The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir R. Home):
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This Bill is designed to ensure to the trade unions of the country the right to have restored certain trade union customs and practices which they gave up during the War in order to bring about the preatest possible production of war material. But for the increased output thus obtained, we should certainly have suffered the loss of a great many more precious lives, and, without it, it would, I am certain, in the view of all of us, have been impossible to achieve the victory which we ultimately obtained. These prewar practices, however, were surrendered in exchange for a pledge, given by statesmen of every party and repeated from time to time, that when the War ceased they should be restored. Towards the end of 1914 it was realised that the output of munitions of war had to be greatly expedited and increased. Overtures were made by employers to their employés from time to time, and towards the beginning of 1915 certain arrangements were in process of being made. It was discovered that there were many practices in existence which tended to impede the output of the munitions which were required. I need only mention, without going into any details, the regulations which existed with regard to overtime, night duty, and Sunday work. There were also restrictions relating to the kind of processes upon which particular people could be engaged, the employment of women and boys, the amount of output that could be anticipated from any particular machine, the class of labour which might be allowed to operate the particular machines, lines of demarcation between one trade and another, and other similar restrictions
It was sought to get rid of these restrictions for the time, in order that there should be no impediment to the production of the material which was so urgently required. There was a Shell and Fuses agreement entered into between the Engineering Federation and engineering employés early in 1915 which to some extent provided for the relaxation of such restrictions, on condition, which was clearly understood, that the restrictions were only suspended for the period of the
War. Then, on 17th March, 1915, there was a famous meeting held at the Treasury, from which there subsequently emerged what has become to be known as the Treasury Agreement. Practically all the great trade unions of the country, with the exception, I think, of the Coal Miners' Federation and the National Union of Railways, were parties to this agreement, and the present Prime Minister on that occasion made a very important speech in which he very clearly announced that whatever relaxation was made was only to be regarded as enduring for the period of the War. It is worth while, perhaps, quoting the precise terms of what was said at that time, in order to make the matter perfectly clear:
The men agree to relax the practices in question and to recommend to all unions to do so, on the condition that the Government should require all contractors and sub-contractors engaged on munitions and equipment of war, and on other work required for the satisfactory completion of the War, to give an undertaking to the following effect, namely, 'any departure during the War from the practices in our workshops, shipyards, and other industries prior to the War shall only be for the period of the War.'
In July, 1915, there was passed a Munitions of War Act, under which it was made obligatory upon the trade unions to put no impediment in the way of the production of war material, but it was also made perfectly clear in that Statute that any departure from trade union customs was only to be regarded as enduring for the War, and that it should be incumbent upon employers to keep a record of every practice from which there was a departure. On the faith of these arrangements, there were innumerable cases of departure from pre-war customs.
I have had the curiosity to look through some of the records, and, although I do not pretend we have anything like a complete list, I find there are records of something between 30,000 and 40,000 cases of departure from pre-war customs. Seventy-five per cent. of these relate to cases in which women have been allowed to work on machines on which previously men alone were employed, and to other departures, such, for instance, as lines of demarcation being broken down, and boys being permitted to do work hitherto done by men, as well as piece rates being used instead of time rates. There are many other instances which might be given. All this was done for the purpose of getting the production which was required. It may be said on the part of some that there was no particular sacrifice made by the trade unionists in regard to this matter. But I would remind the House that the merit of the sacrific is not exactly measured by its results. It is measured rather by what the person who is making the sacrifice regards himself as giving up. Whatever view may be held with regard to the merit or demerit, in industry, of the practices to which I have referred, they were the evidences of controversies which have taken place between employers and employed over a long stretch of years, and they were the records of the defence which men had made of their rights, and of the regulations which they at least believed safeguarded their position in industry.
When the Armistice came a meeting was held at Caxton Hall, which was addressed by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign Secretary, and there the pledge so often given during the War was reiterated in the most explicit and clear terms. It was to the effect that the practices which had thus been given up by the trade unions during the War, in order to bring their country to victory, should, now that the Armistice had arrived, be restored as soon as possible. As a result of that meeting a committee of employers was set up, together with a committee of employés, to arrange the terms of the Bill by which this might be achieved.
For this reason, that the Government put itself in the position of pledging that these practices should be restored, and the only way in which it can compel restoration is by Act of Parliament. If you are to leave it to private arrangement you might have a repetition of those controversies which have raged over the last half-century, and that is not a matter which anybody could contemplate with equanimity. The Government gave a pledge, and it must fulfil its pledge. In point of fact, the employers have recognised this obligation just as clearly as the employés, and while it looks as if a considerable time has elapsed since the month of November, that time has not been badly spent. I have observed criticisms in the newspapers alleging delay on the part of the Government in this matter. But our great desire has been to bring about a situation in which employers and employed could see eye-to-eye, and I am glad to be able to inform the House that the Bill which I am asking it to give a Second Reading to to-day has been agreed to by the committees of both the employers and the workmen. I will briefly tell the House what the proposals of the Bill are.
The Bill provides that all pre-war customs which were given up during the War, and in connection with the purposes of the War, shall be restored by every employer throughout the country within two months of the passing of the Act. There are, of course, establishments which have only been set up since the beginning of the War and provision is made that these also shall set up or establish the prewar customs, such as apply in similar establishments in their vicinity. Any person who fails to comply with that provision shall, it is provided, be guilty of an offence against the Statute and the penalty which he will have to pay is a fine of £25 for each day during which he is failing to restore the practice. But ha cannot be convicted of an offence unless the person who complains has first given him a week's notice of the particular practice which it is desired to have restored, and, if it is not one which is recorded, specifying also any agreement in which the arrangement was made for the abrogation temporarily of the practice. Any proceedings which are necessary are to be taken before the local munitions tribunal, which is a very convenient Court for the present. It has done admirable service during the War. For the purposes of this Act it will be necessary that the munitions tribunals should be continued, and that the jurisdiction in connection with them should be given now to the Ministry of Labour instead of to the Ministry of Munitions. The Act will apply, when passed, to all establishments which were engaged in making war material and to those in which anything was being made where the practice was departed from in consequence of Treasury agreement, and also to all Government establishments. These, very shortly, are the provisions of the proposed measure, and the fact that the committees of employers and employed see eye-to-eye in the matter should, I imagine, make my task of recommending it to the House a comparatively simple one.
I would not like the House to be under any apprehension that the passing of this measure involves a reversion to pre-war customs which impeded output. Everybody at the present time, both employers and employed, realises the necessity of output. We cannot afford to have any less production. It is as vital to keep up our production to-day as it was during the War, I need only refer to one set of considerations which will make this necessity very obvious. We are a great importing country, and we must always remain so, both for food and for raw material. Prior to the War we paid for our imports by exporting goods, by services which we rendered as conveyers of goods on the sea, and by interest which we earned upon securities which we held abroad. But look at the situation to-day We have sold great masses of securities during the War, and the interest which we now derive from foreign securities has immensely decreased. We can only make up for that method of paying for our imports by increasing our production. Again, if you take the services which we rendered by supplying ships to the world, our shipping to-day has greatly decreased and in the market rivals are growing up, notably in the United States of America, which will do a great deal of their own transport in the future. We can only make up for that deficiency again by increased production of goods at home. And even then I have not stated the whole necessity of the position. We have become, during the War, debtors to foreign countries to the extent of £1,500,000,000. We can only pay the interest on that debt and ultimately wipe out the capital sum if we increase our production here to meet that burden. Therefore, I am perfectly certain that every Member of the House realises the absolute necessity for increasing by every means in our power our output, of goods in the immediate future. Nobody has expressed that necessity in more eloquent terms than my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), whose clear view and cogent exposition of industrial questions have enlightened and steadied the country during recent months. I am sure that those who sit with him on the Labour Benches of this House have no intention to putting back the hands of the clock, or reverting to a position in which our output may be decreased to a point which may mean ruin to this country. They agree with me that this Bill is to be regarded as a precursor of better times. If we have good will and understanding in this country, we may hope to achieve a future of prosperity. This Bill is absolutely necessary to produce that feeling of good will and accordingly I look upon it as a, preliminary to those negotiations between employers and employed upon which the whole future of our industry in this country depends. I confidently hope that it will be so regarded in all parts of the House, and in that hope I venture to move-its Second Reading.
