has".—(Lord Ammon.)


I have been quoted as saying that I approve of the words "there is reasonable cause"; and so I do. With all respect to the right honourable and learned gentleman the Attorney General, who said that there was no difference, between "there is reasonable cause" and "he has reasonable cause," I think there is a strong difference. If we said, "he has reasonable cause," we should have to look at the state of the inspector's mind, to see what he knows. It is much easier if the words used are "there is"—that is purely objective. One can ask oneself, "Is there reasonable cause?" and if there is, then the provision of the clause is satisfied. I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, that the object that he has in mind is far better satisfied with the words "there is" than with the words "he has," and I strongly recommend him, if I may venture to do so, to withdraw the Amendment.


I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for having cone into what would otherwise have been a battle between amateurs. When I spent a long time this morning trying to find the difference between these simple words, I came to the conclusion that the best thing was to go and see how it worked. I inquired about the attitude of mind of the inspectors who are going to have to deal with this matter and I was assured that they are completely satisfied with the words in the objective form in which the paragraph now appears. If the inspectors are satisfied, I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, need be unduly worried on the subject.


What is a layman to do when eminent lawyers do not agree? I do not suggest that two other lawyers would be equal to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, but the Minister of Labour is also a lawyer and he is responsible for the drafting of the original Bill. My information is not quite in line with that of the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton. The inspectors are a little doubtful about this. They feel that to a certain extent it is derogatory and lowers their prestige a little. But in the light of the noble and learned Lord's statement, I can do nothing but withdraw my Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution), the Amendment reported: Bill read 3a, with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.