I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, to leave out "is," and insert "shall have been."
This is a drafting Amendment. The intention is that wage regulating authorities shall be required to relate the duration of the holiday which is to be allowed either to the period for which the worker has been employed or to the period for which he has been engaged to be employed. It was brought to my notice that the original drafting did not make this quite clear, and the object of the Amendment is to make it clear.
The present Amendment is an attempt in a very humble way to improve the Bill, which itself, of course, is of very modest dimensions. I understand that the first Amendment which I have on the Paper—In page 1, line 7, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall, before the twenty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-one," is out of order, and I expected that it would be, because the scope of the Bill is so very limited. Anyone who is not acquainted with our Parliamentary procedure and who read the title of the Bill and thought, "That is spendid; I am going to get a week's holiday now," would be wrong. The Bill does nothing of the kind.
Why I am asking the Committee to accept this Amendment is that, since the whole construction of the Bill is based on the Amulree Report, since nothing in the Bill ever goes in any way further than the committee's report, and since that report seemed to many of us rather a jejune affair—not a very stimulating document—it seems at least that the Bill ought to go as far as the committee's recommendation on this important point. In the report it was suggested that, as regards industries covered by trade boards, there should be a paid holiday of at least one week. The proviso I am asking the Committee to leave out does not carry that into effect, as I read it Here we are giving the trade boards authority, as I read it, to make arrangements for holidays, provided that they do not exceed one week, which is a very different thing from saying, "at least one week." If I say to a child, "I will give you at least 1s. a week pocket money," it would be a very different thing from saying, "In no circumstances must you ever have more than 1s. a week."
There is, of course, a difficulty with regard to agricultural wages boards. I will be perfectly frank about that. If the Amendment were to be accepted, it would have to be redrawn on the next stage, if we were to stick strictly to the committee's report; but I should hope that we might be a little more generous in this matter than the Amulree report. As regards trade boards, haulage boards and statutory authorities of that kind, they should now be able to do what the Amulree Committee propose, to make recommendations providing for at least one week's holiday, and not to regard that period as the maximum. As regards agricultural boards, since strong opinions have been expressed by people well acquainted with agriculture that this three days' provision is not absolutely necessary, I would like the Committee to leave out that provision and thus strengthen the Bill which is before us to-day.
The Government have not done as well in this Bill as the recommendation of the Committee. It has already been stated that whereas the words of the Committee are "at least," the Government are saying in the Bill "nor more." What is to be the position? On a trade board you have people knowing each other well, representing the two sides in the industry and sitting with the independent Government representatives. They have had no difficulty in agreeing in the past on the various matters they have to deal with. Surely it would be doing nothing very extravagant to entrust those persons with the power to agree on a reasonable period of holidays. If there is a possibility of some giving more than seven days' holiday, we are not running any grave risk in giving them the power to do so.
During the last Parliament we had the present Minister of Labour in another capacity as Secretary for Mines. During his term of office as Secretary for Mines he has occasion to come to this House to legislate on miners' welfare, for which the contributions were reduced. Every time we put up an argument against his proposals, he said, "Here is the committee's report." He was a stickler for the recommendations of the committee. Here are the recommendations of this committee for holidays with pay, that they should consist of at least as many days as are in the working week, and that these days should, as far as possible, be taken consecutively. Here we have the Minister, who stood at the Box last week saying that this Bill was a landmark in the history of this country, that for the first time in our history we should have legal holidays with pay; and now we have a Clause saying that the most that these bodies can give is seven days. I think we should have something inserted to provide that the various committees should give at least seven days' holiday with pay, and I hope we shall get support from all quarters of the Committee for this very moderate demand, and that we shall see the right hon. Gentleman saying he will accept the Amendment.
I rise to support the Amendment. It is to me rather disappointing that when we have had a unanimous report from a committee whose experience and knowledge are so varied as that of the Amulree Committee, we should find that on so important a matter as this the Government see fit to make a variation of the recommendation of that committee, which was unanimously agreed. That recommendation, as set out in the report, clearly visualised that the annual holiday with pay should be for a minimum period of one week. On the Second Reading many of us asked the Minister why this remarkable change had been made, and why that minimum period was altered into a maximum. The Minister of Labour did not give us any reply to that. Many of us want to know the real reason behind it.
Many of us have asked for years for holidays with pay. We believe it to be a great ideal, we want to see it spread over as great a number of people as possible, and we want to see the holiday spread over as long a period as industry can afford. I do not see why the people who regulate the conditions of industries should have a fetter placed on their discretion on this particular point. I ask the Government to reconsider this very important matter and give the trade boards a chance to do their job properly and give the maximum holidays that their industries can afford. That will conform to the views of the Amulree Committee, and be in accordance with what the vast majority of the House would like.
The Amendment, of course, carries two parts. The second part deals with the agricultural industry. The Amulree Committee, in their report, provide for a limitation of holidays for agricultural workers to three days at a time. Those who are interested in this question of annual holidays say that three days' holiday is rather poor stuff. Nobody can get very far in three days. The labourer in question is debarred from getting a real change of atmosphere for a sufficiently long period for it to be worth while. If he is in the North of England and wants to go to London, half his time will be spent in travelling, and the travelling costs will be prohibitive for so short a time. I appeal to the Government to do something for the men who come under the agricultural boards. We have been trying to do something for the men who work on the land for years. We want to make the condition of these men equal to that of men who work in other industries. If this Amendment is accepted, I believe you are going to improve the conditions of work in Great Britain. It was said in the House recently that we were getting perilously near the position of wages and unemployment benefit being practically the same. If we do what we can to provide decent holidays for people employed, we shall be doing something to make the position of the man at work more attractive.
Mr. Creech Jones:
I support this Amendment because the report of the Amulree Committee, as has been already pointed out, does specifically state that the provision of a holiday of one week with pay, so far as trade board determinations are concerned, should be given, whereas the Bill now limits the determination to no more than seven days. I raised this point on the Second Reading, and the Minister in his reply pointed out that what is required is that statutory provision should be given to a trade board to enable it to make a determination of not more than seven days, but that that did not preclude an industry from behaving more generously if the workpeople and the employers were so disposed. In fact, it was pointed out to the Minister that that was customary in industry to-day. I quite appreciate the force of the argument, but I would point out to the Minister that when you lay down the maximum of a holiday in a Statute, it tends to become a maximum determination in the industry by the trade board or in negotiations with employers. It becomes a habit in the industry to think merely in the terms of the holiday definitely provided in the Statute, and it makes the work of negotiators exceedingly difficult if Parliament has already decided that no more than seven days should be laid down as far as the trade board's determination is concerned. When a determination of this kind is made, you are to a degree penalising the better employers who are disposed to give better treatment, and who, as a result of representations, do give better treatment, because they are at a disadvantage in competition with the worst employers.
I suggest that, as it is, in any case of a trade board, very difficult to get a decision which is generous, the Minister need have no fear that the trade boards are constantly going to determine that holidays shall exceed seven days. Even if the employers oppose, the representatives who take the middle position on the board, having been appointed by the State, are there to see, from a social and duty point of view, at least that justice is done to the trade or industry. The workers, in urging that there should be more than seven days, will have to convince not merely their own representatives, but the appointed members as to the wisdom, as far as the industry or trade is concerned, of such an action. Therefore, there is a safeguard in that respect.
As the report of the committee represented a compromise—and it is a compromise in which the workers themselves have made certain sacrifices in order to secure unanimity—it is reasonable to ask that at least the minimum terms of the report should now be embodied in this particular part of the Bill. I, therefore, ask that the Minister should very seriously consider this point of view. We want, now that we are starting on this road, the trades and industries to face up to this question in a generous manner, but if it is laid down in a Statute that the will of Parliament is that there shall be seven days holiday, I am afraid that generosity will be superseded by an attitude which will confirm seven days or a week as the maximum which will operate in a particular trade or industry.
I am very glad to join with hon. Members on the other side of the Committee and on my own in support of this Amendment. It is interesting to notice that nobody yet has risen to defend actually the Bill as it stands. I welcome the, Amendment for two or three reasons. The Bill in itself is permissive. It does not say that holidays shall be given at all, but it opens the door, if the board so wishes, to generous action in this respect. I submit, therefore, that it is unreasonable and unwise to put a very low limit to that generosity. If you generally state in the Bill what the maximum amount of holiday is to be, you close to a certain extent the doors of hope and expectation for the workers. It is always a bad thing to do that. Therefore, because this Bill does not compel any holiday at all, it might be at least generous in its permissive powers. It is very unwise, to say the least of it, and also unfair, to draw a distinction for all time apparently in the amount of holiday that may be allowed to agricultural workers as compared with other workers, at least as far as this Bill is concerned.
