I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of the Bill is to restore after the war the trade practices departed from during the war, in accordance with the Government's pledge. The Bill itself follows a precedent which was established in 1919, but there is a significant difference in the circumstances as between the two periods. That has been brought about to a large extent by the enormous development between the two wars of joint industrial relations in the country, particularly joint industrial councils, and the improvement both of, direct relationship with employers and of what may be described as tripartite machinery between the State, the employers and the trade unions. In 1915 very little of this machinery existed, and the Government at that time were driven to conduct negotiations over a wide field of conferences with large numbers of trade unions in order to secure agreements for the relaxation of practices, and after a very prolonged effort these were embodied in a Government pledge, which was then described as the Treasury Agreement.
We had, as I say, a great advantage at the outbreak of this war, in that there had been established a National Joint Advisory Council. In addition to the establishment of joint industrial council machinery, there had grown up a responsible employers' organisation which was organised in the British Employers' Confederation. Equally, the Trades Union Congress had changed its constitution from what was purely a Parliamentary Committee to a General Council with wider powers and greater ability to speak for the unions as a whole in those matters in which the State was involved. My predecessor, before war broke out, took the very wise step of calling the parties together and establishing a national body representing the two organisations. This Bill has been drafted with the aid of and in consultation with these two organised forces in industry in this country: The basis upon which this problem of dilution was dealt with on this occasion was very different from that which obtained in the previous war. It was approached by both parties with a determination to contribute whole-heartedly and to co-operate with the State in whatever steps might be necessary to secure the protection of the country and ultimately an Allied victory. The establishment of this machinery enabled us to transfer from a peace-time basis of industry to a war-time footing with great facility and speed. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the change-over was made with scarcely a single dispute in any works in the country on the question of dilution.
Hon. Members must appreciate the difficulty and the complicated problems arising in workshops, and with the inherent conservatism of our people on both sides, especially in view of the fact that nearly every trade practice in this country which has been devised to protect the workman has been the result of years of effort and may be described, I think, as a real property right so far as the working classes are concerned, and must remain so as long as there are two factors in industry, representing capital and the operatives. It must be remembered, too, on this occasion that dilution and change of trade practices have had to be carried out over a wider field of industry than occurred in the last war. That is due to the fact that mechanisation in that period had spread in the productive effort over a much wider area, and wherever you introduce mechanisation you are bound to develop craft workmanship, not merely in the manufacture of the machine; very quickly you develop a craftsmanship in the operation of the machine, in its use as well as the manufacture of other products. Therefore, due to the development of mechanisation, changes of practice had, as I say, to be carried out over a wider field.
I would emphasize that, having regard to the size of our labour force in this war, the change in its distribution and composition, the necessity for rapid adjustment in the character and methods of production and, in many cases, for the complete revision of the piece-work rates due to these changes, it is remarkable that the amount of time lost through disputes represents only one-fifteenth of a day per year for each worker employed since the war broke out.
All disputes are reported to my Department. I may say that practically every dispute that takes place, whether official or unofficial, is reported to the Conciliation Department. It is noteworthy also that the spirit that animated the Council was manifested before there was any question of a Government pledge. I think this ought to be said for the operatives, that when the rearmament programme developed, and especially after Munich, there was, before the actual declaration of this war, considerable negotiation and, in the case of the engineering industry, an agreement arrived at between the parties dealing with dilution. It was an evidence that those who held responsible positions on both sides probably saw the inevitable coming and tried to make provision for it. All these changes of a voluntary character were arrived at on the basis that they were for war purposes and that the practices would be restored after the war. This was subsequently fortified by the Government pledge. Indeed, the Government pledge is essential in order to supplement the voluntary arrangements that have been arrived at.
There have been many disputes in this country during my memory arising from employers who do not play the game. Leading employers and trade unions enter into a solemn agreement and carry it out—and perhaps one of the greatest tributes to both sides is that the word of a committee of a British joint assembly of that character is honoured far more than many laws. Therefore, we must take steps to see that no one shall take advantage of those who have entered into these honourable and voluntary bargains, and see to it that neither competitive nor other advantage is taken at the end of the war. Another essential reason for this pledge, or for the carrying-out of the pledge, embodied in this Bill, is that the transition from peace to war is very difficult, but transition from war to peace is even more difficult, and therefore every step has to be taken to minimise the chances of dispute when that moment arrives. We have not relied on the course of dragging the parties in the settlement into the courts in the first instance. The courts will come in only if an employer refuses to carry out an award. We take the view that the arbitration method is the best method to allow of technical understanding, and to ensure the understanding of the problems of the workshop without importing too much legal argument into the controversy.
The Bill is not concerned with wages; it is concerned with rules, practices or customs with respect to the classes of persons to be or not to be employed, and the conditions of employment, hours of work, or working conditions; dilution and demarcation are the most important aspects.
The intention of the Bill is to re-establish temporarily the practices existing immediately before the war. We have not attempted in these proposals to establish a statutory code of trade practices. The Bill is intended to operate in the 18 months after the war. I daresay it will be argued that, the establishment of these rights will be of disadvantage to many workers who benefited by changes in practice, and to many who, for the first time, have been introduced into industry, but, as against that, I would say that they could only have had those benefits as a result of the sacrifices of others who took years to build up those rights. Therefore, the House will note that Clause places on the employers the obligation to restore trade practices which have been departed from during the war and to maintain the restored practices for 18 months. This Clause applies equally to employers in undertakings which have been begun during the war. The object of bringing in undertakings which have been established during the war is to ensure that there shall be no loopholes which would defeat the object of the Bill.
The period of 18 months is important. Anyone who knows anything about the great industries that will have to be returned to peace-time conditions knows that the re-tooling and re-conditioning of many of these great works will take anything from four to 12 months to accomplish. It is essential that allowance should be made for this, and indeed the Government are considering the best methods of preparing for the change in these trades, as regards preliminary drawings and research and in other directions, so as to be able to speed up the arrangements preparatory to the transition. But even with the best that you can do in those directions, if it becomes necessary suddenly to" ease making munitions, there is bound to be a gap, and until the industry has been started on its new basis, it is rather difficult to know exactly what problems will have to be faced. Therefore, while, under Clause I, we give this guarantee for 18 months and while we fully safeguard the right of the unions to re-establish their trade practices, we know—it must be obvious—that there are many things which have been introduced during the war that even the unions may desire to retain and that the employers may desire to retain. We have made provision, accordingly, to enable agreements to be made with the unions for modifying or waiving the obligation under Clause I. That follows the 1919 agreement, but we felt that in strengthening this provision in this Bill it would place the parties on a proper basis to negotiate the waiver of any of the obligations. We have made the safeguard that only a union whose custom it was before the war period to maintain the practice in question can enter into such an agreement with the employers. I think the House will agree that this is an essential provision. Those who have built up these practices must either restore them or exercise their power to waive them. This is really intended to prevent advantage being taken, by others, of the changes made during the war.
If an employer at the end of the 18 months' period feels a desire to eliminate a trade union practice, we may take it that he is not privileged under this Bill to report to the Minister. Would it be correct to say that in such an event the usual methods of negotiation between trade unions and employers will be followed and that these will take the usual course?
