I beg to move, in page 4, to leave out lines 36 to 39, inclusive.
This is the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act of 1919. None of us on these Benches is in favour of the unrestricted influx of labour of any kind into this country from anywhere, and it is not in defence of the right or the inclination of anyone to come here at any time to find work irrespective of whether there is room for them or no. We are not raising the question from the point of view of the ordinary working people who may want to emigrate to this country. We have just the same feeling about the influx of immigrants to displace labour here, or to overcrowd the labour market, as our friends in the Colonies have against us overcrowding their labour market. Therefore, that question does not arise today. But the powers possesscd by the Home Secretary under this Act were given him in 1914 because of the state of emergency at that time. They have been carried on by this amending Act which we are asked to continue to-day, not during a state of emergency, but, as I believe, because certain people in this country desire to take away the right of asylum which we have always provided for people guilty of political offences. Had this Act been in operation before the War people like Kropotkin and Mazzini would never have been allowed to find a refuge here. No one would say they, and many others who have found an asylum here, abused it. I can remember cases when people have done that and have been made amenable to the ordinary law of the country.
I regret very much indeed that since the War this right of asylum has been taken away. In the case of Royalty this is not so. I do not object in any way to this country giving refuge or hospitality to people belonging to the reigning houses which have been more or less abolished on the Continent, but I want equality of treatment between them and others. The ex-King and Queen of Portugal find this country quite hospitable, and the ex-King of Greece, and I believe some members of his family, were rescued by a British ship. I am not objecting to that. I would not object to rescuing and saving life of any individual, whatever his status. I do object to this Act which allows that kind of discrimination and which penalises what is called the ordinary revolutionist as against the super-revolutionist or counter-revolutionist remaining on the Statute Book. I would like to point out, for instance, that under such a law if the present Home Secretary—I am sorry that he is not here—
That is fine. You can tell him what I say. If the present Home Secretary had lived under a more robust Government than that which ruled in this country during the years immediately preceding the war, he would have suffered a term of imprisonment for sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion. Under the laws of the United States of America, he would not have been permitted to enter the country because of his having been engaged in seditious conspiracy here. I would like to ask him how he would feel if he landed under the Statue of Liberty and found himself placed on Ellis Island and afterwards deported as an undesirable alien because of his partaking in the Ulster revolutionary activities. I notice that the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Eastbourne (Sir R. Hall) does not think much of that.
I am accusing the Home Secretary of that for which, almost in a white sheet, he apologised on the other side when we reminded him of it some months ago, that is, of his unconstitutional action in aiding and abetting a revolutionary movement in Ulster which raised an army to overthrow the King's forces in that country. I am saying that had we been blessed by so robust a Home Secretary as he has proved himself to be, he would have been laid by the heels, and in going to America he would have been treated as an undesirable alien and deported because of his seditious activities in this country. I wanted to ask him whether he would not consider that the time had arrived when we should treat people who desire to come to this country on an equality. I have never blamed him; I would not blame anyone who took part in the Ulster business if he felt that it was right, and that he ought to do so. I could disagree with him.
I wanted to point the moral of this kind of legislation, because it applies in the United States, and I wanted the right hon. Gentleman to think of himself in a similar position to a revolutionist who comes before him.
I think, Mr. Chairman, that you are quite right. I will not trespass upon your good nature any more, except to say that I want to ask the Home Secretary to put himself in the place of these other people with whom he has to deal under the provisions of this Act. I do not think that the country realises the enormous powers which the right hon. Gentleman possesses in regard to naturalisation which, I understand, I am not able to discuss under this Amendment. He has enormous powers which make him, in fact, a sort of dictator over people who happen not to have been born in this country. The point is that the whole of this Act was passed in a great hurry, on the 5th August, 1914, without any discussion at all because of the state of national emergency in the country. I will repeat what I think I have said here once before, namely, that when you have a war, and you are in a condition of war it is impossible to talk about liberty and freedom. War imposes conditions which none of us like, but which are necessary if you have a war. Therefore, these restrictions were accepted during the war because of the necessities imposed by the war. When the war came to an end and certain portions of the emergency legislation were repealed this particular Act was not repealed. It was carried on in these words.
The powers which under Sub-section (1) of Section one of the Aliens Restriction Act, 1914 (which Act, as amended by this Act, is hereinafter in this Act referred to as the principal Act)—
This is the point, Mr. Chairman—
are exercisable with respect to aliens at any time when a state of war exists between His Majesty and any foreign Power, or when it appears that an occasion of imminent national danger or great emergency has arisen, shall, for a period of one year after the passing of this Act, be exercisable, not only in those circumstances, but at any time; and accordingly that Sub-section shall, for such period as aforesaid, have effect as though the words 'at any time when a state of war exists between His Majesty and any foreign Power, or when it appears that an occasion of imminent national danger or great emergency has arisen' were omitted.
That is to say that all these powers are to rest with the Home Secretary irrespective of the fact that for the past 10 years the state of emergency has passed away, and that, so far as I know, there is no reason whatever why the powers should remain with him. Under these powers, the right hon Gentleman can, of his own goodwill or free will—I will not say bad will—stop trade union delegates, from coming to this country because he disagrees with their particular point of view. He can stop distinguished people from coming to this country just when he pleases. I do not make any personal charges against the right hon. Gentleman. I have had occasion to take cases to him, and I have always been treated courteously and with a great deal of sympathy, but there are certain things which happen which, I think, create ill-will abroad, and do a very great deal of damage.
About a month, or, perhaps, five weeks ago, Professor Ebeid, of Egypt, who was a Minister in the Government lately abolished, wished to visit this country. He arrived with his wife at one of the ports, and I understand that his passport was duly vised, and that there was no reason whatever, so far as I can understand, why he should have been stopped from landing. They had had a very bad crossing, and, when they were about to land, they were told that it was impossible for them to do so and that they must go back again. In spite of the fact that the authorities were told that the crossing had been bad and that the Professor's wife was ill, both of them had to journey back to France and wait until the Home Secretary had been communicated with before they were allowed to land in this country. Any Act of Parliament which allows that kind of treatment is something which ought to be got rid of. Professor Ebeid is a gentleman whom some of us have known for a good number of years. He is the Secretary of the Was in Egypt and is against the present regime. We have been told in this House, authoritatively, by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that we had no hand in abolishing the Egyptian Parliament, that it has nothing whatever to do with us, and that, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, they did not interfere, and had no intention of interfere, and yet when an ex-Minister, a man who was educated in this country, who is a great friend of this country and is not a Socialist, but an ordinary Egyptian Minister, comes to this country, he is treated with this indignity. I think it is a perfect disgrace to all concerned. That, two or three police officers should have the power to send back a distinguished stranger of that kind and he and his wife should be treated as if they were criminals, will take a great deal of explaining. I would like the Home Secretary to make an explanation so that the people in Egypt may understand that, although the King of Egypt and his advisers have taken a certain line of action against certain people, His Majesty's Government in this country are not going to add to the trouble by treating Egyptians with the indignity that Professor Ebeid has been treated.
This is only one case that comes to my memory at the moment, but there have been cases of trade unionists who have come here and have been treated in an undesirable way. I am not at the moment speaking of Russians, although the treatment in those cases is equally bad, but I am speaking of ordinary trade unionists, especially the Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation. There is always great difficulty whenever he comes to this country. I suppose it is because the Home Secretary and his advisers know that Mr. Fimmen has a connection with the Russian trade unionists and, therefore, is suspect. It is not good enough that such powers should reside with the Home Secretary. It is time we reverted to the old policy, but not of allowing an influx of labour to come into this country without any regulation whatsoever. I am not raising it from the point of view of a man coming here for work, but purely from the point of view of people coming here on visits and who are able to maintain themselves while they are here, without interfering with the ordinary work in this country.
I would like to put a further point that, however generous and sympathetic the Home Secretary may be, there is a great hardship in the manner in which the Act is administered in regard to persons who are ordered for deportation, and also with respect to the ordinary alien who lands here and who falls under suspicion. The authorities may take him to a certain police station or to Scotland Yard and they can interrogate him, without anyone being present, and turn him inside out, so to speak, by examination, and if he happens to be a foreigner and is not able thoroughly to understand our language he may give himself away, without being actually guilty of any real offence. These persons can be kept in prison or in detention for fairly long periods without being brought to trial and when they are tried and ordered for deportation they are on occasion kept in prison for very considerable periods. The whole of this legislation ought to be repealed. We ought to allow it to lapse, and if it is necessary, in order to deal with criminals some machinery of deportation should be set up, the House should settle down and make the machinery such that the public may see how it works and may know that it does not depend upon the decision of one individual man whether a person shall or shall not be deported.
On the general question of the right of asylum, not the right of people to come here to take work but the right of asylum for people who are able to maintain themselves, I claim for the ordinary revolutionist, the ordinary Bolshevist or counter-Bolshevist, equality of treatment. White Russians are in this country in great numbers. I know that, if the Home Secretary does not know it, and I will, if he desires, try to supply him with the names of a few of them. One hon. and gallant Member of this House who, I am sorry to say, is not in his place, could give the Home Secretary information in regard to white Russians in this country who are continuously organising against the Bolshevik Government. I am not complaining about them being here, because I want equal treatment for all, but I would call attention to the differentiation between one and the other. In a year's time the Home Secretary will not have the chance, in his official capacity, of saying anything on this subject, and I wish he would today, as a kind of death-bed repentance, agree to drop this Act. I hope that, in order to let the Egyptian Nationalists know that this Government has had no part or lot in the abolition or suspension of the Egyptian Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say that it was not on his instructions that the professor was treated in the way to which I have referred. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do that not merely for the sake of satisfying the Egyptian Nationalists, but in order that the people of Egypt, who can do a very great deal to assist British trade in that country—that sort of appeal nearly always has weight with right hon. and hon. Members opposite—may know that the British Government have no desire to interfere with the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
This will be the last opportunity in this Parliament that I shall be able to put forward the view which I have persistently advocated. I am pleased that the Home Secretary is in his place, and I want to endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) in regard to the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with specific cases. I wish to pay my tribute to the right hon. Gentleman that in cases which I have brought to his notice he has taken considerable care and, within the limits of the law, he has been absolutely just. It is only right and proper that I should say that this particular Section of the Act we are now discussing was intended to be in force for two years, but as a result of the opposition in another place it was altered to one year, and a pledge practically was given that it would only be in force for one year. Now it has become a permanent feature in our legislation. I have not heard a single reason why this special legislation, which I agree was necessary in time of war, should be continued now. One of the most precious heritages of this country is the right of asylum which she has always given, whether we agree with a person's political views or not, and to leave it to the fiat of any one man, whoever the Home Secretary may be, to declare that these persons shall not enter this country is a reversal of our traditional policy which up to the present has been one of our glories. The whole legislation concerning the admission of aliens wants revision, particularly in regard to naturalisation and young children who have been educated in this country, but who are still technically aliens. I have supported this Amendment on every occasion during the present Parliament. I feel quite certain that the Home Secretary will not give us any satisfaction this afternoon, but probably within a few months time other people will be in office who will make the necessary change.
I just want to put one question to the Home Secretary. I sometimes wonder whether the path of employers in this country who make application for people to enter is not made very easy, whereas the path of trade union delegates who desire to associate with trade unionists in this country for brief periods is made somewhat difficult. At any rate, the way for them is not made easy. At the present moment there is an influx into this country, for the purposes of the artificial silk industry, of people who claim to be technicians. It seems to be easy for many of these people to get past the Home Secretary. Is it right that there should be a discrimination which enables these people, who may not be all that is desired, to get into this country so easily? The time has come when we should get rid of the burden which now rests on the shoulders of the Home Secretary of having to issue these permits.
I want to add a word to what has been said by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). We are not raising the general question of the admission of foreigners and aliens for the purposes of taking up labour in this country, but are confining ourselves to the way in which we should extend the principle of hospitality to aliens. The quality of hospitality, like the quality of mercy, is not strained, but there is a feeling that the hospitality of this country is being strained by the administration of this Act by the Home Office. We have had an illustration in the course of the last 12 months, in one particular case, as to how one would regard a proper application of these powers.
It is rather a striking and well-known case. Not long ago the ex-Crown Prince of Rumania came to this country, and in that matter I think the Home Secretary acted with strict propriety and did exactly what he ought to have done. Everyone knew that this young gentle-man was very active on the Continent before he came to this country, but he was allowed to enter on the assumption that he would not violate the hospitality of these shores. He was here for ten or twelve days, and then the Home Secretary, having had his attention drawn to his activities, invited him to leave these shores because he was violating our hospitality. That is exactly how I think the Home Secretary ought to act in these cases. He assumed in this case that the alien was going to act in strict accord with proper standards of conduct in return for our hospitality. But what happens in the case of other people? In the two cases which have been cited this afternoon instead of assuming that they were going to behave properly he assumed that they were not going to behave properly. For instance, in the ease of Mr. Fimmen, he refused' him admission because he feared that he would not behave himself properly. That is an illustration of what we fear so much in the application of this law.
Why should it be assumed that Mr. Fimmen, who is a person of repute in trade union circles on the Continent, would behave himself differently from the ex-Crown Prince of Rumania who, it was assumed, would behave himself properly, and accordance with the law of hospitality. Why not have given Mr. Fimmen the chance of coming here, then if he failed to observe the standards of decent conduct tell him that the hospitality extended to him was at an end. Why not do the same thing in the case of the gentleman from Egypt? Why not assume that he would act in strict accordance with the standards of our law? Instead of that we get the assumption that they are not likely to live up to the standards, and, therefore, we say that we cannot take the risk. Why not take the risk in the case of ex-Royalties and not in the case of those who call themselves revolutionaries? Bit by bit we are coming to this position, that the application of the Aliens Act is being most rigorously applied where there is a chance, indeed a probability, of a difference of political thought between the alien and the Home Office.
I submit that the Home Secretary has no right to act as a Conservative towards aliens. It is his business to act as a Britisher and not as a Conservative. It is the introduction of his Conservative philosophy into this business that we so much resent. It is his business to apply the law, not from the Conservative point of view, but impartially. Quite a large number of what are called White Russians are allowed into this country at the present time. Anyone who cares to read, as we sometimes do, of the doings of society, can read how Prince So-and-So or General So-and-So was here, there or somewhere else. How do these people come here? Why is it assumed that they will act in accordance with the standards expected of people living in this country? It is because they are assumed to hold the same political outlook as the Government of the day. But people who take the Red Russian outlook are suspect and are not allowed to touch the shores of this country. That is the gravamen of the charge against the administration of the Home Secretary. We do not think that the right hon. Gentleman wants to be inhuman, but we do think that he allows his political bias to enter into the matter too much. To that degree we think his hospitality is rather strained and has not the quality of mercy.
I wish to put some questions to the Home Secretary. I see in the returns which are issued yearly in regard to naturalisation, some interesting figures that are worth mentioning. I find that in 1925, whilst there were 709 Europeans naturalized—
I do not think that naturalisation comes into this particular Bill, which continues Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction Act of 1919, which in turn continues Section 1 of the similar Act of 1914. That has nothing to do with naturalisation, but with the admission or non-admission of aliens.
