New Clause. — (Prohibition, of use of lead paint in painting interior of buildings.)

Orders of the Day — Lead Paint (Protection Against Poisoning) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 3rd August 1926.

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"(1) from and alter the nineteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, it shall not be lawful for any person to employ a person in painting with lead paint any part of the interior of a building or for any person employed in painting to use lead paint in painting any part of the interior of a building.

(2) The last preceding Sub-section shall not apply to—

  1. (a) such buildings used for industrial purposes as may be excluded from the provisions of this Section by an Order of the Secretary of State made after consultation with the organisations, if any, representative of the employers and workers in the trade; or
  2. (b) paint with lead paint for artistic purposes or the process of fine lining in such circumstances or in accordance with such conditions as may he prescribed."—[Mr. Rhys Davies.]

Brought up and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Amendment, if carried, will ratify what is termed the Geneva Convention. The Bill as it stands, in spite of the Amendments inserted in Committee, falls short of the Convention itself. That is the main reason why we are proposing this Amendment to-night. The Labour party, industrially and politically, has always stood for the Convention, the whole Convention, and nothing but the Convention, because the Convention itself emerged as a compromise between conflicting forces. I feel sure I can appeal to reasonably-minded Members on both sides of the House to support my Amendment. The history of this International Labour Convention is so well known that I feel sure those who have interested themselves at all in the subject will agree with me when I say that if the British House of Commons passes a Bill merely providing Regulations for the use of lead paint, it will be one of the biggest betrayals of our international obligations that has ever been committed by this country.

It would be well if I made another point quite clear. This Bill, when it was introduced, was totally unlike that introduced by the Labour Government in 1924. If that Bill were carried the Convention would have been ratified. It was lost because certain Members of this House were satisfied then, as they appear to be now, that Regulations arc all that is required. We have tried to prove, unsuccessfully, so far as the Government are concerned, that Regulations will not achieve the object they have in view. I do not know anything at all about the technicalities of the problem, but I am sufficiently conversant with the theoretical side to believe that these Regulations will not prevent lead poisoning among operative painters. I shall try to prove later on that Regulations in another industry which were supposed to achieve the object the Government had in view, after having been in operation for 13 years, have not prevented lead poisoning.

It is an erroneous deduction that the Government and their supporters have arrived at that Regulations will prevent lead poisoning. In fact, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill listened to a debate in Committee and heard an hon. Member who sits behind me, who has actually been engaged in painting operations himself—declare against Regulation. No one can speak with greater authority on the subject than the operative painter; he knows from experience what he is talking about.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will tell us what he told us in Committee, that the Government desire to see what Regulations can do, and they have given a promise that, if they fail in their object, they will bring in a Bill later in favour of total prohibition. But, fortunately, this Government will not he here to find out whether Regulations will have achieved their object. The day is coming soon when the Labour party will sit on that side of the House. They will be able to find out what the Regulations have done and in what way they have failed in their object.

There is in fact no way of dealing with this question except by the total prohibition of the use of white lead in paint. I have already said that there is a strong case in support of our point of view in this connection. In 1913, there was a great outcry in this country because many women and girls employed in the potteries in Staffordshire were suffering from lead poisoning contracted in the course of their employment. Regulations not very much unlike those which are likely to be issued under this Bill, were issued in 1913 to cover the pottery trade. It was said then by the spokesmen of the Government in office at that time that Regulations which would be enforced in the pottery industry would prevent lead poisoning. What has happened? In 1923, in spite of the enforcement of Regulations, apparently to the last comma, there were 44 cases of lead poisoning and 11 deaths. In 1924 there were 47 cases and 18 deaths. In 1925 there were 47 cases; I have not got the figures of the fatalities in that year. In the first half of 1926, there were 28 cases of lead poisoning, or at the rate of 56 per annum. The figures which I have given show that in spite of all the Regulations, and in spite of keen inspection by the Home Office, there has been an increase of lead poisoning in the potteries during the 13 years that Regulations have been in operation. Merely to regulate the use of white lead in any industry will not succeed.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office will probably tell the House, too, that the pottery industry is quite different from painting, and that Regulations have been very effective in connection with the manufacture of white lead. I do not dispute that Regulations have been more effective in connection with the production and manufacture of white lead than in the pottery industry. But it is quite a different thing to regulate men who use paint containing white lead and who work in twos and threes and sometimes singly, than it is to regulate the manufacture of white lead in a factory where there are 200 or 300 people employed. Although Regulations may he effective in connection with the production of white lead in a factory, where there is mass production, they cannot be effective in regard to painters who work in ones or twos all over the country.

9.0 P.M.

This is a very serious question. I do not know whether the House appreciates the suffering and agony that goes on in this country through lead poisoning. I am specially interested, because I have seen men suffering from this deadly poison. If the House can save even one life by passing a Measure for the total prohibition of the use of white lead in paint, it ought to do so. The figures regarding cases of poisoning from this cause are impressive, because they are on the increase. I would not he quite so insistent in favour of the total prohibition of the use of this commodity in paint were it not for the fact that the figures of cases of lead poisoning are on the increase from year to year. In 1919 there were 207 eases, and in 1922, 246.


Are these cases of lead poisoning?

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Yes, so far as I understand. The figures which I am quoting are taken from the Factory Inspector's Report; they are simply the reported figures, and do not include all the cases. In 1925, there were as many as 486 cases. This question ought, therefore, to be settled once for all, instead of merely tinkering with it, as the Government are now doing.