That is the intention. What is proposed is the steadying of the position for 18 months, and then the full play of industrial relations comes into operation again. I think 18 months is a very wise period to take, because it gives a chance of seeing on what lines British industry will develop. Clauses 3 and 4 provide for the settlement of any question whether or not employers have discharged this obligation. Any such question may be reported to the Minister by an employers' organisation or a trade union, and if it cannot be disposed of by conciliation, it must be referred to arbitration. The procedure which it is proposed to adopt under the Bill is intended to make sure, in the first instance, that the matter has been discussed through the joint machinery in the trade. If it is not settled by the conciliation arrangements already existing there, then we refer it to arbitration. There is no penalty on anybody until it has been referred to arbitration. If, then, the award or decision is not carried out, the employer is liable to penalties. Just as we arranged for the coming into operation of dilution through the joint machinery, so our intention is to try and make re-adjustments and to strengthen that joint machinery as much as we can.
I was not quite clear from the right hon. Gentleman's opening statement what the power of the tribunal is to be. Will its decision be binding on the employer, and if he does not carry it out, will be come under penalty?
The hon. Member probably deserved it. In any case we feel that where penalties have to be imposed, the ordinary procedure of a court of summary jurisdiction is best. It has certainly been best in this war, and I think it would be best to retain it in this case. In drafting this Bill we have really followed the practice laid down in the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Order—No. 1305—which has been operating during this war. I repeat that the object is to ensure that the overwhelming proportion of these cases will be adjusted by this method without going to any court. That is what we are striving to achieve. The remaining Clauses of the Bill deal with the establishment of the arbitration tribunals, their powers and duties, and, as I have said, with legal proceedings in the case of failure to comply with the arbitration awards. They also relate to the position of undertakings carried on by the Crown and by local authorities and with the application of the Measure to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It will be constituted exactly as arbitration courts established under my Ministry are constituted now. Generally, we have a legal gentleman in the chair—and we always proceed on the assumption that legal gentlemen are quite impartial? The chairman may be assisted by panels of assessors, in addition to technical experts. That allows for flexibility in regard to advice, in accordance with the particular trade that is being dealt with. We follow the practice of having the assistance of three persons, including one from each side, with a knowledge of industry. In that way, we hope to get a proper decision, based on knowledge as well as impartiality.
No, the arbitration court, like all arbitration courts in industral practice, will give a decision which will be final; and if an employer does not act in conformity with the award, he will be liable to be taken before a court of summary jurisdiction.
I will answer that point in Committee. In the first instance, the case reported to the Ministry for arbitration must come from the union or from the employers' organisation. We shall then follow the procedure set out in Arbitration Order 1305—that is the intention. I commend this Bill to the House. I hope that it will have a unanimous Second Reading. The unions and the employers have acted in good faith right from the beginning. Many changes have been made, and they will have the feeling, as a result of the passing of this Bill, that after the war there will be an appropriate opportunity of getting industrial practices back quickly, without disturbance, and of removing, as far as we can, from the ambit of fighting and struggling in the industrial arena these vexed questions of dilution, demarcation, and trade practices.
This Bill is an instalment of good will. It is the result of good relations in industry and of consultations between those affected and the Government. It carries out a pledge given by the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Labour. During this war, the trade unions dealt with in this Bill have made the greatest organised sacrifices in this country. The men and women in the Armed Forces rightly expect us to provide them with adequate equipment. The men affected by this Bill have been eager to do that, and have lone all they possibly could when and where they have been allowed to. They expect us to safeguard their interests, and, as far as possible in time of war, we have done so. This Bill is another contribution towards that objective. They expect all interests—and I want to emphasise that, in view of the sacrifices that they have made—that may impede the successful prosecution of the war to be sunk.
The people affected by this Bill—to whom I belong—have given their all since September, 1939, in the interests of the nation. Even before the war, the Amalgamated Engineering Union agreed to the relaxation of customs, in order that the nation should be prepared for what seemed inevitable to anyone who was taking an interest in the worsening international situation. They did that in August, 1939. That date is the golden key to an understanding of our attitude on this war. Some of us, and only a few, realised the menace of growing German armaments and policy in 1934. Our outlook was affected as a consequence. At that time we were called, by many prominent people, pessimists; 'but it eventually proved that it was realism that was guiding us. In 1935, at Brighton, the present Minister of Labour made a courageous speech, which caused the whole Labour movement to face up to the situation and to its responsibilities. From those days, the organisations covered by this Bill have faced up to their responsibilities and their obligations.
But great uneasiness is expressed about the relaxation of customs. Only the devotion of the men, who are real anti-Nazis, prevents action from being taken in some cases. The rate for the job is supposed to apply. Women, in many instances, are nowhere near receiving the appropriate rates. In particular, in such tasks as crane-driving, capstan-operating, painting, store-keeping, the work of process clerks, production engineering, and on all kinds of machines, the women are not receiving the appropriate rates. The men in the factories want to win this war. They realise what is at stake, and that determines their attitude. But if employers will take advantage of this situation during the war, our men are thinking, "What will they do after the war?" The relaxation of customs, and all that that means, in the engineering industry was a revolution in itself. Not only has there been dilution, but, as the Minister of Labour and his officials will be prepared to admit, the men affected have even co-operated in carrying out dilution. The importance of training has often been stressed in this House, and the men and their officials have whole-heartedly co-operated in the training schemes of the Ministry of Labour. After Dunkirk, when our equipment was either dumped into the sea or smashed up, the Ministry officials and others went to the men affected by this Bill and put the full facts before them. The men responded to the needs of the nation as no organised body of men had done previously in the history of this country. They worked 60, 70 and 80 hours a week; in fact almost every minute of their time was spent in equipping our Armed Forces as quickly as possible.
The men who will be affected by this Bill have contributed to the maximum extent in their co-operation in industry. They could easily have retarded output, but every man has been on guard against any danger of that kind being allowed to creep in, and such a spirit cannot be measured. There has been no sullenness in the factories and no sabotage worth talking about. All the best workmen have been on their guard against any sabotage taking place in this country. The Germans prepared secretly and silently for 17 years for this war, and openly with great speed for five years. We have prepared slowly for three years, and in that short time we have accomplished miracles in regard to production, in spite of criticisms of machinery and organisation. The General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress wrote a few months ago-about this Bill. He said:
Some time during the Parliamentary Session—the sooner the better, in our view—the Government are to introduce a Bill for the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Union practices …. This Measure is one which we have been urging almost from the beginning of the war …. The Bill covers all the points put to us at the conferences we have had with the representatives of the unions most directly concerned, and represents, in my opinion, a really constructive piece of work.
In introducing the Bill, the Minister said that the Government are following the precedent of the last war after which the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Act was passed in 1919. We got few benefits from that Act. I remember so-clearly how in 1922 we were locked out for weeks and, in some cases, for months. We lost £1 per week within a few weeks and were subjected to a condition of affairs unparalleled in the history of this-country for many years. After all our sacrifices in the last war, and the payment of indemnities and reparations, it was finance and capital that got the reparations, while we marked time at the Employment Exchanges. The "Observer" wrote, on 8th July, 1916:
A grandeur of being beyond all that our country has known before is being purchased for those who live by those who die.
On 29th January, 1922, the "Observer" said:
The armies of Ypres and the Somme and the Hindenburg Line are now an army besieging the Labour Exchange.
They include the men covered by this Bill. This is the second time in my generation. I remind the House of this because the war has a tremendous effect upon the working conditions of the people who are affected by this Bill. There has been introduced more fixed capital, and all that counts with regard to production. Machine and cutting tools have been changed, and speeding-up has taken place in all directions. The war has already created—and I am hoping that it will create more—mighty production forces in this country. After this war the anarchy of production will be increased unless we have a planned system for our people's benefit. This Bill is an instalment within limits. It is a contribution to good will, but my experience teaches me that once conditions are changed and old-established rights are surrendered, you can seldom restore the status quo of prewar conditions which have resulted from generations of sacrifice and struggle by our forefathers.