It deals with their admission, and I wanted to quote from this return figures which deal with the countries from which the aliens come. They have been admitted from those countries and perhaps you will allow me to develop on that line. In 1925, of 709 who came from European countries, 352 came from Russia; in the following year 855 Europeans, of whom 463 came from Russia; in the following year, the last year for which we have returns, there were 880, of whom 482 came from Russia. In those three years, of the Europeans admitted, we have 50, 54 and 55 per cent. respectively of Russians. That is a, continually increasing number from Russia. I would like to know who these people are and how many of them have come in under a permit from the Ministry of Labour to do work in this country, and how many of them have come otherwise? What are they doing'? How many during the last year have been deported—those who have come presumably to do work—and how many others have been deported? Are there any cases in which these aliens are required to reside in certain places or districts in the country as provided by the Act? Have they been limited to those districts or have they been free to go anywhere? How many of them have been prohibited from residing in any specified areas? Are there any specified areas at all in which any of the aliens who come here are precluded from residing? What provision is being made, by way of regulations, as to change of abode, travelling and so forth? How many cases are there of persons being arrested or detained or of their premises or persons being searched? Have any Government measures been taken during the past year for the securing of greater safety than existed before? All those matters come up in connection with the 1914 Act.
I am very glad to have this early opportunity, by no means the last one, of dealing with the administration of the Aliens Act. To clear away one point made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Cecil Wilson), I would say that the figures which he gave were naturalisation figures, and naturalisation is not before the Committee to-day. I shall later answer the other question as to how far and in what way I have administered the Aliens Act. May I thank the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) for the very courteous way in which they referred to my feelings in this matter. They know that this is not one of the easiest departments of Home Office work. It is work that was done by the Labour party Home Secretary while he was in office. Parliament has entrusted to me a very large responsibility and discretion. I shall be very glad indeed to hear those hon. Gentlemen who, from time to time, have attacked me in regard to the administration of the Act. In cases that they have put before me, I have endeavoured to deal fairly and not, as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) seemed to think, from the political point of view.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asked about aliens who come here to obtain work. These people are allowed to come in only when they have obtained a permit from the Minister of Labour. The Home Office is in this respect a clearing house for several other Departments of the Government—for the Foreign Office in regard to certain cases, and in regard to those who come in for labour the Minister of Labour is the person who has to deal with the cases in the first instance. Before anyone can come in to take a job, whether he desires to come on his own account or whether application has been made by an employer to get him in, the Minister of Labour must be satisfied, first, that every possible effort has been made by the employer to find suitable labour in this country, and, secondly, the Minister must be satisfied that the wages to be paid to the alien are not less than those usually received by the British for similar work. Without this safeguard aliens would crowd into the British labour market.
I am very glad to hear that statement. It is the first time I have heard it made. The hon. Member for Mile End has on previous occasions gone a little further than that in his charges as to the administration of the Aliens Act. We do see that everyone who comes in has sufficient means to maintain himself or that he will not be a burden to the English labour market. The hon. Member for Rochdale has mentioned the artificial silk industry, and there are other trades where I can conceive that it is not only possible but highly desirable that we should bring in a certain amount of foreign labour for a period in order to instruct our English labour in the processes of manufacture. I know of a case in my own constituency. Recently a very large factory has been built, on one side of my own Division. I need not advertise it but it is an American factory, for the manufacture of certain articles. An application was made, for permission to bring over 20 American foremen and experts in order that they might train British workmen. They have trained or are training them and the factory is beginning to afford considerable employment and in a few months, as a result of that American factory going up, and of the American workmen coming in, to train our men, there will be no fewer than 1,000 British was men employed where two years ago there was no factory and no work of any kind. Surely that is a desirable thing to do.
Nearly all these people come in on what we call time conditions. They have to report from time to time either to the Ministry of Labour or to my Department and unless the time is extended for the purpose of farther instruction they have to go back to the country from which they came. Of course there is the question also of the large number of undesirable aliens who seek to come into this country —destitute aliens, aliens of criminal antecedeats, diseased aliens, and so forth. I am sure the Committee will agree that it is desirable to keep these out and we must have some kind of organisation at our ports in order to keep out these undesirable aliens. But when the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley comes to the question of revolutionary aliens, then I am afraid, with all my desire to be courteous, it is difficult for me to agree with him. There are two kinds of revolutionary alien [Hoy. MEMBERS "Hear, hear"]. There are two kinds of foreign revolutionary alien. There is the revolutionary alien who may or may not indulge in revolutionary activities against some foreign country when he is here, such as the Rumanian Prince to whom the hon. Member for Caerphilly referred and in regard to whom he agreed that the administration of the Aliens Act was entirely satisfactory.
We do not take hold of undesirable aliens of any kind, by the scruff of the neck, and deport them through the agency of the police, except in very exceptional circumstances. Nearly every man is treated as that particular Prince was treated. Nearly every man who is believed to be engaged in activities which violate his right to the hospitality of this country is told that he had better go and very largely they go without further action. I shall give the figures of those actually deported but they are very few. Then comes the revolutionary alien who is not a revolutionary against his own country but who is likely to be a revolutionary against this country. I am very sorry to differ from hon. Gentlemen opposite but I think it is my duty to keep out these men. I propose to keep them out, and I am keeping them out with more or less success. Occasionally some friend of the hon. Member opposite may get through the net, revolutionary as he may he. But let me give the figures for which I have been asked. Of course there is an enormous traffic of aliens in this country. There are hundreds of thousands of people who come in here from abroad in the ordinary course for business reasons or on pleasure or to see our country and so forth, and these hundreds of thousands are never interfered with but come and go, in exactly the same way as the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley may go to the Riviera if he wishes. I do not think I need trouble the Committee with the figures as to those people: they are all in the annual report. But there are of course a certain number who are refused leave to land. It is interesting to notice that, in the course of my administration, the number of aliens who have been refused leave to land from all causes—either because they are revolutionaries or diseased or undesirable or anything of that kind—is gradually being reduced. In the year 1923, there were 3,173 refused leave to land at our ports. In the year 1924, when the administration was in the hands of the party opposite for eight or nine months, 2,485 were refused leave to land. In 1925, my first year of office, the number was 2,414; in 1926, 1,943; in 1927, 2,092; and this year, for nine months, the number is 1,534. In other words, there have been fewer refusals of leave to land under my harsh jurisdiction than when my right horn Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) was Home Secretary.
Now let me take the question of deportation. The hon. Member for Attercliffe did not tell me he was going to raise a question on the particular details which he mentioned, and I have not got full particulars as to the reasons for deportation, but I will deal with them generally. In 1923, there were 351 deportations; in 1924, 228; in 1925, 256; in 1926, 230; in 1927, 285; and this year there have been 202. Of these, 1,298 were deportations made on the direct recommendation or certificate of a court of summary jurisdiction. The alien in those eases had been tried for an offence against the law of the land, and the magistrate, in addition to whatever sentence he imposed, had recommended that the alien should be deported for the good of this country. Accordingly the hon. Member will see that it is a small number of cases which come within my ken without a previous recommendation. Those-cases which do so come within my ken in regard to this matter are most carefully investigated. Deportations do not take place in a hurry. The case is inquired into in the first instance by my Department, and the papers are then put before either the Parliamentary Under-Secretary or the Permanent Under-Secretary. If they are passed by those two or by one of those two, they come to me. If they are not passed, the alien remains here. When they have gone through that sieve, they come again to me, and again I consider the whole of the report in regard to them, and by no means do I always deport in the cases which are put before me.
When I come to the conclusion that a man, for instance, has been gravely suspected by the police of offences that do take place, and which, I am sorry to say, with certain classes of aliens are rather common, but in regard to which we may not be able to proceed against them in the Courts, then I think I am entitled to say, "Go back to your own country; you are not a desirable person to remain here'; and under those circumstances I make the order. I ask the Committee, What better jurisdiction could you have than a Home Secretary to carry out this duty? Would you put it before the police? Would you put it before an independent tribunal that you could not attack in Parliament? As it is, you have got a Minister of State who is personally responsible for every single deportation, and if he does what is wrong, you can come to see him before it is done. It is generally known. Hon. Members opposite know, and they have said to-day that they come to me and discuss eases with me, and I have either convinced them that it is right to deport or they have convinced me that I should refuse to deport. If I do wrong, I can be called to account in the House of Commons and is there any better way that anybody could suggest for carrying out very grave duties of this kind, which must be matters of discretion, and which cannot be matters for the decision of the Courts of Law? You can, if you like, press for an independent tribunal, but I do not think it would be right. If that were done, all I would say would be, "The tribunal has decided the matter, and I am not responsible; I have not been through the case"; whereas, if it is left to me, you can at any time call me before the Bar of the House, either by question or by attacking my Vote. I venture respectfully to suggest to the Committee that the Order is being worked with great care, with a good deal of sympathy, and with full knowledge of the House of Commons that it could not have a better tribunal.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe asked me how many were on a limited register. I have not got the figures, but there are very few indeed. The limited register is generally used in this way, when a Court has decided—generally a Court—or when I have decided that it is desirable to deport a certain person, and his supposed country of origin will not admit that he is one of its nationals, we sometimes have great difficulty in getting a passport to get him back to his own coot try. As the Committee knows, I cannot put a man on a ship and send him off to any country; I can only send him back to his own country, and while inquiries are pending there are two possibilities. One is to keep him in prison, which is undesirable and generally unfair, and the other is to cheek his activities, and the law gives me power to make a restrictive order that he shall reside in a certain place and not go outside the limits of that area. That only lasts generally for a few weeks, until we are able to come to a final decision as to what can he done with him. The hon. Member asks whether there are specified areas where no alien can reside at all. Nothing of the kind. So far as I know, there, is no area in this country which is forbidden altogether to aliens, and in the case of every alien who is nut in a specified limited area, it is done by separate and distinct order.
No. Those who come in come in with permits from the Ministry of Labour or something of that kind, and there is no special determination of the area. In regard to certain people who are allowed to come in for a particular time, some to attend a trade union congress or something of that kind, they are allowed in for a particular time. By the way, I have just received information from one of my secretaries that this man Fimmen has been allowed in.
Oh yes. The last time, you allowed him in. The right hon. Gentleman will not accuse me of trying to he unfair. Fimmen was definitely prohibited from entering the time before last, but on the last occasion he was allowed to come after representations were made. I think he ought to be allowed to come in freely, like the Prince.
I am not suggesting that the hon. Member was unfair; that was his suggestion. He and I get on very well together, and, besides, I ought to give him a bouquet in reply to the One he gave me. Fimmen was refused liberty to come in in August, 1926, but I allowed him in for a conference in May, 1927, and again in November, 1927, to attend a conference, and T allowed him in in November this year.
I know, but the hon. Member did not tell the Committee that I had allowed him in three times. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is Fimmen?"] He is one of those gentlemen who might be called a revolutionary or who might be called a patriot, according to the way in which you look at it. Lastly, I want to deal with the question of the Egyptian gentleman that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley raised. I said just now that we are a clearing house, as it were, for different State. Departments, and in regard to foreign people of various kinds, foreign people of importance, who desire to come, we are advised, and quite rightly so, by our own Foreign Office. In regard to this gentleman Professor Ebeid it will not be disputed by the hon. Member opposite that he was an extremist in Egypt. As long ago as 1921 he was a follower of Zaghloul.
It is quite wrong to describe Professor Ebeid as an extremist. He is an Egyptian nationalist, a member of Zaghloul's party, and I think we ought to treat Professor Ebeid as any right hon. Gentleman opposite would like to be treated in Egypt if he went there. I do not think it is fair to speak of him as an extremist. He does not belong to our party. He is not of our colour at all, he, is of your colour.
If the hon. Member wants a full explanation of the dealings of the Home Office with Professor Ebeid, I must give reasons why we kept him out. I could say, "I did not let him in, and there is an end of it," but that would not satisfy the hon. Member, and I am trying, with my usual courtesy, to give him reasons. At all events, he will not dispute that Professor Ebeid shared Zaghloul's deportation from Egypt by the Egyptian Government. In May, 1925, instructions were issued that this gentleman should not be allowed to come into this country.
I am going on to tell the hon. Member, and if I tell him he will not like it. The instructions were quite definite, because wee received a request from our High Commissioner in Egypt, at that time Lord Allenby. This gentleman was then thought to be engaged in some of those operations that took place in Egypt, and to be one of the men who were likely to have been implicated in the movement that took place there in 1925: and we were advised by His Majesty's representative in Egypt that it was undesirable that he should be allowed at that time to come into this country. Therefore, we decided that he should not be allowed to come here. As far as I know, he did not lay to corns here until this year. He then tried apparently to come— the lion Member is quite correct—and was refused leave to land, there having been no previous reference through the Foreign Office.
There ought to have been a reference, I admit, but there was no such reference, and, consequently, he was not allowed to land. Following that, the right hon. Gentleman asked that this Egyptian gentleman should be allowed to come here with his wife, I believe for medical reasons, to enable her to consult an English doctor, and at once I communicated with the Foreign Office, who immediately said he should be allowed to come. He has been allowed to do so, and, not only that, but I am prepared to cancel his time condition, so that he may stay here as long as he likes. Of course, the hon. Gentleman opposite probably does not know what has been going on between us during these past weeks. We have acted, I think, not only with kindness, but with perfect friendliness. I am going to ask the hon. Member to accept from me that we have done what he would have wished, and I do not think he will have any further reason to complain.
I have no doubt that he will make a perfectly friendly stay in this country, unless he should meet, the hon. Gentleman. Of course, the Committee will understand that I am here to answer all these questions. If the Amendment were carried, the whole alien arrangements would be gone, and the door would be open to every kind of alien to pour into all parts of the country, and it is quite impossible that hon. Members would vote for the Amendment if they thought there was any possibility of doing away with all the arrangements for dealing with aliens. I am looking forward to bringing in a Bill in the course of the next Parliament in order to put, on a permanent and satisfactory footing, the administration of the Alien Acts. I have already got the Bill in draft, and I hope hon. Members opposite will afford it their usual courtesy.
I do not propose to ask my hon. friends to vote on this Amendment for the reasons the right hon. Gentleman has given, that we should not Ire able to deal with the aliens as we would require to deal with them. But I do want to say that his explanation—his very cursory explanation—in regard to Professor Ebeid, is not satisfactory to me, at any rate. I take the view that this Government have nothing whatever to do with the internal life and government of Egypt. This gentleman is an Ex-Minister, and, in my judgment, was treated in a very discourteous and outrageous manner. He begged that his wife who was ill, might be allowed to stay, even if he went back to France. But that was not allowed.
Then, with regard to the communication of my right hon. friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. Macdonald), it so happens that I know all about that communication, and I also know that Professor Ebeid denies altogether that it was simply a matter of coming for medical advice. He just wanted to visit England, and to see his friends. Why should he not see his friends? The impudence of Englishmen who go everywhere all over the world, and if one gets imprisoned, because he has broken the law somewhere, the whole House of Commons is called upon to take action on his behalf! Yet here is a responsible Egyptian gentleman who comes to this country with his wife and gets this kind of treatment. I think that the least the right hon. Gentleman might do is to send a letter explaining to the Professor that it was a mistake that they were dealt with in the manner they were, and regretting that such treatment was meted out to them. I think there ought to be a public expression of regret because of this treatment, which the right hon. Gentleman himself does not defend. He knows perfectly well that much good may result from the Professor's visit to this country. Nobody wants the condition in Egypt to remain as it is. Everyone wants it to change, and this man, although a strong Egyptian nationalist, wants, as there should be, the best of friendship between Egypt and this country, and you can only have friendship when you treat one another as equals and with a certain amount of consideration. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Before the Amendment is withdrawn, may I say a word, as the hon. Gentleman has challenged my statement about the medical reasons? Here is a letter which I received from the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. Macdonald) saying that Professor Ebeid was coming to England in order, as he was informed, that his wife might have an operation.