There is one point on which I cannot congratulate my right hon. Friend. I do not say, however, that the blames rests with him, or even with the Ministry of Labour. Great and serious delay has occurred in bringing this Bill before Parliament. It has been under discussion, as is well known, in trade union circles and at conferences and public meetings for a long time past, and the delay has given rise to a great deal of suspicion, and in some ways has caused dislocation of industry and trade. But now that we have the Bill I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman's view that it is our business to make the best of it, and to accept it as a genuine and earnest effort on the part of the Government to keep faith with the definite promise which was given. The question has been put to the right hon. Gentleman as to why the necessity of establishing in law conditions of employment which rested upon voluntary effort before the War, and the answer to that is that, inasmuch as employers could not be trusted by the trade unions to restore, after the War, conditions which during the War the trade unions voluntarily agreed to set aside, the trade unions had to exact from the Government of the day a pledge that they would use the instrument of the law to give them back what they had forfeited while the War was on. Personally I should very much prefer that the employers should agree to restore these workshop practices. Trade unionism has rested throughout all its history upon the principle of voluntary effort, but the special circumstances of the War have produced this situation, and it seems to me now that there is no escape from this legislative treatment.
I join with the right hon. Gentleman in commending the Bill to the acceptance of the House, with perhaps some little re- servation. I can recall the circumstances of 17th March, 1915, when there was entered into what was termed the Treasury Agreement. I was present as one of the trade union delegates representing the unions concerned, and I think it can be said that the almost unanimous decision which was then reached, to make a very considerable forfeiture of power and privileges on the part of the trade unions, was due to the really patriotic motives which not only inspired the delegates then present, but pervaded working class feeling at that time in relation to the War. It was clearly shown to that conference that the men in the workshop would only be second as a national power to the soldiers in bringing the War to a successful conclusion, and just as workmen were joining the Army in such very large numbers the workmen who remained in the workshops were, in the main, willing to set aside certain personal advantages so as enormously to increase output and make us equal, if not superior, to the enemy in shot and shell. I say that because there are people not so well acquainted with the trade union position who look, not merely with wonderment, but sometimes with disgust upon the very existence of what are called trade union privileges and practices. No one need apologise to any class of the community for these factors that are called trade union privileges, rules and regulations, for every class has its privileges, its practices, regulations and lines of demarcation, and I suppose not least of the classes in the country the legal profession has built up a very considerable network of regulations which constitute formidable privileges for the men who are in the different grades of that honoured service. Indeed, trade unionists have often cited that highly skilled and experienced class of men as those who have set them a great example in building up for manual workers some of those defences to which, I think, they are entitled. So that the difference between the apprenticed engineer and the non-apprenticed, non-skilled labourer is, perhaps, only the difference expressed between the position, say, of the solicitor and of the advocate or barrister. As one who has had very little experience in relations with those different sections of a great profession, I have found that having got these strong, well established privileges, rules and regulations, they adhere to them very rigorously. I think it can be said that the only very considerable class in the community which set aside its privileges and rules and regulations was the manual working class. I do not know any other. There may be such, and, if so, they are worthy of honourable mention. So no apology is needed for the existence of these rules and regulations.
I have observed in one or two previous Debates references to the attitude of the trade unions now in relation to the position of returned soldiers, and charges were made in a quite recent discussion to the effect that the trade unions were not behaving either honourably or generously towards the returned soldiers who had increased necessities because of the position in which the War had left them, and, therefore, I want to quote the view of this Labour Conference, held on 17thMarch, 1915, on this very question. One of the resolutions passed unanimously by the trade union delegates was:
That in any readjustment of staffs which may have to be effected after the War priority of employment will be given to workmen in our employment at the beginning of the War who were serving with the Colours or who are now in our employment.
The view of the Labour Conference on that date was that this is a condition which the Government should impose upon every employer, in order that after the War was over those men should be given, not an equal chance with those who had not gone to the War, and who had been able, incidentally, to remain at home enjoying good conditions and high earnings in comparison with the earnings of the soldier, but that they should have a prior claim, and that employers should, even by law or by some effective instrument, be required to put that prior claim into practice. I hope that as that was the trade union view on that date it has been in no way weakened by what has happened since 1915, and if need be we can appeal, I believe unanimously, to every trade union to stand by the returned soldier in that sense, that for the sacrifices he made in the nation's interest, and, indeed, for the work he did as a fighter in defending the workmen while they were in the workshops in this country, the workmen now should show themselves willing to act fully up to the declaration of sympathy with the soldier which they made in March, 1915.
The right hon. Gentleman said, with a great deal of truth, that this was an agreed Bill. But there is an aspect of that subject of agreement to which I should like to draw attention. It is an agreed Bill so fax as the official opinion of organised employers on the one hand and organised trade unions on the other is concerned. But a great question of this kind affects more than two parties, and, although I know I am incurring certain risks in drawing attention to these really outstanding facts, I want to bring them before the notice of the two parties who have formulated this Bill, because in practice it will be seen that these other two parties of whom I speak cannot be permanently shut out of the questions which are raised by the passing of the Bill. The two parties are, in the first place, a very large group, numbering hundreds of thousands of men and women workers, who are not in the trade unions which have entered into this arrangement, and the second great party is the community itself. This very powerful group of organised workers built up around itself trade union regulations, practices, and rules, because of the bitterness of their experience when they had not such rules and regulations. Trade union history and general industrial history show that in the past systems of piecework, sub-division, new arrangements in respect of improved output and greater production, anything in the nature of greater industry on the part of the workmen in the end brought them little or no gain. Indeed, general experience showed that the more efficient a workman made himself the less was his reward. He increased his industry; he increased his energy and got nearer and nearer to the point of human endurance as a wealth maker, and yet experience showed that in the degree that he increased his output his remuneration diminished, so that in the end he was no better rewarded than if he had been a very indifferent worker. So that reduced wages and fresh' methods and rearrangements, usually enforced against his will, embittered the workmen and made them turn to methods of organised self-defence in the form of these different rules and regulations.
But while that is, I think, the history of the case, there is an aspect of the question which skilled workmen, powerful as they are now, cannot continue to leave out of account. It is the claim of the workman who to-day is described as a less skilled or an unskilled workman, and it is the claim of the woman who, especially because of war conditions, must become more of a breadwinner than the average woman of the industrial classes has been in the past. The effects of the War in its most melancholy and bitterest sense visited many homes which can only be maintained by the future energy and industry of the wage-earning women, and it will not do merely to extend sympathy to them. Opportunities of earning their living under conditions of dignity, under conditions which will give them a proper place in industry, with wages equal to their needs, are gifts that we must extend, not as favours but as rights, to a very considerable number of women who are deeply interested in the Bill. As to the less skilled and the unskilled workers among the men, I would like to put the view that for many years in this House Labour Members have been required by the unanimous view of organised Labour to appeal to the State to establish what Labour has called the right to work. I want to extend that appeal. That is to say, if there is to be right to work, it is a right from which the labourer, whether skilled or less skilled, should not be excluded by any action on the part of the skilled worker. With that right to work I couple the right to rise, to advance, to progress along the avenues of industry, according to the man's energy, initiative, and pursuit of self-education, and all the other individual qualities which are ever prized in this and other countries, so that right to work is not and cannot remain the distinctive claim of any particular class in industry, no matter how powerfully organised that class may be. I would like to see a state of industry that would give wider opportunities and greater chances of advancement in our industrial system to that large number of workers who must begin as labourers and must go on as labourers, who are deprived of those great advantages of apprenticeship and training which happily so many of our skilled men are able to enjoy.
Next to the great group of partners who under this Bill will insist upon having their point of view, there is a fourth partner, the community itself. I am in full agreement with my right hon. Friend in what he said with regard to the question of increasing the quantity and value of the products to be got out of industry by the joint energies of employer and employed. I am not now pursuing broadly the question of the relationship between employers and employed.
I merely want to put the view that any deliberate limitation by the workers of output may be some harm to industry and some loss to employers, but it is bound to be a great loss and a real loss to the workman himself. Its tendency is to diminish earnings, and, worse than that, its tendency is to diminish the purchasing power of what the workmen earn. Dearness is inseparable from scarcity, and to the extent that you lessen the quantity of goods produced by labour in industrial effort, to that extent you are creating a dear market in which there is reduced earning, because of diminished output. All I want to add to this view of our industrial conditions is this: that if workmen can be assured now—and in practice under this Bill I believe they can be assured—of sharing in the increased results accruing from any increased energy on their part in order to produce greater output, and becoming real sharers in the increased wealth that may accrue from their energy, it would be an extremely foolish thing on their part to put any obstacle in the way of greatly increasing the output of goods. It is because the workers in the past were not in a position to secure and guarantee for themselves an increased share in the results of their increased efforts that they resorted to the device to which I have referred. If workmen cannot depend upon the Government, if they cannot depend upon Parliament, or upon a Court of Arbitration, they can at least depend upon the strength of the organisation by which they are now defended. The great growth in the number and authority of the trade unions should be a sufficient security and argument to give them confidence that if they do agree to co-operate with the State and with the employers in greatly increasing the output of any kind of goods they can depend on receiving their reasonable and fair share of any good results accruing from that new line of policy.