All the operative painters who are organised in their trade unions, as most of them are so organised, I am glad to say, are in favour of the Amendment which I am moving. The Government may say, "That is not sufficient for us. We have other interests to think of." I will, therefore, give the opinions of another set of interested people. The master painters, too, are absolutely unanimously, through their organisation, in favour of the Amendment. More than that, medical skill and science is practically unanimous in favour of the Convention. I know that a very well-known gentleman in the medical profession has recently altered his mind in connection with this problem, but that is not sufficient for my purpose.

There is one thing that stands out clear and supreme in connection with this matter. The Government of 1921 sent a representative to Geneva to sit in conference with representatives of between 40 or 50 other nations, and he agreed to a Convention to prohibit the use of white lead for interior purposes. He spoke and voted in favour of the Amendment which I am moving. I know that he did not represent a Tory Government, but he represented a Coalition, which was a Tory Government under another name. I have been in Geneva, too, and have heard statements made with respect to this country, that we have led the way in regard to industrial and social legislation, and so on. I have always been proud of that fact. What I complain about now is that in 1926 the Government are bringing forward a Bill, not to ratify the Convention, but to regulate the use of white lead in paint which, in fact, is a betrayal of the Convention. It will be nothing short of dishonour to this country if the Bill becomes law in its present form.

The case in favour of the Convention as a whole is a strong one, and I submit that the House ought to pass the Amendment. What has the Government to say as to the effect of passing a Bill of this kind? About 12 countries, on the Continent of Europe, have been faithful to the decision of 1921. Great Britain has in the past always led the way in these things, and we are proud of the fact, but to-night it is lagging behind. If we pass the Bill in its present form we shall strike a blow at the prestige of this country in connection with industrial legislation. In that event, I can foresee those countries who have already passed the Convention and translated it into law, turning round and saying: "If Great Britain, the biggest industrial country in Europe, gives up this Convention, to which they themselves gave their signature, then we will cancel the Convention altogether and scrap the legislation we have passed." That will be the natural effect.

I am sorry indeed to think not only of what is happening in this country to-night, but what will happen in Belgium, France and other countries which have ratified the Convention. I move this Amendment in the hope that even now the Government will see its way to accept it and ratify the Convention, thus bringing this country right up to date. This country, as I have said, stands high in the estimation of the people of Europe in connection with industrial legislation, and I want to maintain that prestige by inserting this Amendment in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Frederick Montague Mr Frederick Montague , Islington West

I beg to second the Motion. Two points of view were expressed at the Geneva Convention. One was in favour of the total prohibition of the use of white lead paint and the other was in favour of regulations. The result of the discussions at Geneva was a compromise, which limited the use of white lead paint to exterior painting. When this question was debated in ties House a month or two ago a point of view was put forward which was extremely interesting as coming from a member of the Liberal party. The suggestion was that the Geneva Convention carried the proposal as it stood, because the predominant votes at that Convention were European as distinct from British; and that Belgium and France are much more interested in the manufacture of the substitute zinc white than this country, which is more interested in the manufacture of white lead. The suggestion was that economic pressure was brought to bear on the Conference and that it decided the question irrespective of the real merits of the case. If it is a question of economic pressure then I do not think there could have been greater economic pressure on the part of those interested in the provision of zinc white than the pressure which has been brought to bear on Members of this House by those interested in the manufacture of white lead in this country. It is a mean sort of argument. But the point is one which can be settled without any reference to whose interests it might be to support the white-lead industry and to whose interests it is to support the zinc-white industry. The medical evidence is overwhelming in favour of prohibition, and I should like to emphasise what has been said already with regard to the opinion of the trade itself, not only on the part of the workers but also by the employers. Let me quote the resolution which has been passed by the Joint Industrial Council: The Painters' and Decorators' Joint Industrial Council of Great Britain has examined the text of the Lead Paint (Protection against Poison) Bill, and regrets to observe that it does not adopt the principles laid down by the Geneva Convention. This Council reiterates the resolution of the 23rd January, 1925, that it cannot support any Bill which gives a less degree of protection to the persons employed in painting than the Convention provides. From every point of view, therefore, the case is made out for the ratification of a Convention, and surely a case is made out from the point of view of the honour of this country. I want to draw the attention of the House to two points in connection with this matter. I will leave the technical considerations to the hon. Member who will follow me from this side of the House and who knows much more about them than I do. Let me make this passing observation. It is proposed by the new Clause to limit the use of white lead paint to exterior painting, leaving the substitute of zinc white paint for interior and more decorative work. The argument in favour of retaining white lead for painting work outside is that it is more durable, it is a much better commercial proposition. The fact that white lead is to be limited to exterior painting and the substitute only to be used for interior decorative work, where the effects of the weather do not apply, surely disposes of that particular argument. The first of the two points to which I want to draw the attention of the House is the question of the medical examination. It is provided in this Bill that the painter shall provide a clean bill of health when he applies for employment. That is what it means. The Regulations will be very difficult—

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member is not in Order. That point comes under a later Amendment.