Yes, but the professor has made it quite clear that there must have been a misunderstanding with the right hon. Gentleman on that matter. My point is that that ought never to have arisen. The right hon. Gentleman ought not co have been called upon to write a letter to get permission for a man of the standing of Professor Ebeid to land in this country. He ought to have been allowed to land here without any question as to whether he was coming for his wife to be operated upon. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen want freedom to go any- where and live wherever they please and the same right ought not to be denied to this gentleman.
I beg to move, in page 5, to leave out lines 21 to 20, inclusive. it is my duty to call the attention of the Committee to an Act included in the Schedule of this Bill, entitled the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, 1920. The party on this side of the House regard the continued inclusion of Section 2 of this Act in the Schedule as a very serious matter indeed: and we propose that, in order to show our opposition to it, to divide the Committee on the subject to-day. The Act of 1920 was the outcome of a series of conventions passed at International Labour Conferences held in Washington and Genoa in 1919, and it was passed through this House in order to bring the legislation of our country into line with that of other nations. All its provisions, except Section 2, indicated a great step in advance, even in our industrial laws. For instance, it abolished the half-timer. While, however, the other Sections marked a big step forward in our industrial legislation, Section 2 to which we now call attention, was decidedly a reactionary move. The objectionable Section contains a principle underlying a decision arrived at at Washington in 1919; and I am informed on good authority that a claim was then made by Japan that the two-shift system should be a subject of an international convention. In the negotiations which followed, it emerged that this country had to fall one or two steps backwards in its industrial code so that Japan might come forward a stage and have the system embodied in its industrial legislation.
It was one of the first steps taken in this country to reduce the standard of our industrial legislation; and in so doing the Government of the day, which was a Coalition, undoubtedly forgot a provision of the Versailles Treaty. Part 13 of that Treaty makes it perfectly clear, that in the ratification of any international convention the conditions prevailing in the country where the convention is ratified should not be worsened. The first complaint that we have to make against Section 2 therefore is that it is a violation of that provision of the Treaty of Versailles. The hours of labour of women and young persons in this country were always governed prior to the War by the provisions of the Factories Act of 1901. It is well known that in connection with the production of munitions of war much of our legislation was set aside; the Defence of the Realm Act was passed, and arrangements made in many factories whereby what is called the two-shift system was instituted, for war purposes only by the way. The change that was brought about then meant that instead of the provisions of the Factories Act, 1901, applying in such a way that women and young persons should not be employed after eight o'clock in the evening, the Defence of the Realm Act made it possible for them to be employed up to 10 o'clock at night, making it possible also for a two-shift system of eight hours in one day to be worked in a factory.
When the War ended there was a demand, as is always the case, by manufacturers, owners of factories, and mills and other employers, that the War provisions which I have mentioned should be stabilised. The Government of the day succumbed to the claim, with the result, that the Section about which we now complain was passed into law. The point should be made doubly clear that this Section was an emergency provision, intended purely for war purposes.
The proof that it was never intended to continue beyond the war period is to be found in the Section itself. There is, in fact, in the Act of 1920 a condemnation of the Section; and I have never been able to understand how Governments could possibly, after January, 1926, allow the Section to continue at all. If hon. Members will read this Section they will see how preposterous is the situation, in which a Government in 1928 can ask Parliament in continue, it for another 12 months. Sub-section (6) of the Section declares:
This Section shall remain in force for a period of five years from the commencement of this Act and no longer, and any order made under this Section shall, unless previously revoked by the Secretary of State in pursuance of his powers under this Section remain in force for a like period.
Strangely enough, we are being asked, by continuing this Section, to break the law of 1920 interpreted in the Section itself. The right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of explaining how we can continue a Section of an Act of Parliament year by year when in the very Sect ion itself there is a provision to abolish it on 1st January, 1926. That argument can surely be employed very effectively against the further continuation of the Section.
Let me turn to a point in connection with the administration of the Section. It was stated in 1920 that there were then 26,000 women and 3,600 young persons employed on the two-shift system. I have been trying to get information as to the present position; and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to answer one or two questions in this connection. Can he tell us how many persons are now employed under all the Orders which have been issued, and which are still in force? It would be interesting to know, too, how many of the Orders are still in force, and how many have been cancelled or annulled. Is the number of requests for the issue of these Orders increasing, and are we not in fact proceeding to the stage when practically all employers of labour engaged in factory work will claim that the two-shift system shall become universal? I shall be able to prove a little later that, at the rate at which Orders are being issued under this Section, we shall very soon reach the stage when the whole of the workpeople of this country will be employed under the two-shift system—a very terrible state of affairs to contemplate.
The strange thing about this Section is that when the Act was introduced as a Bill in 1920, every Labour man, in the very nature of things, every Liberal, and every Conservative, who spoke in the 'Debate upon it, opposed its inclusion. But, as is very often the case in this ancient Assembly, some of those who spoke against it voted in its favour. About 800 Orders, all told, must have been issued under this Clause. I would remark, in passing, that one of our objections to its continuance is that the method of securing the consent of the operatives to a request for the issue of an Order is wholly unsatisfactory. Let me put a case such as can happen any day. In fact, my own trade union has experienced a case of this kind. There are, say, 12 persons employed in a factory. The employer goes to them and says: "I want to apply for an Order to introduce the two-shift system here; have you any objection?" In conformity with the Act, a ballot has then to be taken. Of the 12 operatives eight give their consent to the request, whilst four are against. So there is a majority in favour of an Order. Lo and behold, in about 12 months' time the number of work-people in that factory has increased to 300, with the consequence that the eight workpeople who voted in favour of the introduction of the system in the beginning have been able to bind 300 others to a system about which these latter know nothing at all. I submit, therefore, that the method employed in getting the consent of the workpeople is a difficult one to support.
The Home Secretary will turn round, I feel sure, and say: "I have asked for a report on the working of the two-shift system," and, in fact, he will be able to quote what he terms satisfactory evidence from the Factory Inspectors' Report for 1927. By the way, several reports from his representatives throughout the country were, for the first time, included in this Report in 1927; and I feel that in calling for these reports the right hon. Gentleman and his Department must have apprehended what was likely to happen to-day. Is it conceivable say, that where 20 women and young persons are engaged in a factory, they should say "No" to any employer who asks them whether they are willing that the two-shift system shall be introduced? If they say "No," the employer will say: "Very I cannot employ you any longer," and they will become unemployed. In these circumstances the employer is able, on practically every occasion, to exploit the weakness, the inertia, and the fear of unemployment among his workpeople; and therefore the provisions of this Clause cannot operate fairly towards the operatives. On that score alone it ought to be abolished.
Let me pass to the nature of the Orders which have been issued, and the industries to which they apply. With his usual bonhomie the right hon. Gentleman has this morning enjoyed a good laugh over the aliens—the 'Egyptians, the Turks, the Kurds and all the rest of them, but will he be able to see anything funny in these cases? Let me make it clear, first that before an Order can be issued an employer has to make out a case that it is absolutely imperative that it should be granted, for the sake of the firm, for the sake of the industry, in fact, for the sake of the nation. Let us see what Orders have been issued. Orders have been issued to cover chocolate moulding—a very essential trade I should think—riveting perambulator wheels, and washing beer bottles. Just imagine the right hon. Gentleman granting an Order for washing beer bottles under the two-shift system! Stranger still, an Order has been issued permitting women and young persons to be engaged under the two-shift system in enrobing chocolates, whatever that may be, assembling metal toys, and, above all, for making pills.
I cannot tell. A perusal of the list of Orders and the industries to which they apply, which can be secured from the "Gazette," will make it perfectly obvious that some of these Orders are absolutely unnecessary. For example, what sense is there in issuing an Order that the two-shift system shall apply to the manufacture of ice cream suckers, and potato crisp making? Then there is an Order—I can quite understand this—applying to the manufacture of fireworks. Probably we shall get them in June or July next year; they are prepared for use at the General Election, I presume.
There is another point which ought to be made. We complain very strongly of the indiscriminate issue of these Orders because, in some cases they apply to what are purely luxury trades, and in fact, very profitable trades at that. I know of nothing more profitable than tin-facture of chocolates; firms ale making huge profits out of it. Bat the most alarming feature of all is that the two-shift system is creeping into the textile industry. I know that it has not yet been introduced into Lancashire; but it has already appeared in Yorkshire, though when this Act was passing through the House in 1920 I am sure that not a single member of any party ever dreamt that these Orders would ever apply to any section of the textile trade. I am beginning to think, that, very often they are issued where trade unionism does not huevail, or where it is weak; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not putting us back several scores of of years by his action in, as I regard it, torpedoing the Factory Act of 1901. He has declined to, give us a new' Factory Act, but he is going one worse than that, because by continuing this Clause he is destroying one of the main provisions of the Act of 1901.
I am very much concerned about this matter, because there are members of my union employed under the two-shift system. The case which I am about to mention has been quoted before, but I will give it again. There are women and young persons living in Liverpool, in Bootle by the way—I am sure the hon. and gallant Member who represents Bootle (Sir V. Henderson) will be interested in this—who have to cross the Mersey to work in a great soap and candle factory on the other side of the river. The first shift begins at 6 o'clock in the morning.
If that is so the Home Office, in issuing lists of Orders, might tell the public which are continued and which
have been cancelled. Once an Order is made no information is given when it is abandoned. It would be a great service if we knew when a firm had actually decided to give up an Order. Therefore, if I was in error in assuming that the two-shift system was still in operation across the Mersey it is not my fault; it did operate there once. In spite of that, there is a strong case against this provision in the Act upon social grounds. The first shift must commence at 6 o'clock in the morning. In the case of a firm I know the works are seven miles out of the city, and there are scores of women and young persons leaving their homes to commence work on the first shift as early as 4.30, and they cannot reach their occupation until 0 o'clock in the morning. That kind of thing cuts right across all the domestic arrangements of the family. Then, those working on the second shift do not reach home until about 11 o'clock at night. No one can comprehend the social effects of the two shift system. The Home Secretary addressed the Sanitary Conference the other day and delivered a speech in which he said:
Our ultimate goal was to enable us all to work hard and better, and find increased enjoyment in both work and play.
Surely the Home Secretary will agree with me when I say that these women and young persons working on the two-shift system cannot join in recreation or enjoyment, more especially when they work in the afternoons. Another point I wish to touch upon is the atmosphere of the factory. That is a subject which ought to be very carefully considered because it is not fair, especially to the second shift, to have to work in an impure atmosphere. I am told by those who understand the atmospheric conditions of theatres and picture houses, that the intelligent public like to go to the first house, because the atmospheric conditions are not as good in the second. We have been told by the way that we on this side of the House are the people who wish to break up the family life of this country, but I think the Home Secretary ought to consider whether he is not guilty of that in issuing these orders.
I' Will now sum up our objections to this provision. First of all, it perpetuates in peace time that which was intended to operate during the War period, and for a few years afterwards. A definite promise was included in the Act itself, that this provision would end in 1926. It is now 1928. These Orders can be cancelled without inflicting any hardship whatsoever on the owners. By allowing this provision to continue the Government is breaking a solemn pledge which was given in this House to the workers in 1920. The two-shift system should be abandoned because it upsets the domestic arrangements of the workers and their families. I have no hesitation in asking this Committee to turn down the inclusion of this Section in the Bill, and I trust that we shall not only decide against the continuance of this provision but show very definitely in the Division Lobby to-day that we intend to abolish it once and for all.
I want to follow up the general statement made by my hon. friend the Member for West houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) with one or two observations in regard to particular cases. Before I come to that. I wish to say, on the general question, that I am authorised to speak to-day on behalf of a very large number of women organisations which have not only held conferences, but have repeatedly passed resolutions from the standpoint of the mothers of those young girls, and from the standpoint of what they regard as a definite interference with the possibility of developing the education system in connection with adult education and the regular working hours of the young people. The change in the working hours from early hours to late hours is a disturbing factor in domestic life. I have some very pathetic letters which have been written to me, not as a Member of Parliament, but as the chief woman officer of my own trade union, and they are from members of our union. Here is one of them:
In view of the proposed alteration of shift work at Hardy and Hinde's silk factory, namely, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., as a parent I strongly object to this proposition. Both morally and physically the hours are not good for young people. I sincerely hope that you will do all in your power to resist this introduction.
Another woman writes to me as follows:
I am writing concerning the shift system, which all sensible mothers strongly object to. I sincerely trust that Mr. Hardy
will think twice before he forces this unwelcome system upon his workers, who are willing to work anywhere at proper hours.
I remain, sincerely,
from a worried mother,
I have received another letter in the following terms:
I am writing a few lines in regard to Mr. Hardy's silk works, as I hear that the girls have go to go on shifts which I object to. I have been a weaver myself 46 years ago, and quite understand what it is to get up at five o'clock in the mornings, roughing all weathers; also being deprived of all their social evenings through working till late at night, which makes them good for nothing. When they reach home after eleven it also means that it is ruining their health, and I do not think it is fair to the girls.
I have a number of other letters from mothers in which they make reference to the injury done to the health of their daughters. Those are illustrations from the domestic side of life to which this House has not paid sufficient attention. I endorse what my hon. friend the Member for Westhoughton has said, to the effect that this provision was passed under very exceptional circumstances as a temporary measure, and it was never intended to be permanent when it was first introduced. The Home Secretary is quite familiar with these matters, and he has been very courteous in giving us not only an opportunity of discussing this question with him, but also in providing us with a report of his inspectors.
I want to emphasise our protest in connection with the two main points which we have raised and which is confirmed by the Home Office inspectors. Here is a case of a manufacturer who has repeatedly tried to introduce the system in a factory where all his old workers, who are experienced and skilled workers, have definitely, year after year, refused to agree to the system. He is now building a new factory outside the boundaries of the town, where young and inexperienced labour is being introduced. The inspector goes to the factory and secures, from this very small group of inexperienced workers, a consent to work the two-shift system. I want to emphasise and repeat, on information that I have received this morning, that the old workers are being told—in one case the machine was actually dismantled—that they will have to go to the new factory and work under the two-shift system, and that, if they do not, they will have to go to the Employment Exchange. There is not enough work to employ these two factories, and, although they have orders, they have not up to this moment put on the second shift, but they are endeavouring to break down, by this insidious method, the resistance of the experienced workers. The skilled workers, who are all at the one factory, have refused to work the two-shift system. The unskilled new workers are at the new factory, and further work cannot be put there until the skilled workers have trained the others. By this back-door method, pressure is being steadily brought to bear on the workers who have definitely refused, in accordance with the rights granted to there under the Act itself, and they are being compelled one by one to go over to the new factory.