With these observations, I desire to commend this Bill to ready acceptance. I hope there will be no attempt to-day to take the Bill through its various stages, because it may be that some aspects of the questions on which I have touched at least as regards the position of the less skilled men, and the position of the women, may have to find expression in Amendments which ought to be put upon the Paper and fairly considered. I am glad that although there has been delay—perhaps unavoidable because the right hon. Gentleman has been so busy since he took office—the trade unions will see that there-is a genuine intention on the part of the Government fully to restore their conditions, and I hope that when they are restored the trade unions will turn a new mind to many of these newer problems which present-day industry has produced and which are indeed a by-product of the great War.
I do not rise to offer any criticism of the Bill because I am in complete agreement with the measure, and also with the two speeches from the two Front Benches. My object as an employer is to point out the only fly in the ointment that I know of so far as the employers are concerned. There seems to me a great difficulty arising in connection with this measure, because at the present moment conditions existing in foreign countries are-not the same as are provided for in this Bill with regard to this country. It is-necessary for the Government to declare clearly to the manufacturers of this country what their future economic policy is, in order that manufacturers here may be adequately protected. I have no doubt that I shall be referred to the Labour Clauses in the Peace Treaty, but I think it is absolutely necessary that those Labour Clauses in the Peace Treaty should be adequately and prominently brought forward in Paris. I should like to refer to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and also of the Minister of Labour, with respect to restricted output. However pious those sentiments may be, we must realise clearly that there is restriction of output going on now, and to a very serious extent. A very large manufacturer of motor cars and motor wagons tells me that instead of turning out fifty wagons per week they are only turning out twenty-five. I think that question should be very strongly taken up by the Government, in order that that position may be remedied as quickly as possible. I have previously suggested to the Minister of Labour that he should start—and I hope that Labour Members will co-operate —a system whereby the workers should be educated as to the folly of this stupid policy of restricted output.
I am coming to that. So far as employers are concerned, any employer who does not see that his workmen. receive a fair and proper share for their labour is a fool. I have already expressed that opinion in this House, and here let me say how much I approve and am thankful for the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) in favour of a scheme of profit-sharing. I am a profit-sharer myself. I have tried it, and am quite sure that it is the one means by which labour disputes can be avoided. I have previously said in this House that I am in favour of profit-sharing being made compulsory. I think the great evil of profit-sharing is that some employers take men into their employ at a low rate and make up their wages by profit-sharing. Therein lies the great difficulty and great objection which some of the labouring classes have to profit-sharing. Profit-sharing should be an addition to the wage and not merely something to make up wages. It should be an addition to the ordinary trade union wages. I was glad to notice that in a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) that point was very clearly brought out. I am sure that not only the question of profit-sharing but an adequate share in the profits being guaranteed to the employed, and also the question of restriction of output, need to be very closely taken up by the Government, and I think that a system of education in the workshops to get rid of this pernicious system of restricted output is absolutely necessary if this country is to produce with its foreign competitors.
It is true that this is an agreed measure. There is no subject on which it is more essential that the Government should redeem their pledges than this, in order to leave the ground free for those happier methods on which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) gave us ground for hope. The right hon. Gentleman need foe under no misapprehension as to the point of view from which a great many of us regard what are commonly called trade union privileges. I certainly should be anxious to extend, and foster, trade union privileges as an instrument for putting trade unions in a position to render the best service possible to the State as regards quantity of output, and so forth. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman can count on my support in any legitimate extention of trade union privileges. I would emphasise what the right hon. Gentleman said in regard to the limited extent to" which we are right in saying that this is an agreed measure. He directed our attention to the position of women under this Bill. If the Bill were passed into law as it stands, I should regard the position in which it would leave women as most unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman said, with perfect truth, that during the War the workshop had been of hardly less importance than the Army, and, although he did not say, I think he meant to imply that the work of women in the workshop had been hardly less important and hardly less self-sacrificing than the work of men. At the very moment when your learned professions are opening their doors to women, when this House has not only extended the franchise to women but has extended to them also the right to sit in this House if elected, and at the time when the other place is contemplating allowing them to sit within its walls, what an anomaly it would be to close the door upon women by a firm fixed bar within certain trades that are affected by this Bill. I know that that is only partly the case, but I am concerned with the principle laid down in the Bill, and I would recommend to my right hon. Friend that it is a dangerous principle to recognise by Statute. As far as I am seised of the opinion of women on this point—and I had some means of judging it—I believe that they are anxious to stand down until trade can reabsorb returning soldiers, whose claims they, along with all the rest of the community, recognise. But what they do resent is that this Bill should establish a sex bar, debarring them from engaging in industry at the very moment when the doors of other professions are being opened to their richer sisters.
I had a figure given to me which, if accurate, is sufficiently striking. In July, 1918, there were no fewer than 792,000 women in there were affected by this Bill. Of these, only 450,000 were directly replacing men. If that be so, it means that we are invited to put a bar upon 340,000 women who are not directly in competition with men. My right hon. Friend, on the one hand, quite recognised the difficulty in which we are at present with regard to the state of employment, but I cannot believe that legal State prohibition is the right method of dealing with this. After all, the women concerned are not working for their health. They are working for a livelihood, and they have made just as big sacrifices in the War as their brothers who have fought overseas, and while they admit that it is per- fectly right to take all necessary steps in: a transitional period to reassure the reabsorbtion of and preference for soldiers and men returned, I would like my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill to emphasise the fact that it is a transitional position and that the interval of twelve months must be used to lay down better conditions by which we may deal with the whole sex problem. I believe that in that respect the present Bill is unstatesmanlike and goes too far, and I hope that when it gets into Committee my right hon. Friend will be prepared to consider sympathetically Amendments to meet those difficulties. If he does not, and if trade unions are not prepared to meet the case, then women will feel that something is being done which will cause great re-sentiment on the part of many thousands of those who have no less a share in the administration and direction of the affairs of the nation than we have ourselves.
I rise only to emphasise the plea which has been put forward by the hon. Member who has preceded me, that there should be no attempt to do anything in the nature of rushing this Bill until it has been very thoroughly examined from the point of view of the women who are interested in the matter. They are undoubtedly considerably alarmed and cannot take the measure of agreement which has been reached as to the exact provisions of the Bill as covering the position. They have, in the organisations with which I have been in touch more or less during the War, no desire whatever to prevent the main and legitimate purpose of this Bill—to restore trade union customs which were surrendered—but I do think that it will be an injustice to them, at any rate until the case has been carefully gone into and thrashed out, that they should be for all time by legislative enactment prohibited from working in those departments of work which they have specially made their own during the War, and. which did not really exist in the country before the War.
There seems to be some misunderstanding about this portion of the Bill. The Bill does not imply either what the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Gentleman who preceded him has said in any shape or form. It does not prohibit anything for all time. It only proposes to restore the customs which existed before the War. It does not exclude any woman from any position in which she was before the War, and, in particular, it only proposes that the employers shall be obliged for a period of twelve months after the Act comes into force to keep the pre-war customs in operation.
The right hon. Gentleman maybe perfectly right, but I would point out the effect of Sub-section (2) of Clause (1), which is the most operative Clause of the Bill:
where any industry or branch of industry which before the War was not carried on in an establishment, commenced to be carried on in the establishment during the War and continues to be carried on therein after the termination thereof, or where the establishment of one which commenced to be worked after the beginning of the War.
That is the point. New trades and new establishments were set up, and women practically were really in charge and very effectively in charge.
It does not limit it at all to trades which were before the War run really by men—
Where the industry or branch industry is carried on in an establishment which commenced to be worked after the beginning of the War, the owner of the establishment shall be under the Act obliged at the expiration of two months from the passing of this Act to introduce or permit the introduction of and for one year after such introduction is effected to maintain or permit the continuance of such trade practices as obtained before the War in other establishments where that industry or branch was carried on under circumstances most nearly analogous to those of the establishment in question.
That has undoubtedly created a fear that it is possible under this Bill to say, "Here are new industries which women have entered into and men have not taken up at all." They are going to be judged on the analogy of something else, and if, on the analogy of that other industry, women were either expressly or de facto excluded that exclusion would apply to the new processes that have sprung up. I hope that this is not so, but that is the fear, and therefore full opportunity should be given to thrash it out. The women concerned, who undoubtedly number many
tens of thousands, want at any rate to have the chance of having this question tried out in Committee, and they want to ensure that the mere fact of belonging to the female sex shall not by itself debar them, and that trades or professions which are themselves new, or are new in this country since the beginning of the War, shall not be included in the scope of the Bill. If that is so, then the Minister will succeed in showing where it comes in. If not, then that is the sort of question which is to be gone into. We shall all be sorry if the Bill is delayed, but it is no fault of ours or of the Minister that the matter only comes on shortly before the Whitsuntide Recess. I do not think there will be anything lost by a short delay which will necessitate having these matters gone into in Committee. If the case that these women are not affected is a good one, it will be easy to show that, and there will be no undue delay. If it is not a good one, if the fear of the women is well founded, then it is far better that the matter should be gone into in Committee upstairs or on the floor of this House. There is a real desire that the Bill should not be rushed. It is certain that the Minister does not intend to put it through without giving time for careful Amendments to be put down, and I hope that this appeal is unnecessary, as it represents a feeling that is very widespread among the outside public and Members of this House.