Photo of Mr Frederick Montague Mr Frederick Montague , Islington West

I, of course, accept your ruling, and will therefore proceed to the second question on which I desire the attention of hon. Members, and on which I believe I shall be in order. It is with regard to the employment of women in lead painting work. If it is a bad thing for women to be employed in lead painting work why is it not a bad thing for men to he so employed? Why are women left out? Why are they regarded separately in this Bill and not allowed to be. employed in this particular kind of work, if it is not dangerous? If it is dangerous it is equally as dangerous to men as to women. I have had some correspondence from the Society for Equal Citizenship, arguing to the effect that women ought to be allowed to work at any kind of work in which men are employed, whether it is dangerous or not.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member, but is he quite in order in dealing with this question, as there are two Amendments on the Paper on the subject. It would be much more convenient to discuss this point when they are reached.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The question does not arise on this Amendment, which is confined to the prohibition of white lead paint in interior decorative painting.

Photo of Mr Frederick Montague Mr Frederick Montague , Islington West

I do not wish to question your ruling, and as I have referred to the points I had in mind I will leave it at that and conclude by pressing upon the House the importance of ratifying the Geneva Convention, and to do that rather than pass a Bill of this character, which cannot be operative because of the difficulties of enforcing any Regulations for the protection of men employed in white lead painting, especially those who are employed in twos and threes in private houses, where it is quite impossible to see that the washing accommodation and the use of overalls is properly carried out. We know that in all trades there are large numbers of men who are apt to be careless of the conditions under which they should work. They have to be protected, if not for their own sakes, for the sake of those for whom they are responsible.

Photo of Mr John Hills Mr John Hills , Ripon

I confess that I approach this new Clause with some difficulty. In the past I did fight hard for prohibition of lead in the Potteries, and when the compromise of 1913 was arrived at. I watched its results with some interest. As far as lead in the Potteries is concerned, regulation, as opposed to prohibition, has done a very great deal, and I am sure that the Mover of this new Clause would admit that, although the figures are serious, and though a large amount of plumbism still exists, still the whole state of that industry is much better than it was in 1913 and before. But when we come to the question of painting, I confess that feel a difficulty. On the one hand you have the fact that the Regulations have had a certain amount of success in the Potteries. But the House must not forget that in the pottery industry, carried on inside a factory, the application of regulations is much easier than in a house which is being painted, where you have no machinery and no appliances. I believe that eventually we shall have to prohibit lead both in paint and pottery glaze. I am sure that we shall, for although the toll of life is, perhaps, not great compared with some industrial diseases, if it can be abolished it ought to be abolished. Besides the actual toll of life, you have the terrible effect of plumbism on the offspring of both men and women who are affected with the poison. On the other side the arguments in favour of the Clause that is under consideration are these: First, there is the argument that regulation is very difficult when painters are painting the inside of a house here or there. Next, you have the fact that we did sign a Convention at Geneva in 1921, and that that Convention provided for the total prohibition—I think I am right— of lead for external painting as well as internal painting.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

As far as I understood it, the compromise reached was total prohibition where lead was used for interior purposes.

Photo of Mr John Hills Mr John Hills , Ripon

I am not prepared to see our country either go back on what we promised or to fall behind the leadership in industrial reform. If I may say a word to the Seconder of the Amendment, I would state that I regard it as a special Conservative duty to look after the welfare of the individual, and that has always been the pride of my party. So as far as the Convention is concerned, all the argument is in favour of this new Clause. Lastly you have the very significant fact that the whole trade has agreed to the abolition. It cannot be said that this is a Measure which the trade does not expect and which would cause a great loss or great unemployment, for the Joint Industrial Council, which includes the employers as well as the men and women who work in this trade, have agreed to the abolition of lead in paint used for interior painting. I have spoken often in favour of prohibition in the potteries, I have seen regulations introduced that have been only partially successful, and I cannot hope for the same amount of success for regulations in the painting industry; and, though I do see both sides of the case, I feel bound to support this Amendment. The Mover of the Amendment referred to the fact that perhaps the greatest medical authority on lead poisoning, who used to be a strong advocate of prohibition, has now come round to regulation. I know that that is so as far as pottery is concerned, but I do not know whether that is so as far as painting is concerned. Still, in spite of that, I think that the balance of argument is in favour of the prohibition of lead for interior painting, and I am going to vote for the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

It must continually be borne in mind that the new Clause is based on a compromise arrived at between those who argued in favour of the complete abolition of lead painting, and the employers and lead manufacturers on the other side who argued in favour of its retention. The compromise reached was that lead should be excluded from interior painting and allowed for exterior painting. That compromise was reached by the Convention which considered the subject. The whole issue went before the Plenary Conference at Geneva as an agreed Convention. Let me recall the words of Sir Montague Barlow, who represented the British Government at Geneva on this question.

Photo of Mr John Hills Mr John Hills , Ripon

What date was that?