Then, in this report, it is stated that the woman officer who interviewed the girls at the new factory has interviewed about 40 girls, and they have not objected to the two-shift system, but have stated that they are in favour of it. Even supposing that the order was applied with the full and free consent of young girls—and we all know the proportion of young girls now being drafted into these factories—I should not regard that as any evidence in favour of the system. Young girls may like to start at six in the morning and leave off at two, and have the afternoon to themselves, but that is not the point. The point, for those of us who know a little more about life in the factory, is as to the effect that that is going to have upon their lives, not when this is a new experience, when it is something fresh and they rather like the novelty of it, but when they have been three, four, five, 10 or 20 years in a trade which has that system fastened round its neck. Then we shall find a steady deterioration, not merely of the whole factory life of the operatives, but of their domestic life. We shall be sent back again to the conditions that prevailed in Lancashire and Yorkshire before there was any regulation of the hours of labour as there is to-day. I yield to none in my admiration for the splendid spirit of Lancashire people, but no one would pretend that they had any sort of home life when the factory hours were prolonged to the utmost possible extent all through the day. No case has been made out from the standpoint of the development of these particular trades, and, in particular, in the specific case to which I have referred, there is no necessity for it, because everyone knows that there is not enough work to keep the factory going—there is not enough to keep the old mill going full time, and there is not enough to keep the new mill going with half the hours that have been arranged for.
There is another point. It seems to me that the policy of the Home Office has been deliberately to encourage the establishment of the two-shift system. We had a complaint—I do not know whether it was made in a bantering spirit—from an employer who said that he had asked for a temporary Order to meet a particular emergency, which might or might not ever recur, and he was given a permanent Order. He had not asked for a permanent Order. It seems to me that there is a tendency to make this a definite policy, and I should like to know whether that is so. I am the last person in the world to wish to do an injustice to the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to know whether it is the definite policy of the Home Office at the present time, under a Conservative administration, deliberately to establish the two-shift system in all forms of manufacture where it is asked for by the employers, or whether they are going to try to maintain the very fine tradition of the Home Office, which has been that, in so far as its influence is exercised at all, it has been steadily in the past exercised in the direction of reducing the hours of labour and making them such as will fit in with the private life of the community, so as to enable factory work to be undertaken without detriment to the home and family life which we all cherish so much. I support whole-heartedly the demand for the withdrawal of the Section.
In the first place, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how many of these factories have been established on a two-shift basis with the consent of the appropriate trade unions in agreement with the employers, and in how many cases, on the other hand, the consent has been obtained through the workpeople being personally approached, without any intervention on the part of a trade union. In the light of the information which has just been given to the House by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), it is of great importance that we should know where we are in this particular. It is clear that young girls up to the age of 18, who have very little chance of employment, have only a very small margin within which they can exercise any choice, and it means in practice that, where there is no trade union, almost 100 per cent. of the power and authority is in the hands of the immediate employer. I think, therefore, that we should have some indication as to what part has been played by the trade union as the protector of juvenile labour in this country since the Act came into operation.
I should also like to ask the Home Secretary whether he does not feel, looking back over eight years' of administration, that there is a strong case for allowing the trade unions and industrial councils to play a much larger part in the actual administration of this two-shift system. I noticed, when we were discussing this question before, that the Home Secretary referred to the transport conditions which were laid down in connection with the two-shift system, and he was very emphatic that in all cases arrangements had been made by the inspectors for lines of omnibuses to run, in order that young people might be brought to their work and taken home easily and comfortably. I would like to ask him what exactly that means. Does he mean, when he speaks of lines of omnibuses, that in fact these young girls are taken from the factory door to some point not far distant from their homes; or, on the other hand, does it mean that, if girls are at work from six in the morning till two in the afternoon, they then have to walk a mile and wait, not for a private omnibus, but for the ordinary public omnibus that comes along, and take their chance whether they get a seat or not? Would that come within the right hon. Gentleman's idea of the provision of adequate and comfortable transport services?
In the third place, I should like to inquire just what is meant by welfare conditions. The Home Secretary was very emphatic that, before the two-shift system was granted, he took very special pains to send his inspector down to see that the welfare conditions—which I take it would include sanitary and other provisions—were adequate. What effective inspection is there after the consent has been given? I think we ought to have some statement as to how often and under what conditions these inspectors go, and whether notice of their coming is given, or whether they turn up without notice, in order to get a reasonably average insight into what is happening in the factory.
Lastly I want to ask a question with regard to the economic value of this whole experiment. I notice that the Home Secretary, defending this system, which has beau running since 1920, emphasized that there were very considerable economies in having the two-shift system in the one factory. I have not seen any detailed statistics worked out as to the actual gain in connection with overhead charges as compared with the one and the two-shift system, but there must be a very considerable gain. Is this the best kind of assistance the Home Secretary can give in the direction of efficiency and economy to the textile industry? If he is going to argue, as he has been arguing in supporting this Act for eight years, that it is of assistance to the textile industry to allow the introduced, two-shift system to be introduced, why does he not go further and admit the three-shift system, because the problem of competition, as far as the textile industry is concerned, is not only competition with the two-shift system on the Continent, but with the three-shift system, and if he can make 20 per cent. economy by the two-shift system it is reasonable to argue that he can make 33 or 40 per cent. economy if we get on to the three-shift system which prevails in many parts of Europe.
I was recently in a large factory at Lodz, the Manchester of Poland, and I found the largest factory there wanting to run, if they could, on the three-shift system anti employing girls of the same age as the hon. Gentleman employs from 2 to 10 and from 6 to 2 during the night as well. Three weeks ago I was examining a factory at Budapest where they have the two-shift system, but do not only run from 6 to 2, hut during the night as well. In both cases, and certainly in the second, they have the latest machinery. At Budapest I saw 1926 models from Mather and Platt and 300 of the latest models of Bradford looms, 1926 and 1027. I would ask the Home Secretary, if he is justifying, as I assume he does, this departure on the ground of assisting the textile industry in its competition with the other textile systems of the world, why he does not go further and take on the whole three-shift system, or alternatively, if his mind revolts from returning to the barbarities of the early nineteenth century, whether he will consider that, the time has come, instead of allowing the old, bad conditions to creep in by this back-door method, put all the weight of his influence behind some international development in 1928 which will make the one-shift system in the textile industries the standard for the whole of Europe and for the whole of the would. I am particularly encouraged to put this point of view in the light of the fact that if all the textile factories in Europe were only working one shift per day we could not get rid of the goods that were being produced. There is every conceivable reason why the textile factories of Europe should learn to come to some kind of common agreement and, so far as Great Britain is concerned, it is the worst conceivable thin to-day, when all kinds of new textile plants are springing up using the latest British machinery, deliberately to give them encouragement, from a coon try which as had 150 years in textile experience to start off on two or three shifts and be aide to point to us as giving them the example.
I want to add toy voice to the plea that has been made against this two-shift system. I do not think the Home Secretary's record is really very clean in the matter. We who at the beginning agitated against it being introduced were told it was to be a purely temporary measure, and was simply to he introduced because of the difficulty of getting machinery, and when that excuse ended we were submitted not to excuses but to abuse from the Home Secretary, who accused us of wanting to foment trouble and to make it difficult to carry on, and similar rather rash statements to which we are accustomed from him. But that does not alter the tact that neither abuse nor excuses meet the situation, which is that through 100 years of careful and most cautious progress we have built up a factory system which is really out of date, as the right lion. Gentleman himself has admitted, and ought to be brought up to date. There has been no Consolidating Act for the last 28 years but, even so, we did through the nineteenth century build up this idea that the period of work was to be kept within certain definite limits and 8 o'clock in the evening, apart from special regulations, was to be the last hour at which girls should work, and it was finally the last hour as far as young people were concerned. In this twentieth century when the whole attitude of the public mind has altered towards the idea of protecting the workers and their only capital, which is their health, we have a Conservative administration using its influence in favour of the two-shift system.
I want to make that charge definitely and I want to repeat what my hon. friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) has said, that the Home. Office has not sent down its Inspectors to dissuade people from using the two-shift system. It has gone down on the assumption that if an employer applies for the two-shift system he should somehow or other be given it and the so-called safeguards of the Act are, in a time of slump and widespread unemployment practically a farce. Wherever you get a large number of young girls in industry the trade union organisation, by the very nature of it, is very weak. The girls leave to get married and the experienced leaders marry. The Home Office, instead of realising that fact, instead of regarding itself, as it ought to do, as the protector of this young labour, has regarded itself largely as the emissary of the employer in order to put his demands into operation. To say it is merely sending down a representative to talk to 30 or 40 young girls to get their consent as required by the Act is a perfect farce. I want to make it clear that I am not blaming the Home Office inspectorate, in whom we have as fine a body of people as could be shown anywhere in the Civil Service, but there are not enough of them, and another difficulty is that they are hound to take their instructions from the Home Office, and it is not fair to put upon the inspectorate the position of standing up both to the employer and to the Home Secretary. Therefore I feel that the time has come when this matter ought to be taken out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The fact that it is in it at all shows that the Government is slightly uncomfortable about it. They would have made it permanent if they had not felt rather ashamed of it.
The Home Secretary has already broken one very serious pledge which he gave as r3gards factory legislation. I remember the time when on behalf of my party with the luck of the ballot I introduced a Factories Bill. The Home Secretary deprecated the idea of bringing in so complicated a. Measure as a private Member's Bill, a view which has a great. deal of force, and stated that the Government proposed to introduce a Bill. That pledge was backed up by pledges at various times by the Prime Minister, both inside this House and out of it, and now we are told that this Parliament, with its great Conservative majority, is to pass away before that Bill is to be introduced. At least, I think, the Home Secretary ought to be standing in a white sheet this morning anxious to placate the Opposition, who certainly have a very real grievance in this matter. I do not know that I am complaining particularly, because the next Government, which will be a Labour Government, will introduce a Bill which will be an infinitely better Bill than the one which was proposed by the Home Secretary. I am quite aware of that, and, therefore, I prefer to wait for six months so that we can have that sort of Bill which our hearts desire. But as we have to put up with the present situation for six months, I think the least that the Home Secretary can do is to offer to drop this quite objectionable Order out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
I should like to put one other point, and that is the rather sinister fact that these Orders are now being applied for by silk mills. It is only a very small beginning at the moment, but I would call the Home Secretary's attention to the fact that repeatedly complaints have been made in this House about the health conditions in the silk mills. I am not an expert on these matters, but I happen to have been interested in a recent strike connected with these silk mills. I have been told that having to work among the chemicals that are necessary in the production of artificial silk is definitely detrimental to health. There are, of course, large numbers of complaints, and some of the cases have been fatal and have been reported in the newspapers. Surely, of all the trades that ought to be rigidly excluded from the operation of the two-shift system the artificial silk industry is the one. I am not saying that the trouble is widespread at the moment. I know that cases are isolated and that in a good many cases the mill employers are considering whether they should apply for this Order. I happen to know personally of two factories where the employers are considering the position. I desire that that industry above all should be rigidly excluded from the operation of the two-shift system and that any industry where there is any danger to health or any likelihood of ill-health should be rigidly excluded.
It would be very much better if the Home Secretary would take a bold line in this matter and state that the time has now come for this Order to end. After all, there is no difficulty in obtaining labour. Heaven knows that there is far too much labour to be obtained. There is no difficulty in obtaining the machinery required by the producers. They can obtain as much as is desired. There does not seem very great difficulty in obtaining capital. I doubt very much the economy argument which is put forward repeatedly by the Home Secretary. The work of girls and women until the late hours of the night in an atmosphere which, under the best conditions, is bound to be vitiated when it has been continuously used from six o'clock in the morning, is not necessary. Not of these factories have the most up-to-date ventilating apparatus. The ventilating regulations laid down by the present factory legislation are minimum in their character to say the least of it. Therefore, I would suggest that the economy of these last two or three hours in an atmosphere like that is a very doubtful thing. Those who have read the early history of factory legislation know that even people with standing in the country, like John Bright, could get up in this House and declare that the last two hours of child labour from 14 to 16 years of age were the hours that made the profits. That has been shown to be ludicrous. An eight-hour shift under decent conditions is infinitely better from every point of view.
I would suggest to the Home Secretary, who I know is anxious to have good conditions in this matter, that all this talk about economy has to do not merely with the question of expense to employers, but also with the question of research. I would ask the Home Secretary whether there has been any research work whatever apart from taking the employers' word regarding the sickness results of the two-shift system. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who introduced this Debate—unfortunately, I was not present when he made his speech, and I do not know whether he called attention to our experience as trade union and insurance officials—is an insurance official. He brought to our notice the fact that certain workers in whom we were interested were working a two-shift system which has since been abolished, and that the sickness statistics of those workers rose rapidly during the period that the two-shift system was being worked, especially the sickness among the younger of those workers. Those are facts which cannot be disputed, as any trade union officer who has to deal with the two-shift system can tell the Home Secretary. I urge the Home Secretary at the end of this dying Parliament to end this system for ever and drop it out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
Last year, in the course of the rather acrimonious Debate that took place—the acrimonious spirit being largely engendered by the Home Secretary—I asked the right hon. Gentleman two specific questions. I asked him how these applications were made, were the applications made by the employer alone, or were they made by the employer and the workpeoples' representative. I also asked him how was the permission or agreement of the employes secured. I did not get an answer to either of those questions. He said that he was not prepared to accept the accuracy of my statement and that he was going to have nothing whatever to do with the accredited representatives, meaning the trade unions, and that the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) desired to foment trouble among the workpeople. That is the kind of answer which we get from the Home Secretary when we raise a perfectly reasonable, humane, and sensible point with regard to the women whom we know and among whom we live and work. The Home Secretary again said that he might tell us how the desire of the workpeople for the two-shift system is secured. Last year, when I made a statement, I was accused of being discourteous in not telling the Home Secretary about this case beforehand. I have never known under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill that when we were going to bring specific instances to support the case that we were pressing it was necessary to tell the Home Secretary beforehand that we intended introducing these cases so that he might send down an inspector.
The Home Secretary knows, or at least he ought to know, and those in the factories ought to know that to talk about adequate inspection of these places is sheer nonsense. There are not sufficient inspectors available to inspect these places. I believe that Bradford has something like 1½ inspectors for hundreds if not thousands of factories and workshops. To talk about adequate inspection is nothing more nor less than sheer nonsense. The Home Secretary ought to give a definite reply to the questions which we are asking. These of us who are concerned about the life and health of the people in these trades ought not to be accused of wanting to foment trouble because we want to drop a provision in an Act of Parliament which compels our women to work until ten o'clock at night. Whatever the Home Secretary may say and whatever excuse he may make about conveyances, and so on, it means that a girl working under these conditions has to get up in the middle of the night in order to get to work at six o'clock in the morning, especially if she lives in the country districts.
A ease from the Penistone Division was brought to my notice with respect to girls living in a country district, miles away from their work. If they miss one omnibus or if the omnibus is full they have, to wait for another, either in going to work or leaving work. In some cases they have a mile to walk. If the omnibus is full they have to wait another hour for a omnibus, and that happens at 10 o'clock at night. To say that this is wrong, is not fomenting trouble; it is looking after the hest interest of the people we represent, and I do urge upon the Home Secretary that he has no right to dismiss things of this sort as unimportant. When I said that the trade unions were dissatisfied with the Orders that were given, the Home Secretary challenged me to give him a case. I quoted a case where not only the trade unions but the joint industrial council of the wool textile trade, passed a resolution protesting against an Order which had been issued by the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman replied that he did not know anything about it; that it had not been sent to him. He cannot dismiss things in such a cursory manner.