We are trying to deal with what is obviously a very great evil—the drift of the people away from the land. It is extremely difficult to persuade young people to stay on the land. Here is going to be another difficulty put in the way of those who want to work on the land, because we are laying down in a Statute that three days' holiday is considered a sufficient maximum for them, whereas for other workers we are prepared to allow seven days. It would be wiser and fairer to leave agricultural workers in the same position as other workers, so that their holidays might be determined by the board which is familiar with conditions in the industry, and not definitely to state that they shall be handicapped in this way as compared with workers in other industries. I join in the appeal to the Minister of Labour which has been made to him from both sides of the Committee to be generous in his attitude towards this Amendment, and to make this permissive Measure as helpful and beneficial as it can be. I am satisfied that by accepting the Amendment, the Measure would be considerably strengthened.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) said that the Bill is permissive, and while that is true, it is obvious that it is the desire of those who have drawn the Bill and of everybody else that it should not be permissive, because when an order is made by a trade board or an agricultural wages committee it becomes compulsory. This emphasises the difficulty of making general conditions apply to all industries. While the best of the agriculturists try to do what they can for their men, it is essential that they should have men to look after their stock for the whole seven days. [Interruption.] I am not talking about the holiday, but about the present practice in the industry, and trying to show the difficulty of assimilating the same conditions for both ordinary industry and agriculture.
I am sorry if I have transgressed your Ruling, Sir Dennis, and if I am called on the later Amendment, I should like to make my remarks on this subject on that occasion. My desire is that every man in whatever industry he is engaged, should have seven days' holiday. In many cases three days would be absolutely useless. It would mean that a man would probably have to spend one day going and another day coming back in travel, and consequently, the only people who would benefit would be the railway companies, and that is not the intention. My desire is that the Amendment should be carried for industry generally, and I would wish to reserve my remarks with regard to agriculture until later.
I want to put a point to the Minister so that he may reply to it. My difficulty with regard to the Amendment is that, if it is carried, it will strike out all reference to trade boards having the opportunity of dealing with matters other than settling rates for time worked, whether day work or piecework. I do not know how the proposers of the Amendment intend to deal with that particular position if the Amendment is carried. Trade boards would then be in the same position in which we find them to-day. It speaks only of the regulating authority but does not deal with trade boards. The Minister may correct me on that point. I do not want the trade boards to be denied the opportunity. The point I wish to put to the Minister is this, and I hope that he will deal with it. Under the Trade Boards Act no restriction is placed upon us when dealing with wages or hours of working or general conditions of employment. Why is it that there is an endeavour to place a restriction on the trade boards and upon agricultural wages committees? One of the advantages of these boards, if there is any advantage at all, is that they deal with the whole industry, and people in the industry cannot escape from their decision.
Why now make a restriction which limits the opportunity for the representatives of employers and employed to come to a particular conclusion? If they decided that the only legal provision binding upon firms would be a particular number of days, it would place us in the position—I speak as one who is on a trade board at the present time—of having to engage in striking, if we determined to secure a longer holiday than, say, the week or seven days mentioned in the Bill. I hope that there will be no effort to restrict them. It would be a God-send to this country if each of the trade boards could agree upon this particular Measure, but I am not at all hopeful.
I will say only a few words, as I wish to speak, if possible, on the agricultural Amendment. I support the Amendment, because I do not believe in laying down any hard-and-fast rule as regards holidays. This is a permissive Bill, as we are told, and trade boards can arrange the period as between employers and employed. In some trades, where they make a considerable profit, and in small trades, they may perhaps be able to afford to give a fortnight's holiday, but in large trades they may be able to give only a week. In an organisation with which I am connected a week is given annually up to the first 10 years' service, and after 10 years a fortnight is allowed. That sort of thing, I think, could easily be arranged in most firms. In large industries a week would perhaps be the utmost that they could give, but in other industries it might be a fortnight or even longer.
I do not propose, if the Amendment goes to a Division, to vote for it, because I think that its purpose can be achieved by the Amendments to follow. Before the Minister replies to the question of the limitation of seven days, I should like to put one or two points to which it would be advisable for him to pay some attention. There is a definite limitation that where the trade boards decide by agreement to apply holidays with pay they cannot provide for more than seven days. Why should that limitation be put there, in view of the fact that presumably as time goes on there will be a general development and extension of holidays from the present period to a lengthened period such as now obtains in various industries, where one section may have a maximum of a week and other sections may have two, three or four weeks holiday? It seems to me unreasonable and unnecessary to lay down in the Act of Parliament a limitation that the statutory boards shall not, so long as this Act operates, have power to extend the holiday to more than seven days. Not only does that restriction affect what we hope will be the future progress of the holidays-with-pay movement, but it puts those employers working under the statutory boards who may be very well disposed to give more than a seven days holiday, at a disadvantage if they do so, compared with those employers who do not go beyond the seven days. What are the justifications of the Minister for fixing this rigid limitation to seven days?
I should like to put in a word in support of the Amendment from the standpoint of those people who have nothing to gain from the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) that hope is the principal ingredient in the Bill. It is because of the hopes of the future that I trust those who are to obtain something from the Bill in its present form will not be put down to such narrow limits. If this Clause remains in the Bill and the seven days' holiday is fixed it will mean that those employers who are to come in eventually—and in my trade they will come in last—will be determined in their action to a large extent by what has preceded their action. The Minister is putting into the hands of those employers who find it difficult to come to an agreement with the trade unions a weapon for the establishment of a very short holiday. In the Second Reading Debate he laid down the principle that the Bill would be a landmark in that it issued a warning to employers. It tells them, "Agree with thine adversary quickly," because in good time something is going to be done in the way of compulsion. What is going to happen? If this Clause remains in the Bill and it is laid down that not more than seven days is to be fixed, the employers will be able to say: "In three years' time, all that we shall be in for will be seven days, and until then we will fob off the trade unions." Instead of helping along holidays with pay on a generous scale, the Minister is by this Clause helping the niggardly employer.
In the interests of accuracy I should like to correct a misapprehension which has arisen in the Debate, when it was suggested that one effect of the carrying of this Amendment would be to rule out any reference to trade boards which are one of the wage regulating authorities mentioned on page 1 of the Bill. I would point out that they are mentioned also on page 5. The effect of the Amendment would be to give to the trade boards and the agricultural wage committees powers at large to grant holidays with pay. The Clause, as it stands, will not justify the fear which was expressed by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), who appeared to think that something in the provisions of this Bill might hold up the continuance or the increase of voluntary holidays with pay. In the last two years some 1,750,000 more people have enjoyed holidays with pay through voluntary agreements, and I cannot believe that a Clause which releases the trade boards and the agricultural wages committees from their present position of not doing anything in this matter, will have anything like the result which has been suggested.
The wide measure of interest shown in all parts of the Committee tends to dispel the argument which was advanced a few days ago that this was a puny Bill which would have no effective results for the welfare of the workers. The fact that it affects 600,000 agricultural workers, 1,300,000 people working under trade board regulations and 200,000 who work as road hauliers, proves that it will be of wide benefit. I can assure the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) that the wide extension of the principle of holidays with pay would not cause the Government any distress, and I agree with the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) that we want to work towards that state of society in which industry will give the maximum amount of holidays with pay that it can afford. In the words of paragraph 134 of the report, I say that it is not unreasonable that the period of the holiday should be more than one working week. The Government have no quarrel with that statement, particularly because of the words that follow it in that paragraph, and because of the words in paragraph 143. We are confident that in this Clause we have interpreted the intention of the Committee. It was an agreed and unanimous report and we believe that it was agreed and unanimous on the basis of granting one full working week's holiday with pay. [HON. MEMBERS: "At least."] The use of the phrase "at least," however it may be interpreted by hon. Members, was designed to express the view that in general a whole week was desirable, but not to tie down the Government in this Bill to making that obligatory.
The Amendment of the hon. Member for Shipley which was not moved was, no doubt, in the mind of the hon. Member when he spoke. The result of that Amendment would be to prevent a trade board or an agricultural wages committee from giving a holiday of less than seven days. It might well be that the industry could afford a holiday with pay, but not a holiday of that full amount, and it would be undesirable that they should be prevented from giving any holiday at all, because of restrictive words of that kind. In regard to the main contention that has been advanced, that in some way this Clause differs from the intentions of the committee, I can assure hon. Members that that is not the view of the Government, and that this Clause is a genuine attempt to give expression to that unanimity which we believe could never have been achieved except on the basis of a holiday of one working week.