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

1921. He raised a question with the President as to whether there. was a quorum or not, and he said: It redounds to the credit of this great conference that we have now come to an agreement which, I understand, is satisfactory to all parties, not only employers and workers, but also to the individuals concerned. Under these circumstances it would be ten thousand pities, it would be wore than that, it would he a calamity, if, through any technical reasons this Convention was not finally and legally adopted. Under these circumstances, and on the basis of this compromise, agreed to by all concerned, and in order to avoid difficulties with regard to machinery, the British Government's vote will be passed in favour of the Convention. That is just about as emphatic an assent to a principle as any that has been given by any British Government or British Minister anywhere. It is strange that at this present moment we should be here discussing whether a Conservative Government will accept the findings of a Conservative Minister. Although Sir Montague Barlow was a Coalition Minister at that time, he is a Conservative in politics, and it is diffi- cult to see how the Government can get away from the position he himself occupied. It is well to remember the countries that have ratified this Convention. Most of the countries have already on this question reached absolute agreement. This is the information received from the International Labour Office. The Convention has been ratified by Austria, Czechoslovakia, Esthonia, Latvia, Poland, Spain and Sweden. Belgium, I believe, has also ratified, and the following countries have, according to information received from the International Labour Office, recommended a ratification: Bulgaria, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Rumania. It will not be creditable to this country nor to this House if we, who pride ourselves on the position we have occupied hitherto in industrial legislation, throw down, not only this Convention arrived at at Geneva, but the Government's representative in charge of the Bill who gave the compromise his unadulterated acceptance.

As a matter of fact the only people who are opposing this are the lead manufacturers themselves. Those are the vested interests behind it. They agreed to this Convention, but they came back directly and began a campaign for the continued use of white lead everywhere. It. seems little to them what the terrible facts may be. 1 can speak from actual experience, from cases I have seen, of men who have had dropped wrists, and men with colic. I have seen scores of men with the lead lying in their lungs, and in whom I knew the poison existed. There is not very much escape. Some are more susceptible than others, but the danger is present-. It is as well to bear in mind that lead poisoning can accelerate or add, I believe, to other diseases. I speak in the presence of medical men who may be able to contradict me. I think I am right in saying that before the Committee of this House, which sat in 1911 and of which, I think, Sir Ernest Hatch was chairman, it was stated and not contradicted by any medical men or by the Departmental experts, that the use of lead paint, inducing lead poisoning, did induce nervous diseases and added to the danger of Bright's disease as well. There can be, it appears, effects upon the health of people possibly not always attributable in a return to actual lead poisoning. As far as these Regulations are concerned, in my opinion they will be quite inadequate for dealing with this position. As a matter of fact every man who works at this industry knows that in a large amount of painting which takes place there is very little rubbing down done at all, even of a dry character. I am certain that if wet rubbing down is insisted upon, that will either increase the cost of the -work to be done, or it will not be done at all. The effect will be that if a man is discovered rubbing down, he will be sacked immediately. That will be one of the results of attempting to follow a Regulation such as this.

If there were no substitute for lead I could understand it. There is an effective substitute for white lead. Technically, white lead is of no value, as such. Applied or mixed with any non-binder, white lead would not preserve woodwork any more than whitewash. It would not be as good a preservative as Burton lime. The value of white lead is that it is the best vehicle which can be discovered for carrying oil; it is the oil in the paint that is the real preservative, not lead. If anyone could find a substitute which would carry oil as well as lead, the preservative character would be there without the use of white lead at all. We are asking that the use of white lead in interiors shall. be prevented. In interiors it is not the preservative character of the, paint that is required. Paint for the interior is used for decorative purposes. The question is whether a certain base can be made effective for the carrying of colour. What effect does it have upon colours? Will the base turn the colour? Can you guarantee that your tints will be preserved for a long period? If you can find a material which will be, from the decorative point of view, as useful as lead, then I say we ought to use it. All the objection to using zinc white will not bear one single moment's examination. Zinc white is a perfectly innocuous material for interior decoration. It will carry every colour, as far as I know. It will even carry lead pigments. It will carry lemon chrome just as well as lead itself, and there are plenty of tints zinc white. Will carry better than lead paint. It is healthier for a person who lives in the house. It has no effect on the person dwelling in the house, or on the person using the material.

Photo of Dr Thomas Watts Dr Thomas Watts , Manchester, Withington

Is the hon. Member aware there is a considerable danger in the use of zinc?

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

There may be in the use of zinc, but not when it is prepared as paint. This is oxide of zinc. I do not think that the French Government returns show that oxide of zinc is detrimental to the health of the men who use it. They use it largely in France and Belgium and have done so, to my knowledge, for two generations. Therefore I can scarcely accept the contention, although I know the hon. Member is a medical man. I can only speak from experience. From returns coming from countries where this is used I say there is no excuse for the use of this material which is admittedly detrimental to the health of the people who use it. It may be argued that there are interests outside this country that would desire that we should use zinc. We do not produce zinc nor do we produce what lead we use. The lead we use for making white lead is imported. The only thing done here is the grinding of the lead and its corrosion. What will grind white lead will grind zinc. There will be no displacement of labour. The same type of labour can be employed.

I think the machinery can be adapted at very little cost, and I do not think that the amount of vested interest, or the damage likely to be done to existing interests, is worthy of consideration for one moment. There can be no possible damage which would justify the House in passing a Bill to continue the use of this deadly material, affecting, as it does, the life of our people, not only in the generation originally concerned, but from one generation to another in a series of transmitted diseases. The illness of a man of 25 at the present day may have effects upon the girl or boy to be born 10 years hence. Surely that is something which we ought to stop if we have the power. We can do so with little or no cost to the country and with infinite credit to ourselves, and I urge the House to enhance its own dignity by refusing to sanction the use of this material and to do itself credit by upholding the pledge given by the British representative at Geneva. I ask the House to place this nation in line with the other nations who have adopted the Convention.