I asked him if, when he introduced the Factories Bill, he would introduce provision for dealing with the two-shift system. We were to have a Factory Bill then, but we are not to have one now, therefore, it will not be possible to consolidate these things in a Factory Bill. The right hon. Gentleman ought to consider not only the trade unions but the-industrial council. Here is an industrial council representing the wool textile trades. They want to work harmoniously, and the Home Secretary believes in peace in industry, yet believing in peace in industry, he flouts the will and wishes of a joint industrial council representing a quarter of a million people. That industrial council, representing employers and workpeople, feel that it is they and they alone who ought to have the right to give permission to work the two-shift system. They are on the spot, they are in the West Riding, they know the firms and the conditions of employment, they know the good employers and the bad employers—the Home Secretary does not know them—and with the information at their disposal, they ought to lave the right and the power to issue permits for allowing girls to work on the two-shift system, on the application of an employer. The Home Secretary says that they are not capable of exercising that discretion and that he is the only person capable of exercising discretion. Not only will he not give them the right to issue the permits, but he will not consult with them in any circumstances. I suggest that the Home Secretary did not meet our opinions last year, and I should be very interested to hear whether he has any excuse for his conduct this year.
I wish to join with hon. Members on these benches who have moved the deletion of this part of the Act. I cannot find why there is the necessity at the present time for the continued operation of the two-shift system for women and young persons. It is very difficult to appreciate why the employers in some of these places have made a request to the Home Office. When one goes through the list of the concerns who have made application to the Home Secretary, one is justified in asking if he can state some of the reasons which were presented to the Home Office in support of permission being given to them to work the two-shift system. I should also like the right hon. Gentleman to say what is the method now in operation for taking a ballot of the workpeople. I remember a case in regard to which one had to see the officials of the Home Office a few years ago in connection with a ballot vote which had been taken. In that ease the foreman had been round to each of the workers and had asked them their opinion as to the working of the two-shift system. A paper was issued to the people afterwards. In order to make sure that the ballot would work out in the right way, the foreman had pretty well tested the opinions of the workpeople by canvassing them, and then the so-called ballot papers were issued. I should like to know whether the inspectors of the Home Office take any part in supervising these ballot votes and in seeing that, as far as possible, opinion is not forced upon the workpeople and that they have an opportunity of expressing their opinion with regard to the applications for the working of the two-shift system. I know that we shall be reminded of Section 2 of the Act, which says
Provided joint representation is made by organisations representing the majority of the employers and workers in the industry … the power of the Secretary of State to make Orders 'shall cease to be exerciseable.
I do not know who was responsible for placing these particular words in the Act of Parliament, but to imagine that they are a safeguard for the industry,
could only come to the minds of people who have no knowledge of the conducting of industry in this country. I join with my colleagues who have asked that greater regard shall be paid to trade union representations and to the representations of those who sit upon the the industrial councils, and their objections to the two-shift system, and I trust that we may hear something from the Home Secretary on the matter, although he may not be prepared to accept our Amendment. What justification can there be for issuing an Order, say, to a firm of brewers in London—I suppose it is not the correct thing in this House to mention the name of a particular concern and therefore I will confine myself to mentioning the industry and the locality—permitting women and young people to work on tile two-shift system for the purpose of loading and unloading vans? I cannot believe for a moment that the Act was intended to enable the brewing industry of this country to engage in the two-shift system. This particular permit was given at a time when men were being discharged from the industry by reason of the amalgamation of breweries which has taken place during recent times.
There is a firm in. Yorkshire engaged in the chocolate and sugar confectionery trade. They were given a permit for the manufacture of tin boxes, and there were tin box manufacturers in this country able to provide this and every other firm with all the tin boxes they require without bringing in women and young persons to work from 6 o'clock in the morning until 2 in the afternoon and from 2 in the afternoon until 10 o'clock at night. One or two other firms, well-known firms, engaged in the confectionery and chocolate trades have also been given these permits, and I trust the Home Secretary will tell the Committee why it was found necessary to allow the two-shift system in these particular concerns when people connected with the industry were on the unemployment market. I do not want to weary the Committee by going through the whole list of firms, but I notice that a brick-making firm in Scotland was given a permit. I cannot understand why a permit is given to a firm engaged in the manufacture of bricks to work women and young persons under the two-shift system while other brickyards can manufacture all the bricks that are required.
This permission has also been granted in the case of the ebonite trade; in Worcestershire, in the case of enamelled hollow-ware—why they require it I do not know—in the tin-plate industry in South Wales, and in another part of Wales for the paper-making industry. There is also the case of artificial silk. It is somewhat difficult to understand why permission has been given to work women and young persons on the two-shift system in the spinning departments of artificial silk factories. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough has referred to the health conditions in this particular industry. The Under-Secretary of State may be able to locate the particular firm when I tell him that a firm in Lancashire has been given permission to work this two-shift system for the cleaning of the nozzles that are used on the chemical side of artificial silk manufacture; and it is in connection with that particular work that we have complaints regarding the health conditions of the men. I do not think women and young persons should be allowed to do this particular work for these long hours without some conditions being attached to their employment. In Liverpool permission has been given for the operation of this system in the manufacture of boots, and in London in connection with hose engaged on the knitting of artificial silk and wool. Why it should be found necessary to give this permission in this particular case, with all the buildings and machinery at their disposal, I do not know.
The time has come when this House should save the Home Secretary from having these demands made upon him by firms who are unable to organise their industry in the right way and who have to work women and young persons on the two-shift system. I do not know one industry in which such a, system is required, and I hope the Committee will have regard to the health of these young people and will abolish it. It was only supposed to operate for five years from 1921, and it is only because there has been a want of good management on the part of firms that employés find they are compelled to work under this two-shift system.
Many serious matters have been raised in the Debate, and I will try to deal with them as well as I can. It is desirable that the Committee should know the main reasons why I am asking for power to continue to issue these orders, under certain circumstances. Let me explain. This is not a case of working women and young girls for more than 8 hours a day. It is a case of keeping the factory running for 16 hours, one batch of women working from 6 o'clock in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, and the other from 2 in the afternoon until 10 o'clock at night. A great deal of evidence has been given showing that it is better for the health of the workers that they should work in two shifts, where there is plenty of work, rather than in one shift and overtime. Where two shifts are worked neither of them can be worked overtime; the limit of work for any woman or young person is 8 hours a day, and there is no possibility of working overtime at all. That is one distinct advantage of the two-shift system. Whenever there is any pressure of work, instead of working the women and young persons overtime, it is done by working two shifts.
I do not think the hon. Member can have any such case. If he has by all means let him bring it before me, and I will see that it is investigated. I cannot conceive that it is possible that forewomen would he compelled or asked to work for 16 hours.
The hon. Member must bring better evidence than what he heard when women were talking in the train. Let him find out the details and bring the case to me. I say at once that it is a most improper breach of the Act. I have been asked what is the process before an Order is granted. It is only after a very full and special inquiry has been made by a factory inspector into the details of the case, after he has gone to the works and made inquiries of the workers whether they desire the change and after he has made any recommendations that he desires for the welfare of the workers, that I even consider whether an Order shall be made.
Yes, certainly. Hon. Members have been making accusations for a couple of hours, and in reply I am going to give them what I know to be the case. What my factory inspectors tell me I believe to be true. It is open to any man to complain of the conduct of a factory inspector. The hon. Member for Wall-send (Miss Bondfield) and the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) saw me a fortnight ago about a particular case, and I went very fully into it. I am not saying that they are satisfied with the report, but the hon. Member for Wallsend in her speech to-day made no complaint whatever of the work that had been done, or that pressure had been put on by a factory inspector in that particular case. I want to make that clear. I do not think there is a suggestion made to-day that factory inspectors do not do what is proper. On the other hand I get occasionally petitions from the workers in a mill, with their bona fide signatures, asking for the two-shift system.
This is so important a matter that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to let me intervene. How can a factory inspector, as one individual, get to know the desires of the people to work on a two-shift system in the case of a firm employing several hundreds of people? The Act says that a vote shall be taken of the whole of the people, even those who are not affected by the Act. How can a factory inspector do that? Does he meet them in general meeting assembled and get their opinion?
If the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech in my own way I shall explain. He can then make another speech and ask me questions. I am trying to show exactly what takes place. An inspector goes down to a factory. In many cases a meeting of the workers is held and a full discussion takes place with them. The inspector explains to them what the two-shift system involves, and discusses with them what extra welfare arrangements will be needed, and inquires what are the arrangements for the transport of the workers in the case of girls who have to start work early or to go home late. He inquires whether there are buses or trams available, or whether it is necessary to insist on a particular form of transport being provided by the firm. He has to be satisfied and has to report to me that a majority of the workers are definitely in favour of the scheme before I can even entertain the idea of granting an Order. He has to be satisfied that the workers have given their opinion voluntarily without any pressure from the employers. Then an Order has to be made, if made at all, subject to any conditions that I like to make in the way that the inspector suggests or in a way that I consider necessary. In nearly every ease I make Orders of a special character in regard to welfare, the provision of cloakrooms, mess-room accommodation, washing facilities, protective clothing, seats for workers and transport facilities.
I am in a position to tell the House now that, speaking generally, at the factories where the two-shift system is worked under Orders made by myself or previous Home Secretaries, the standard of welfare is distinctly above the average of factories generally. I was asked about inspection after the Order had been made. Within the last year we have given directions that every factory which is employing the two-shift system is to be visited at least once every quarter by a factory inspector. Hon. Members know that ordinarily factories are not inspected once a quarter, because there is not a sufficient number of inspectors for the purpose. I have made arrangements under which the limited number of factories working the two-shift system are to be visited and reported upon at least once every quarter. Someone asked me about the discontinuance of Orders. It is true that before I came into office there was no provision for finding out whether Orders were discontinued or not. I have made a regulation that all firms working these Orders shall at once give me notice if they are proposing to discontinue or if they have discontinued. That will enable me to get the figures in much better order than they were before I took office.
I was asked about the number of Orders. 786 Orders have been granted in respect of 681 works. 39 of the Orders have been superseded by later ones. As far as I can gather not more than about one-third of the total number of Orders granted are being worked at any one time. About 250 Orders in 250 factories, as near as I can gather from my inspectors, represent the number of factories which are running the two-shift system at any particular time. It is very important to find out the views of the workers regarding these Orders. I realise that hon. Members opposite are entitled to put their own point of view or to speak from their knowledge of working conditions; but, after all, the real test is whether the workers like the system or not, or whether there is, as has been suggested, a breach in the health of the workers by these Orders. No hon. Member has put before me, either in this or last year's Debate, evidence of any kind that the health of the workers has suffered by this system. I say that quite definitely. I have not had a single complaint that the workers' health has suffered. Day workers even apply to be put on the two-shift system. Hon. Members may say that it is a terrible thing to get up at five o'clock in the morning. But for these girls and young women it means a complete afternoon free of work. They finish at two o'clock, end have their afternoon and evening for pleasure or country walks or any form of amusement that, appeals to them.
Is not that one of our difficulties? Where you are dealing with young working class women you find that in practically every ease they are called upon to perform domestic duties anti one of the classic arguments—one of the arguments which led the Home Office to refuse the night shift in the case of women—was that it involved double duty for them as they were expected to do the housework as well.
Perhaps I have taken more trouble with my speech on this occasion than I did last year because I did not know last year that the attack in this matter was going to be a:3 consolidated as it proved to be. The hon. Lady is not right in regard to her figures, and I shall prove that before I finish. There has been a very remarkable inquiry made, not by the Home Office but by the Medical Research Council and the Industrial Fatigue Board and some very important evidence has been obtained as a result of that inquiry, bearing on the very point made by the hon. Lady. It really is the case, except in certain specific instances where I have stopped it, that the women engaged in this system have no complaint of the work and are more than satisfied to go on under the two-shift system. Let me take one or two cases which have been mentioned. There was a case mentioned by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder). He mentioned it last year but he did not tell me of it beforehand last year and consequently I was not then able to deal with it fully.
Let me say at once to hon. Members that there are 700 of these Orders in force and it is quite impossible to expect the Secretary of State to reply on any definite detail, of any particular Order, in regard to any particular factory unless the ordinary courtesy is shown to him and a note is sent to him beforehand, conveying the intention of hon. Members to make an attack in regard to a particular case. Then I can take steps to get the necessary information. The ease raised by the hon. Member was that of a firm in his own constituency, I do not intend to mention the name. They applied for an Order in September, 1927, to meet abnormal Continental demands. Their application was signed by a large majority of the workers concerned. The hon. Member suggested that the signatures were not obtained voluntarily and he also referred to the fact that the Joint Industrial Council had passed a resolution stating that there had been no agreement as to the Order. Having gone into the matter I find that the Joint Industrial Council did pass a resolution. If the Joint Industrial Council had taken steps under the Act it would have been impossible for me to make the Order at all. But what happened was this. When they passed the resolution objecting to the Order this firm, who appeared to be on fairly good terms with the Council, asked them if they would withdraw their objection for a further month. The Industrial Council being a reasonable body and knowing there was a pressure of work agreed to it. I do not see any great cause for complaint in that case.
Now I take the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennic Smith). This is the case of a firm near Huddersfield which asked for permission to work two shifts in order to reduce costs of production in face of very heavy foreign competition. A condition was inserted in the Order that if hardship should be found to arise owing to the workers having to come from a distance inquiry might be made and special arrangements made. I did inquire and the inquiry showed that the firm had arranged special transport for the workers. They had subsidised a special line of omnibuses to take the workers to the factory, the route being specially arranged so as to pass as near as possible to the workers' houses. I have some later reports regarding that case which show that not only is there no antipathy to the system on the part of the workers but that the majority do not want to return to the ordinary day work.
I did not raise this particular case. The question which I put was as to what was implied by" providing comfortable transport accommodation." In particular, I wish to know about the case of girls who would have a mile to go after leaving the factory and for whom no special provision is made but who have to rely on the ordinary public omnibus and take their chances of getting on to it.
In nearly every Order that I make it is laid down
that there shall be provided for women and young persons suitable cloakroom accommodation and adequate means of drying clothing, etc.; a suitable mess-room; washing accommodation, including a sufficient supply of clean towels, soap and warm water and there is also this condition:—
The Secretary of State may at any time require the employer to make such special arrangements for the conveyance of workers living at a distance or otherwise for the welfare of such workers as may be necessary to prevent hardship.
That is a condition which is inserted, I think, in nearly all Orders. I have called upon employers, where the workers have to come from a distance or where they cannot get an ordinary omnibus, to provide a special omnibus at their own expense for their workers, and these special omnibuses have been provided in the particular instance mentioned by the hon. Member.
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that in the particular case he speaks of, when the second shift is leaving they have a mile to go, and they have to take their chance on the ordinary omnibuses, and if the ordinary omnibus is full they have to wait for an hour.
Sir W. JOYNSON-H WKS:
I have received full information from the firm. I have it from the firm and from the factory inspector. Now the hon. Member gets up in his place as a responsible Member of the House of Commons and I understand him to say quite definitely that the firm is breaking the Order that I have made?
May I make it specific. A fortnight ago in that very district I was discussing the subject with the people who live in the district and they said that this particular employer will have nothing to do with trade unions or trade union employés. He will not employ them if he can help it, because he cannot do with them exactly as he likes. The people in the district inform me definitely that the girls have to walk a mile after leaving their work, and when they have walked a mile they have to take the risk of the ordinary public omnibus, and if it is full they have to wait an hour. I am making a definite charge on the information given to me.