I am myself a member of a craft union. I acted in a representative capacity in a large, well-organised factory for many years. Very few people have any idea of the importance attached to the rights and customs that have been surrendered by the men during this war. Very few have an idea of the difficulties of demarcation questions which arise and the importance and value attached to them by the craftsmen and the machine-men. These have all been surrendered or removed in order to bring about the successful prosecution of the war. But does anyone believe that this Bill will restore them? We do not expect industrial conditions to be like the laws of the Medes and Persians, but we expect that the men who have made sacrifices should not suffer after this war in the same way that men suffered after the last war. It was our men, and the women later on, who made the great contribution towards the re-equipment of our Army. It was the men in the main who are affected by this Bill who stood up to the nightly bombardment in the industrial centres during the air raids, and who, after spending time in the shelters at night, went straight to their work on the following morning. There was no absenteeism as far as they were concerned. No one can lay any responsibility at the door of these men for any inefficiency in production.
Are we to be allowed after this war to co-operate in the way that we are doing during the war in order to try and build a Britain worthy of our generation? There has been no ca' canny in this war. No one has heard the term mentioned. There have been no agents provocateurs. In the last war they were to be found in many centres. The men are themselves the best policemen to prevent anything of the kind creeping in. There have been few instances of sabotage, and the Minister rightly paid tribute to all sections of industry for their whole-hearted co-operation. In the last war many of us were called away to play our part. We afterwards talked to our men and made up our minds that never would we be a party to a repetition of the sacrifices that were made in the last war. But circumstances changed all that, and in 1934 we realised what was at stake, and in consequence of that we had to forgo our past experiences, realising that with which we were faced. I kept many cuttings after the last war in order to help to arm myself with information to enable me to play my part among the men to see that we did not go through that kind of thing again. Here are one or two of these cuttings:
Mr. Churchill, the Minister of Munitions, announces that he intends abolish the leaving certificates and to drop the dilution Clause in the Munitions Bill, which have figured so largely in the reports upon industrial unrest.
The announcement was made in the House of Commons late last night on the order for the consideration of the Munitions of War Bill.
One could go on giving extracts from similar speeches by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the late Lord Kitchener, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and by the late Mr. Arthur Henderson and others, and later they had to devise means to investigate uphappy labour unrest. There has been no sign of that in this war. Therefore, the Government are rightly introducing this Bill in this war in order to fulfil the pledge they have made.
In May, 1917, 60,000 men and women were on strike in Lancashire in opposition to dilution. There is no sign of that in this war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs wrote:
Of all the problems which the Government had to handle during the great war the most delicate and probably the most perilous were those arising on the home front.
How different this time. Will this change be recognised? Will it be remembered? I hope that between now and the Committee stage consideration will be given to the following points: With regard to Clause 4, Sub-section (3, d), should there not be provision made here for any further sum for other damages that may arise? With regard to Clause 5, Subsection (1), in my view the maximum fine is infinitesimal. An employer could easily cover himself many times over in one minute by the continuation of a single operation. Even with the subsequent fine of £25 a day, that would in many cases mean very little. Like the "bookies," they do not mind being fined if they are getting away with a great deal. The same thing happens in the black market, where the fines suffered until recently have been so small that those convicted do not mind. Surely the £25 should be increased many times. With regard to Clause 5, Sub-section (3), is this Sub-section required? I think it could provide an escape on advice from a lawyer. As for Clause 7, I understand that the Crown has always been given a privilege from the Statutes, but after this war a new situation may arise. It may be necessary for the State to carry on many undertakings. I hope that it will. It has proved a very efficient method of carrying on in one quarter of the globe, where our friends are putting up a great resistance to the menace of German armaments. It is vital that all State under takings "shall" be included and not "may" be included. Local authorities are being included. I know the value of "shall" against "may", because I was involved for 10 years in a legal battle over these two words.
In Clause II do we require a wider definition of trade practice? We are reminded here that the 1927 Trade Union Act still applies. We know all that that means. How will this affect Post Office workers? Certain grades of these workers have agreed to war-time changes only. Will they be included in the Bill, or will the 1927 Act still apply? How will Civil servants be affected? I would like the Minister to make a special note of this. Should not this be changed in order to cover cases mentioned by the Minister in presenting the Bill? Take coppersmiths. They arrived at an agreement in May, 1939, so that they could play their part in equipping the nation to face the worsening international situation. I only wish the whole nation had responded in the same way. The Amalgamated Engineering Union arrived at an agreement in August, 1939. Surely it is reasonable to expect that after these men went to the length they did there should be no obstacle put in the way of maximum production of the nation's requirements. This Bill should cover the May, 1939, agreement.
This war has brought about an enormous increase in the productivity of labour. Restrictions and customs of all kinds have been cut out. Centralisation of capital has been accelerated, thus leading to further monopoly development. It is of paramount importance that we should prepare to deal with the post-war situation. Within very narrow limits this Bill is a contribution towards that, but I doubt whether we shall be allowed to plan and prepare for that period. As I listen, think, watch and read, I am of the opinion that that should not drive us into a negative position. That should not make us pessimists, because progress has not come about in that way. The British people lead the way in progress and, if they are allowed after this war, will still lead the world. If they are not allowed to progress in one way, they will progress in another. As I have said, we shall facilitate the passage of this Bill. We welcome it, but my experience teaches me—armed as I am with my experience of the last war—that once you relax customs and practice it is very difficult to restore them.
Before I sit down, I want to ask the Government to do something more, something big and worthy of the generation to which we are proud to belong. The Minister rightly paid tribute to industry and referred to the small amount of time which has been lost through industrial disputes. We know the difficulties, the amount of expansion which has taken place, and how quickly. The men concerned with this Bill deserve well of the nation. Their good will in the aggregate cannot be measured. This Bill is bound to have a great effect on output. They have made a fine contribution, but they will make a greater contribution yet if industry is better organised. They cannot do any more individually, but they could get better results by improved organisation. These men should be given more concrete promises, and consideration ought to be given to a six-hour day and a five-day week after this war. Recently I sat with my wife at home listening to a broadcast from America by the Prime Minister, who began his speech with the words, "Fellow workers in the cause of freedom." That was a historical phrase, but our interpretation of freedom also includes economic freedom and security from what we have suffered in the past. This Measure is the result of a compromise made by the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Labour in particular, and we welcome it because of the promises which are being carried out within the limits of this Bill.
Although this Bill is in many ways a novel one and clearly presents difficulties, like the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) I welcome it. It would be very rash for anyone, either inside or outside the House, to oppose the Bill after substantial agreement has been reached between the two great parties in industry and the Bill is introduced in fulfilment of a pledge, though he is entitled to point out some of the difficulties that may arise. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on introducing the Bill, and I hope it will have a speedy passage through the House. No doubt valuable contributions to the Debate will be made by those with direct experience as trade unionists and those with direct experience as employers. I belong to neither of those groups, though as a barrister I naturally sympathise with those who believe in trade union rights. But I think that perhaps this Bill should not pass even its Second Reading without attention being drawn to some of its implications.