If it was a question of prohibiting the use of this material everywhere, I might he prepared to admit that there were some forms of white lead which could not be replaced and that, under some form of strict regulation, we might have to countenance the use of white lead in certain cases. Here we are asking that prohibition shall be put into operation where regulation cannot be enforced. The majority of painters work for small employers, and the Bill requires these employers to have registered offices and to make returns of the men employed and to fill up various forms. I know many of these painting employers, and it takes them all their time to keep their books. They are not noted for their abilities in that respect, and the whole thing will be unwieldly and unworkable. The Government are going Lack on the pledge of a previous British Government and on the statement of a British Minister, simply because of a small vested interest which, for the sake of the profit derived from it, demands the continued use of a material which is deleterious to the health of the people.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

The object of the proposed new Clause is to prohibit the use of lead paint in interior painting whilst allowing the use, under Regulation, of lead paint in outside painting of buildings, and the case brought forward in favour of the new Clause is based on two arguments. The first is that the Bill as it stands is a breach of faith, and the second that it is impossible for Regulation to be successful so far as interior painting is concerned. I wish to deal shortly with the charge that the Bill is a breach of faith. The breach of faith alleged is that we have only brought forward a Bill to make Regulations in regard to both interior and outside painting, so far as the use of lead paint is concerned. It is true that Sir Montague Barlow, who I admit was a Conservative, and also a member of the Coalition Government, took part in the International Conference at Geneva, and it is also true that he signed this Convention in connection with the use of lead paint in the interior of buildings. When he came back he made a statement in the House of Commons in which he said: I felt, at the time, doubt whether in view of the speed at which the compromise had been inevitably worked out and voted, difficulties might not arise in the future. With a caution which subsequent events have certainly justified, I explained that that vote was given solely on the basis of the compromise being a satisfactory one acceptable to all. Even from the discussions which we have had this evening, and on the Second Reading and Committee stages of the Bill, it is clear that this compromise war not acceptable to all.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

The lead manufacturers ran away from it.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

I do not know who ran away from it, but it is clear from the hon. Member's own speech this evening that it was not accepted by all, and Sir Montague Barlow having made that statement exonerated not only him self, but his successors.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Does the hon. and gallant Member really mean to say that if a representative of the British Government goes to Geneva and votes for a Convention, he can come back to the House of Commons and say that that Convention is not to be operated unless every Member of this House agrees to it? Is that the argument?

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

No, it is not the argument. Sir Montague Barlow said this at the Conference. That is what he told them at the Conference and repeated in the House of Commons.

Photo of Mr Samuel Viant Mr Samuel Viant , Willesden West

And the result of the vote in the Conference was nine to four with one abstention.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

That is getting away from the point. I know what the voting was, but the Government are accused of a breach of faith because Sir Montague Barlow on a certain occasion voted in favour of a certain Convention. I have quoted what he said before he signed that Convention. It will be remembered that during the time the Conference was meeting at Geneva a Departmental Committee had been set up by the Coalition Government presided over by Sir Henry Norman, then Member for Blackburn. That Committee did not report during the time the Conference was sitting, but they reported some time subsequent to the signing of the Convention and Sir Montague Barlow in the same speech spoke of this Report and said: The Report seems to indicate that in view of recent discoveries some of the restrictions embodied in the draft Convention are not of such vital importance as they were in 1921. For instance, there is the question of wet sand-papering instead of dry rubbing-down. In these circumstances it is a matter which clearly calls for further consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1923; cols. 2420 and 2422, Vol. 163.] Those are the two speeches made by Sir Montague Barlow after coming back from the Geneva Conference, and I hope they will carry weight with this House to refute the suggestion that there has been a breach of faith.

The second argument used has been in connection with the so-called impossibility of making these Regulations successful. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), I think, said that regulation would be of no use, but perhaps ho forgot, when he made that statement, that there is at preset regulation of outdoor painting of buildings, and if you had to have prohibition for indoor painting and regulation for outdoor painting, surely that would be almost more impossible to carry out. The idea of regulation, some people say, is impossible to carry out, because the Regulations would he evaded, and the workmen themselves would not keep to the Regulations. One can quite conceive of a painter painting outside a house, and another painting inside, and that if they wished to avoid the Regulations they could perhaps put their pot of lead paint through the window from outside so that it would go inside, and in other ways it would be possible, if the men desired it, especially when you have part regulation and part prohibition, to make a farce of the whole thing. I think that regulation as a whole will be much easier to put into operation.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us what the Regulations consist of that affect outdoor painting? I know of none.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

The Regulations will be made by the Secretary of State under the provisions of this Bill.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

There are none of which I am aware now, but there will be Regulations under this Bill, and that is the reason why we are adopting this Bill. I say that it will be easier to regulate as a whole than to have part regulation and part prohibition. It has been said by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that the Regulations would not achieve their object. I think myself that the work-people engaged in painting with lead paint will try to carry out the Regulations, if only for the sake of their own health. They will realise the danger to themselves if they evade the Regulations. It may be said that they might be persecuted by their masters if they did carry out the Regulations, but the trade unions are very highly organised, and I see no reason at all why they should not report the matter of evasion, or impulsion to evade the Regulations, to their own trade union leaders, and in that way certainly they could get the inspectors to see that the Regulations were carried out.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

My point was that the rubbing down would not be done.