I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill can have no complaint as to its reception. I was delighted to hear what was said by the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes). I, like him, on behalf of organised Labour, was a partner in the agreement which was come to in 1915. Then it was clearly stated that the Government would give facilities for the re-establishment of the trade union practices that existed before the War, and I am a little bit surprised that a representative of the historic Liberal party should wish the Government to treat their promise as a mere scrap of paper.
The hon. Gentleman has completely mistaken the purport of what I said. I was talking only about people who do not come within the definition of those employed in ordinary processes before the War. I was trying to safeguard the position of women who have entered into new processes.
I quite follow the argument. If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop it there is some point in what I was saying. It is a notorious fact that many trade unions under their rules did exclude women from engaging in those industries. Those particular unions were a party to this country and the Government are merely carrying out the pledges which they gave in producing this Bill. I hope that this Bill, the fulfilment of pledges made, will be a dead letter very soon, and I want to give my reasons. It has been said, and said truly, that during the period of War women have been brought into industries in great numbers and have created for themselves a position that cannot be ignored. The last thing that is required now is a sex war. We have to recognise that we are living in a new world, that we are living under changed conditions, and that those trade unions which in pre-war days laid down certain rules as the result of bitter experience—they, too are the victims of the changes which have brought women in such large numbers into industry. Women will claim their places in these industries in days to come. My hon. Friend the Member for Maccles field seemed to assume that this Bill, or the words that fell from the-right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Bench, favoured profit-sharing, that it laid down the argument that while trade union rights should be restored the harmony of future industry is going to be solved by profit-sharing. I do not share-his view. I am not here to argue profit-sharing, but to state the facts as I understand them. For ill or good the trade union movement suspects profit-sharing, and I think that if my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Ham were here he could give some glaring experiences of profit-sharing in London in days gone by. Profit-sharing may be good in itself, but a thing that is suspect by the great body of workers is not going to solve our immediate problems.
What is wanted is a better relationship between capital and labour, or, as I may say, a fair and square deal with all the cards upon the table. That is going to do more to bring about a better relationship. between employers and workmen than anything else I can conceive. The question of the restoration of trade union practices will, in my opinion, be disastrous if carried out now to the extent to which they were enforced in pre-war days. I say that because trade union practices were the child of the employer, as has well been said by my right hon. Friend. Trade unions secured their privileges through bitter experience and fighting. Trade union rules that were abrogated to help the country in the War were the result of bitter fighting in days gone by. The bitterness arose from the memory that when a good workman gave good work the employer largely took advantage of him when periods of bad trade came along. Although we have passed through the bitter agony of four and a half years of war, we have to remember that we have a legacy of the bitter feud that existed between capital and labour, and no mere profit-sharing is going to remove that legacy. The remedy must be something more effective and far-reaching. So far as I apprehend the position, the restoration and the application in their entirety of pre-war practices will give our competitors in foreign countries not only a good start, but will leave us a long way behind. If you, for mere adherence to past traditions, are going to give to organised labour something that is going to destroy the trade of the country, you are not only going to injure the employer but the workman as well. I think there is a better way. While I am in favour of the Bill, and of the Government carrying out its pledges, I repeat that I hope it will be a dead letter at the earliest possible moment, not solely because of the obligation that we have towards the women who have so nobly helped the country, but because of the new industrial conditions that present themselves as a result of the War. I would suggest to those unions which are claiming the fulfilment of this pledge a recognition of the changes that have taken place. Competition is going to be exceedingly keen during the next few years. We have it from various trades that even at this moment, probably through conditions that the Government cannot possibly avoid, our great Ally the United States is coming into our markets, not only with better facilities, but is coming in well prepared to capture the markets. We have also the knowledge that in many directions Japan, another great competitor, has been given privileges in certain directions, and it follows, as the night the day, that if we are going to carry the burden of taxation and maintain our place in the forefront of the world as a manufacturing nation, then we must have a changed attitude, both from the point of view of capital and of labour.
I want to give an illustration; what applies to one trade, I think, could be applied to others. The Whitley Councils, to my mind, bear the germs of a right reconstruction upon just and equitable lines between workmen and employers. The pottery trade some twelve months ago established a Whitley Council. That Council examines the whole activities of the industry from A to Z. It is not merely a question of wages and hours of labour or methods of production; the books of the employers are open for inspection to the auditors. Processes, new and old, are examined, markets are examined. In a word, under this scheme the workmen and the employers sit round the same table, they know exactly what the profits are, and all suspicion is removed. That trade to-day is working more harmoniously than any other trade in the country. The workmen know there is nothing being withheld from them, and, knowing the facts and being fair-minded, the harmony in this industry is greater today than it has ever been before. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) is present. He knows as well as I do what suspicion in the minds of the workmen either of sliding scales or any other method means, when the workmen have not access to the same information as the employers. It may be true or untrue, but it is the general talk that when there has been in operation a sliding scale the workmen felt that they were being, I will not say cheated, but misled by the figures placed on the table. If employers in this country want us to maintain our position in the forefront of manufacturing nations, they have got to change their point of view and let the workmen know as much about their businesses, both manufacturing and selling, and about profits, as they do about wages and hours. Some employers may take exception to that, but I want to tell them quite frankly that it is either an understanding with labour or a revolution. They have to take their choice. Having made the choice, no sane man would prefer revolution to a friendly and just understanding. If the employers can convince the workmen that their attitude is changed and that they are prepared to meet them fairly and squarely round the table to settle the domestic politics of that particular industry, this Bill will speedily become a dead letter, and the women who are in fear now will not only be engaged in industry, but will be welcomed by every section of the workers, the males in particular.
I think we would be deceiving ourselves if we assume that because there is a large number of women who have been engaged in industry during the War there are jobs for them as well as for the men who are coming back, unless new avenues of employment are found or new markets are secured for our production. After all, we know that before women came into industry there were periods of depression and unemployment for the male portion. The industrial market has been immensely swollen by the advent of the women into the ranks of industrial workers. They are not going back again, and it is not merely by the Government fulfilling the pledge in restoring trade union pre-war practices, but by a new attitude on the part of capital and labour, that the problem will be solved, and if we can get that new attitude, where each side can trust the other, we need have no fear that the industrial worker will be just as willing and the employer will be just as venturesome with his capital in days to come as in days gone by. We have to recognise that the community of the trenches has given us a new democracy. The soldier has a different outlook, whether he sat in the office or was learning a profession, whether he was a workman at the bench or a miner working in the bowels of the earth. All these men by fraternisation and organisation have had an education which no university could give to a body of men. You have to recognise that. The women, many of whom had been secluded and never thought they would have to leave the security of their homes, under the stimulus of patriotism went into the workshops, and those women are going to stop in the world of industry. You have the men who have come back with their new point of view; you have the women with their enlarged outlook, and it is not merely Bills like this that will give us industrial peace and prosperity, but a new outlook and a new view, so that we can each and all put our shoulders to the wheel and bear the burdens we have to carry.
I appeal to my hon. Friends below me not to delay this Bill. In the first place, the Bill is a great deal between the employers and the trade unions, and while it is quite true that there is a new point of view, I think the House would be wise in view of the existing circumstances of the industrial world to grant the Bill a reading without delay. I was one of those who appeared at the Treasury in 1915, and although at that time I was against the Treasury I subsequently supported the scheme and its incorporation in the Munitions of War Act. I have been talking to some of the employers who were directly affected by a Bill of this character, and I want to pay my need of credit to them. Everyone knows Sir Allan Smith, of the Engineering Employers' Federation, and he has declared that it would be a very grave act for the community not to accept the present agreed Bill. The employers have unanimously accepted it. I want to say at once that the Government are in no sense responsible for the delay in the restoration of pre-war practices. The delay has occurred because of negotiations that have been going on between the employers and the skilled workmen. There are few men in this House who ought to object to this Bill more than my right hon. Friend and myself. We have got a large membership of the male dilutee class and of women workers. While I am in sympathy with them, we ought not to overlook the fact that not a single trade union women's organisation has made suggestions for the Amendment of this Bill, and not a single one of the branches of the women affiliated to my National Federation has made suggestions with regard to the Amendment of this Bill. Our attitude of mind and our policy is that in loyalty to our skilled comrades who gave up their old trade union practices and privileges in 1915 for the purpose of winning the War more speedily, our unskilled workmen's unions and our trade union women's organisation are going to support this Bill. What we hope is, like my hon. Friend opposite, that the Bill in practice will become a dead letter. As a matter of fact I go so far as to say this, that I hope when this Bill becomes law both the employers and the skilled workmen and representatives of semi-skilled workmen's organisations and representatives of distinct trade union women's organisations may meet and endeavour to mitigate any particular asperi- ties or hardships that may be contained in this Bill against the general workers. That is why I plead that there should be up delay in passing this vindication of a pledge given by the Government which must be carried out.