Ever since the beginning of the war, and every week with greater strength and assurance, we have been informed by writers in the Press of the Left, both daily and weekly, that the pre-war world is absolutely dead, that its death is a very good thing, and that nobody who is not a fool or a reactionary, or both, would dream of reviving it or restoring any of its customs or practices. Those assurances are also given us constantly by speakers on the wireless. We are further assured that no patriot ought ever to think of what will be the position of himself, or of the class to which he belongs, after the war, that nothing is quite so indecent as property rights, and that property rights, above all, ought to be treated with contempt. I was very much interested therefore to note that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, with the applause of all the trade unionists sitting opposite, said, as the greatest reason why these practices should be restored, that they were really property rights. In other words, the trade union world has at last discovered that property rights can be respectable and that they can give no greater strength to their advocacy of the restoration of trade union practices than to say that these are, in effect, property rights and must accordingly be restored. The trade unions are asking for a restoration of privileges. They are quite right.
Yes. The privilege of the skilled trade unionist as contrasted with the man brought in by way of dilution. The trade unions are very loyal to what I may call the "old-school-tie" ideal.
In many ways there is a similarity. The hon. Member seems to think I am making a complaint about these things. He is wrong. I am only drawing attention to them. I have said that I support the Bill. I merely point out—and ask the House to note it—that this is a Bill animated, very properly, by the "old-school-tie" ideal and that the trade union leaders are demanding a restoration of the privileged position of the old trade unionists. I do not say for one moment that they are wrong to do so.
There is another thing I think the House should note. We have had a great deal of this talk of a new order. There are people who assert that the heroism of our Army, Navy, Air Force and Mercantile Marine, our civil population at home, our workers in the factories and the mines would not have been displayed to preserve anything, and that it is only to be accounted for by the fact that they are fighting for a new order or a new world. I believe that to be profoundly false and also to involve an immoral view about war. War, in the belief of civilised people, is not justified by a desire to produce positive benefits. It is Hitler who believes in that. It is justified as being necessary for the defence of those things in which men believe. That includes, of course, the right to work for a new order. I shall not quarrel with the hon. Member for Stoke, who preceded me and gave eloquent expression to some of the ideals for which he works and has long worked, but though it is true that, if we win this war, every man will have a right to work for any new order or any reform in which he believes, it is not true to say that that is why we are fighting the war. We are fighting the war in defence—not to produce a better world but to prevent the introduction of a much worse world. If a man believes in a new order, do not let him assume that the war has necessarily made it easier. If he wished for a new order, he would have wished and worked for it even if there had been no war., Nothing could be more false than the view that there was nothing in the civilisation we enjoyed before the war which was worth preserving, nothing of value in a civilisation derived, as I have pointed out before, from so many splendid sources, from Rome, from Greece and from Christianity, and enriched by British institutions and traditions. Among those institutions I, for one, would pay my tribute to trade unionism. That is a characteristic British institution, and although I am not a trade unionist in the strictest sense, I would certainly express my admiration of trade unionism as one of our worthy institutions and an institution which should play its part.
That is why I welcome the fact that to-day one of the greatest figures produced by the trade union movement has introduced in the House a Bill that gives the lie to all that sloppy talk of the Left, all this talk that there was nothing worth while in our pre-war civilisation, that anybody who believes in any part of it must be a reactionary or a fool, and that one must not work for the restoration of any of it. That is given its lie by this Bill. Those who back the Bill clearly show either that they do not believe in a new order or that they think that the proper introduction of a new order is a compulsory return for 18 months to an important part of the old order. It is even to be a criminal offence if you do not return to some practices of the old order, for at least 18 months. I hope that the House, and the country also, will note this important fact. It is a tribute to the wisdom of trade unionists that they realise, from their common sense, their contact with the things which really matter and from their knowledge of workday conditions both in peace and in war, that there is a great deal which was of value in the civilisation which we had built up, and that it is a cheap and shallow view which represents the whole thing as worthless.
I would remind hon. Members, and the hon. Member for Stoke, whose speeches I so often listen to with pleasure, that trade unionists are not the only people who have made sacrifices without question during this war. I know that the hon. Member for Stoke would be the first to admit it. There are people with far less protection from organised bodies, such as trade unions, who have made even greater sacrifices than the trade unionists, and who have made them without very much hope of subsequent restoration of what they sacrificed, though I do not suggest for one moment that one section showed more patriotism than another. Professional people, small shopkeepers and others have made the most overwhelming sacrifices; no similar pledge has been given to them and they are not protected by being given such protection as a Bill of this kind provides. I hope that the moral of this Bill will not be lost on anyone. Men and women in all classes and in all sections have made great sacrifices for this war, and, if they are decent, they will not seek to be rewarded for those sacrifices, because they made them in a cause which is sacred to them and in the cause of their country, in order to preserve their civilisation, the things of value that they had known in peace and their hopes of the future. It is not only trade unionists who have made such sacrifices. For my part I welcome this Bill, but I think I am justified in pointing out that by it the Minister of Labour and every trade unionist who supports it give the lie to nearly all the talk of the Left poured out from the B.B.C. and expressed in leading articles of the Press.
I was not thinking of that programme, but, since the hon. Member mentions it, I would respectfully point out that there have been three permanent members of the Brains Trust—one is at present away—and that of these three two belong and are known to belong to the Left, and that there has been no permanent member belonging to the Right. I thank the B.B.C. for having given me one opportunity to be present and to make some answer on one occasion to Prof. Joad.
No, Sir. I have appeared on one occasion only. I apologise for being led into that digression. I welcome this Bill for the reasons I have stated. Do not let us overlook the fact that by it the great trade unions say that there were things enjoyed before the war which are worth preserving, that it is not only reactionaries and fools who wish to preserve them, and that this applies to other people as well as to trade unionists.
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add:
this House refuses to give a Second Reading to a Bill designed to increase the costs of production at a time when decreased costs will be especially necessary if serious unemployment is to be avoided.
Long experience of this House has led me to think that on occasions of this sort there is always the grave danger of the Debate relapsing into rhodomontade relieved by such interludes of brilliant wit as we have just heard from the hon. Member for Norwich ((Mr. H. Strauss). I have ventured to put down an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill in the hope—which I fear will not be fulfilled—that the rest of the Debate may be confined to serious discussion of what we are doing and what this Bill really means. As Members above the Gangway know, I am always ready to give way to any interruption in the hope that I may learn something which I did not know before. Therefore, when I read out this Amend-
ment, no doubt some hon. Member will rise if he thinks that any thing I say is unfair and unjust, in which case I shall be only too ready, with permission of Mr. Speaker, to allow the interruption. The form of the Amendment is this:
That this House refuses to give a Second Reading to a Bill designed to increase the costs of production at a time when decreased costs will be especially necessary if serious unemployment is to be avoided.
As I have said, that is a very controversial form for an Amendment of rejection. My only excuse for thrusting myself forward on this occasion is that, so far as my recollection serves me, I am the only Member who has been punished under the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act, 1919. Perhaps I may be allowed to remind the House what happened on that occasion. Here again I am subject to correction, because these events occurred more than 20 years ago, and they were so trivial that I have not troubled to keep them sufficiently in my memory.
I was charged at the instigation of the Manchester Branch of the Engineers' Society with an offence against the Prewar Practices Act, inasmuch as I had done something after the war which I had not done before the war. I was hauled before a court consisting of one lawyer, one representative of the trade unions, who were prosecuting, and one member of the Employers' Federation, to whom I am certainly not persona grata. In this unbiased court, two members were in complete opposition to me and one of them actually initiated the prosecution. The decision of the court was taken on evidence which I could not really refute. The offence was that I employed disabled soldiers, on skilled work at more than trade union rates at less than trade union hours. Inasmuch as these men had been disabled in the war it was perfectly obvious that the offence was blatant, for I could not employ before the war men who had been disabled in the war. But that was not the main part of the evidence brought forward by the trade unions.