I am afraid the hon. Member has not a very keen sense of humour. The hon. Member has made a statement on his responsibility as a Member of Parliament, and, of course, I will inquire into that particular charge. I will send my inspector down there with a copy of the hon. Member's speech, and he will deliver a report to me at once on that case. If the hon. Member likes to put a question down in a week's time, I hope to be able to give him an answer. If I may, I will quote one further ease, because this Order was granted quite recently. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) knows the case. It is that of an Order for the weaving of artificial silk granted by me last month. In compliance with the Order, the firm stated that they had purchased this mill with the definite object of trying to capture the light dress goods trade from French and Swiss firms. It is a new business, which we are trying in this country to get hold of, to give work for our people which is now being done by the French and Swiss. In their information to me they state that the wages paid in the French and Swiss firms were not very much more than half those paid in this country. It is true that the Textile Workers' Union were opposed to this application, but the workers themselves unanimously asked that the two-shift system should be put on. The Order was granted subject to the usual conditions with regard to welfare. It was reported to me, after full inquiry, that 75 per cent. of the workers resided in the immediate neighbourhood of the works and that trams run to all parts, but I have still put in my Order there that if any hardship is reported to me on the question of transport for the workers, I am to be at liberty to make an Order on the employers to provide special transport at their own expense for the workers.
The hon. Member for Rochdale has very repeatedly called my attention to the conditions in artificial silk mills, and I realise his knowledge of the case, and have asked my inspectors very specially to go into this question and to report to me very fully. I know the difficulties to which the hon. Member has referred. I think it right to call the attention of the Committee to the very important Report of the Industrial Fatigue Research Board, which has nothing to do with my Department, but is an independent body of experts. Lord D'Abernon is the Chairman, one of my assistant secretaries is on the Board, the right hon. Gentleman who used to be Financial Secretary in the Government of the party opposite is also on the, Board, and scientists of the very highest order are the other members of the Board. They have made a very careful and apparently a very full investigation into the effect of this two-shift system. The Report is open to anybody to get; it is a public document, and this is what they say, although, of course, I cannot read it all:
No conclusive statistical evidence has been found of a greater amount of sickness on one system than on the other.
I have no evidence at all that the two-shift system has increased sickness among the workers.
When the visits were grouped by departments, it appeared that the total sickness of the departments on shift-work was exactly the same as that of the departments on day-work.… The visits were also tabulated according to the hour of the day at which they occurred. There was no evidence that there were any more cases of faintness early in the morning, or of headaches late in the evening, among shift-workers than among day-workers.… At Factory B it appeared that, only half as many days were lost through sickness by the shift-workers as by the day-workers.
On the other hand, I can give statements which are against my view:
in Factory B, where the majority of the workers had been on shift-work for six months or less, 90 per cent. of the workers questioned preferred day-work. At Factor C, where, it must be remembered, the shifts were differently arranged, but where the system had been in operation for some years, 90 per cent. of the workers preferred shift-work. At Factory A, where the majority of the workers questioned had been on shift-work for some time, three-quarter of the workers preferred shift-work. At Factory D, the workers … preferred shift-work.
That is, that in three out of four factories, which were typical factories, investigated very thoroughly indeed by this non-political, scientific body, they report that the workers preferred the shift-work to the day-work.
Perhaps the hon. Member will look at the document, which is published by His Majesty's Stationery Office at 1s. 3d. net. It is a very important document and worth very careful reading. I think it is in the Vote Office, but if it is not, I will have some put there. In regard to the number of Orders that have been granted, I have got the figures making up the 786. Roughly, they average about 90 per annum, though in 1921 they were higher, 146, and this year they will be a little higher too. But there is one thing I want to ask the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). He raised this Debate this afternoon with a straightforward attack on the whole system, and I want to know, if that is the case, why when he was Under-Secretary to the Home Office in the Labour Government they granted any of these Orders.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. There was no obligation on the hon. Member to make Orders, just as there is no obligation on myself to make Orders. Here is a party which comes to this House and says that the principle is wrong altogether, and when the Labour Government was in office and the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) was Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Westhoughton was the Under-Secretary, they made very nearly as many Orders in their period of office as I have made in one year of mine.
No: I am objecting to their censuring me. It is perfectly clear, if the Committee likes to look at the Act, that it is one which empowers the Home Secretary to make Orders if he likes to do so. It is in his discretion, and the carrying on of the Act from year to year merely gives the Home Secretary this year exactly the same power and discretion as the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had when they were responsible for the administration of the Home Office. I put it to the Committee that this is an experiment, I admit, an experiment which is hedged round by very careful restrictions, the Orders for which are granted only after most careful investigation and after the very fullest consideration, and they are granted at a time when it is essential to get as much work as we possibly can into English factories when we are competing against the foreigners with the utmost difficulty.
The hon. Member knows more about it than I do. I can only say that, after the full investigation that has been made, we consider that it is well worth proceeding with this system. I am convinced that the great majority of workers have no objection. I explained at the beginning of my speech that this had one very great advantage—it does away with overtime. At times of pressure of selling orders, or where orders are wanted to be got out in a hurry, workers are—I will not say forced—but pressed very hard to work overtime. That is all done away with under this Order, and there are only, as I say, 250 factories working these Orders at any particular time. I think it would be a very great mistake, until further inquiry has been made, to do away with a system which is carefully guarded, and, up to the present, there is not the slightest evidence of any kind that it has been detrimental to the health or welfare of the workers.
The right hon. Gentleman has inside the very best out of a very bad case. Let me draw his attention to the peculiar circumstances in which this Act was passed. It was as a result. I regret that I have to repeat these details, but it is necessary that they should be repeated—of a convention arrived at at Washington. One guiding principle at Washington was that no Convention arrived at there should be used to make the legislation of any country worse than the existing legislation—that where a Convention was below the minimum already arrived a!, that Convention should not be enforced in countries having superior legislation. So that it is extremely doubtful whether at the very beginning this Act was justified at all. But even assuming that it had justification, even assuming that it did not lower the standard, which I hope to prove it did, when the Act was passed it was quite definitely laid down—and to this the Home Secretary has not referred at all—that it should remain in force for a period of five years from the commencement of the Act, and no longer. It was definitely passed for a specific time. Now the five years period has long elapsed, and what the Home Secretary is doing is not to pass a law based on a Convention, but to inflict a law in deliberate breach of the terms of this Act. He is enlarging the scope, he is extending the operations of an Act passed in peculiar circumstances, which directly laid it down that at the end of live years its operation must cease.
When my hon. Friend, therefore, called the attention of the Home Secretary to the fact that the spirit of the law itself was being violated, he was perfectly justified. This Act ought to have expired three years ago. It is being kept in force by the Home Secretary in deliberate contravention of the original Act. That is the position. So now we have to consider not so much what the law is, but whether there is any justification for deliberately introducing, or re-introducing, an exceptional measure which will make the position of the law in this country worse than it was before the War. In Lancashire for a century our people have worked to change a state of things that stank in the nostrils, to guarantee women and children against certain conditions. The Home Secretary, by his methods, is raising the danger in Lancashire that if a body of workpeople can be found foolish enough to demand the two-shift system, he can bring our work of a century to an end. The right hon. Gentleman can say what he likes about my hon. Friend wanting to foment trouble, but if he tries to get this system back in our county, I will help my hon. Friend to foment as much trouble as he likes. I have as great respect for the Industrial Fatigue Board as even the right bon. Gentleman himself, but I suggest that they do not know what this starting work at six o'clock in the morning is. I do. At 10 years of age I began it, and my experience of it has led me to say that no child of mine, if I could avoid it, should do it, because I believe it to be inhuman, and what I do not want for my own wife or for my own daughter, I do not want for any other man's wife or daughter.
There is no necessity at all for this Measure. Why should it be considered the duty of a Conservative Government, with the traditions of a Disraeli, to be the most reactionary Government of modern times in regard to industrial legislation? I cannot understand the mentality of the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he is not taking this in any insulting way; I am using it with the best possible intentions, but I really cannot understand the mentality of the right hon. Gentleman or of the party that wants to turn the clock of industrial legislation backwards. If the right hen. Gentleman said, "This Act expires in 1930, and until that time I feel bound by the spirit of it," I could have understood him, but this Act expired in 1925, and he is keeping it on, and we are the one country that is going backwards in industrial legislation. It is an astonishing position for this country, which was so long in the van, which so long led the world so decisively. There is a difference in our mentalities which I cannot understand. I do not wonder at my hon. Friend getting a little annoyed because his word appears to be doubted. That is nothing new. He can take solatium from the fact that he is not the only one. My word has been doubted, and it is still as good, I hope, as the word of any of the men who doubt it. That is by the way. Fancy saying that it is absolutely essential that women and young persons should get up at 5 o'clock in the morning in order to wash bottles! Fancy saying that it is necessary that girls and women should work until 10 o'clock at night in
order to enrobe chocolates! Fancy saying that, in order to deal with certain kinds of enamelled hollow-ware, it is necessary to get up in the middle of the night! It is too ridiculous. I could understand it if it were a trade of national importance, and concerned something that the country needed, but to say that we must turn back our social legislation in order that chocolates may be enrobed and that beer bottles may be washed, is too ridiculous. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is worth while. This country ought not to go back, it ought to go forward, and the Members of his own party ought to prevent him trying to maintain a thing which ought to have died and which is against the best interests, not only of the workers, but of the Government itself.
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[2.28 p.m.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid w.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gates, Percy.||Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Goff, Sir Park||Radford, E. A.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Hacking, Douglas H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Berry, Sir George||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bethel, A.||Hall, Capt. W. D. A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hammersley, S. S.||Sandon, Lord|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harrison, G. J. C.||Savery, S. S.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Herbert, S.(York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Hilton, Cecil||Smithers, Waldron|
|Brown, Brig. Gen. H.C (Berks, Newb'y)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Couper, J. B.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Drewe, C.||MacIntyre, Ian||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||McLean, Major A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Margesson, Captain D.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Fenby, T. D.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Forrest, W||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Mr. Penny and Major the Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Pitcher, G.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Groves, T.||Riley, Ben|
|Alexander, A. v. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Grundy, T. W.||Ritson, J.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Baker, Walter||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hardle, George D.||Scurr, John|
|Barnes, A.||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Barr, J.||Hayes, John Henry||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, G. H.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bellamy, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawrence, Susan||Thorne, w. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawson, John James||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, W. G.||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||MacLaren, Andrew||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Westwood, J.|
|Day, Harry||March, S.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Dennison, R.||Maxton, James||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Duncan, C.||Montague, Frederick||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Palin, John Henry||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Gillett, George M.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenall, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wright, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pureed, A. A.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. B. Smith.|
I beg to move, in page 6, to leave out lines 15 to 17 inclusive.
This Bill proposes to renew for a period of three years the London Traffic Act, 1924. As the House will remember, that Act was passed during the existence of the Labour Government, and when the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Gosling) was introducing the Bill he said:
I think that this is a temporary measure, and I appeal to the authorities of London and the surrounding districts to get together in a spirit of co-operation and give these proposals a fair chance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1924; col. 1702, Vol. 171.]
The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition at that time, said:
I agree with him that any traffic Bill is necessarily a temporary measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1924; col. 1703, Vol. 171.]
I understand that as a result of the experience of the working of the Act many proposals for its improvement have been tabled, but the Government of the day are not carrying them out, but simply relying en the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill to renew the existing legislation. One complaint which I have to make, and it is a very strong complaint, is this, that it appears to those of us who are looking on from the outside that throughout the existence of this Act and the existence of the London Traffic Advisory Committee the Ministry of Transport, so far from being a help, has been a hindrance to the work of that Committee. All will agree that it is absolutely necessary to have an Authority to deal with the great problem of London traffic. It has been the subject of report after report from Royal Commissions and Select Committees since 1855, and the 192; Act was an attempt to deal with the problem.
Coder that Act we have an Advisory Committee composed of a certain number of ordinary members who are representatives of local government and central Government Departments, and these ordinary members deal exclusively with finance and policy. There are also certain other persons, called additional members, who represent interests and trades unions concerned in the transport industry, and these have no control over policy or finance. But Committee, whether acting through its ordinary members or through a combination of the ordinary members and the additional members, can only be an Advisory Committee. As the hon. Member for Whitechapel said when he introduced the Bill, power rests filially with the Minister of Transport, who may or may not accept the advice tendered to him by the Committee. The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham, who I regret is not at present in the House, because we should have welcomed him on this oeca6in, used some very eloquent words in 1924 when the Bill was being discussed. He said:
I look upon London, the greatest port. the greatest city in the world, and the great heart of the whole Empire, as a living entity—throlihing with life. Traffic is actually its life-blood, coursing through its veins. But it is a man-made entity. It is very frail. It wants all the help we can give and all the watching also to keep it alive and well. Today, if we pass the Second Reading of this Bill, we put into the Minister's hands, as if he were a doctor, at any rate for a certain length of time, this patient to look after. If he is to be the doctor in charge, we on these Benches will play the part of nurse, so that together we may cure the patient."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1924: col. 1712, Vol. 171.]
It is quite evident that the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham was at that time anticipating that the Labour Government would exist for some time longer than it did, and he had absolutely full confidence in the doctor, that is to say, the then Minister of Transport, and felt that all that was necessary was to give him something in the nature of nursing assistance. But there has been a change since then, and we now have another Minister of Transport who, in my opinion, does not appear to have any of the qualifications to be the medical man for this task; and as regards the nursing, I am inclined to think that the Conservative party have become Sairey Gamps rather than qualified nurses.
During its existence the Advisory Committee has presented a number of very valuable Reports. There have been two annual Reports, and four other Reports dealing with special aspects of London traffic. The important point to remember, however, is that the Committee is only advisory and that the responsibility for action rests with the Minister. If a committee of busy men, able men, who take a considerable amount of trouble over their investigations, and make recommendations as the result of their investigations and the evidence presented to them, are to find their recommendations ignored and their reports simply pigeonholed and becoming mere historic documents, the house ought not to waste time in renewing the Act at all. Rather, it ought to say to the Advisory Committee, "We thank you for your services in the past; but the Ministry of Transport do not like your advice, and you had better go off home about your other business."
I did not use the ward "over-ruled," I said "ignored," and that is a very different thing. The Committee was only an Advisory Committee, and therefore the decision must rest with the Minister of Transport. I want to put some specific points. In the first annual Report which was issued appeared some proposals in regard to an alternative route to avoid the junction of Tottenham Court Road with Oxford Street (St. Giles Circus) and the junction of Southampton Row and Theobalds Road: an alternative route between Tottenham and the Docks; and alternative routes to relieve traffic conditions at the Elephant and Castle headway. With the exception of a very small proportion of the Elephant and Castle scheme the proposed route was to cost£371,00. That very small portion was estimated to cost£45,000. It is now being put in hand, but nothing has been done in regard to carrying out any of the other proposals I have alluded to. I am not speaking on my own responsibility, because I have before me a copy of the second Report, from which I make the following quotation:
At an interview with you on the 14th December, 1925, the urgent need for carrying out the various schemes which we had
recommended from time to time for the relief of traffic congestion was pointed ant, and we indicated the unsatisfactory position in which we should find ourselves if our labours produced no tangible result.
That was the Report of the Committee. The Report continues:
Subsequently you assured us that the Government were prepared to assist to the extent of a definite annual sum in the carrying out of schemes which we recommender and you approved, subject to the financial co-operation of the local authorities concerned.