The Parliamentary Secretary has advanced fairly cogent reasons why the Amendment should be carried and this particular restriction should be dropped from the Bill. He has not advanced one single reason that anyone could call a reason why the words should remain. There has been no answer from the Government. I have listened very carefully, and, apart from giving a certain amount of explanation and answering one or two observations, the only thing the hon. Member did was to assure the Committee that when the recommendations of the committee said "at least one week" and the Government said "not exceeding one week," the Government were precisely carrying out the exact meaning of what the committee said. If the hon. Member believes that, he is insulting his own intelligence, and if he does not believe it, he is insulting this Committee.
I am disappointed with the reply of the Minister. If he had related his observations rather more to the Debate that has taken place, I do not believe that he would have taken such a view. I must ask the Committee to express themselves in favour of the Amendment. The views that I put forward have been followed by those of other hon. Members, who are in agreement that the Amendment is in accordance with any reasonable interpretation of the report of the committee, more especially having regard to paragraph 134 and paragraphs 143 and 146, which are to be read together. Paragraph 134 says that it is not unreasonable that the period of the holiday should be more than one working week, and paragraphs 143 and 146 say that the holiday should be at least one week. The words say, in effect, that our ambition is that some day we shall reach a period when holidays of more than a week will be granted, and during this preliminary intervening period, until the general legislation of 1941, there must be at least a week. But the Bill says there must not be more than a week during the intervening period.
We have to exercise our common-sense view of what is a reasonable interpretation of what the committee say in their report, and it is a reasonable interpretation that we should say to these wage regulating authorities, "Get on with the job and come to these tripartite arrangements and arrange holidays with pay for at least a week." This is an enabling and permissive Bill. My first Amendment was ruled out of order on the ground that this is an enabling Bill, and when I move this Amendment we are told that we must not do that. We are all anxious to make this Bill an instrument of progress even in this intervening period before the next stage. I therefore ask the Minister to reconsider the matter and to see whether he cannot accept either this Amendment or the necessary words to achieve the purpose of the Amendment, which has been supported by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee.
Might I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman? We are all aware of what happened. We know that on the Amulree Committee the trade union representatives agreed with the employers' representatives to make this a unanimous report on the footing that it would result in a Bill to secure something. The committee unanimously agreed to fix seven days at least. Now, in the dying hours of the Session, when we are afraid that we may lose the Bill, the Government come forward with a measure knocking out the words "at least" and making it "not exceeding" seven days. In other words, they are taking away from the wages committees fixed under the Bill, and agreed to by the employers' and employés representatives on the committee, the option of giving a little longer than seven days. I beg that the inhibition which the Government has imported into this Clause may be withdrawn. If the Minister would meet us on this point he would greatly expedite the passage of the Bill and there would be general agreement here, as there was in the committee between employers and employés.
The Amulree Committee had to face the problem of how best to forward the movement for holidays with pay. To begin with, there were two quite clear views and a middle one. The first was that the way to do it was by universal compulsion, and the other that it was to be done by voluntary agreement. There was a middle view expressed by a few people, that it might be possible to combine both. The matter was discussed and differing views were expressed. On some points employers held one view and the trade unions another, and on some things they agreed. In the end there was a unanimous report. That does not mean that anyone in the committee sacrificed his own view that a certain course in the long run might be desirable. It means that, in order to forward this great movement to the maximum, they have come to the conclusion that a certain course is necessary.
One thing was ruled out for at least three years—universal compulsion. That was ruled out by general agreement. The second thing was that the means to be adopted to achieve this end during that period should be the use of the well-tried machinery of the trade unions' and employers' organisations in order that the circumstances of each industry might be sifted and examined and conclusions arrived at, by agreement if possible, before 1941, for applying it to the maximum number of workers. There was also the realisation that there was a body of workers whose representatives were not in the fortunate position of being able to make agreements, but who operated within certain statutory machinery—trade boards, agricultural wages committees, or the new road haulage authority. It was suggested by the committee that immediate legislation should be brought forward to meet that position, hence this Bill.
It is not only the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who are in a difficulty because of the shortness of time. There is no difference here at all. We all want to do the best we can in good faith to forward this movement. It is true that the words of the Clause may be interpreted in the way they have been, but the Bill is drafted on a firm understanding. The agreement arrived at was that, when powers were given to these bodies, it should be on the basis that the holiday should be in the terms of a normal working week. That is why the Bill is drafted as it is, and that is why I have an Amendment on the Paper later on to make the Bill conform to the basis of the agreement that the trade union leaders agreed to with the employers. I am aware that that cannot bind the House of Commons, but we have done our best quickly to implement this part of the report for one reason only, that if we had not brought the Bill forward quickly the lower-paid workers under the trade boards and agricultural wages committees would have had at least six months less time to argue this question out than the ordinary industries with their normal machinery.
I am bound to attach great weight to opinions given me from all quarters of the House, but I am also bound in fairness to myself and to those who rendered great service on the committee to give the House my understanding of what was arrived at, and I regret that I cannot now accept the Amendment, but I will weigh what has been said and before the next stage of the Bill I will take consultation with all those concerned in the committee. I hope the House will agree that in the circumstances that is as far as I can be expected to go at this stage.
I appreciate the great number of difficulties that the right hon. Gentleman has experienced in the matter but, when he is consulting with the industries concerned, will he pay attention to paragraph 146 of the agreement between trade unions' and employers' representatives that there should be a holiday of at least one week with pay? Those are the words that are not in the Clause. They are knocked on the head by the Clause. We would accept the letter and the spirit of paragraph 146 if it were embodied in the Bill, but in one important respect the agreement is being departed from and, so far as I know, neither the employers' nor the employés' representatives have asked the Government to depart from the Amulree recommendation. The words "at least" mean that more might be granted by agreement. The words of the Clause prohibit the trade boards from giving more than one week, and that is the difference between us. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will see fit still to give us an assurance that he will consider whether he cannot so amend the Clause as to keep good faith with both the employers' and the employés' representatives. If he will extend the assurance that he has just given to that extent he will restore harmony between both sides on the matter.
The Minister says he desires to interpret the wishes of the committee and wishes to be loyal to the men. It appears to me that this is the issue, that he has taken the words "at least" and made it appear as if it really means "at most." I hope, therefore, that he will consult with the committee, as he has promised, and will make the meaning clear so that we shall not fail in giving the best we can to the workers.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked me if I would consider paragraph 146 of the agreement. That is the very point. In consulting the committee I will report to them the substance of the Debate and the desire that has been generally expressed. I should not have brought the Bill forward at the last stage of the Session unless I thought it was non-contentious.
Do we understand that the right hon. Gentleman gave some explicit or implicit assurance to the parties concerned that this limitation of the holiday to seven days would be put into the Bill?
I am only trying to point out that the use of the words "at least" do not mean "more than." If the Minister of Labour tells me that the members of this admirable committee intended that the words "at least" shall mean "not more than" we are back again in a situation not dissimilar to that in which we found ourselves at an earlier period of the afternoon. I understand that the Minister is to ask the committee what they really did mean and if he finds that it would not mean a breach of the undertaking represented by their report he will put them in. At the same time I hope he will ask them what they mean by paragraph 147 of their report.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, to leave out "seven days," and to insert "one week."
This Amendment is to make clear the point which I have already put to the Committee and it must be taken as part of a subsequent Amendment—in page 2, line 10, at the end, to insert:
(3) For the purposes of the last foregoing Subsection the expression "week" means, in relation to any worker whose rates of wages are fixed under the said Act of 1924 or the said Act of 1937 a period of seven days, and in relation to any other worker such period as may be determined by the wage regulating authority to be his normal working week.
The views of the Committee were that it should be a normal working week, and, therefore, the first of these two Amendments is to substitute "one week" for "seven days." We have already had a discussion on this point on a previous Amendment, and, therefore, there is no necessity for me to say very much on this proposal. The Amendment follows the Recommendation of the Amulree Committee.
I think there is too great a readiness to accept this suggestion, and I must dissent from such a course. It is said that a normal working week is meant. If a man works seven days in the week that is his normal working week. There are men who regularly work seven days in the week, and, therefore, if it is to be a normal working week these men should get seven days' holiday, not six. I am afraid that the substitution of the words "one week" will mean that these men will get six days' holiday, and not seven.
I am aware that they come under the trade boards, but it may be possible under this proposal for employers to say that they do not propose to pay them for seven days work when they get their holiday.
If the hon. Member will allow me to say so, I understand and appreciate his point, and I think it can be better discussed on the second Amendment. I am in the hands of the Committee, and perhaps it may be convenient to discuss the two Amendments together, and then take a decision on the second Amendment formally.
I do not think there is any ground for the fears of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The issue is quite clear. There are agricultural workers who are working seven days in the week. If a working man under a Trade Board is working seven days that will be his normal working week. Those who are concerned with the working of the trade boards agree that the phrase "normal working week" is better than "seven days."