To my surprise a trade union official of long standing got up and solemnly gave evidence to the effect that from time immemorial a man on a planing machine in an engineering shop must serve seven years' apprenticeship before the age of 21; when it is perfectly well known that from time immemorial in the Lancashire district all the labour on planing machinery has been recruited from the shop floor. I was convicted, not upon the former evidence, but upon the latter evidence, and I was smartly fined. Naturally, I went on perpetrating the offence. Then the whole thing leaked out, and a Debate took place in this House, and, after that, no one ever heard of the restoration of the Pre-war Practices Act again. Whether it is still in existence I do not know, but for good or had that was the end of it.
Are we going to stultify ourselves by perpetrating another piece of humbug such as this Bill? We now come to the more controversial part. I know of no trading practice which is not a device for increasing the cost of production. Can anyone above the Gangway inform me of any trade practice, such as those implied in the Bill, which is not a device for increasing the cost of production—one man, one machine, keeping the rate per machine the same whether an inferior man is on it or not, dilution, and so on? I am not blaming trade unions, but that is the fact.
My Amendment goes on to say that increasing the cost of production immediately after the war is specially dangerous from the point of view of employment, for why, when you get down to brass tacks, is a man thrown out of employment? Simply because the product of his labour cannot be sold. Whatever the immediate circumstances are, that is the ultimate thing that puts a man out of employment. The goods cannot be sold because the potential customer is either unwilling or unable to pay the appropriate price, and the appropriate price, of course, is completely conditioned by the cost of production. I do not think the Bill will effect its object, but the principle is there. We are trying after the war to increase the cost of production, and to that extent we are going to make the post-war unemployment problem more serious even than it will be in any event. It seems to me that the time of the House might very well have been occupied in refuting this argument so that the House of Commons at last may have some sort of idea as to the meaning of unemployment and the means by which it can be reduced. I challenge hon. Members above the Gangway—it is a friendly challenge—to tell me whether I was in error on my premises, the premises being that all trade practices are practices intended to increase the cost of production.
I accept the hon. Member's challenge. The intention is to improve the conditions of the workpeople. It may influence the cost, but, by giving satisfaction to the workers, you will improve output.
The hon. Member's view, with which I sympathise somewhat, is that the ultimate result may not be to increase costs, but the form of my Amendment refers to a particular period in the history of industry, that is, the immediate post-war period of 18 months during which the Bill will be effective. Although Members above the Gangway will not admit it publicly, I think they will admit privately that all my industrial life I have worked very closely with the trade unions, knowing that they are an essential and, in the main, a very beneficial, part of our industrial system. Again and again on appropriate occasions I have protested against the way in which the politicians have hamstrung the trade unions by taking away their proper functions from them and turning them more or less into political societies instead of trade unions in the proper sense. Therefore, do not think for a moment that in moving the rejection of the Bill I am in any way wanting to do any harm to the trade unions.
The Minister of Labour presented the Bill to the House as "a poor thing but mine own." It is not really bona fide at all. It is a very grave accusation to make against the Government to suggest that they bring forward Bills which they know are just humbug; but this Government must remember that this is not the only thing which is pure humbug in relation to these matters. For example, if a man is taken into the Fighting Services from his work, he is to be guaranteed his job on his return. Every member of the Labour party who has had experience in industry knows perfectly well that that means nothing at all in actual practice. A man is put down to be called up. He is given an extension so that another man may be trained for his job. The first man is taken away with a guaranteed job. The second man after another six months is taken away and is guaranteed the same job, and so the whole thing goes on. It is humbug pure and simple. This Bill is very much on the same lines. I hope the House of Commons, bare as it is, will endeavour for the rest of the Debate to devote itself to reasoning whether on the whole the Bill is likely to increase unemployment or not, and to that extent whether it is desirable for it to pass.
One of the great happenings of the day—I hope it is going to be of immense benefit to the country—is the visit of the so-called Russian trade unionists, who apparently have been trained by Premier Stalin in an accomplishment which is practically lost in this country and in the rest of the world: I mean the accomplishment of getting rid of cant and telling the truth. I take this opportunity to rub in what those Russian delegates have been trying to rub into us, and what Premier Stalin is trying to rub into the other heads of the Allied countries, and that is that there is only one proper place for cant and humbug and that is the propaganda sheets of the Government, and you must keep it there and never introduce it into the counsels of the nation, as we do.
I am always interested when the hon. Member speaks, because he is original and unorthodox. One cannot agree with many of his themes, but I always have it in my mind that he means well. He tries to put us on the right lines from time to time because we are all going one way. He has made one or two points which I think ought to be taken up, because they require to be answered. One is that the restoration of trade practices will mean an increased cost of production. On the face of it that may sound very good, but these practices have been called for, and granted, to prevent greater things happening. But for them there would probably have been a stoppage in industry. You get workmen to a certain point, prepared to meet the employers and try to reason with them, but unless they get something like a fair return, the only resort that they have is to stop production altogether. Imagine what that means. If you stop production for a day or a week or longer, there is a loss. If you give a man a shortened working: day or an increase in wages, that immediately increases the cost of production on the face of it, but good will and better conditions bring in their train better earnings.
When the men in the mining industry were working 12 hours a day, it might have been said there was greater output. It meant, however, breaking the men down, and they were not able to carry on for any length of time. When shorter hours were introduced will anyone say that there was not a fair return and better work from the men? Therefore, I would say to my hon. Friend that we should look a little further ahead and say what the rights of these people are. That is what this Bill is for. It will restore after the war the rights that have been fought for by the workers and secured from the employers by trade union agreements. When we meet our workpeople and ask them to give up certain concessions which they have won we do not want the new conditions to grow into recognised practices after the war. I put other members on the same level as ourselves; they expect their privileges and rights to be restored after the war, and we are willing to give up our rights on the understanding that when the war is over they will be restored to us. As a proof of that we say to our workpeople," You have got Bevin as Minister of Labour; he is a trusted leader and will not let you down."
I am not speaking about 1926, but about the future. The fact that he is Minister of Labour and the passing of this Bill 'Nil' give an incentive to the workpeople, for they will know that whatever they give up now will be given back to them after the war. Is there anything wrong in that? I do not think anybody will say there is. I would like, however, to criticise one point in the Bill. It is laid down that if the finding of the tribunal is not carried out the defaulting party will have to go to the court of summary jurisdiction and be fined. Is there any need for that to be done? Are we to follow the old tradition that we must always go to the lawyers when there is a dispute? This tribunal is a court that determines the rights or wrongs of a case. Why, there- fore, should the defaulting party have to go to the court of summary jurisdiction? The tribunal has already examined the position thoroughly, and its findings are binding on both parties with all the force of the law behind them. I shall move an Amendment in Committee to deal with that point. Apart from that, I am satisfied that the pledge contained in this Bill will do a vast amount of good to the working-class, for they will realise that whatever they have to give up during the war will be restored to them. It will certainly create a better feeling among the workers. If the Bill does, indeed, mean that when the war is over the workers will get back their rights, very few in the House will vote against it. I shall certainly support it.