Let me refer to some of the speeches which have been made. There has been the statement to the effect that trade union rules limit output. I thought we had got away from that point of mind entirely. I am one of those who have been engaged in setting up or framing the constitution of something like thirty-three industrial councils for industries in this country, and I am constantly up against this point of view which seems to me to be a more dangerous point of view than employers think or than pre-war trade union practices are. I still find there is a desire to get more out of the human factor than in the past. You can get no more in point of output from the human factor in industry but you can increase output very considerably, and everybody who knows anything about the matter will agree, but that can only be done by a more scientific organisation of industry than that which existed in pre-war times. I was speaking to an industrial reconstruction committee the other night on this point and I gave my experience in America in 1903. I pointed out how things there were organised and I gave an instance of a cabinet factory, where the timber went in on one side and came out at the other, the finished product ready to put on the railway truck. We hear about hustle. I never saw any hustle in the American factories. What I did see was that the skilled workman kept at his bench with a steady stroke all day long which told at the end. When he wanted a piece of timber, or anything else, instead of leaving the bench, and thus having the highly paid man going down for the timber to get it marked out, and thereby possibly losing three hours, an unskilled man, who was of course paid less, was sent for it, and in that way the time of the highly-paid skilled man was saved. I worked in a factory myself where, as a matter of fact, and the same practice obtains now, I had to go down four flights of stairs where the timber was cut and to go back those four flights of stairs again, and on every job lasting about ten days I lost three days because of a lack of organisation in that factory.
The other day we were setting up an industrial council in a certain industry which I will not mention, but the name of which I am prepared to give to any hon. Member. The employers said they were subject to foreign competition and that if they did not get a considerable output from the men with reduced hours and increased wages, their foreign competitors would knock them out of the market. We told this fact all over the Kingdom, that the industry must be saved by giving greater output. The men came along to the industrial council and they showed that they could give 25 per cent. increased output, although the hours had been reduced and the wages increased. The employers said, "That is not enough, we must have 30 per cent." The men declared in answer to that, "If you will organise your factory scientifically so that the men will not have to carry great loads along the workshop, or, in other words, if you will take the product when it comes out of the machine upon a kind of endless chain, you will save us men running about and we can give you a 35 per cent. increase in output if the employers will do that." They are still as they were, and apparently are going to remain as they have been for twenty-five years. I suggest to the House that if that trade is lost, as it will be under those conditions, the workmen are not responsible for it. I mention these matters in reply to what was said by my hon. Friend opposite and the hon. Member for Maccles field, and I emphasise again that I do not think you cart get any more out of the human factor in industry. But I am absolutely convinced you can get a considerably greater output if employers and workmen on the Whitley Councils will only set-to and scientifically organise the factories and workshops of this Kingdom. I hope that in that process, and as a result of the efforts of the Whitley Council, that the trade union practices that will be restored by this Bill will not unduly interfere, and I hope when this Bill becomes law that the representatives of the workmen upon the Whitley Councils and the trade unions will see the necessity if labour gets a square deal of considerably increasing the output and putting us on a fair footing with our world competitors.
The virtue of this Bill is that it is such an obviously honest endeavour to relieve a promise given under exceptional circumstances. When the Ministry of Labour was introducing the Bill on Second Reading he was interrupted by an hon. Friend below me, who inquired as to the necessity for putting this arrange- ment into an Act of Parliament. As I understand, the bargain which was made in 1915 was a bargain by Parliament as much as by Ministers, and it is for Parliament to redeem that promise which was then made. From that point of view I welcome the Bill partly for its own sake, and partly because it is an earnest of that good will and good understanding which I hope will prevail to an increasing extent between Ministers and the Labour party and the leaders of the trade unions. I cannot help also recollecting that the arrangement under which the customs of trade unions were abandoned temporarily was entered into by the leaders of the trade unions in the teeth of opposition of some of those who commonly were associated with them. I had not the honour of being a Member of this House at the time, but I have a very vivid recollection of reading some of the bitter speeches made by Mr. Philip Snowden, who taunted his brethren of the labour world on their folly in listening to the voice of the Government, and in which he tried to persuade the Labour party that once they abandoned those practices no power, either in heaven or on earth, would ever enable them to regain the privileged position in which they had been. It was to the honour of the Labour party that those bitter gibes and taunts had no effect in the councils of the party. I venture to think that this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament, whether it becomes a dead letter or an effective measure, will be a monument to the good sense and patriotism of the Labour party in entering into an arrangement which one can easily understand they were reluctant at first sight to do.
I think it should be said on this occasion from this side of the House, lest any misunderstanding should arise, that we welcome the Bill not only on that ground, but because we recognise that there are numbers of these practices which were introduced for the real benefit of the working men, and for those actually engaged in the trade or business, and not merely for the purpose of protecting their pockets. The customs are based on good sense. They were devised in many cases to promote efficiency and to procure safety for the worker, and not merely to restrict output. It would be an unfortunate impression to arise from this Debate if it were thought that these practices are akin to those which are concerned with the restriction or diminution of output. In so far as those practices prevent the enslavement of the workers and prevent the workers being ground to death by bitter drudgery—which, I suppose, none of us know who have not been engaged in it—and in so far as those practices prevent long hours and Sunday labour, we welcome the restoration of them, and I hope that they will be restored at the earliest possible moment. Side by side, however, with those, the Minister of Labour and the right hon. Gentleman opposite have called attention to the desirability, or the undesirability, rather, of restoring the customs with regard to the diminution of output. I hope that that question will not be overlooked, but that our trade unions, if I may make the suggestion without disrespect to them, and the Ministry for Labour will actively enter upon negotiations with the object of seeing which of the customs have the effect of restricting output and which could be abandoned without endangering either the health or safety of the workers. I know this, and I am sure other hon. Members know it, that there has been a downward tendency in some trades so far as output is concerned. I am familiar with the coal industry in one part of South Wales, and I have figures which satisfy me that for some time past, quite apart from the shortening of hours of labour, there has been a diminution of output per man of coal. That is due, apparently, to conservatism in clinging too rigidly to the less useful methods of winning coal, and partly no doubt, to practices for the restriction of output which have become second nature with some of the workmen. I hope that the leaders of the coal industry will take active steps to see that mere conservatism in those matters should not stand in the way of increasing output at the earliest possible moment.
There is one phrase in the Bill which I regret, and I suggest that it would have been better if the passage had been left out. In the No. 2 Bill, as it was agreed, it appeared that proceedings against an employer could only be taken by or on behalf of a trade union or federation of trade unions. I am sorry to see that words are introduced in Section 2, Sub-section (3), which provide that any worker may take proceedings, and if I am not wrong the importance of this is that a recalcitrant member of a trade union, or one who is not up to date in his appreciation of the principles which the right hon. Gentleman laid down in his speech from the Front Opposition Bench, may take action, and successfully take action, to enforce a practice which the commonalty of the workmen are agreed ought not to be restored because it tends to restrict output. My right hon. Friend shakes his head. I do not know what the legal position may be if an independent workman, obstinate perhaps, takes proceedings against an employer because he is not content to see a particular practice abandoned. It is quite true that under the subsequent Clause there is a provision that an agreement by a trade union of which any workman is a member, to abandon a practice will afford a defence for such proceedings; but obviously these agreements must take some considerable time to effect, and they may not always be made in time to prevent the operation of the Section to which I have called attention. That is somewhat a Committee point, but I refer to it in order to emphasise the necessity for the Government and the trade unions foreseeing that these practices which restrict output, and the bad trade union practices, if I may so describe them, are abandoned at the earliest possible moment in order to produce that happier state of things to which we look forward. I think we have all welcomed the speeches which have been made this afternoon, showing the goodwill that exists in this matter between labour and capital. We heard with interest the speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Seddon) as to the operation of the Whitley Councils in one particular industry, and undoubtedly that was a striking case due to the disinterested labours of one man perhaps more than others, Mr. Johnstone, in that industry. But I think it is the dream of some of us to see a time when capital and labour will forget the bitter matters that separated them in the past. I do not know why it should not be possible for servants in the future to say, "I love my master," and for the master to say, "I love my workmen," instead of the workmen being taught that the employer is the enemy of labour and for the employer to be taught that the workman is a man to be cheated and kept in the dark at every turn. If this Bill introduces a better spirit into the relations between labour and capital it will be worth untold gold, not only to the industries which it will affect, but to the country as a whole, and it will do more than any other measure, perhaps, upon which we have been engaged to bring about these happy conditions which will restore prosperity to this country. It may be desirable to build cottages, it may be desirable to see the land cultivated, it may be desirable to improve the means of transport, but not one of these Bills will be worth anything in comparison with the effect of this measure if it is an introduction of that millennium to which I think we may look forward, that real millennium, when labour and capital will co-operate with a whole-hearted belief in the interests of both sides to every agreement, will co-operate, not in the interests of either party or even of both parties, but in the interests of the nation as a whole.