Photo of Sir Douglas Hacking Sir Douglas Hacking , Chorley

The same argument applies to rubbing down as to the actual use of the lead paint. If a man knows he is damaging his own health by rubbing down dry and getting dust into his lungs, he will naturally hesitate before refusing to carry out the Regulations. An argument which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wall-head) used this evening was to the effect that the wet rubbing down would be more costly, but that is an argument in favour of regulation, because if it is more costly to rub down by the wet process, it will inevitably drive people to the use of some kind of paint which is not poisonous, and thus you will get the use of zinc white coming in because of regulation. That, I think, is a strong argument in favour of regulation. I only want to repeat what has been said on more than one occasion —said by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and I am sure I repeated it in Committee—to this effect, that these Regulations are only in the nature of an experiment. We are not going to claim anything more for them than that, but we do believe that it is abhorrent to the Englishman's mind that there should be prohibition of anything if you can adopt any other course to prevent prohibition. if these Regulations which we are going to put into operation fail, if they are not a success, if they do not have the effect, if not of stamping out completely, of very largely reducing the death rate in connection with lead poisoning, then the Home Secretary has pledged himself, and I repeat that pledge, that the Government will not hesitate to come down to this House and bring in another Bill, far more drastic than this, which will have prohibition as its essence. I have nothing more to say, except, perhaps, one word to the employers, who are not united, as has been said in this Debate, on prohibition. There are a great number of them who do not want prohibition, and quite naturally so from their own point of view. I would say to those employers that they must try to make these Regulations a success. It is up to them to prove that they can do good by Regulation. They must not only see that the Regulations are carried out in detail, but it is their duty to experiment in any way they can in the direction of using the waterproof sandpaper instead of the ordinary sandpaper, and having wet instead of dry rubbing down, and in other directions to try to make the Regulations succeed. If the Regulations do fail, I must tell them quite distinctly, as I tell the House, that the only alternative is prohibition, which the Government will not hesitate to bring in in order to get rid of this terrible disease.

Photo of Mr Alexander Russell Mr Alexander Russell , Tynemouth

I should like to say a word or two on this Amendment. I cannot, of course, speak with anything of the practical knowledge of the hon. Gentleman opposite who spoke on paints and painting, but I have the honour to represent in this House a constituency in an area which, I think, might be regarded as the centre of the manufacture of white lead in the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) referred to a gentleman who, I think, is commonly regarded as a pioneer, as one of the first to take part in the crusade in this country against the dangers of lead poisoning. I refer to Sir Thomas Oliver, but I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was mistaken when he said that, for a reason of which he was not aware, Sir Thomas Oliver had changed his mind, that at the outset, I think the suggestion was, Sir Thomas Oliver was a prohibitionist, and that in course of time he became, not a prohibitionist, but in favour of regulation as the method by which this danger could be dealt with. I happen to have here a letter which was written by Sir Thomas Oliver a year or two years ago, in which he says: Years ago, when lead poisoning was more rife among the industries, and conditions were worse than now, I never felt that it was my duty to recommend the total prohibition of white lead. That letter of Sir Thomas Oliver was written to the " Times " a year or two years ago, in which he pointed out that from the beginning, when he himself led the way in the great effort that has been made in this country to tackle the danger of white lead poisoning, and throughout, he believed, not in prohibition, but regulation, and certainly, as far as results are concerned in the particular area in Tyneside, the results would seem to justify that view of Sir Thomas Oliver. Everyone recognises that it is not the zinc and lead when made into a paint which is the danger, but when in a powder. That is the danger. In my own constituency we have one of the largest factories where white lead is made, and there was a time when the sickness and death resulting from lead poisoning were very considerable, due entirely to the dust which flew about the factory; but that dust and that danger were overcome by, as I understand, some draught method, by which the duet was drawn from the factory, and the danger has been reduced, and is now almost negligible.

10.0 P.M.

An hon. Gentleman on the other side said that the supporters of the regulations on this side were got at by the manufacturers, and I dare say if there is anyone on this side who might be thought to be got at, I might be regarded as such. I have not been got at by the manufacturers of white lead. I have received resolutions from the employés of that factory and other factories. pointing out how disastrous it would be to this great and important national industry if prohibition were carried out. These resolutions come from men who are deeply interested, who themselves are running the danger, and who have asked me and others in this House that we should press, not for prohibition, but for regulation. In their case it is not an academic interest; it is not a speculation as to whether regulations will overcome the danger or not, but the regulations which have been adopted in the manufacture of white lead have been successful If they have been successful in the manufacture of white lead, if Regulations have overcome this danger, why should not something along the same lines be done in the use of lead paint? It is not, as was pointed out, the actual painting which is the danger, but it is the rubbing down of walls which have been painted with lead paint, the powder off those walls, which is the danger. They suggest—and I think justly and rightly suggest—that just as in these factories we, by Regulation, have been able to overcome this danger completely, so we think the right Regulation in the matter of the use of paint, and the preparing of walls for paint, will equally overcome the difficulty. While no one will desire to minimise the dreadful results from lead poisoning, I do not think it is exactly fair to exaggerate the amount of lead poisoning there is among painters in this country. There is the Report of the Hatch Committee in 1911, a Committee which cannot be said to be biassed in favour of the use of lead paint. According to that Committee, the results of lead poisoning among painters was much less than was commonly believed.