Those under the trade boards do not work seven days in the week, but there are times when people may work seven days in the week and I am anxious that in the case of holidays these persons shall not be brought in to work on the seventh day, which is a Sunday, because in that case they would get only six days' holiday.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, to leave out from "months," to the end of the Sub-section.
This brings into the discussion the question of the agricultural worker. In the Bill they are limited to holidays not exceeding three consecutive days. Despite what is said in the report, I suggest that to ask agricultural workers, where the employers and workers are agreed, to confine themselves to no more than three consecutive days is not giving them a holiday at all. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) has referred to the difficulty of those responsible being able to pay for holidays for agricultural workers. I do not know why they are in that difficulty.
I have discussed agricultural questions with the hon. Member, and I gathered that that was the only interpretation to be put on the remarks he has made, and which I am sure he is going to make. Some of us who have to deal with agricultural workers, who find employment for 200 or 300 agricultural workers, some of whom have to tend cattle on the seventh day, find no difficulty, and have found no difficulty for years, in paying them for holidays, and we should never consider it a holiday if we gave them only three consecutive days. I can assure the hon. Member that we pay them more than any farmer in the country pays his employés, as they get about 50s. per week. I submit that if an effort is made by the farmers of the country there is no difficulty in guaranteeing that the men shall have an opportunity of spending a holiday. They are really the most deserving set of men in the community, and it would be not only an advantage to them in health but a great advantage also to those who employ them. We who have had experience of holidays with pay for more than 20 years know that although there was grave doubt as to what would be the cost, after a year or two, as a result of close investigation, it was found that there was not a monetary loss by reason of there being holidays with pay, but that, on the contrary, industry rather gained from the better condition of the workpeople and the spirit which was manifest in the various establishments.
In one case, where 26,000 people, who were employed in various workshops throughout the country, were given holidays with pay, the amazing feature was that, after the first year, the time keeping was such that 98 per cent. of the workpeople in that industry, which is not one of the healthiest industries, worked throughout the year without losing any time. In spite of what may have been said before the Amulree Committee and in spite of the feeling that agricultural workers should be placed in an inferior position, in the matter of benefits and wages, and now in regard to holidays with pay, I ask the Committee to be fair to the agricultural workers, and to remove this restriction. To do so will not mean that the agricultural workers will receive immediately either three consecutive days' holiday or the longer holiday, but it will at least give an opportunity to those who are conducting the industry, if they are prepared so to do, to arrange for holidays that are really worth something.
I wish to support the Amendment. In many parts of the North of England, it is the custom that agricultural workers should be given seven days' holiday with pay. That is an old custom which may be dying out in some districts, but it is one which has worked very well in the past and which has by no means died out altogether. Perhaps the Minister can give an indication of how far that custom still exists by informing us of the number of farmers who have taken advantage of the long-hiring scheme under the Unemployment Insurance (Agriculture) Act, since along with the custom of long hirings has gone that of giving the forw worker one week's holiday at the end of the hiring. Therefore, it is quite practicable for farm workers to be given a week's holiday, I do not say in all conditions of agriculture, but in very many.
I suggest that if the words which appear in this provision of the Bill are retained, it will tend to encourage farmers to give only three days' holiday, whereas in the past they have given seven days, and that therefore in this respect the Bill will be a retrograde step. As far as I understand the position, if the words were left out, it would still be within the power of the county agricultural wages committees to stipulate that the statutory holiday should be three days, and perhaps in some parts of England they would do that; but in areas where the custom has been for the agricultural workers to have seven days' holiday, the committees would not be compelled to enforce only three days. Consequently, I urge that the words should be omitted. In any case the agricultural wages committees can recommend only three days, and it seems to me that there is no advantage in insisting that they should do so. I am certain that to very many agricultural workers in the North of England the seven days' holiday is very greatly valued, and they would consider it to be a most disastrous outcome of this Bill if the result of it was that the seven days were cut down to three days.
That is true, but when it is merely customary—and I agree a custom which is not so universally followed now as it used to be—the tendency undoubtedly will be for the minimum to become the maximum. I think that has always been the tendency with this sort of legislation. Therefore, in answer to the Minister, I suggest that equally my point is a good one, and that if the three days are not mentioned, it will still be open to the agricultural wages committee to fix three days in an area where three days is perhaps as much as can be given, but it will not make it obligatory on the committee to lay down that there shall be three days, when they might very likely be willing to make the number seven. Therefore, I urge that the Amendment should be accepted.
I support the Amendment. A thing which I cannot understand is why men who are engaged in the oldest occupation in the world should be condemned to only three days' holiday. Those three days might mean a week-end off; it might mean that all they would get would be Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Where can a man and his family go for three days? I cannot understand why agricultural workers should always be penalised. They are penalised in the matter of wages, hours, insurance, and now holidays with pay. With three days' holiday, if an agricultural labourer happened to be working on an inland farm, what chance would he ever have of seeing the seaside? His children would be denied the pleasure of a holiday by the seaside. I want to make an appeal to hon. Members. Time and again plenty of sympathy has been expressed towards the poor agricultural labourers. Now they have an opportunity to give that sympathy some practical form by agreeing to this Amendment.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), in moving the Amendment, said that he knew what I would say when I spoke. That may have been so, but possibly other hon. Members did not have the same power, and therefore, I feel that I must express myself again, and say what I really meant. I hope that the Minister will stick to the Bill as drafted. This Amendment brings out the absolute impossibility of making the conditions of legislation the same for industry as for agriculture, owing to the varying nature of the conditions, not only between industry generally and agriculture, but between various forms of agriculture as practised in different districts. I say definitely that a three days' holiday is a very limited one, and I do pot think that, where it was possible to give seven days, three days would be given. If three days were given, one day would be occupied in travelling to the holiday place and another in coming back from it, and that would simply leave the railway company with the great advantage of two days' fares and the man with the dubious advantage of one day's holiday. There is a great deal to be said against three days, and there is a great deal to be said for seven days, and I should say that undoubtedly seven days is the holiday which it is desirable that the men should have. It is not, however, only a question of what is desirable, but also of what is practicable in the conditions in which the agricultural workers are working. Although, as the hon. Member for Rochdale said, it might be practicable to give seven days in agriculture——
I am not denying that, or that in some cases it is practicable; but I deny that it is so in all cases. For instance, what would happen in the case of a small farmer who had only two men working for him? It is impossible to get men in to do casual work in agriculture at the present time, particularly if it is a case of a man responsible for stock. Therefore, it would mean that the farmer himself would have to do the work for a full week, and that would be a very great difficulty. It is practical in some cases, and not in others, and I sould like to see it made practicable in all cases if possible. I do not want it to be thought that I am against there being seven days' holiday with pay in agriculture, if it can be worked, and I would point out that the Bill does not say that there shall not be seven days. Under the Bill as it is, where it is practicable, the farmer and his men can agree to there being seven days. What the Bill says is that it is not for the agricultural wages committees to make more than three days compulsory at the present time.
Why should the whole seven days' holiday be given at first? Would it not be much better to leave the industry to do it by steps and to leave it to the wages committees to make three days compulsory by agreement in the meantime, in the hope that later on conditions in the industry, both as regards work and finance, will be such that the seven days' holiday can be made compulsory? There are very great doubts in the minds of many as to whether the industry could afford this? That is not the fault of the industry, but of the community in general, and some hon. Members opposite who have voted against the interests of the industry. What I want is that the industry should be put in such a financial position that it could afford to give seven days' holiday, where practicable, and I hope that in future the help of the Government will make it possible for that to be done. I support the Bill as it now is, in the hope that we may advance by degrees, with the ideal of a seven days' holiday in front of us, but with full knowledge that seven days' holiday are not possible in all cases at the present time.
I do not want to delay the proceedings for any length of time, because we have here, at long last, a Bill which opens the door to holidays with pay for agricultural workers. That is something which I have recommended for some time, and before now I have appealed to farmers to bring it into effect at an early date. On this Amendment, I have no knowledge of what the Minister will say, but on the last Amendment he said that he would think further on the subject and consult with various interests. I do not know whether he will do that in connection with this Amendment, but I wish to bring forward a few points which I think he ought to bear in mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) quite rightly said that what everybody wants, if possible, is that the men should have a week's holiday. There are several considerations to be borne in mind. There is, first, this consideration. There are occasions when the man himself, especially if he be a single man, would prefer to have his holidays in two parts.