When the hon. Member who has just sat down was speaking about masters loving their servants and servants loving their masters, I thought we had departed from the stage of master and servant to-day. We want the employer and the workman to treat each other as human beings, and to associate together for the common good of the people. Both are there for one purpose. The employer is not there for the purposes of his health, or for recreation, or for pleasure, and neither. is the workman. They are both there for the severe necessity of getting that which is necessary for the maintenance of life and home, so that we want both to co-operate. In reference to the Bill which is named the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Bill, there are some pre-war practices which we should like to see buried for ever, but the spirit and principle of the Bill are embodied in a pledge that was given and which must be redeemed, and consequently this Bill is but the fulfilment of an agreement honourably entered into, and must be given back to those who surrendered privileges at the outbreak of war. I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches that have been made, and it strikes me that some of the speakers seemed to think that the Bill is intended to drive women out of employment. Nothing of the kind; but I think it is intended primarily to prevent women becoming competitors in industry with men. I am sure we have all been proud of the loyal response the women made to the appeal of the nation to enter into industry and to give the assistance that was necessary for carrying on the work of the nation to help us to win the War, and there is no doubt about it that the assistance rendered by the women at that period did materially assist the nation to win the War. But it was understood and clearly expressed, and it is clearly understood today, that the women who entered into certain occupations entered into them under the stress of circumstances, to fill up a gap that had been created, but not to remain permanently in that industry. I have looked upon women in certain branches of industry with horror and dismay, and have felt it was a crying shame that there was a need for them to remain there. I have seen them working in our docks, in our large factories, and in our gas works, as well as in our munition factories, and no one for a moment would think that these women would have a right to remain in industry of that kind, and so I think I am right and justified in saying that the purpose of the Bill is, not to drive women out of industry, but it simply means this, that the practices that do exist, the privileges that were existing prior to the War, whatever they were, however they existed, according to the agreements and customs and conditions that did exist in these various factories, shall be restored to exactly the same position as they were. Some of us, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South East Leeds (Captain O'Grady) explained, ought to object to the Bill—but we do not. We are directly concerned in it; but we should be dishonourable men if we fought against it, because it is the fulfilment of an agreement entered into. We must admit to-day that women have been imported into industry, and when it comes to the test of who shall be employed as the breadwinner of the home, whether it shall be the man or the woman, there can be no question or doubt that the man must be the toiler and the woman must attend to her own duties, but it is not driving women out of industry in the sense that we have heard to-day, so that we can rest our minds in peace on that issue and not be alarmed. The House can be assured of this—that if there was any serious opposition to this Bill it would come from the women's organisation itself, and we have not yet known of a complaint lodged or any opposition to this Bill, because we all realise that it is the fulfilment of an obligation.
In regard to restriction of output, I have been for thirty years a trade union official, and it is what we would call a general union. I think I am about as mixed up an organiser of trade unions as possible, because I deal with so many trades. But I have heard the argument of the restriction of output used so often and the comparison of different countries has been so often made, to prove that the British workman was either lazy, or neglecting his duty, or unable to compete with the workman in other countries, that I would like to say a few words on that point. When you read statistics and returns on paper you are sometimes puzzled and wonder how it all comes about. I will give an illustration. I am concerned now in the finishing department of the tinplate industry which, as hon. Members know, is a very old-fashioned industry, and after the McKinley Law was passed and the industry was established in the United States we used to have terrible comparisons made which used to confuse us very much, but some years ago I had the opportunity of travelling through the United States and I had the privilege of investigating many industries with which I had been directly concerned, and I soon solved the problem. The industries in the United States had started where we had finished.
Very frequently the facilities for carrying on industry were so efficient and so complete that the only marvel to me was that the comparison was not more striking. You had this illustration. A man tinning plates in this country could not produce-more than thirty boxes in eight hours, whereas in the United States in certain works a man produced eighty boxes in the same time. It was a problem to me, because I knew men had gone out from this country to work there after the passing of the McKinley Act. I got into one of those large tinplate works which I had heard so often talked about. What did I find? The same man who had worked in South Wales, with precisely the same type of machine, precisely the same method of working, the same material, working for eight hours under exactly the same conditions, though he could not turn out more than thirty boxes in eight hours in South Wales, in Transylvania he could turn out eighty boxes. It seemed a bit of a puzzle, but I soon solved the problem. The employer on this side was working his machine as slowly as possible, because he thought it paid him to do so. I am not going to enter into technicalities and trade secrets. When he reads my speech he will know exactly what I am talking about. Out there the machine was running as fast as they could run it. In this country the machine was going about seven revolutions a minute; out there it was going about twenty-one revolutions a minute, the result being that at the end of eight hours the machine on this side turned out thirty boxes and that on the other side eighty boxes, of course with a proportionate increase of wages. That solved that problem at once, and when the workmen here talked this matter over they said, "Give us speed, and you will get the output. Set your machine going quickly, and you will get your plates turned out." There have been improvements since then, of course, but at that time you could not alter it.
There are other industries I could quote, which I saw during that tour throughout the United States, which afford comparisons. Instead of men having to carry heavy loads long distances, material having to be taken to one end and back again, and there being much overlapping. I have seen the whole factory out there arranged in such a way that the process started at one end and finished at the other. Of course, we are blamed for that. Let me say that I have had the opportunity of travelling through the United States and of travelling a good deal through the Continent of Europe. I went about with one determination, and that was to discover everything that was worth knowing, and to see for myself. I came back with the firm conclusion in my mind that the British workman, given the same facilities, the same opportunity, the same machinery, and the same incentive, is equal to any other man throughout the world. I have never been ashamed of the British workman, but I have often been ashamed of the British employers who have not encouraged the British workman to give of his best. I have seen manual workers in our own factories with an inventive genius who, in working their machines, could see where improvements could be made. I have known of cases where such improvements have been pointed out, and I myself have heard the employer say, "I am paid for the brain work in this factory; you go on with your job," and so it has never been encouraged. I hope that the Whitley Councils and the works committees that are being formed, and in which I, as well as other of my colleagues, have taken an active interest, will remove that barrier which has existed between the employer and the employéand will enable them to consult together, and realise that it is to their mutual advantage to get the best that can be got out of the machinery in the interest of all concerned.
Though I say that we welcome the Bill, because it will be the fulfilment of a pledge given, there is one difficulty probably with which we have got to contend. This Bill is not going to remove all our difficulties by any means. There are difficulties enough to meet to-day. There is the difficulty of the employment of the returned soldier, who may not be quite so-efficient to-day as he was before the War. Any man who has passed through the tragedy of the War, the hardships and the suffering, the horrors of the trenches, and the difficulties of an arduous campaign, can never be as efficient as he was before he entered into that terrible War. We have all seen the marked change in them. We have realised the difference in their physique and appearance, and we know that for years to come those men cannot be—and possibly never will be in many cases—as efficient workmen as they were before they entered the War. There must be consideration shown to them, and their condition must be taken into account. We must see that a man of that sort is not put upon the scrap heap, or thrown aside as a worked out machine. The employer who has kept open a man's job must realise the possibility of the man not being so efficient, and due consideration must be shown to him, and he must be helped to return to the normal stats of health again. Therefore, I say that this Bill is not going to remove all the difficulties. It may create some more difficulties, but it must be introduced, and I hope the House will accept it and pass it, because it is the fulfilment of a pledge given to the trade unions of this country, who have looked forward to it, anticipate it, and welcome it.
Mr. J. W. WILSON:
I desire, in a very few words, to welcome this Bill, and congratulate the Government even on the delay which has occurred, if it has been fruitful in producing a Bill which, ab initio, comes before us with the blessing of the employers' and employés'associations of the country. I think those of us who have been in this House for any time must recognise the great difficulty we have experienced if we have attempted even in this House to legalise and to put into print our own customs and practices, much more so when we have attempted to legalise the practice between this and the other Chamber. If we have not agreed, it has been a bitter fight, and even when the victory has been won, we have not always been satisfied with the result. I think anyone, looking over the industrial history of the last quarter of a century, must feel that attempts to legalise and put into Acts of Parliament customs and practices of employment have not always been successful. Therefore, we feel that this Bill, although it does not go into great detail, has on broad lines fulfilled the pledge given at the last election, irrespective of party candidates, whether they were Labour men, Liberals, or Unionists in that respect—we feel that this Bill is starting with better prospects of success than any Bill could do which was fought out in detail in Committee of this House, and was perhaps provocative on one side and the other.