One recognises in the Debate to-night, and the Debates in the other stages of this Bill, the influence which the Geneva Convention has had upon the minds of hon. Members on the other side, as it has had upon hon. Members on this side. No one likes to think that this country is, as the hon. Gentleman opposite said, guilty of a breach of honour and treacherous in this matter of the carrying out of the Geneva Convention, hut there is no moral or legal obligation to carry out that Convention or other Convention. It is simply a recommendation, but I venture to think that the circumstances in which this Convention was prepared is likely to prejudice the effect of other Geneva Conventions in this country. sometimes wonder if this House quite appreciates that, while the Conference at Geneva, with all sorts and conditions of men and women, representing all sorts of interests—quite a comparatively number of them with any knowledge whatever of this particular industry—decided by a majority of one in favour of this Convention, the expert committee, which had sat for 15 days, a committee made up of men well qualified to come to a decision upon a difficult and a technical question of this kind, recommended to the Conference that not prohibition but regulation should he adopted.

Photo of Mr Charles Duncan Mr Charles Duncan , Clay Cross

That is what we have suggested—regulation.

Photo of Mr Alexander Russell Mr Alexander Russell , Tynemouth

But this Clause provides for the prohibition of the use of white lead paint.

Photo of Mr Alexander Russell Mr Alexander Russell , Tynemouth

But this expert Committee would have nothing whatever to do with prohibition, either for external or internal purposes, and here in this Conference a conglomeration of people, the vast majority of whom were completely unable to decide on a question of this character, go against the recommendations of the Committee, and as a result, it is suggested, of unfair propaganda that had been brought to bear upon them, they decided for prohibition. I say that the circumstances in which this Convention was prepared and drawn up are not of the kind to recommend the Conventions of Geneva to the serious notice of those interested in industrial affairs of this kind. Regulations in the manufacture of white lead have practically eliminated the dangers. So 1 suggest that, especially now that the wet rubbing down by water-proof sandpaper has proved to be so great a success, we have every right to believe that the Regulations which were so successful in the manufacture of white lead will likewise eliminate the danger in the use of paint in interior buildings.

Photo of Mr Samuel Viant Mr Samuel Viant , Willesden West

The hon. Member who has just spoken said that he had received a resolution from his constituents and that they feared they would be unemployed if the prohibition of the use of white lead in paint took place. Those who are engaged in the grinding process will not in any sense of the word be dis- placed. They will be employed in the grinding of zinc used for precisely the same purposes as the white lead has been used. The same quantity will be required, and the same process will be engaged in. There will be no displacement of labour in that respect. Secondly, the hon. Member has said that we were under no legal obligation to put the findings of the Convention into effect. Some of us feel that as a result of the Geneva Convention we are under a moral obligation to put the findings of that Convention into effect and we feel that that moral obligation is far and away more important than a legal obligation. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Hatch Committee, which has been referred to, obtained far more reliable data than did the Norman Committee. The Hatch Committee sat for 49 days. It had before it 118 witnesses, whereas the Norman Committee sat for 13 days only and examined only 26 witnesses. Therefore, from the point of view of merit, some of us feel that the inquiries of the Hatch Committee were far more exhaustive than those of the Norman Committee. The representative of the Government went to Geneva and gave the pledge of his Government to the findings of the Convention which was carded by 90 with only one dissension, and we feel that that pledge should be honoured. Not only that, but the findings of the Convention were based upon the evidence and the data obtained by the Hatch Committee, which far outweighed the findings of the Norman Committee.

The only thing that might happen by way of causing certain authorities to change their opinion in respect of the effects and the merits of prohibition as against regulation would be the fact that those who are responsible for the manufacture of white lead in conjuction with other manufacturers have brought forward this so-called damp glass paper. The operatives are firmly convinced that there is really no merit attached to the damp rubbing down process, that the so-called oily glass paper that is to be used for rubbing down purposes causes not dust, but creates a sort of cream, and they are convinced that the cream which is produced in the place of dust cannot be unhealthy in that it cannot get right into the lungs. But it works up under the nails and into the quick of the fingers and gets into the human system in that way. The result undoubtedly will be just as injurious as was the dry rubbing down. That is the only change that has taken place. From the point view of the operatives and of the master painters themselves, we are firmly convinced that there is no way out, if we are desirous of safeguarding the interests of those who are engaged in the industry, than that of prohibiting the use of white lead altogether.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

I am impressed very greatly with the very earnest appeals that have been made from this side of the House about a question of which we have heard a great deal. Here is a great evil pressing; why should not the Government face the question of prohibition? The case has been submitted from the Front Bench on this side showing the deplorable results that are taking place. Why should the Government representative state that we are still going to experiment with the question of endeavouring to alleviate or regulate a trouble, when, by taking effective

action in the way of prohibition, results could be secured in the interests of humanity and lives could be preserved. The same words come in here as on another important question. I have heard them over and over again— no prohibition, but regulation. Very much evidence can be brought from various parts of the House concerning the terrific evil which is working devastation upon humanity, but there is always the question of wondering where the business interest lies. We have learnt to-night that business interests have been at work.

Geneva has undoubtedly been let down and, apart from the point we are discussing now, that in itself is a most serious development for the country to face. If we are to say there is no moral obligation to adopt Geneva's findings this country will be losing its position among the nations of the world.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 74: Noes, 198.