I am dealing with agricultural workers. I have given all my men holidays with pay, and I happen to know what they feel about it, and there are cases. as I was saying, in the agricultural industry where the men, especially the single men, would prefer to have their holidays spread out and in two parts. Often agricultural workers take their holidays in the towns. They may want to go to London for two or three days. They may want to go somewhere else at another time. That is one consideration which I ask the Minister to bear in mind. Another consideration is this. Every employer would, if he could, give his men their holidays in one chunk. Obviously, if a farmer were employing, say, eight men, it might be a great inconvenience to him if the holidays of all those men were split into two parts. He naturally would do whatever he could to give the full week's holiday at once for the purpose of convenience and the efficient working of the farm. On the other hand there are occasions when it is well-nigh impossible for the small farmer who employs one man to give a week's holiday. It would place an intolerable burden on the small farmer who never gets a holiday himself, and is never likely to get one, if he were compelled to give a full week's holiday to the one man whom he employs. It is not a question of expense. He could afford the £2, or whatever may be the amount of the wages. It is a question of not having another man available locally to take the place of the man who goes on holidays, and in many cases there is not another man available. I ask the Minister to bear those points in mind. I welcome the Bill as a step towards holidays with pay for agricultural workers, which I have advocated for some time.
The hon. and gallant Member for Cambridgeshire (Captain Briscoe) raised a point which has not yet been considered by the Committee, but ought to be considered, namely, that there are some men who would prefer to take their holidays in parts. I know a few smallholders who work on farms and who get time off from their farm work in order to make their hay, and they would like to have the period split up in the way suggested. Unfortunately, the Bill ties us down to three days, and while the splitting up of the holidays would meet the position of a very small minority, it would not meet the position of the great majority who want to go away to the seaside and who want more than three days. That is the problem. I cannot support the Clause as it stands. I wish to see it left open to the workers to get a longer period than three days. In regard to the general position, my experience of the countryside goes to show that unless the agricultural labourer is given decent holidays in the near future, the difficulty which farmers now experience in getting good skilled men will become worse. It is high time that the agricultural labourer received that status and that dignity to which he is entitled as the great producer of food in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "And wages."] I agree—and wages also.
I know that there is also the difficulty of the small farmer to which the hon, Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) has referred, but that difficulty can be met, and must be met. Most farmers can arrange their work so that it is possible to replace key men. Otherwise, what would happen to-day when cases of illness occur? There is a period in January and February when influenza is rampant, and it is always found possible to replace key men who fall ill. I know many small farmers who work their farms themselves with the assistance of, perhaps, their sons and one or two extra men. They always manage somehow to replace a key man in a time of sickness and if they can do it to meet that emergency they should certainly be able to do it during holiday periods. I am certain that if the will is there it can be done, and I appeal to the Minister to meet this Amendment in the spirit in which it is submitted.
The position in regard to this Amendment is entirely different
from the position in regard to the previous Amendment. The Committee will have noticed that in this case we have had no quotations from the report of the Amulree Committee. The reason is plain. In this case there can be no question of difference between the Minister and this committee in regard to the committee's report and there is not the slightest difficulty of interpretation. I was rather surprised to see this Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly). He knows that the following paragraph in the committee's report was agreed to by the whole committee, including the powerful trade union representation on that body.
The Committees should be given authority to consider and determine whether in the circumstances of each area the provision of a holiday of at least seven days with pay is one that for the time being should be granted. In the period preceding the general legislation referred to in paragraph 150, the Committees should not have the authority of enforcing that seven days shall be taken consecutively but should have the authority of enforcing that three days shall be taken consecutively. Each Committee should be required to send a copy of its decision to the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Agriculture.
Hon. Members will have gathered from the speeches of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) and the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridgeshire (Captain Briscoe) that that agreement was not arrived at without due cause. There is no difference of opinion as to the desirability of a suitable amount of holidays with pay for agricultural workers, but the fact is that considering the major issues to which I referred in my previous speech, and having in mind the desirability of securing the maximum of good will by agreement, we must take into account also the infinite variety of circumstances which exist in the agricultural industry. When I hear hon. Members talk about the difference between the small farmer and the large farmer, I would remind them that the small farmer is in the majority on the land, and it is his problems which are likely to tax most the good will in the agricultural wages committees of the various counties throughout the country. Being as keenly desirous as the hon. Member for Rochdale or any hon. Member to do the best they could for the agricultural worker the Amulree Committee,
having heard all the evidence and weighed up the difficulties which exist in the farming industry, came to a specific, clear conclusion, not that the agricultural labourer should have only three days—that is a misleading statement of the position—but that he should have up to seven days and that the compulsory powers should only apply, in the period up to 1941, as regards three consecutive days. That is what the Bill says—precisely what the report recommends unanimously. I ask hon. Members to be chary of beginning with too large a measure of compulsion in a great movement like this. Good will in the countryside is worth a great deal more than some formal Amendments in a Bill. I have no doubt that once this movement begins in the countryside, it will spread and grow as it has done in industry. If that be so, the hon. Member for Stone and the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridgeshire are right in saying that we should do nothing to prevent a farmer making an arrangement with his men for a seven-day holiday if it suits his circumstances.
I agree that he can do it, but he does not. Whatever the hon. Member may say in support of this Amendment, he would not like to deprive the agricultural wages committees of the power which he has denounced as being so limited if the choice was that they were to have this or nothing at all in the way of statutory powers.
I am not threatening anyone, but I am entitled to be as warm about this matter as the hon. Member was, and I am entitled to say, on behalf of all hon. Members who think with us on this matter, that we feel just as keenly about the agricultural worker—and we have shown it by our actions in the last few years—as the hon. Member for Rochdale, or anybody else. This paragraph which I have quoted would not have appeared in the report unless all concerned had weighed the difficulties which were brought before the committee by those who are experts in the matter. There was an expert on this subject there, and, as I said, having heard all the evidence and being desirous to forward this movement and to secure the utmost good will, the Amulree Committee came to the conclusion which is now in the Bill. I submit that it would be most unwise at this stage to go back on the clear, considered and unanimous conclusion of the Amulree Committee.
I think the Committee will agree that the right hon. Gentleman has been a little more stiff-necked on this Amendment than he was on the previous Amendment, but he ought to be logical. In the case of the last Amendment he himself departed from the recommendations of the Amulree Committee.
I was merely pointing out what was the right hon. Gentleman's attitude on a previous Amendment. But when we come to this Amendment the right hon. Gentleman is not willing apparently for this House to disagree with the report of the Amulree Committee. But if Parliament is convinced that the recommendations of that Committee do not do justice to the farm labourer, then Parliament is entitled to say so.
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I say that we appreciate to the full the desirability in the circumstances of getting this Bill passed into law, but when we say that, it does not mean that the Opposition are not entitled to place on record their views. We attach importance to this Amendment; we dislike the invidious distinction which is drawn in this Clause against the agricultural worker. Why should this poor fellow always be regarded as an outcast among the working classes?
The hon. Gentleman says a lot of things that we do not believe. I have listened to some of the arguments that have been put forward, and the agricultural community, according to some of the statements made by hon. Members connected with agriculture, cannot, and could not under any circumstances, allow or afford this holiday or any holiday at all.
I am putting my own interpretation on what hon. Members say. I am glad the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Robinson) is here, because he has become a great champion of holidays with pay. I do not know whether the lodging-house keepers in Blackpool would provide accommodation for farm labourers for only three days at a time. I am under the impression that some lay down a condition that you must take a room for at least a week. I am thinking of the cheaper places when I say that, and not of the Metropole or hotels of that sort.
Let me put another point to the hon. Member. If the farm labourer is to have only three days' holiday consecutively, and if he comes from a distance, it will take him a day to travel to Blackpool and a day to go back, and when the landlady learns that I am not so sure that she will welcome him for such a short period. Let me come, however, to what I regard as the very serious argument put forward by the party opposite, that the agricultural employer cannot possibly arrange for a full week's holiday at a time for the agricultural labourer. Really, the farmer might as well tell one of his servants when he falls ill from pneumonia, "You cannot be sick for more than three days." I was brought up in the countryside myself, and nobody will ever convince me that even the farm labourer is so very important that he cannot be spared for seven days at a time. Why, we could even do without the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour any time.
Yes, for six months, and strangely enough the work went on without me almost as if I had been there. It is remarkable how important in this argument the farm labourer has become. He is not important as regards wages or the conditions of his home, but when you come to argue about giving him seven days' consecutive holiday, he becomes a very important factor indeed. The farmer who can let off his farm labourer for three days can surely let him off for seven days. "Ah, but," he says, "how will the cattle go on? What are the cattle going to do even for the three days that the labourer is to be allowed? "The cows will go on holiday, and there will be no milking them, I suppose. No, hon. Members who have been speaking on this subject in fact still want to draw a dividing line between the agricultural labourer and the rest of the working community, and it is unfair to him. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) must know that there are in this country such things as continuous processes in a factory and that the machinery in that factory never stops at any time. Will he believe me when I say that even in those continuous processes men get a week's holiday every year. It is a very strange thing in this world that when the biggest man is absent, the world seems to go on just the same without him.