I am not surprised that every speaker, with the exception of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), has welcomed the Bill. It is the only honourable thing to do, and I think that not only the House, but all people of decent feeling throughout the country are anxious to see not only the Bill carried, but the intention behind the Bill achieved—which is a much bigger and more desirable thing. I am entirely with those who have expressed misgivings about the effectiveness of this type of legislation. It has necessarily had to be drawn with a certain degree of vagueness, and I think that that is inevitable, but the Bill must be followed by modifications of other types of legislation so as to secure the object intended. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) entertained the House by setting up a delightful Aunt Sally and then enjoyed himself in demolishing it. It was obvious to all of us who know the Minister of Labour that he used jargon which would appeal to a certain mentality that recognises only property rights and puts them before human considerations. The hon. Member then proceeded to welcome with great glee the recognition on the part of the Minister of Labour that trade union rights are property. I am certain the intention was to bring home to a large number of people that it is the only property which a considerable percentage of the population has. They have only themselves and their labour value, and the only machine which has made that labour value, which, with raw materials, is fundamental in society, a reality is trade unionism. This legis- lation will give to that property some force in law.
I quoted with approval the remarks of the Minister of Labour. On the whole I agree with him. These are, as it were, property rights of labour. What I called the attention of the House to was that that view was shared and applauded by hon. Members opposite who thereby agreed that property rights were very important rights.
I took what the hon. Gentleman said as a joke. This Bill will give the recognition of the law to trade unions and their right to safeguard the standards of the workers. The hon. Member proceeded to say that the papers of the Left and the B.B.C. have no room for anything that appertains to law and order. We on this side of the House are behind the war because we have things to preserve, but between us and others who are obsessed with preserving what they have there is a fundamental difference. We are looking beyond this war not only to the retention of what we have achieved but a greater and more equitable distribution of the things of which the hon. Member spoke, so that they may be enjoyed by the whole population. We are not out to demolish the things which we cherish, in the building up of which many of us have played a part, but we are not satisfied that the old order was the ultimate that could be achieved by mankind. We still believe that the best is yet to be, and that the whole purpose of living and striving, as we here are doing in our own humble way, not necessarily with sweat and blood and tears, is to bring about substantial improvements.
My main criticism of the Bill is that it does not hold out hope of substantial improvements, and may probably prejudice the position of some employees who have achieved relatively high standards. Take the case of the distributive trade. It is well known that certain sections employ almost exclusively juvenile female labour. Very often the premises in which they are employed are shoddy and therefore low rated. The whole drive behind certain sections of the trade is to make profits, without consideration for the human factor. The fathers of those girls have to work somewhere, and many of them are also engaged in the distributive trade, and it seems to me that if the position which has been achieved for the adult workers in the distributive trade by the N.A.D.W. is to be retained employers who grant those conditions must have some assurance that they will not be injured by businesses which use exclusively cheap female labour. Power to enlist the Trade Boards and the administration to secure recognition of standards outside what this Bill covers should not be prejudiced.
Then take the bakery trade. It is well known that the trade union of the bakers has secured for staffs in some large bakeries conditions which, if not ideal, are worth retaining, but there has grown up in recent years bakeries using very elaborate machinery which are non-union shops where the wages and conditions are not so good. The number of them is growing. Old established bakeries which have worked harmoniously with the union will, no doubt, try to continue along those lines under this Bill, but other bakeries may come into existence where everything will be run at the lowest possible cost and will undersell the legitimate and reliable bakers who feel their social responsibilities and are not out merely to secure profit. The hon. Member who wanted to move an Amendment put before us the case that in the dislocation which will follow the end of the war there will be unemployment and that to restore certain provisions would increase productive costs and so accentuate unemployment. I want to dissent entirely from that assumption. After the last war there was an almost universal attempt to cut costs. Did that save us from unemployment? It landed us into unemployment on a scale which we had not experienced before, and any endeavour to apply the thesis of the hon. Member would, I am sure, produce the same results, again. If men and women are to be retained in employment there must be purchasing power, so that the goods which are produced can be bought, and if this Bill makes any contribution towards restoring and distributing purchasing power among the people I am certain that that will be a substantial contribution towards absorbing labour into employment.
Theorists who look at the problem may say that the only way in which the unemployed could be absorbed would be by substantially raising the standards of living of the hundreds of millions who are on the margin of existence in India and in China. I agree that we have to look at these matters, internationally, and that that would be a contribution, and though that point is outside this Debate, logically it would follow that if those standards were to be raised nothing would be achieved by lowering the standards of the workers in this country. I hope that when this Bill is out of the way the Minister will look at the wider problems which will be left unsolved, because I agree with the hon. Member for Norwich that it is not trade unionists alone who have made sacrifices. The sacrifices have been universal, and in achieving the objects behind this Bill we ought not to be satisfied that it should apply to the few only but that legislation should be carried out to secure a better standard for all. In spite of the satisfaction of some people with the old order I feel that some improvements are possible, and I hope that further legislation will be introduced at an early date.
The first comment I should like to make about the Bill is, that I do not think anybody can possibly oppose it unless he wants to continue war restrictions on the working people when peace returns, and hardly any person would wish to continue such severe limitations merely for the sake of doing so. From my own personal attitude towards the issues of war and peace I welcome this Bill more perhaps than anybody else; it projects our minds, probably for the first time since the war began, into that state of affairs when men and women will once more be living in peace. I welcome it very largely on that score. I would put this however to the Minister of Labour; I take it that the right to strike will return with the lapsing of the defence regulations; that this Bill has nothing to do with that vital question. Whether this Bill gives that right or not I would like to make this comment. I have been a trade unionist and a trade union official for a long time and have been through two or three strikes myself. It seems to me that the difference between a slave and a free man is that the free man has the right along with his fellows to lay down his tools as a protest against unfair conditions of employment. I take it therefore that it goes without saying that with the lapse of the defence regulations at the end of hostilities the right to strike will return automatically. Dilution and demarcation in industry are very small problems by comparison with the right to strike. Then, there is in operation at present a system about which there have been complaints from this side of the House whereby workpeople are compelled to leave their homes and go from one job to another. For instance, certain persons have been sent to prison for declining to return to the coal mines. One man in my constituency is in prison now, and I reminded the House the other day that this man does not produce coal while he is in gaol. I take it that all that will go by the board when the war ends and that you will not then compel persons to go from Scotland or from Wales to work in England, and vice versa.
Two or three points have occurred to me in this Bill. I understand that there will be a legal title for the employer or employed, through their organisations, to take up the case for the restoration of a trade practice, if the abandonment of the trade practice has been agreed to in writing; that is to say, if a written agreement has been entered into during this war to abandon the trade practice.
The largest industry in this country, although it looms least in the minds of our people, is the distributive trade. In peace-time it employs more than 2,000,000 men and women. Hon. Members talk of dilution; I can assure them that no dilution has been so extensive during this war as in the distributive trade. Near my home, where we do our shopping, is a branch shop which had eight or nine male assistants; it is run today almost entirely by female assistants. I do not think there is a written agreement that that should be done. It is not apparently dilution by agreement, though nearly all the staff are now females, whereas they used to be all males. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Bill applies in that case? Suppose the trade union says, when peace comes, that only males used to be employed in the grocery and provision departments of an organisation but the employer had now brought in females to staff the shop, would that constitute a legal right to restoration? If the trade union goes to arbitration, will that be a justifiable case to put before the court? The next point is a small one. I do not quite understand from the wording of the Bill whether an urban district is included in "local authority." I understand that the Minister indicates assent. Very well, but it is not clear from the working of the Bill itself.