I agree with the hon. Member for South-East Leeds (Captain O'Grady) in all that he said. No one in this House, or few at any rate, have had more practice than he has had in the initiation of these industrial councils and so forth in connection with bringing together both sides, and discussing the questions in mutual interest. I feel greatly encouraged by what he has said here to-day, and that we may look a great deal to this new movement, which deserves all the encouragement and help it can get, in enabling machinery to be set up, whereby both sides and all interests shall be able to confer together, and, above all, shall have the deliberateness of conference, not by rushing decisions, but thoroughly thrashing them out before they are sought to be put into operation. We know that the question of output is one which anyone can seize upon, but there are lots of customs in connection with dilution and other methods, which are just as important, though that is the one which can be most easily talked about in general terms. Output cannot be increased, it seems to me, unless by mutual co-operation of employers and employed. Both sides have tended in the past often to hamper it, the employers by sweating piecework wages, not realising that if work brings in more, so much the better for both, and men's unions having too often been compelled by such operations to seek by customs and instructions to see that men do not produce too much, for fear of having wages reconsidered. If we could only get a wide co-operation on both sides, I feel there is much more to be hoped for than from any specific legislation dealing with the particular customs or the particular practices, or any particular output that is desired. Therefore, I have great pleasure in welcoming the Bill.
I had the misfortune to be sitting on a Committee all the afternoon, so that I have missed a great deal of what I should like to have heard, particularly the statement of the Minister of Labour. But, since I have been here, I have heard several interesting speeches, in which I heartily concur. There is no question, of course, that we have to restore these rules, practices, and customs, but I do feel that this new House which was not the author of this arrangement, should know something about what the restoration of these rights means, and to what we are really committing ourselves." But at this hour, and after so many interesting speeches on the subject, I feel that the House does not want to be kept much longer on the Bill, and I would only refer very briefly to the question of the restriction of output. I have had twelve years' experience with the biggest engineering works in Scotland, and so I do know something about that sort of thing, particularly as concerns the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. There is no doubt that such restriction will be tremendously prejudicial to our future prosperity if it is allowed to go on, and I think it is our duty to ensure that, although we return them, the rights should not be improperly used. A good deal has been done already. The Whitley Councils have been set up, we have practically established an eight-hours day and have established a minimum wage. There is the Industrial Conference sitting now, doing most excellent work in that direction. I wish they would thoroughly study the question of piece-work. Piece-work is most essential for output, but it must be done by fair bargaining between the wage-payer and the wage-earner. If either of them depart from their fair bargain it should be dealt with as an offence against the law. If the wage-payer unjustly cuts a rate, he should be subject to fine or punishment of some sort. If the wage-earner does not carry out his fair share of the bargain he should be subject to punishment also. At the bottom of all the "Ca'canny," jockeying for a price, and other restrictive practices there is the spirit among the wage-earners that anything they do in the way of extra effort is to the advantage of what they call the capitalist—the shareholders—and not of themselves. I will not stop to argue whether they are right or wrong, but I think it would be a most excellent thing if we could get rid of that idea in some way, and I am going to make a rather bold suggestion. It is that, in the case of big industrial joint-stock concerns, such as that with which I have been associated, the dividends should be limited. I say dividends, not profits. I want the profits to be as much as they can be, but I suggest limiting the dividends. If there is an excess of profit beyond the dividend, let it go first to establishing an ample reserve, so that in bad years the works do not have to shut down; secondly, to extensions to provide more employment if: the state of trade justifies it; and thirdly, to pay bonuses to the wage-earners who have contributed towards the excess. If such a principle were introduced, it would be an incentive to the men to do their utmost on the piecework system, knowing that after a reserve had been built up they would eventually derive direct benefit from any excess of profit that resulted from their extra labour. I believe that that would tend to eradicate this ridiculous idea of conflict between capital and labour. It is as ridiculous to talk about conflict between capital and labour as it is to talk about conflict between one's blood and one's muscle. If one's muscle is not fed with blood it will decay and die. On the other hand, the blood itself can do nothing except through the muscle, directed by the brain—the management. They are absolutely dependent the one on the other; neither can achieve anything without the other. Unless we obtain absolute harmony between capital and labour we cannot expect that there will ever be that prosperity which I hope that such a proposition as, I have made as regards excess profits may bring about, leading to greater output and greater prosperity for the country in the future.
As a miners' secretary, and as one who has been a miner for forty-two years, I rise to say a word in their favour. We have been taunted with restricting the output of coal. When I commenced as a boy in the pit, the seams were 5 feet and 6 feet high. To-day they are as low as 40 inches. The cry of the speakers to-day from the capitalist standpoint has been, "Increase your output." Geologically the theories go against that. One hon. Member said that the American miners can compete with us. Why? Englishmen are surely equal to men of any other nation under the sun. When the minimum wage was being fixed it was pointed out that our men were stripped for their work—I am speaking for Northumberland and for Durham county— our men were working in the coal face wellnigh nude on account of the heat and the closeness of the atmosphere. I wish hon. Members of this House would come and see it. Probably, if they would, we should get more sympathy. This Bill talks about restoring pre-war practices and customs, but there are some practices that I do not want to see come back. During the War we had an agreement with our coal-owners in Northumberland and Durham that there should be no reduction in wages. Now, if we go back to prewar practices and customs, there will be reductions in wages. In 1873–4 a joint committee of owners and workmen were appointed, and there was a rule laid down that if wages should rise 5 per cent. above 5s. 2d. a day the owners could claim reductions. The newspapers have been stating figures as to the wages we have been asking. which in many cases are false. We are not dependent on this Bill, We have a way of settling our own grievances, and there are many old practices and customs that have prevailed in the mines which we will not go back to. When we commence a new seam of coal the best men in the colliery go in at a bargain price, and they are allowed to produce a very large quantity of coal. If you want to fix a price of 5s. 2d. a day, you have to get 3 tons at 1s. 8½d., and the bigger the produce the less the price. I hold that the miners in the past got no encouragement: the more coal they produced, the less was the tonnage rate. I could quote prices that were fixed at 2s. a ton, and at the end of about ten years they were down to 1s. a ton. Prices that were fixed at 1s. a ton for coal filling, with a coal-cutting machine, are down to 6½. If the workmen could get 20 tons of coal to bank they would probably give him 2d. or 3d. These are historical facts. I have sat on a joint committee for twenty-six years and know perfectly well. I have heard it said that our men are restricting output. There have been demands in certain parts of the country for the restriction of output, but in order to get a livelihood, and in order to get the produce up, they work as hard as ever they can. The difference between America and this country is that the American miner has a larger percentage of machines. A machine will cut forty yards of coal in a night; five feet in. A man probably could only cut two yards, one foot in. We do not want to go back to these old customs. We have been fighting for something else, and the soldiers who have come back to the mines have come back expecting a new Britain, and, in the language of the Prime Minister, a country fit for heroes to dwell in. I only rose to contradict the statement that our men are seeking to restrict the output of coal. Treat them well and they will give you the best possible produce that in them lies.
I rise because of the speech of an hon. Member who argued that, because a representative had been sent to give the views of women upon this particular Bill, therefore they were perfectly satisfied with it. I am speaking at the request of one of the largest women's organisations in this country. The attitude that they take up is very clear and very simple, and is, I think. typical of women. They respect the pledge made by the Government, a pledge which in a large degree involves sacrifice on the part of women. They recognise fully that something was given to them, and that they must give something in return. They recognise the benefits that they themselves obtained under that pledge, and I believe that, like all other women's organisations in the country, they are anxious to see that pledge redeemed to the full. They only ask that this House should recognise that it does involve a great sacrifice on the part of women, and they only ask that the pledges given by the Government should be most carefully and most scrupulously examined by the Committee in order that the sacrifices and hardships involved are not such as are unnecessary. This Bill practically bars women out of industry. At any rate it bars women from those industries where the remuneration is worth having. I should like just to read a few lines by the Prime Minister in answer to the President of the Women's Industrial League. The Prime Minister said:
Referring to the Treasury agreement made in 1915, which enabled women to enter almost every department of industry, and so assist the Nation in its dire extremity, it is my intention, if I return to power, to carry out that agreement in such away that the unions shall have no cause to complain; but when the terms of that agreement have been fully satisfied women will find ample scope for their activities in industry when the pursuits of peace are fully resumed. The Government has never agreed that new industries come under the Treasury agreement. If the restrictive clauses of that agreement are seriously believed to be of any benefit to trade unions, or any other class of the community … sacrifices of the war, … a form of profiteering which nobody who claims respect and has a sense of responsibility will ever touch.