We do not want to do anything to damage the progress of this Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman knows—the issues involved in it are too great—but I would appeal once again to the right hon. Gentleman that he should give us the same promise on this as he did on the previous Amendment. If he did that, we should reconsider our position, but as things stand at the moment, I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that, although we want to help the progress of the Bill, we are bound to press this Amendment to a Division.
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has said. I fully appreciate that the Minister wishes this Bill to go forward in a spirit of amity, but I believe that the National Farmers' Union, in asking for a differentiation between the agricultural and the industrial worker, are doing something that will be exceedingly detrimental to themselves. It is already almost impossible to get agricultural labourers, and I believe that whether or not you can make agreements outside the Bill for a seven days' and not merely a three days' holiday, the mistake will go forward if you allow differentiation in this Bill. The agreements that may be come to outside afterwards will not have the same value, and they will never undo the harm that is being done when you once make this differentiation in the Bill. I think it is a shortsighted policy on the part of the National Farmers' Union. To-day we all realise that their difficulties are almost insuperable and that they find it almost impossible to get labour at all, and I hope that in future the hon. Member who has just sat down, and his party, will be able to support wholeheartedly the Measures which the National Government may bring forward for helping agriculture and for helping farmers to pay better wages and give better conditions. Up to date they have opposed every one of those Measures, but in future perhaps we shall see a change of heart, which is very much overdue.
I believe that you have to put all workers on the same level and that this is a mistaken policy, and I beg of the Minister, who, I am sure, has the interests of the agricultural worker completely at heart, that he should consult with the National Farmers' Union and see whether they cannot themselves come to the conclusion that this differentiation will be a disadvantage to the agricultural worker as well as to themselves. The hon. and gallant Member for Cambridgeshire (Captain Briscoe) said that many agricultural workers preferred to take their holidays in two parts.
I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon; I had no wish to misinterpret him. He said there might be cases. That applies equally to the industrial worker in the country, and if we lay down one thing for him, let us lay down the same for the agricultural labourer.
The Minister of Labour is a jolly good stonewaller. He stands at that Box and tells us that because the Committee have recommended certain things, he is not going to depart from their recommendations. He says that six good men and true belonging to the trade union movement have said so and so; but we, on this side of the Committee, represent constituencies, and while I agree that these men have done their duty, and done it well, that does not bind us down to every letter and comma in their report, and we have a perfect right to express what we feel to be right in the circumstances. In answer to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), I am tired of supporters of the Government, when speaking of agriculture, allowing the agricultural worker always to be put in an inferior position.
The hon. Member must not charge me with wanting to make the position of the agricultural worker worse than that of anybody else. Ever since I have been in this House, which is since 1922, I have done all that I could for the betterment of the agricultural worker, but I would remind the hon. Member that all the Measures that we have put forward with the object of making the industry one in which there could be better conditions have been opposed by them.
That is not true. We have had sympathy by the bucketful for years from the other side of the House. The agricultural worker is a skilled worker, but he has always been the Cinderella of industry. There are to-day in agriculture 20,000 men out of work; there are 988 drawing the maximum of 30s. a week for unemployment—the hon. Member supported the 30s. maximum—and there are more than 365 with families of more than three children drawing 30s. a week. We get men connected with agriculture telling the House that the industry cannot pay. I agree that when we get a new proposition there are bound to be certain difficulties in industry, but they can be got over if they are thought out. We have those difficulties in the mining industry. As far back as 1908, when the first eight-hours Act came into force, employers said it could not be done, but they had to sit down and think it out and they found a way. That argument is repeated every time there is legislation. We in this House sometimes oppose an idea, not because it is unsound, but because it is new. I am tired of seeing the agricultural worker put in an inferior position.
There are two aspects of this question, one economic, and one human. The economic aspect has been well thrashed out. The Minister of Labour last Thursday adorned his speech in moving the Second Reading of this Bill with a good many picturesque allusions, but, if I may say so respectfully, he allowed his imagination to run away with him on occasions. He talked about the countryman going to Scotland to see the exhibition in three days.
If the right hon. Gentleman looks up the OFFICIAL REPORT he will find that in answer to my interruption he told me that if I looked at the railway bills, I should find how easy it was for the worker to do it. Three days' holiday with half a week's wage which, on the average is less than 18s., will not take the agricultural worker far. We must have some regard to the womenfolk in the countryside. How can we expect the farm labourer, given Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as a holiday, to go home and say to his wife, "Come on, my old duck, for the first time I have a holiday and can take you off to Skegness. Get the kiddies ready and we will have a day at the seaside"? It cannot be done.
I am talking about farm workers wherever they work. They have as much right to a reasonable holiday as any other industrial workers. If we gave the agricultural wages committees the power to fix seven consecutive days' holiday they could do it. If one wanted to be facetious one could say a few strong things about farmers taking their holidays in two parts. They are not two parts of three days each. I know some of them and appreciate their difficulties, but in common with employers generally they have always put up the one argument against every reform, that they would if they could, but industry could not afford it.
If the hon. Member for Stone looks up the history of legislation he will find that the same argument has been used since 1897, when we had the first Workmen's Compensation Act. Every employer said it would ruin industry and destroy the friendly societies. We had the same argument from the Conservative party about National Health Insurance. That party talks about its record in social service, but the late Mr. Bonar Law, when the National Health Insurance Act was passed, wrote to the "Times" and said he would kill it if he were in power. Those who represent agricultural districts must protest more than they have done against the inferior position of the worker. He is a skiilled man and entitled to a fair deal. There is no wonder that we have 180,000 fewer people on the land than 15 or 16 years ago. It is because I want to remove this inferiority and give the agricultural worker his right place in the sun with regard to wages, hours and conditions, and holidays with pay, that I wish the House would insist on this three days being taken out of the Clause.
The Committee is placed in a difficult and invidious position with regard to this Amendment. We must all sympathise with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in his peculiar difficulties. He is standing up with that loyalty which we naturally expect from him for the agreement on which this Bill is based. He cannot do other than what he has done, that is to say, to defend the Amulree committee's report. Two parties are involved in the Report, labour and employers. The committee reached their agreement after great difficulty and this particular scheme is an integral part of the agreement. Now that the understanding has been broken, and broken, let it be noted, on the initiative of the Opposition, I feel that we are all, including the Minister, free to express whatever views we have on this matter. When I saw this Clause in the Bill I was opposed to it, and it is giving away no secret when I tell the Committee that I informed my right hon. Friend that I was opposed to it and desired to put down an Amendment to it. I am breaking no confidences when I say that my right hon. Friend urged me not to do so for the reason which he has given to-day. The understanding has now been broken, and therefore I feel free to oppose the clause openly in this House.
I cannot possibly support the suggestion that farm workers should be given only three days whereas other workers may be given seven consecutive days' holiday. This Bill is not a compulsory Measure; all it does is to give power to the wages committees, if they see fit, to provide for certain days for holidays. There is no compulsion in it. My right hon. Friend properly drew attention to the fact that in most parts of England and Scotland the majority of farmers are small men and that the difficulties of these men were greater than those of the larger farmers. The small men, however, are represented on the agricultural wages committees. and in those counties where their numbers are greatest, there, it may be assumed, their representation will be heaviest. Therefore, it is hardly possible that a wages committee with a majority of small farmers on it would carry through a provision likely to be harmful to them.
I am trying to present a case to the right hon. Gentleman for doing what the spokesman from the Opposition Front Bench asked him to do, namely, to reconsider this Clause. I do not think the House desires to divide upon this question, but, on the other hand, my right hon. Friend would not, I think, be representing the feelings of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee if he insisted on the Bill in its present form. It was, I suggest, a senseless proposal on the part of the National Farmers' Union representatives to limit the ploughman's holiday to three consecutive days. From the farmer's point of view it is an unwise and unbusinesslike suggestion. The average sensible farmer will want, in his own convenience, to give the whole seven days at once; and it is the fairest way of doing it from the ploughman's point of view. Everything that has been said about dividing the holiday in two parts is true. I contend that my right hon. Friend is relieved, on account of this Debate, from the loyalty which he was naturally prepared to show towards this agreement, and that the Government are now free, if not to accept the Amendment, at least to undertake to consider the matter anew. In that way we shall carry out what is the desire, I believe, of the whole House that the status of the farm worker shall be made no less honourable than that of the industrial worker.