I note that the maximum penalty proposed in the Bill is £25. I can well imagine, in parts of 'the country where all the magistrates on the bench are employers maybe in the same line of business, fines being of the order of 25s. One of the complaints of the factory inspectorate I should imagine has been that their hearts have been broken when, after taking a case to such a court for a violation of factory law, the employer responsible has been fined only 5s. Thos; cases were not worth while taking to court. I do not know how this difficulty can be got over. I notice too that the right hon. Gentleman has not included imprisonment as a penalty in the Bill. The employer under this Bill is treated in a different way from what is being done during this war in sending workpeople to gaol for refusing to work in certain industries. Be that as it may, the Bill is welcome in every quarter. One other small point is, what is meant by "undertaking"? A coal mine, engineering shop or factory are obviously undertakings, but is a retail shop or an office an undertaking for the purpose of this Bill? I take it that a co-operative society with 20, 30 or 50, or a chain-store with 100 branches, will be regarded as undertakings. It would be interesting to have a reply to that question. Now I come to another point, and perhaps the Minister who is to reply will give me some information upon it. In the Bill we find what is virtually compulsory arbitration. The trade union movement of this country has never yet accepted the principle of compulsory arbitration, but that is totally different to compulsory arbitration on the points mentioned in this Bill. I agree that the compulsory arbitration here is not in connection with a dispute on wages or conditions of employment; it is arbitration upon questions of fact, and I cannot see that there is very much to complain about on that score.
Perhaps I may say one or two words in general on the Bill. We must all welcome a Bill of this kind because it creates, for people who think as I do, a new atmosphere, looking forward to those better days when peace reigns once more. Comments have been made about the inadequacy of the Bill but the Minister will not, I think, regard those as justifiable; some of the things which it is suggested should be included are clearly problems for the Minister without Portfolio. The Minister of Labour is circumscribed to dealing with labour problems only; he cannot deal with social security for instance. At the end of the war the paramount problem will, I think, be that of social security.
I would like to put on record the fact that the International Labour Office met in New York a few months ago and gave us one of the best outlines of the treatment of labour and kindred problems at the end of the war. They call their proposals by a new and very appropriate title, the Social Mandate. Unless I am mistaken, the working people of all the countries of the world will demand reforms on these lines after the war. Whether they will be able to achieve them or not, after the tornado of political, social and economic disasters that inevitably come after a war, I do not know. The I.L.O. has laid down several points for the consideration of all Governments; the first of them is in regard to the elimination of unemployment. I do not want to dwell extensively on this point, but I would mention that, in my constituency, the mere fact that this country was at war in 1914–18 threw at least 10,000 miners out of work for eight years. The consequences of war closed 22 pits in my constituency, never to be opened again. That is war. They were unemployed, many of them, for very many years.
The I.L.O. goes further and urges the establishment of machinery for vocational training and re-training, the improvement of social conditions in all its fields, and in particular its extension to all classes of workers. I am sure the right hon. Gentlemen is quite familiar with this very excellent document, which is trying to point the way to the reconstruction of society when this terrible conflict comes to an end. Finally, I repeat that I cannot conceive anyone opposing this Measure except those who want to retain these war-time restrict- tions on the working classes of this country for their own selfish ends.
I am sure the Minister can congratulate himself on the reception which the Bill has had on its Second Reading in the House. I came to the House not anticipating much difficulty or trouble with regard to this Bill, for the simple reason that during the few years I have been here I have heard Governments taken to task on many occasions for refusing to honour pledges, but not for honouring them, and I think this is the first time on which a Member, the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), has taken a Government to task for carrying out something which it has pledged itself to do. He threw doubts upon the wisdom both of having made the promise and of having attempted to carry it out. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), my hon. Friend who opened the discussion with what I thought was an excellent speech, gave the House sufficient reasons for the honouring of that pledge without it being necessary for a Minister to speak again at all. He showed something of what the engineering unions in particular have done—he spoke with authority about them, because of his past experience and present knowledge—and the way in which they have met every request from the Government, not only since the war broke out but before, to facilitate the production of munitions. It would have been a mean thing if, after having called upon them to make these sacrifices, this pledge had not been honoured in the Bill which is before the House to-day.
The hon. Member spoke mainly of work in the engineering shops and pointed out that it applied mainly to them so far as dilution was concerned, but I would remind the House that in his opening statement the Minister said that the application of the Measure was far more widespread than was the case on the conclusion of the last war. I would also suggest that it applies not only to practices relating to dilution. I believe the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) spoke of the changes that have taken place in hours of work. These are trade practices; most of the agreements are agreements without legislative backing with regard to hours of labour, and have been entered into between employers and employees. They have been changed now, and not to go back when the crisis is past and the war is over to the position which had been won by the operatives in pre-way days would, I contend, have been contrary to the very principles for which the war is being fought.
Now I come to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss). He praised the Bill, but pointed out something of its implications and particularly laid stress upon the fact that people are suggesting that the pre-war world is dead. I hope it is dead, but that is not to say that every single thing in the pre-war world was of no value. Some of the practices that have been given up and which existed when the war broke out were things which, I believe, are worth retaining and improving upon. The hon. Member said that to suggest that we were fighting for the restoration of those principles or even for a new world was to belie the situation. I would suggest to him that there are many people in this country at the present moment who have been driven to fighting, and who are fighting, for the right to keep on fighting for a new world, knowing that if we lose in the fight we are engaged in, the possibility of fighting for that new world will have gone. He made play also of the Minister's statement that these acquired rights of trade unionists were property rights. I am glad that he as a lawyer has recognised those rights. I hope he will not confuse them with the other property rights which have sometimes been discussed in this House. He drew a distinction, but these property rights, the rights to decent conditions which have been won by combination, are not to be described as he described them—as privileges—but as something which has been paid for in the long years through which the trade unions have been coming to the position where they now stand of being recognised, as the hon. Member recognised them, as a very worthy institution and as people with whom we can now deal and make satisfactory bargains.
I did-not use the word "privilege" in any bad sense, but would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the restoration of these practices will in many cases give a privilege—quite properly perhaps—to the old trade unionists as contrasted with the men who have come in as a result of dilution?
I do not accept that at all. The man who has come in as a dilutee as a result of the withholding of these practices has come in because of the nation's need at the moment. It would never have been necessary to ask for these practices to be given up, and therefore it would never have been necessary for them to be restored, had we not been in a crisis. The fallacy behind the whole of the argument which was put up by the hon. Member for Mossley is the suggestion that the men who have given up rights gained over a long period are in a privileged position as compared with the men who have come in as a consequence of the suspension of those rights. You can restore a pre-war trade practice, and give a sense of justice in its restoration, only if you recognise that the individual who has come in under changed conditions—at our request, it is true—shall not jeopardise when the crisis is passed the position of the man who has allowed him to come in. I would go so far as to say that in some instances trouble may have been caused because of the fact that the semi-skilled man, owing to the developments that have taken place during the war, has sometimes been in a better position than the man who gave up the very practices which we are asking should be restored. If therefore he is in a privileged position now, the other man is entitled to some consideration afterwards.