The party to which I have the honour to belong cordially approves every word that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in regard to the trade unions. Those trade unions, excellent as they were in many respects, were almost barbaric so far as women were concerned. I think some hon. Members in this House have hardly realised that our women competitors by this situation were literally barred out of every, or almost every, industry where the remuneration was adequate. I suggest that in this matter trade unionists imitated their wealthier brethren who refused to open the legal profession to women. I for one, in favour as I am of redeeming the pledge, hope the time has come when men will waken up to a much deeper sense of chivalry, and will be prepared to concede fair play to their weaker competitors; that they will not make that use of their strength they have in the past, but be sportsmen. Women accept the pledge. They are deeply anxious, however, that somebody in this House should represent their contention that the pledge should not be made use of to drive women out of industry. The hon. Gentleman has said that there is no desire to drive women out of industry. Why, Sir, if this Bill goes through unamended women will be stampeded out of industry. In this Bill, as far as I can see, it is a criminal offence to employ women at all. They are prepared for the pledge redeemed because they realise that they took the benefit of the contract. But they ask the Committee when they are dealing with this Bill to see that no move is asked of them than can be reasonably asked, and they hope that this House will, as I know, show its sympathy with them in the struggle that lies before them.
I desire to support this Bill. I think every Member of this House knows how much it has been looked forward to by the trade unionists. I should like to touch upon one or two points in connection with the restoration of pre-war practices. In respect to the aspect touched upon by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last, it is the most difficult one in industry to-day—the future of women. I myself believe it will be solved by the women at last being admitted into the trade unions as they are now admitted into the legal and medical professions. If we get the industry of the country going, I believe that probably we will be very glad to have these women who have become skilled, and very skilled some of them, during the War. There is much work waiting, I believe, for our industries when they get restarted, and I am sure that everyone in the country will be employed.
The restriction of output has been mentioned by several Members. I have talked with a great number of trade unionists on this matter. I have had the opportunity of doing so during the last few years, because I have had trade unionists on my ships. I think I understand the workman's point of view fairly well. There are two causes for this restriction. One is that in the past prices have been cut. From what I know of trade unionists, if the practice of cutting prices is abandoned by the employers the restriction of output will be also abandoned by the men. So that any fear that the restriction of output will hamper our industries as a result of this Bill I believe to be a groundless fear, if only the employers convince the workmen that they are not going to cut prices. The other reason, which I have not heard this afternoon, is the fear of unemployment. I really hope the Minister of Labour will notice what I am going to say on this point, and say something lazer on it. If you have this fear of unemployment I believe you will have bad practices in the industry, and unrest, and for a very good reason. The unemployed are the reserves of industry. The reserves of an army are not starved and kept on short commons. I do not believe we will get industrial peace until that fact is realized— that the reserves of industry ought to be kept by industry, and ought to be a first charge upon industry. We cannot have it a first charge on the State, as at present. The only sensible thing is—I believe it will be done through the Whitley Councils—that the unemployed should be kept by the industry of which they are part.
Those in this House who talk about the restriction of output and compare us unfavourably with America do not refer to the other side of the medal. The stress and strain of industrial life in America uses up the men like using up forests of trees. The mortality, and early mortality, amongst American skilled workmen is very high indeed. I hope that in the future, while we revert to our pre-war customs, we will not drop the welfare work in our factories which has come into being during the War. This particularly refers to women. If you have a woman in the new system of repetition work necessary for the massed production that is corning in every where now—if you have a woman at complicated machinery performing only two or three distinct motions and those motions twice a minute, and doing it hour by hour, day by day, week after week, and month after month, it will affect that woman's mentality and also her health. This is a most important part of the problem. It has in it the root of unrest, and may be what is worse. I think the solution there lies in short hours and greater production during those hours.
The only weak point that I see in the Bill is the small fine of £25 per day in the case of the employer not acting according to the law. Twenty-five pounds is, I believe, too small a fine in the case of a big corporation or a big combination of employers. A federation of employers might agree to support each other and to risk being proceeded against under this Act. I hope, therefore, this will be altered in Committee and the £25 increased to at least £100, while the Court, when it gives a decision, can have power to reduce the fine in the case of a small firm.
With what was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman below the Gangway I thoroughly agree. I entirely welcome this Bill. We pledged ourselves at the election, and in the last Parliament on this matter. I should like to observe that I was always careful to say that we would be bound to take into consideration two new conditions that had emerged during the War. The one was the immense influx of women into our industrial life, and the second was the largely-increased use of machinery. The attitude of women is, I think, quite clear. They do not want to take the places of
those who have been at the Front. At the same time, there has been a development of women's work, and they are a little anxious about the terms of this Bill being carried out in a way in which it might be interpreted as infringing upon their right to work, and so prevent them taking part to the extent they are entitled to take in industry in the future. Not very long ago we had a Bill introduced from the other side of the House by the Labour party supporting the opening of the doors of civil and official appointments to women. There was no objection on this side of the House. What, however, is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. If the professional classes are to have an incursion of women, as they are quite ready to have, it is also right that other classes in the community, too, should open their doors to the women. I do not want at all to affect the Bill as it now stands, but I do want either the Minister or someone else to give some satisfactory assurance to the women, who are very, very anxious on this point. I had intended to cite the speech of the Prime Minister referred to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman below the Gangway who spoke a while ago. May I just cite one other paragraph in which the right hon. Gentleman said after stating that
new forms of industry were not going to be subjected to the rigid terms of the Bill. He went on to say that these new industries are already extensive, and many will arise in the near future. To ensure that our country is more self-supporting in all these industries no discrimination shall be made against the employment of women in any suitable occupation. In this way and in those industrial occupations in which women were engaged before the War opportunities of every sort will be opened up for every class of woman worker, and I believe that the real working representatives of organised labour may be trusted when the time comes to see the necessity of utilising in the interests of production and to the best advantage every class of worker available.
If that expression of opinion can be carried out, then I am sure those who, like myself, have spoken from the women's point of view to-day, will be perfectly satisfied.
The bringing in of this Bill justifies the pledges given by a large number of men, of whom I was one. who went from this House to endeavour to get trade unionists to abandon some of their practices and abrogate others during the time of the War. One of the chief grounds of objection to the Bill used by the men was that they did not believe that they would ever again get back to these practices if they were then given up. We endeavoured to assure these men that the Government had pledged themselves to restore the conditions, and not only that, but many of us declared that it had been promised by all parties in the House of Commons, and we also declared that the men might rely upon these conditions being restored without any question as to which Government might be in power. When we reach the Committee stage I hope the Government will consider the setting up of committees to determine what was the pre-war custom in any particular shop. There will be considerable difference of opinion, and in some parts of the country committees have been set up independently of the masters and men to make a record of the practices. It is only in the large establishments that this has been done, and if some arrangement could be made whereby, before any step was taken towards prosecuting any persons, a committee must have considered the case from the point of view of the masters and the men, fairness would be done, and equality of treatment would be secured throughout the country. At present some workshops are run on different lines to the others. I only want to get back to those many thousands of men whom we persuaded to give up their practices, and they are now having the pledge given fully confirmed by the Government. We shall now be able to show these people that such pledges can be relied upon, and that the House of Commons is prepared to carry out its promises in the future as in the past.
Mr. TYSON WILSON:
I hope this Bill will be passed through ail its stages this afternoon. Whilst many of the speeches have been interesting, most of them have been asking the Government to introduce changes into this Bill; but if the Government were to accept those suggestions, they would have to alter the title of this measure. This Bill restores the status quo with regard to pre-war practices. I appeal to those who have spoken to allow the Bill to go through all its stages, in order that we may get it to the other place and placed upon the Statute Book this week. This measure provides for modifications and alterations come to by agree- ment between the employers and the workmen. Already alterations and modifications have been made in the conditions applying to many industries, and it would be far better to do that than introduce something in the Bill which is going to cause dissension in the ranks of organised labour, and particularly organised skilled labour. If anything is introduced which does not meet with the approval of the skilled labour organisations, we shall have industrial trouble and we do not want that. We want this Bill to give employers and employed the opportunity of making new rules and establishing new customs and practices, if they wish to do so. It is outside the question altogether to introduce the matter of women workers and semi-skilled workers. We have had several strikes already against the employment of women and semi-skilled workers, and that being so the sooner we get this Bill through the less feeling will be created, and it will give trade unionists and employers a chance of making alterations in their practices and customs that may be found necessary by changed circumstances. We want to give these people a free hand in dealing with these matters.