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), in his interesting account of the struggle between the Minister and himself, and the final success of the Minister in persuading him not to put down an Amendment, drew a touching picture of the loyalty of the Minister to the Amulree report. One would gather that the Minister was not prepared to vary by one iota the recommendations of the report, but would fulfil them completely. That, however, is a wholly untrue picture of the situation. If he is going to accept the report he must accept all of it, but the Minister has deliberately left out of the Bill one of its most important recommendations, that with regard to domestic service, so that from that point of view the question of loyalty does not come in at all. If the Minister thinks it right to reject one recommendation on a very important matter, obviously he is free and consistent in accepting another proposal, and I cannot understand the reason for not permitting wages committees, if they think fit, and with the agreement of the representatives of the farmers and labourers, to decide upon a week's holiday if they think a week can be managed. The agricultural labourer is every bit as much entitled to seven days' holiday with pay as any industrial worker.
My hon. Friend in his speech made one very true remark, that there are a great many Members who do not want to Divide on this issue, but they are on the Government side of the Committee. They do not want it recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT that on this day in the year 1938 they cast a vote which prevented agricultural wages committees from even attempting to give more than three days' holiday. This House is not the last word. There is a wider tribunal which will decide this question some day, and I hope, that the votes and the speeches to-day will be recorded and brought out on public platforms at the next General Election.
Mr. David Adams:
I am very glad to support this Amendment as giving a very small and well-diluted measure of justice to agricultural workers. They have been for generations, and still are, a sweated, underpaid and overworked body of people. What we are about to do is to give an opportunity to this vast population of some 600,000 to enjoy some of the benefits which, it may be, will in time be enjoyed by the other workers of the country. If this Parliament had not been overweeningly attached to capitalism, whenever a great benefaction in the way of subsidy was given to enrich the agricultural community, it would have tacked on to it such terms and conditions as would have raised the wage standards of agricultural workers and given them holidays with pay as an elementary right. The need of these workers and their dependants for holidays is much greater than that of other workers, because they lead a much more monotonous existence than the average town workers, have altogether longer hours of labour and have much more severe daily toil, and, as we know, it is usually a seven days week for them. Moreover, this Parliament has seen to it that they have lower insurance benefits, in order to indicate that they are a servile population and must be kept in their places.
In the area in which I live, certainly, which though largely mining has certain agricultural interests, the agricultural workers have during the last generation been making this demand for holidays with pay. Many of them have no holidays, and they have exceptionally small wages. Small as are the wages of the mining community, the agricultural community in our area are infinitely worse off, and are continually in a state of dire poverty. The industry ought to be rationalised forthwith. We are surprised that people should leave the land for the big towns, and at the same time we are demanding, in the interests of national Defence, that the agricultural industry should be kept in an active, well-equipped and highly-productive state. It was largely for those reasons that Parliament voted so many millions of the hard-earned money of the taxpayers to the privileged agricultural community of these islands. If we want a contented peasantry, a prerequisite of this new state of affairs, we must accept the proposition embodied in the Amendment. I am not one of those Members who are prepared to agree to the theory, for it is a mere theory, that the agricultural industry in the main in this country is not a highly prosperous one. No evidence to the contrary has been submitted to us, except hearsay.
The talk we hear in some quarters about the impossibility of the industry bearing this additional burden is identical, almost word for word, with the declarations made in this House when it was suggested that we should take children out of the mines. It was said that the mining industry would be injured; in many cases it was said that it would be ruined. On the contrary, it was the beginning of the prosperity of the mining industry when the hours were reduced to a rational figure and the remuneration was improved; and one need not be prophetic to assert with absolute certainty that not until Parliament recognises its responsibility towards the agricultural workers and raises their wage standards to a proper level—not a slave's level, as it is to-day—reduces the hours of labour and grants them this holiday, will agriculture become a national industry worthy of the name.
One or two observations, even threats, which the Minister made, tended—I am sure not on purpose—to give rise to implications which I did not quite understand. He said that this was a non-contentious Bill. Indeed, I hope it is, in the general principles and ideas which it contains, but, so far as I know, there is no Parliamentary class of non-contentious Bill. There are Private Bills and Public Bills. This is a very short Bill and has only two operative Clauses, but, when nearly all the Amendments on the Order Paper are out of order, to suggest that the Bill will somehow break down if we devote two or three hours discussion to it, is somewhat of a reflection upon this Committee, which the Minister does not really need to make. Nor do I think he ought to threaten us with danger to the fate of the Bill if we discuss it carefully. It is a very short Bill and there are only one or two main points. I think my main Amendment raises all the points. My original Amendment was to leave out the local by-laws but I have been asked to put that Amendment through formally.
On the first Amendment the Minister has very wisely met the House by undertaking to reconsider the whole matter, especially in consultation with Members of the Amulree Committee. As regards these next three lines, I would ask the Minister whether he could not see his way to make some similar announcement. From what I hear there are people who do not know what this proviso means, but, as I read it, it does not mean that a board cannot make a holiday of seven days. A board can make one set of three days and another set of three days. The question is not the total amount of the holiday, but as to the form in which the holiday is to be taken. The Clause says:
holidays for periods [not] exceeding in the aggregate seven days in any period of twelve months, or, in the case of a [agricultural] worker…of continuous periods exceeding three consecutive days.
I think that is the true meaning of the proviso. A committee can given seven days in all, but not more than a period of three consecutive days.
I frankly admit that the proviso carries out paragraph 146 of the report of the Amulree Committee, but I agree with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that there appear to be two views on the matter in this Committee, one, and it seems to be the Government view, is that we must have the report, the whole report and nothing but the report of a committee which has been set up. The other view, which seems to be the normal procedure of this House, is that the reports of committees are often the basis upon which Bills are constructed, but that is their only purpose, and the House, making full allowance for all those things, legislates as it thinks fit. Could not the Minister, under the first part of his proviso, provide for the agricultural worker in the same way as he has done in regard to trade boards for the industrial worker? Could he not approach the National Farmers' Union, in the interval between the Committee stage and Report stage, and see whether he could reach the same kind of agreement under this part of the proviso as we hope he will be able to obtain under the other part? I ask him very respectfully to take that course.
[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I shall keep the Committee for only two minutes. When I read the particular item in the Clause that differentiates between the industrial and agricultural workers, I sympathised very much with the agricultural workers, and I asked the Minister on the Second Reading whether he could give consideration to this matter upon the Committee stage. I have listened to every speech that has been made on this Amendment, hoping that I should hear from some of my agricultural Friends some really cogent arguments why these holidays could not usefully and easily be given to the agricultural labourer, in the same way as to the industrial worker. One must remember that when a man in industry goes on holiday the work is stopped. Production is entirely stopped unless the employer finds another man to fill that man's place. He has to keep his works going with another staff, or see his mill or factory stopped. The farmer does not look at the matter in quite the same way. The agricultural worker does not need to go on holiday in the summer time because he lives in the open air in much healthier surroundings than does the industrial worker, and he might quite well wish to go for his holiday to London or some other large town. He can do this in less favourable weather.
Having regard to the fact that the farmer has the whole year from which to choose holiday periods for his labourers, there seems no reason why we should make this differentiation, and I would ask the Minister, as other Members of the Committee have done, to give this matter further consideration before the Report stage, in consultation with the National Farmers' Union. The right hon. Gentleman would find the farmers as wishful as anybody to be fair to the agricultural labourers, and that he would meet their views, taking the long view, if the same holidays were given to the agricultural labourers as to industrial workers. I ask the Minister to give this matter further consideration and, if not now, at any rate within a reasonable period, to consult the National Farmers' Union, with a view to this differentiation being removed.
If there are any hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who feel distress that this subject should be discussed, it is no fault of hon. Gentlemen who want to speak about it, but the fault of the Minister who has rejected all appeals from his own side or from this side that he should reconsider the matter. Occasionally, arrangements are made between the Front Benches and through the usual official channels, under which proposals are to go through by a certain time, but sometimes there arises from the back benches some sign of healthful and vigorous Debate. On this occasion it is for the Front Bench to meet the demands which are put forward and not for us to acquiesce in demands being made to push Bills through, contrary to all wishes expressed in every quarter of the Committee, because the Clock says Eight or a Quarter past Eight.
Two kinds of speech have been made by Members of the Committee, the first urging us not to divide on this issue. I noticed that when the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) hinted that a Division on this issue would be unpopular on the benches opposite, the Minister of Labour seized with avidity on that point and alleged that that was the reason why the discussion was being continued. Why did he feel that? Is his conscience uneasy about this proposal? Does he feel that, if this goes before the agricultural labourers as an additional example of the invidious distinction which is made against them in almost every legislative proposal affecting workers, they will rebel against it? If so, that is not a reason why we should avoid a Division or discontinue discussion, but a reason why we should press the Minister to meet the representations which have been made to him from every quarter of the Committee.