We are still suffering all these inconveniences. We do not know whether the Minister makes any recommendations on these points. In the second Annual Report there are specific representations dated October, 1925, for North and North Eastern London, and there were certain very specific recommendations. I must ask the House to listen to these proposals because it is absolutely essential that they should he carried out with all speed if we are going to deal adequately with the traffic problem. The proposals for North and North Eastern London were:
In 1926, we had a report relating to East London. As a member of the County Council representing that area I know the difficulties we have had over and over again in regard to our housing estate at Becontree, on account of the difficulties of communication. Evidence on this point was offered before the Traffic Advisory Committee Inquiry into East London and they made a number of specific recommendations. The same applies to the south eastern district and although there were reports on this subject in 1925, March, 1926, and October, 1926, nothing has been done. In the second report, on page 11, we find the following passage:
The regrettable fact that so little progress has been made towards giving effect to our specific recommendations, which, we are convinced, are the only mean', by which real improvement can he effected of the admittedly inadequate travelling facilities for these areas, and the reasons advanced by the operators concerned against giving effect to them, reinforce our view that the co-ordination of passenger transport. services with a common fund and common management, with the elimination of -unnecessary wasteful and uneconomic competition, is essential before any substantial improvements in travelling facilities can be effected.
A very important report was prepared by this Committee which dealt in many ways with a very controversial subject, that is the question of the co-ordination of the London passenger traffic system with a basis of common management and a common fund. The Report goes on to say:
With the establishment of a common fund and a common management an effective public control body must he set up to ensure a programme of expansion and development, proper scale of fares, adequate services capable of meeting the needs of the public, and sound financial arrangements for raising additional capital.
The central feature of the common management proposal is the idea that there should be a public control body. What do we find? We find a report has been presented, but what action has been taken by the Minister of Transport in order to compel the various parties to get these recommendations brought into
being. I differ from their recommendations in certain details, and I do not think some of their proposals are adequate safeguards. I think the whole passenger traffic system should be under municipal ownership and municipal control. The point was that what was suggested was unanimous, and it was really a compromise between certain principles to deal with the London traffic problem in order to get rid of the silly senseless competition which exists at the present time. That report was signed by representatives of the Transport Union and the National Union of Railway Workers, and I do not think any of those who signed that report will repudiate their signatures.
A condition was that, when an agreement was reached, it should be the duty of the Government to act and to produce a public Bill which would implement the agreement made as the result of that Report. We are not having the public Bill, although, in view of the large amount of unanimity that there was in connection with this Report, there would have been no very considerable difficulty in getting such a Measure through this House. Instead of that, however, the Government refused to promote a public Bill dealing with a great public question, and now the position is that a private limited liabilty corporation and the London County Council are each proceeding to promote private Bills in this House, which are dealt with according to an entirely different procedure, under which there is not the control by the House of Commons that there is over the discussions on a public Bill. That, too, is not for the purpose of implementing the proposals put forward in the Report of the Traffic Advisory Committee, but for the purpose of some unspecified agreement which, without let or hindrance, the parties may choose to make provided they get legislative powers to enter into an agreement and implement it. That is the position which we have reached by reason of the action of the Ministry of Transport.
One last instance I may give of the action of the Ministry with regard to the mishandling all the way through of the situation in regard to London traffic while the Railway Bills promoted last Session to give the railways the right to run passenger transport services on the roads were being discussed. The Traffic Advisory Committee submitted a Report to the Minister to the effect that these powers, on account of the competition which existed in London, should not be conferred on the railways so far as the London traffic area was concerned. The Minister declined to submit that. Report as evidence to the Joint Select Committee, and what happened then? As a result of the representations of the local authorities, the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) put down an Amendment, and the Minister, who had refused to put this excellent Report before the Select Committee, then got up and accepted the Amendment in this House. I submit that that is shilly-shallying.
Now I come to something which is even more serious. I hold in my hand an extract from the "Times" of the 8th November, 1928. It is headed "Sir Henry Maybury Resigns. Reconstruction of Road System": and I desire to read this quotation, because it seems to me to be semi-official or inspired, and I want to know how far it is accurate? It says:
Sir Henry Maybury has tendered to the Minister of Transport his resignation of the position of Director-General of the Roads Department, and it has been accepted. It will take effect on December 31.
No, Sir; if you had permitted me to finish the quotation you would have seen that it applies. It goes on:
After that date he will act in a consultative and advisory capacity to the Ministry of Transport in connection with bridges, roads and traffic. He will also retain his position on the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, as the Minister's nominee. Sir Henry has been chairman of the Committee since it was first appointed in 1924.
It was also announced in other papers that Sir Henry Maybury was proposing to take up private practice as a consulting engineer. That was in the "Evening Standard." I have already indicated the constitution of the Traffic Advisory Committee, and I want to point out that it often has to sit in a judicial capacity. If it is to sit in a judicial capacity, those who are affected by its judgments must have confidence in the tribunal, and, if the statement in the "Times' be accurate, that Sir Henry Maybury is to be appointed to a position on the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee while he is also engaged in private practice as a consulting engineer, I have no hesitation in saying that such, an appointment would be absolutely improper. In his capacity as a consulting engineer he will all the time be actually engaged in a professional capacity in connection with certain operations, and then, in turn, he will have to deal with precisely the same matters in his position as a member of the Committee. The local authorities are, I know, very much concerned over this matter, and I hope that we may have an assurance to-day from the Minister of Transport that that statement is absolutey unauthorised, that it has no justification in fact, and that, if Sir Henry Maybury retires from his position as a member of His Majesty's Civil Service and goes into professional practice, he must take all the consequences that other persons would take if they went into professional practice, and must sever his connection entirely with any administrative side dealing with the questions in which he will then become professionally interested.
I think I have submitted evidence this afternoon to justify the moving of my Amendment. I do not make any reflection at all on the work of the Traffic Advisory Committee. On the contrary, it has been valuable work, and it has been hard work. What I want to reflect upon is the fact that the Minister of Transport has not encouraged it, and has not done his best to put its recommendations into force, and the consequence is that what is really a ramp is being proposed in regard to London traffic. Private interests are coming to be supreme instead of the public interest, and all the trouble that is now arising in the great controversy that will take place over London traffic has been brought about because of the supineness of the Minister. I suggest that in these circumstances it would be better that this Measure should be deleted.
Before the Minister says anything on this Amendment, I would like to refer to the question, which was raised by the Mover, of tube extensions in London, and to point out to the right hon. Gentleman one very remarkable fact. If you regard London as a circle, you can very nearly bisect that circle and find one side of it containing no tube railways at all. North-East London, East London and South-East London are entirely without tube railways. East London, of course, has the extension of the Metropolitan Railway, but practically the whole of the tremendous passenger traffic at the peak hours would go by road. That is a very remarkable fact, in a city such as London, and it is, of course, an important contributory cause of the great congestion in those areas. I beg the Minister of Transport to give his very close attention to what the Traffic Advisory Committee has suggested on these points, and not to be too ready to accept the excuses of the private enterprise companies which are responsible for traffic in those areas.
Take, for instance, the case of Finsbury Park. It is very near my constituency, and I see it very frequently both at morning and at night. It is one of the scandals of London. In wet weather the conditions are absolutely abominable, especially for young women and elderly people. I understand the difficulty about getting the necessary tube extensions is one of finance, which has been put forward by the railway companies, the Piccadilly and Brompton Tube and the old Great Northern Railway, which might have electrified its lines. But there is the strongest and most complete evidence of the paying character of such a proposition. If any evidence could be brought forward it is there in the shape of the congestion in itself and the large number of people who want to get to such places as Southgate and Tottenham.
The companies say they want to see a guarantee of it being a paying proposition before they can get the necessary capital contracted for that kind of development. During the last few years a difficulty of a similar character has been overcome very successfully in the South of London. In the case of the Morden extension that has been a profitable project because of the great amount of estate development beyond Tooting. A similar development is taking place in the outlying areas served by the tramways and omnibuses near Finsbury Park. If you go to Wood Green you find every- where a great amount of building. There are big new estates, and the whole of the new Cambridge Road is being built on. The idea of a tube merely to Manor House is ridiculous, because the only advantage you would get from it—a difference of five minutes walk—is that you would be able to use one extra service of trams that go through the London end of the Green Lanes. There would be just as much congestion. What is wanted is tube facilities to Wood Green and Southgate and the new estates developing along the new Cambridge Road.
The difficulty, say the companies, is finance, and yet the City and South London have found the Morden extension profitable. The one and only point of value in this matter is that the Morden extension to some extent had Government backing by means of Trade Facilities and so forth. The South London company were almost as much opposed to asking for new capital as the Brompton Line are to develop tube railways in a north-easterly direction. It was overcome, as far as I can gather, by financial aid from the Government. I would press the Minister, as one whose constituents are concerned about the scandal of Finsbury Park and adjacent areas as far as traffic is concerned, to see if it is not possible to urge noon the Treasury the importance of this matter to London and to give at least as much encouragement and support to that area as was given to the Morden extension.
I am very glad that, the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) has moved an Amendment on these lines. It is interesting to remember that this was the one great constructive Measure, the one great imaginative work of the Labour Government. I remember the Bill being engineered, with the assistance and aid of the present Minister of Transport, through the House of Commons. It shows that sooner or later the Liberal party will educate the Labour party. We tried to educate them during those few months when they found themselves, shall I say, in office but not in power. We used all our arts of persuasion, but they were adamant and would not listen. Here they are in the Lobby voting against every Amendment and finally in triumph voting for the Third Reading. A remarkable coalition! I remember the coalition so well—the coalition of the Conservative party and the Labour party to force this Bill through the House of Commons. The Bill became, in due course, an Act or Parliament. They have seen their progeny in four or five years grow into a lusty infant and they are ashamed of it, perhaps because it has rather a mixed ancestry, and they now want to bring it to an untimely end. I agree that this infant has not been much good. It has done, I think, a certain amount of mischief, and the sooner it is given a decent funeral at the end of this Parliament the better it will be for the Labour Government that may come into office some day and also for the Conservative Government, its foster father. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Mile End, who took such an active part in helping it to go through, was so anxious to have it destroyed. I am also sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Gosling), who was its particular godfather, is absent. I should have thought that he would have been here in order to singits praises. However we now see the curious spectacle of hon. Members suggesting that the one piece of original legislation that was placed on the Statute Book in 1924 should be withdrawn.
I agree with what the. Member for Mile End said about the Chairman of the Traffic Advisory Committee. One of the peculiarities of this Measure was the creation of this curious hybrid Advisory Committee of 19 members. There were only two representatives of the London County Council elected to the Committee, and I remember suggesting that the number should he increased to four. That. was voted down. I remember suggesting that this hybrid Committee should be given the usual and customary privilege of being allowed to elect their chairman. My hon. Friend the Member for Mile End—I have just looked over the Division List—voted for that very reasonable and moderate proposal being turned down, because, he said, forsooth, the Minister should have the right to make the nomination. Naturally the Minister took one of his bureaucrats and put him in charge. I think the appointment was made by the then Minister of Transport, the hon. Member for Whitechapel, and now my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End says that he made a very great blunder—
If I am mistaken, of course I will withdraw. I was under the recollection that the nomination of the chairman was by the Minister. If I am wrong, I accept correction. One thing which I did suggest at the time, it was defeated by the. Coalition, was that they should sit in public. I suggested that if we were to secure proper public interest in the doings of the Committee it was advisable that they should have the advantage of the presence of the Press at their meetings. That was refused, and as a result we are in this unfortunate position that we are dependent upon spasmodic reports which come out from time to time, relating to proposals which very often, I might almost say as a general rule, are not carried out and which do very little towards the solution of the problem of London traffic.
I am particularly interested in the working of this Act, particularly with regard to the powers which have been put into the hands of the Ministry to schedule restricted streets. That was supposed to be a solution of the problem of London traffic. We were told that if the Government had the power in London to schedule certain streets as restricted streets and to limit the number of omnibuses allowed to ply for hire there, the whole traffic problem would be solved, the streets would no longer be congested, and travelling facilities generally would be improved. I suggested at the time, and it has been proved that I was right, that far from there being too many facili- ties for travel in London there were too few, and that the congestion was more felt by the travelling public because of insufficient vehicles and insufficient railways and tubes than because there were too many vehicles upon the streets or too many facilities upon the railways. However, the Government insisted on this particular Section, and powers were given to the Minister to schedule certain streets as restricted streets and to give the right to omnibus proprietors to ply for hire, thereby apportioning the number of journeys amongst certain proprietors.
We pointed out that the probable result of this would be that the independent omnibuses would disappear from the streets, and we managed to get an Amend-meet accepted which provided that the right to ply for hire in these streets should not be limited to any one proprietor. That had nothing to do with the present Minister of Transport. It was pointed out that the inevitable result would be that the combine would buy out the independent companies and would thus be privileged to ply for hire in these restricted streets. The thing has turned out as I anticipated. In due course, the combine bought out the independent companies. I think I am right in saying that in these restricted streets there are very few independent companies which have not been bought up by the combine. I should, like to know from the Minister of Transport whether in granting licences to ply for hire in these restricted streets consideration is given to the fact that these particular licences have been bought up and taken over by the combine, or is that disregarded? Is it possible now for any independent omnibus company to get the right to ply for hire on these streets, or is the sole right now vested in the London General Omnibus Company?
How is the Act operating? Does it still further strengthen the powers of the combine to get a monopoly or are the in-tendons of Parliament being effected? How far is the Minister protecting independent people against the operations of the London General Omnibus Company? This Act has been working for four years. We were told that the giving of this monopoly would mean greater travelling facilities for London and remove congession. Is the Minister satisfied with its results, or does he take the line indicated in the Blue Report of the Advisory Committee, that the results have not been particularly satisfactory; that it is necessary still further to extend the monopoly, and hand over to one man not only the tubes and omnibuses but also the tramways of London? There are only two ways by which we can get a really satisfactory solution of the London traffic problem. One is by putting control in the hands of a publicly elected body like the London County Council, or, alternatively, to use the American method of selling the privilege under definite conditions and restrictions. This particular scheme is neither one nor the other. It has the faults of both. It has the fiction of some sort of public control because of the existence of this Advisory Committee but, on the other hand, you do not get the advantages of the American system where the public at least gets some payment for a monopoly right and if the service is a failure are able to renew control.
Under the scheme put forward by these 19 gentlemen, this hybrid body, you do not get the advantages of either scheme. Hon. Members need not look at the clock: I am in no particular hurry to get this Act renewed. I think it is a bad Act. We have handed over our streets to the lender mercies of the Minister of Transport and his blessed Advisory Committee; and the only result has been to strengthen the monopoly a the traffic combine. If this Act is to be renewed we have a right to make sure that the public interest is secured. What the Advisory Committee recommend will no doubt be carried out by the Minister of Labour— namely, that this monopoly shall be completed. The combine, under the skilful guidance of Lord Ashfield, will have in its hands not only the tubes and underground railways and the omnibuses, but also the various systems of tramways. I want to know who is to be the nominee of the right hon. Gentleman? Is he going to be a bureaucratic official? What are the conditions of his appointment? Will lie be at liberty after three or four years to go into private practice? Is he going to be an hon. Member of this House? I should like to see an hon. Member of this House as Chairman because we should then be able to criticise his actions. As it is, we are going to get the worst of both possible worlds. We have the Minister of Labour, nominally responsible, who takes shelter behind the advice of the Advisory Committee. We have the Advisory Committee saying that it has no powers, that it can only give advice, and then accusing the Minister of doing nothing.