Division No. 425.]AYES.[10.16 p.m.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)Ponsonby, Arthur
Ammon, Charles GeorgeGroves, T.Potts, John S.
Barr, J.Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Batey, JosephHall. G. H. (Me-thyr Tydvil)Riley, Ben
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)Hardie, George D.Scrymgeour, E.
Bondfield, MargaretHartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonSmith, Rennle (Penistone)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)Snell, Harry
Broad, F. A.Hills. Major John WallerStephen, Campbell
Bromley, J.Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)Sullivan, Joseph
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)Sutton, J. E.
Buchanan, G.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Taylor, R. A.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. NoelJones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Tinker, John Joseph
Charleton, H. C.Kelly, W. T.Viant, S. P.
Clowes, S.Kirkwood, D.Wallhead, Richard C.
Cluse, W. S.Lawrence, SusanWalsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Connolly, M.Lawson, John JamesWatson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dalton, HughLee, F.Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Lunn, WilliamWhiteley, W.
Day, Colonel HarryMacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)William, T. (York, Don Valley)
Dennison, R.March, S.Windsor, Walter
Duncan, C.Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)Womersley, W. J
Dunnico, H.Montague, FrederickYoung, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gibbins, JosephNaylor, T. E.
Gillett, George M.Palin, John HenryTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gosling, HarryPaling, W.Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. J.
Greenall, T.Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.H. Hudson.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.Bourne, Captain Robert CroftCampbell, E. T.
Albery. Irving JamesBowyer, Captain G. E. W.Cassels, J. D.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.Cautley, Sir Henry S.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveCecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)
Balnlel, LordBrittain, Sir HarryChamberlain Rt. Hon N (Ladywood)
Barnston, Major Sir HarryBrocklebank, C. E. R.Christie, J. A.
Beamish, Captain T. P. H.Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Clarry, Reginald George
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesCockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.
Birchall, Major J. DearmanButler, Sir GeoffreyConway, Sir W. Martin
Blundell, F. N.Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardCouper, J. B.
Courtauld, Major J. S.Hilton, CecilPrice, Major C. W. M.
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir O. (St. Marylebone)Raine, W.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)Holbrook, Sir Arthur RichardRamsden, E.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)Holland Sir ArthurRenter, J. R.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)Holt, Captain H. P.Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ct'ts'y)
Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cunlitte, Sir HerbertHopkins, J. W. W.Rye, F. G.
Curzon, Captain ViscountHopkinton, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)Howard, Captain Hon. DonaldSandeman, A. Stewart
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)Banders, Sir Robert A.
Davies, Dr. VernonHume, Sir G. H.Sanderson, Sir Frank
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Hurst, Gerald S.Sandon, Lord
Davies, Sir Thomas (Clrencester)Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Dawson, Sir PhilipJackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)Simms, or. John M. (Co. Down)
Dean, Arthur WellesleyJacob, A. E.Skelton, A N.
Dixey, A. C.Jephcott, A. R.Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Eden, Captain AnthonyKennedy, A. R. (Preston)Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Edmondson, Major A. J.Kidd, J. (Linilthgow)Smithers, Waldron
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)Kindersley, Major Guy M.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Elliot. Major Walter E.King, Captain Henry DouglasSprot, Sir Alexander
Elveden, ViscountKnox, Sir AlfredStanley, Col. Hon. G.F. (Will'sden. E.)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.Stanley. Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Fairfax, Captain J. G.Little, Dr. E. GrahamStorry-Deans, R.
Falle, Sir Bertram G.Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Fanshawe, Commander G. D.Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanStreatfeild, Captain S. R.
Fermoy, LordMacAndrew, Major Charles GlenStuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Fielden, E. B.Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (J. of W.)Styles, Captain H. Walter
Ford, Sir P. J.Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Forestler-Walker, Sir L.McDonnell, Colonel Hon. AngusSugden, Sir Wilfrid
Foster, Sir Harry S.Maclntyre, IanTasker, Major R. Inlgo
Foxcrott, Captain C. T.McLean, Major A.Thomson, F C. (Aberdeen, South)
Fraser, Captain IanMacmillan, Captain H.Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Macquisten, F. A.Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Galbraith, J. F. W.MacRobert, Alexander M.Tinne, J. A.
Gates, PercyMakins, Brigadier-General E.Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George AbrahamMalone, Major P. B.Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Gilmour. Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnManningham-Buller, Sir MervynWarrender, Sir Victor
Gower, Sir RobertMarriott, Sir J. A. R.Watts, Dr. T.
Grace, JohnMeller, R. J.Wells, S. R.
Grant, Sir J. A.Merriman, F. B.White, Lieut.-Col sir G. Dalrymple
Greene, W. P. CrawfordMitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Grotrian, H. BrentMonsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Moore, Lieut.-Colone T. C. R. (Ayr)Wilson. R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Moore, Sir Newton J.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hammersley, S. S.Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryMorden, Col. W. GrantWise, Sir Fredric
Hartington, Marquess ofMurchison. C. K.Withers, John James
Haslam, Henry C.Nail, Colonel Sir JosephWolmer, Viscount
Hawke, John AnthonyNeville, R. J.Wood. E. (Chester, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)Oman, Sir Charles William C.Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)Ormsby-Gore, Hon. WilliamYerburgh. Major Robert D. T.
Hennessy, Major J. R. G.Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-
Pilcber, G.Lord Stanley and Captain Margesson.
Power, Sir John Cecil

Original Question put, and agreed to.