The hon. Member for Mossley threw out a sort of challenge to the other side that all these practices are designed to increase costs of production, and he suggested that these increased costs would come at a time when a reduction of costs would be essential. He has postulated a question which I admit we could discuss for a long time, but I would point out to him that what he has suggested is the opposite of what we are proposing. He looks at the matter from the standpoint of the employer; this Bill looks at it from the standpoint of the workman who has been concerned with certain practices. Therefore, it is not a question of the costs of production so much as a question of retaining or restoring the right, at least, to the conditions which preceded the war. That is the basis of the Bill. I would point out to him that, as the hon. Member for Leigh said, he is not only an original thinker in this House, he is an original thinker in industry, so original that he finds it possible to differ from all the people who have been prepared to agree that it was reasonable this Bill should be drawn up, and from all the people on his own side, that is, on the employers' side, who have seen the reasonableness of it. The whole of his speech and his suggestion with regard to this Bill was summed up in one sentence, "Can I not do as I like with my own?" The answer is that he just cannot; nor can anybody else. If the war has taught us anything, it has taught us that we cannot do as we like with our own. We are members of a community, and it is because we recognise that we are members of that community, and I think because the employers and workers, fully organised, have recognised that they are members of the community and are desirous of assisting the community, that they have agreed to this Bill.
There were one or two other questions on which perhaps I might touch. The hon. Member for Leigh asked why it was suggested that the tribunal should not be a body which had the right to impose a fine if need be, why it should be necessary to go to a court of summary jurisdiction after a case has been to a tribunal. That is a matter on which he has suggested he would put down an Amendment, and it is a matter we can go into on the Committee stage, and give our views on the pros and cons of it. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) suggested that the Bill fell short of what he desired because it did not hold out hope of better payment. The Bill is not intended to create a new postwar world; it is intended to deal with just one aspect of the post-war world. To the extent that it is seeking to stabilise what were the conditions prior to the outbreak of war it will have a steadying influence and will enable those problems about which the hon. Member spoke to be discussed in the right temperature and, I hope, in the right light. Any new undertaking in the case he postulated would be safeguarded under the terms of the Bill if, in the industry in which that new undertaking is begun, there have been agreements regarding hours, conditions, etc.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) asked whether this Bill restored the right to strike. That, as he knows, comes under the Defence of the Realm Act,' and when this Bill comes into operation I am hoping the Defence of the Realm Act will have gone in the sense in which we know it now. Therefore, if the right to strike can be called a trade practice, it is not dealt with under this Bill. He found fault because some gentleman has been sent to prison because he would not hew coal, and he asked how the man could hew coal in prison. The only reason he went to prison was because he would not cut coal. He did not go to prison under this Bill, nor is imprisonment provided among the penalties. Nobody likes imprisonment with regard to offences of this kind; the people who are called on to carry them out less, I think, than the people who impose them. This is a peace-time Measure, and I am hoping as regards both employers and employees, that there will be no need to threaten with prison those people who do not do all we wish them to. On the question of whether an urban district council is a local authority, such a council is a local authority if it is carrying out the undertakings which are mentioned in this Bill, or is carrying out any other undertakings which the Minister thinks should be brought within its scope. On the Second Reading I think that not only has the Minister shown that the Government were wise in introducing this Bill, but the House has revealed that it expected no less of him.
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a moment or two, but I could not help being greatly entertained by the remarkable temerity of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who would suggest to the House that the Bill should be rejected. The complaint I have, which has been fairly general in the North of England, is that this Measure is somewhat belated. Twelve months ago there were loud demands for the operation of this Bill. Now we have had it before us, I think we shall have calmer feelings so far as both sides of industry are concerned. It must not be forgotten that in restoring these practices and privileges we are protecting the rights of the general community as well as those directly concerned with the restoration of trade practices, because the history of this country has been very closely associated in the matter of social betterment with the rising power of the trade union movement, and if it were possible to put back the clock, which happily it is not, then we would do so by creating diversion and internecine struggles bound to ensue if the advice of the hon. Member for Mossley were taken. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) seemed to think that trade unionists were establishing some new, what he termed, property rights. But these rights have been won and purchased by long and hard service which the dilutees who will lose these have not undertaken, and it is for that reason that there is nothing in the nature of an exclusive privilege to which those who complain of certain forms of property rights legitimately object.
I hope the Minister will see that the arbitration court is an improvement in certain respects on some arbitration courts now operating, especially in the mining industry. I take it that the court will have a panel of assessors to assist the umpire. In the mining industry, not infrequently, there is not a single miner acting as an assessor. Men are drawn from a panel, and those selected may not be from the trade concerned. I have attended arbitrations in the mining industry at which no miner has been present, with the result that there has been general dissatisfaction with the arbitration. Will the Minister see that at each arbitration there is at least one person present with a knowledge of the trade concerned? That will be a protective measure, which will avoid disputes. While I recognise that it is contrary to the general tendency to allow an appeal from an arbitration court, my experience is that such an appeal would be advantageous. I know of certain settlements, made by arbitration, which the miners' federation would have paid large sums to enable their members to contest in a court of law. I feel that the Measure will receive almost unanimous support at this stage. We all anticipate that, with the fruition of the Atlantic Charter, unemployment will no longer exist after the war. With proper adjustment of hours and conditions of employment, the problem of unemployment ought then to have passed away, so far as this country and the Empire generally are concerned.
I do not want to oppose this Measure. For one thing, I do not feel that I sufficiently understand it. I was not able to hear the opening speech of the Minister. But I would like to express, in a few words, a slight anxiety which possesses my mind about the effect of this Bill on the post-war condition of women in industry. I recognise that, largely, this is a Bill to deal with dilution. I take it that that means that in a great number of cases it will be held that processes had been restricted to men, and that they should, therefore, in future be restricted to men. I am sure that the last thing that women generally in this county want is to cling to jobs which men have given up in order to go into the Services. There is no desire by women to take advantage of the war situation to carve for themselves a new place at the expense of their male colleagues who have made sacrifices. But the difficulty is that processes have undergone great changes during the war. Many have been broken up and simplified; new machinery has been introduced. We come across the difficulty about payment to women. While women are supposed to be enjoying the rate for the job, we often find that when a job is offered to a woman changes are made in the processes, to enable the employers to say that it is not the same job that a man was doing before, but a different one. Then changes are made in the rate of pay.
What is to happen after the war? Is it to be the case that women will be excluded from jobs, even though such changes have been introduced in the processes as to make those jobs wholly suitable for women and perhaps less suitable for men? We cannot stop scientific development or changes in employment as between men and women, and we do not want this Measure to operate as a kind of stone wall, a stratification of the pre-war position of women in industry. I hope that when I have read the whole Debate, and perhaps have discussed it with Members much more expert in this subject than I am, I shall be able to see that my fears are unjustified. I suggest that when the Bill comes on in Committee great care should be taken to see not only that both sides are taken into consideration, in the sense of representatives of employers' federations and of trade unions, but that women are given a chance of having their case heard.
Yes, I would support that principle, so far as I understand it. I confess that I do not understand always how it works out. The question is, what is the job? Jobs change, and are broken up. If men and women may be admitted to all jobs, provided they secure the rate for the job, that is all right; but everybody knows that that is not always so. Many trade unions, especially in the engineering industry, have opposed the admission of women, quite irrespective of whether the employer was prepared to offer that rate or not. They have objected to women as women. [Interruption.] I am speaking of the pre-war position. Knowing that the great engineering unions are, to put it bluntly, bossed by men, we have to keep a careful eye open to see that in the implementing of this Measure after the war, while it is perfectly fair to men and honours the undertakings given, it does not unduly stratify the position with regard to men and women or prejudice the position of women without careful examination of that position.