I do not apologise, in spite of the unpopularity of continuing this discussion, for giving a few more reasons why the proposal to omit these words should be accepted, or, at least, why the Minister should promise to reconsider it. I believe that the Committee will do itself credit if it insists on this being done. Two reasons have been given against accepting the Amendment. The first has been the reason of cost, and the second the reason of the indispensability of the agricultural workers concerned. As regards the reason of cost, there can be no dispute that, whenever any proposal throughout the last two centuries has been brought forward in the House of Commons to ameliorate or improve the condition of working people or of the working classes generally, that reason has been brought forward on the other side every time. Nevertheless, ways and means have always been found, and in the end it has been found that the proposal, when put into operation, has had beneficent results, and has even improved the financial prospects of the industry concerned.
I recognise, contrary to what is said by some hon. Members on this side, that farmers, or at any rate small farmers, who constitute the vast majority of our farming population, apart, of course, from the agricultural labourers, are passing through a very difficult time financially. The large farmer will have no objection to finding the money, but the small farmer may have some difficulty in doing so. I believe, however, that even so, and great as is my sympathy with the small farmer, it will ultimately be to his good if we advance this question of seven days' holiday with pay, so that he, with his wages boards, will be able to bring his labourers on to the same standards of dignity and right as the labourers in other industries; and that in the end he will get better and more loyal and efficient service from his labourers than he gets to-day. Even if it should prove impossible for the farmer to meet this cost now, surely there are ways and means of giving him some assistance.
I listened with some amazement to the financial picture which some hon. Members opposite drew of the present Government straining at the leash to bring in Measures for the good of agriculture, and hon. Members on this side resisting. What would there be to prevent the Government from bringing forward a Measure to give some sort of assistance to farmers, where a proper case could be made out, in meeting the cost of this proposal? I know that it would not be in order for us on this side to propose it, but there is nothing to prevent the Minister from bringing it forward. It would cost less than £1,250,000 if the Government were to shoulder the whole cost of giving holidays with pay to agricultural labourers. They cannot do it under this Bill, but, if they are going to make such a gigantic obstacle of the cost, and are going to allow that obstacle to perpetuate the invidious distinction against this worthy class—the salt of the earth, as hon. Members in all quarters of the House know them to be—there is no reason why the Government, who are so free with their millions in other directions, should not consider bringing in a Measure for the purpose.
Finally, there is the question of indispensability. The hon. and gallant Member for Cambridgeshire (Captain Briscoe) gave us a very clear argument when he said it would be possible for the farmer to dispense with his labourers for three days but not for seven days. I submit that that is a fallacious argument. The cases in which farmers would find the greatest difficulty in dispensing with their labourers, apart from harvest time, are those of dairy farmers. I should say that a considerable proportion of our dairy farming is carried out by farmers with one labourer, who is the milker, horseman, cowman, and everything else on the farm. If such a farmer has 20 cows, he and his labourer both have to get up at the crack of dawn and set to work to milk the cows and get the milk off to the wholesaler. If the agricultural labourer is given seven days' holiday with pay, either the farmer has to milk 20 cows instead of 10, doubling his work and getting up an hour and a-half or two hours before dawn, or he has to find some method of getting substitute assistance. I venture to say that it is just as difficult for him to do that on three mornings as on seven mornings, and, if we make the period seven days, we shall find that more effective ways and means will be devised in order to make this proposal work properly.
I hope we shall bring to an end the discreditable attitude of the House in dealing with agricultural labourers, who represent the biggest industry in this country, and if the Minister feels that he must adhere to any arrangement he has made, I think he has been very ill-advised if he has given pledges against an Amendment in this direction. He must observe, as a Parliamentarian who is not without experience, the growing dislike which the House feels of accepting cut-and-dried, stereotyped legislation, and in a case like this, where a proposal which he has brought forward has shown itself to be unpalatable in every quarter of the House, he would do himself credit by accepting the Amendment which has now been moved.
Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 10, at the end, insert:
(3) For the purposes of the last foregoing Sub-section the expression 'Week' means, in relation to any worker whose rates of wages are fixed under the said Act of 1924 or the said Act of 1937 a period of seven days, and in relation to any other worker such period as may be determined by the wage regulating authority to be his normal working week."—[Mr. E. Brown.]
I beg to move, in page 2, line 13, after "shall," to insert "unless the direction otherwise provides."
The reason for this Amendment is that my attention was called to certain difficulties which might arise in connection with the Factories Act, 1937, and the Shops Acts, 1912 to 1936. The Subsection has no application to agriculture, as agricultural workers are not at present entitled to statutory holidays. It affects only trade boards, and those only to a limited extent. Under the Factories Act, 1937, the occupier of a factory is required to allow every woman and young person in the factory certain days as holidays. The effect of the Amendment is to permit the trade board to take these statutory holidays into account. This will enable the board in
the case of a Bank holiday falling in the holiday week, to include the Bank holiday as a directed holiday, and to pay holiday remuneration for the whole week, including the Bank holiday. Without the Amendment, the board would be able so to include the Bank holiday for male workers, for whom it would not be a statutory holiday, but unable to include it for women workers and young persons. The Amendment enables the board to avoid this anomaly. With regard to the Shops Acts, these days are not days of statutory holidays for most workers. Holidays in the distributive trades vary according to conditions of service. The majority of the workers are entitled to days holiday in every week: that is to say, a weekly half-holiday, plus Sunday or a day in lieu; some are entitled to receive only Sunday or a day in lieu, and some to receive only a half-holiday, while some are not entitled to any holiday at all. The Amendment will entitle the trade board to take all these into account in their directions.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, at the end, to insert:
and shall normally fall during the period of Summer Time.
If we turn to the recommendations of the Amulree Committee, we find that in paragraph 143 they say:
The period of holiday should be arranged to take place between the beginning of Summer Time and the beginning of October in each year. Where, however, it is not practicable to do so, the holiday should take place at such other period of the year as may be decided.
If I were in the same state of mental confusion as Members on the Government Front Bench, I should be entitled to argue that the holiday for everybody should take place during the Summer Time period. That would be, on an analogy to the wording we had earlier, obviously entirely contrary to the common sense of the English language. I do not propose to take up that point now. I fully appreciate that there may be cases—though they must be very few indeed—and allowance must be made for them. Therefore, the Amendment which I am moving is wholly in accord with the recommendation of the Amulree Committee. From that point of view, I do not see that the Government can take the slightest possible exception, and I hope that they will incorporate these words in the Bill.
It is the more desirable because an hon. Member opposite just now actually put forward the argument that, as far as agricultural workers were concerned, it really did not matter to them whether they had their holidays in summer or winter. In fact, it might suit them rather better in the winter, because they are used to being out in the fields all day long, and a visit to Town in the autumn or winter would very well fit in with their arrangements. That is not how I understand the feelings of the agricultural population. They, like everybody else, desire to have their holidays when the warm breezes are blowing and the sun is shining, and the countryside is beautiful. There will be no doubt that in the vast majority of cases the various boards concerned will make this recommendation, but we want to be on the safe side. It is a good thing for Parliament to show its interest in holidays by giving a direction of this kind by inserting actual words in the Measure, so that the board shall be under no misapprehension at all as to the will of Parliament and I hope very much, therefore, that we shall implement the recommendations of the Amulree Committee by adopting the words which I now propose.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) referred to what he was pleased to call the mental confusion of those who sit on this bench. When I first saw his Amendment as originally worded, I felt confirmed in my own view that on this and other issues the hon. Member himself was in a state of muddle and uncertainty. The effect of the Amendment, as put down, would have been to prevent a number of trade boards and agricultural wages committees from giving any holiday with pay at all, and even in its amended form, though it is certainly less obnoxious, I feel that the Committee will not be wise to accept it. If the trade boards and agricultural wages committees can be relied upon, as has been suggested from the other side, to act reasonably, they can be relied upon to act reasonably in this case. The inclusion of words of this kind which may have the effect of acting in a somewhat restrictive sense is neither necessary nor desirable.
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain why the Government on this occasion are rejecting the recommendation of the Amulree Committee? It is that in which I am interested.
May I ask a question with regard to Sub-section (3), which says:
The holidays which a worker is entitled to be allowed in pursuance of any direction given under this Section shall be in addition to any holidays or half-holidays to which he may be entitled under any other enactment.
Will that apply to a custom which almost has the force of enactment where agricultural workers in almost every county in the country have negotiated and secured four or five bank holidays? Are we to understand clearly and definitely that any
holidays given will be apart from those that it was customary to give prior to the passing of this Measure?