The people who control London traffic are not the Ministry of Transport, the Advisory Committee, the London County Council or the Metropolitan Borough Councils, but the traffic combine. The man who controls London traffic is Lord Ashfield. I do not blame him. On the contrary, I admire his cleverness. He has had good training in America and knows how to engineer traffic trusts. He has got this concession largely through friends above the Gangway, in their innocence. They are simple people. They passed this Act—
No. We opposed it throughout, as the records will show. Labour Members passed this Act and did not realise what they were doing. Whatever faults we may have we were a united party on that question. Innocent as hon. Members may have been at the time, the inevitable result of passing the Bill has been to strengthen the power and control of Lord Ashfield and his traffic trust. The only protection that is left to the traffic public is to be found in the municipal tramways. What is the Minister's policy? Is he to complete the monopoly? If so, what public control is he to provide to secure that the interests of the travelling public are protected? This kind of thing would not be tolerated in any other part of the world. I had an opportunity of speaking to the hon. Member for Brighton (Sir C. Rawson). He boasted of all the improved facilities for travelling in that charming seaside resort, of how they had been the pioneers of the signal system, and how their tramway and omnibus systems had been organised.
I want London to have the same opportunity as Brighton. What is good enough for Brighton should be good enough for London. Brighton is visited by people from all over the country. It controls its own traffic and its own streets. Why should not London have the same advantage? The facilities enjoyed by Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow should be enjoyed by London. On a Friday afternoon we should not lightly continue this cumbersome and unjust piece of legislation, this bureaucratic system for robbing the people of London of the right to control their own streets. The London ratepayers have to maintain the streets, pave them, light them and clean them. Then the Minister with his Advisory Committee, under the aegis of the London Traffic Act, hands over the streets, without payment, to the traffic combine, to be exploited. The one little protection that we have provided in the Act, that the right to use these streets should be divided amongst the various omnibus proprietors, has now been whittled away because of weak administration. I protest against this unsatisfactory piece of legislation, and I shall be very glad to see it dropped from this particular Bill.
Criticism this afternoon has been concentrated mainly on two matters. One was that the Minister has not done all that he should in regard to London traffic and has ignored the recommendations made to him, and the other asks information as to the rumour that the Minister intends to appoint a certain gentleman as his representative on the Traffic Advisory Committee. I will deal with the second point first. Let me say at once that I intend to appoint Sir Henry Maybury on the Traffic Advisory Committee, and I think I am exceedingly fortunate in inducing him to take up that work, which is unpaid and purely honorary. It is for the Committee to select their chairman. They have full and unfettered liberty in that matter, but I think they will be very lucky to have the continuing advice, whether as chairman or as a member, of one who has given—
I am not called upon to give any opinion as to what Sir Henry Maybury would do; bur what I am quite sure of, after having consulted with him, and knowing his high character, and his 35 years of public service with municipal authorities and as a civil servant, is that he would at once resign if he undertook any work, of any kind, which in any way interfered with his duties in connection with the London Traffic Advisory Committee. Really we are fortunate in getting a man of his unique experience, who has received the freedom of his native city, and who has, I think, the confidence of all the public authorities in this country. To get him to serve in a purely voluntary capacity and to carry on the work which he and the Advisory Committee have done so well in the past, is a matter on which I ought to be congratulated instead of being censured. As far as the Traffic Advisory Committee are concerned, I have been extremely fortunate in the way they have supported me, in the advice they have given me, and in the understanding with which they have viewed my position.
They know as well as I do that there are many reforms which are desirable, but in this imperfect world you cannot do everything you would like to do all at once. Yon have to consider money, unfortunately. Above all, as hon. Members opposite know better than I do, if a particular aspect of our national affairs receives the serious attention of Parliament, in a Measure which occupies weeks and months of Parliamentary time, as the Act of 1924 did, then, on the doctrine of equaltiy of chances, the Department concerned in that Act, cannot possibly hope to carry through another Measure of importance within such a short time. Let us come down to realities and not deal merely with what we should like to do. If there are imperfections in this Act; if there are many things which the Committee think could be done much better with further powers, yet when hon. Members consider that the Roads Bill, dealing with another aspect of the Ministry of Transport's activities, has had to be held over, and that the Factories Bill has had to be held over, they cannot seriously criticise the Department or the Government for not being able to make a further effort to deal with London traffic from a legislative point of view.
That is the reason why we are LOW asking the Committee to agree to the prolongation of the Act for another three years. We are not doing so purely on our own initiative. As this Committee is aware a Select Committee was set up in the spring, representing all parties, under the able chairmanship of the hon. Member for East Cardiff (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke). Thanks to his persuasive and able chairmanship, that Committee unanimously agreed that the Act ought to he continued for another three years as from 1st January. Therefore, no one can say that it has not received careful consideration from all parties, and surely, with a General Election in front of us, it is much better to carry on for three years, so that whoever then comes into office may be able to deal with the question afresh after due consideration. The hon. Member for Mile End made the criticism that many sins of omission lay on the shoulders of the Minister of Transport, and he said, and said truly, that the Advisory Committee had made suggestions to me, some of which had been ignored. It is quite true that many of these alternative routes have not yet been carried out. Many things have been done, but not as much as either I or the Committee would like.
I think so, but if it has not, I stand corrected, as the hon. Member will probably know better than I do. As far as Finsbury Park is concerned, I agree that it is a deplorable state of affairs. Two or three years ago, in the first enthusiasm of being made Minister of Transport, I went down there and saw for myself what was happening.
I have no means of knowing, except from what I see in the Press, anything of the proposals which I understand are going forward in the shape of two private Bills, promoted by the London County Council and by the Combine, to enable them, voluntarily to come to some agreement as to a common management and a common fund; and I think it would be quite improper for me to express any opinion upon those proposals till the Bills are before Parliament. We shall by then have considered them and found out whether they are really sound and protect the public as well as the municipal and private interests concerned, lint I can say this, that I would vote for any step, whether in the form of a private Bill or of a Government Bill, which would give some prospect of tubes and other facilities being provided in these deplorably congested areas, chiefly in the East and North-East of London. Therefore, I hope the House, when these Bills come forward, will not approach this question from a party spirit, but will consider whether these private arrangements which it is sought to carry out really will be for the benefit of the people who live at Becontree and other places.
That is another thing altogether, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot expect me to commit myself, but when I see their proposals—and he does not yet know what they are— I will give sympathetic consideration to them. After all, though the hon. Member for Mile End pointed out that certain things had not been done, do not let the Committee forget that vast projects are either being carried through or are in the air. Take the Victoria Dock Road. The London County Council and the West Ham Corporation are promoting a Bill in this Session of Parliament to enable that crying scandal of transportation to be swept away. It will take some time, it will probably take three or four years, but now that we have reached the stage of a Bill being presented, and now that we have had very generous contributions from local authorities, not only quite close, but right down in the country to help to carry it forward, I hope this project, which will cost about£2,500,000, will soon become a reality, and we shall have greater and easier access to the docks of this great city, which is so necessary in order that the transport of goods and passengers may he carried on.
Then there is the question of Waterloo Bridge which is bound up with that of Charing Cross. I cannot so far say anything with reference to Charing Cross except that very active negotiations are going on between the London County Council the Southern Railway and my Ministry to see whether some agreed proposal can be arrived at. You may say that that is not very far advanced, but in this world my experience is that when you once get down to the stage of active negotiations and conferences, you have reached a very considerable step towards finding a solution of a problem. On that the reconstruction of Waterloo Bridge depends.
I want to point out to the Committee what we are doing. We are going on with the Victoria Dock Road and with Waterloo Bridge directly the Charing Cross question is settled, which may cost about£13,000,000 or£14,000,000. So that I do not think the hon. Member for Mile End can say that we have been unduly anxious in the matter of money. I think the criticism might be that these vast projects cost much money. Lambeth Bridge is now being proceeded with, and the work on the approaches is being done by the County Council, which, when it is finished, will give us another very fine bridge in this city. Then there is Kensington High Street which will cost£425,000. This shows that the Traffic Advisory Committee have done a good deal of work during these three or four short years if you test it by the actual work done, or the amount of money it has cost. If I had been given notice exactly as to the points that were going to be raised, I could, of course, have given a catalogue of many more works, but I am answering on the spur of the moment the speech of the hon. Member for Mile End. I think I have said enough to prove that it is absolutely necessary, from the point of view of traffic, of stabilisation of omnibuses, coordination of street works, roundabouts and other things, that this Act should be carried forward for three years, and I would, therefore, ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
The Minister said he had received great assistance from the Traffic Advisory Committee and, as one of the Committee, I wish I could reciprocate, for I know nothing which the Committee has advised in the way of varying the conditions for the relief of traffic that he has put into effective operation. I know, of course, that the Minister will say that he cannot do this without acting in concert with other public authorities, and to meet those difficulties the Committee have given many hours of consideration to various Amendments of this Act. We have submitted these Amendments to the Minister, and, as far as I know, the Minister has not said whether he is prepared at some future date to submit these Amendments to the House. He has many Amendments that would give the Committee far greater powers for carrying out the things that are so essential to London. The Minister goes further, and says, with regard to traffic co-ordination in London, that anything that will tend to the relief of the congestion of traffic ought to have the blessing of this House, and I assume would have his blessing. The Minister and I part company immediately on that, because the Committee in its recommendations for co-ordination of traffic knew that the lifetime of this Parliament was ending next year, and they were careful in those recommendations to assert a measure of public control. We so advised the Minister, and we were informed' that the Minister so advised the Cabinet, and that the Cabinet accepted the principle of that Report.
The principle of that Report was a public Bill which would be mandatory so far as its Clauses were concerned, that would lead to a full public discussion as to whether it was a right or proper thing to bring these elements of traffic together. The Combine through its representatives signed that Report for a public Bill, and the London County Council Tramways representative also signed it. We find that during the Recess the House is to have private Bills submitted to it not to co-ordinate all the elements that were laid down in the Report, but to bring together two factors of London transport, namely, the London County Council tram ways and the traffic Combine. There are 11 municipal tramway undertakings in London; they are small, I admit, but they all go to make up the whole. There are something like 200 odd omnibuses still running in London, and three company tramway undertakings. All these elements are to be excluded now by the presentation of a private Bill.
The Minister said that he could not possibly get the tube to run to the Manor House and Finsbury Park because of the money. The London and North Eastern Railway Company had the original right to extend their railway to Finsbury Park. I remember in 1921 that they were asked to give up that right. I agree that if they did not exercise the powers which they had for one year other traffic undertakings might take advantage of that position. The London and North Eastern Railway Company had not the money, and the present Combine has not the money to extend. If they have not the money, will the bringing together of the Landon County Council trams, the omnibuses and the tubes make it more possible for them to get it?
The London County Council Tramways are a profitable concern, but not more profitable than the tram, omnibus and tube Combine. The London County Council Tramways have never in their revenue account had a loss since the trams were brought into existence. Will the bringing of these two factors together ensure an extension of tube facilities? My experience up to the time of this Bill is that the London County Council qua Council have resented the fact that there are too many omnibuses and too many traffic facilities on the road, but to say that the introduction of two private Measures which have for their object the placing of municipal enterprise, that has taken years to build up in London, under a Combine is going to ensure these facilities, when we have not had them in the past, is no guarantee that we are going to get greater facilities. I think the Minister rather commits himself in saying he does not mind under what aegis these Bills are introduced, whether it be public or private.
If the two representative bodies on that Committee are negating their own signatures, after having presented a report to the Minister asking for a public measure, asking for elements of public control, and the Minister having accepted it, will tie agree that it is taking an unfair advantage of this collective effort of a Committee to get effective co-ordination, with effective future control, and that in so doing they are guilty of malpractices?
I have always thought that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is, perhaps, the most unfortunate Minister in the Government. He has an extremely difficult ask, and so far from getting any encouragement all he receives is an occasional threat of complete extinction; but, like the Liberal party, which has been threatened in the same way from time to time, he still survives, and we hope that he will live long to share our virility.
I did not intend to address the Committee on this topic at all, but my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) has asked me to make a point of personal explanation. He stated that the Chairman of this Committee ought to be appointed by the Committee, and the Minister of Transport rose with some show of self-righteousness, if I may say so, and said the Chairman was appointed by the Committee, and implied that it would be a monstrous thing if the Chairman were appointed by himself. It is perfectly true, as my hon. Friend asks me to explain, that the Chairman is appointed by the Committee, but for that no thanks are due to the Minister of Transport, because on looking up the report of the Debate during which that point arose we find that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green proposed that the Chairman should be elected by the Committee instead of, as in the original Bill, leaving it to the Minister to appoint a Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman opposed that suggestion, and I think it might interest the House to hear what he said. He said:
I hope the House will not accept this. Amendment. … I approach it not from the point of view of whether it is democratic or autocratic or anything of that sort.
Leaving out a few irrelevancies, he goes on:
As the Committee will have to secure, and can rightly demand, the services of the permanent officials in the Ministry of Transport, it surely would be much better that the Minister should appoint somebody who would he in the position of a liaison officer
between the officials of the Ministry of Transport and himself, rather than that the Committee should select someone. They might select someone who would know nothing about the work of traffic, and there might be a considerable amount of time wasted before the officials of the Department got to grips with matters with which they will have to deal.
I will read one more passage:
I am quite sure the House would find that in the end a lot of public time would be saved if they allowed the Minister to have the decision in this rather important matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1924; col 281, Vol. 175.]
The House of Commons supported by the Labour party authorised the bureaucracy to appoint the Chairman of this Committee, but when the Bill went to another place their Lordships said they could not allow this undemocratic principle to remain, and they decided that the Chairman should be elected by the Committee. Therefore, I trust that neither the Minister of Transport nor the Labour party will take any credit for the condition of things which now prevails. If we had left this point to the Labour party it would probably have gone through now, and so I will address a few more remarks to the House. We are definitely opposed to the principle of this Bill. We think that, however beneficent an autocrat may be, or however efficient his rule, it is so unsure and unsafe a thing that it should not be subscribed to by Members of this House. I was talking the other day to a Member of the party opposite about the most ideal form of government and he arrived at the conclusion that there is only one perfectly satisfactory form of Government, and that is a benevolent monarchy. But, he had sense enough to add:
The trouble is to find the benevolent monarch.
The same thing applies to this great Combine, because Lord Ashfield is undoubtedly benevolent, autocratic and efficient. We all know the psychological tendency of dictators. Generally, they begin by being fair-minded, and they gradually encroach on the liberties of those whom they have
to control until the people revolt against them. I do not suggest that Lord Ash-field has reached that stage, but within a few years' time I feel that this House will rebel against the control of London traffic being left in the hands of one mail.
There was one other point with which the Minister was asked to deal specifically, but in his usual disarming way he passed it over, and he made no reference to it at all. I remember on one of the early occasions on which I had the honour of addressing this House about two o'clock in the morning, we were trying to secure that the rights of those men running private omnibus lines in competition with the London General Omnibus Compay should be preserved. There, again, we found the Minister of Transport, supported by his mighty majority, in alliance with the Labour party, preventing those men who were running private omnibuses from being allowed to appear on the streets at all. We succeeded to a, certain extent in preserving the rights of those omnibus proprietors, but immediately afterwards Lord Ashfield got busy buying them out, and now we find very few of those independent proprietors. With great relevance my hon. Friend asked whether it is the case, as provided in the London Traffic Act, that the Minister of Transport ever gives the right to an independent omnibus company to appear on certain restricted streets.