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I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Order in Council, dated 22nd February, 1945, made under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, 1939, and 1940, making Regulations entitled the Defence (Good Friday and St. Patrick's Day) Regulations, 1945, a copy of which was presented on 27th February, be annulled.
There is a Statutory Rule and Order, No. 164 of 1945, the title of which is Emergency Powers (Defence) (Holidays). This proposes two things. It proposes that:
The following enactments shall have effect as if Friday, the thirtieth day of March, nineteen hundred and fortyfive, were not Good Friday—
In other words, it declares that Good Friday is not Good Friday. It seems to me as if the Privy Council on this occasion were almost blasphemous, because Good Friday is Good Friday. It proceeds to say that the effect of saying that Good Friday is not Good Friday is that:
Section eight of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876 (which provides that Good Friday shall be kept as a public holiday by the Customs)
is not to operate. That is to say, the Customs houses are to be open on Good Friday. The purpose of all that is that our ports shall continue to work as if it were not Good Friday. Curiously enough, since I tabled this Prayer we have had the prolonged strike in the London Docks. The effect of what I am saying may now not be so great as if the dockers had continued working. The Order goes on to say—and this is the important part—that:
Section seventy-eight of the Factories Act, 1937 (which provides for Good Friday being a whole holiday for women and young persons employed in factories)"—
is not to operate. The implication of that seems to be that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government that factories, generally speaking, shall be open on Good Friday. I thought it was a mistake, as long ago as Whit Monday, 1940, that the Government should have decided to cancel the Bank Holiday. I think it is a complete delusion to believe that we get more production by working people excessive hours, whether by means of overtime or by suspending their customary holidays. I happen to have had perhaps exceptional opportunities of studying this problem for nearly a quarter of a century now, and I was invited by the then chairman of the Engineering Employers' Federation and the then President of the Amalgamated Engineers' Union to act as secretary of a body set up by the employers and the trade unions in the engineering and shipbuilding industries to investigate the whole problem of hours of labour in relation to production.
For a variety of reasons, our inquiry was very much prolonged, but it led me to a number of conclusions from which I have seen no reason to depart. One is that there is an optimum length of a working day, and, indeed, of a working year. If you go above that optimum production goes off, and, if you go below it, production also goes off. I am very much inclined to believe that the 47-hour week established in many industries before the war probably represented somewhere round about optimum production. There is always the question of cutting out Saturday working and working a five-day week of nine hours a day. When you attempt to go a little outside this, I am quite convinced that the effort to drive the people is entirely foolish. In a personal sense, I am only a very small employer. I have a place very near here and I am glad to say that, to the best of my recollection, the three girls under me have never worked overtime. I believe in driving all out during the period of work, and in then going home to indulge in recreation. In that way lies the secret of maximum production.
I do not like this Order. On Thursday, 29th March—I think I have got my dates right—my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip (Mr. J. Stuart), or one of his satellites, will move a. Motion that the House on rising that day should adjourn to some date later on. We shall certainly not sit on Good Friday nor on the Saturday. the Sunday or Monday. It is not that M.P.s have holidays when the House is not sitting—let that be put on record—for the bulk of our work continues whether the House is sitting or not, and it is just as well that the public should know it; but I do not think that many of us will be doing much work on Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. At least I shall not, and I think that if anybody else does he is rather foolish, unless he is on duty.
This is an appeal to the Government not to do something which I believe has no merit in it. We are not fighting the war on the production that comes out of the factories on Good Friday, we are fighting the war on the production that comes out of the ordnance depots. The factory production goes into the ordnance depots, and from there the ordinary munitions flow to the troops, and it is not the production of these few days that counts, but the production over a period of months of which these few days are a part. That is the real test. Of course, there may be some particular thing which you want very badly and which may necessitate a few people working right over the holiday. Nobody objects to that; everyone knows of the exceptional case; but I am talking about general production, and I make the strongest appeal to the Government to stop this business of driving people until they become "browned off."
Of course, the electricity must go on, and the water must be pumped. I am leaving them out, because they work on that basis normally, and their circumstances are fitted into that fact. I draw attention to the fact that this Regulation is not to be extended to Scotland. Why that is I do not know. I agree, and I have the authority of the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland for saying that they do not have an industrial holiday in Scotland on Good Friday.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, on which I am supporting him—that 47 hours a week is quite long enough for the workers to work—I hope he will be in favour of supporting me in my agitation to see that the workers get enough in return for their 47 hours' work to give them a comfortable life in Great Britain.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, but I think that it is a little remote from this particular Motion. It is provided that this Regulation shall not extend to Scotland, and the Parliamentary Private Secretary says that they do not recognise Good Friday. I have been making some inquiries, and I have consulted an Irishman who is resident in Glasgow. "Oh, it is quite simple," he said. "The inhabitants of Scotland have heard of the Creation and they celebrate it on the 1st of January and call it Hogmanay and they distribute apples drawn from the garden of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Up to now, the news of the Nativity and the Crucifixion has not reached Scotland, and, therefore, they have not got Good Friday as a bank holiday." [Interruption.] I should not have said that, but I was interrupted by the Parliamentary Private Secretary and if the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) cannot keep his colleagues in Order it is not my fault.
All joking apart, I have put down this Prayer in all seriousness, because I hold the view that to drive workers is a mistake. I am no longer a Member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, but I was for five years the Chairman of a Sub-Committee and my colleagues and I, in one of our Reports, urged that the overdriving of workpeople should be brought to an end. In the Report of the Committee on Fatigue of Munition Workers, the lessons were clear beyond doubt. We compared reports presented to this House with a number of selections from reports from the last war, and the evidence in this war indicated precisely the same thing. Because I think it is a mistake to drive people to get the maximum production I hope the House will support me in this Prayer and that the Government will come to the conclusion that this Order is without any justification whatsoever.
I desire to support all that the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion has said. He has put the case with regard to production and I, too, am sure that, after working long hours, it is very important indeed for production that the monotony should be broken, if possible, by a substantial holiday. This Order is, in my view, very misleading. It starts with a holiday but you find that you are minus that before you have got very far. The ground on which I wish to support the Prayer is that it is quite wrong in this sixth year of war, when the situation is very different from what it was in previous years, to make a woman or young person who wishes to go to church on Good Friday, and who in consequence does not go to work on that day, guilty of absenteeism if he or she does not turn up at the place of employment. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will be able to accept the substantial arguments put forward by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and that he will listen and pay great weight to all the arguments addressed to him in support of the Prayer. It is not too late now to reconsider the matter and to withdraw the Regulation. If we give sufficient support to this Prayer, I hope that that will be the final result.
I wish to support very strongly the speeches which have been made by my two hon. Friends. It is absolutely no use attempting to conceal from ourselves the fact that the strain of the war is beginning to tell on the population. The Board of Control in a Report the other day, it is true, said that there is no sign of any increased mental breakdown and we must accept that as a tribute to the mental stability of the nation. But, nevertheless, mental breakdown is only the obvious endpoint of an insidious process going on all the time sapping and undermining the health of the people. People cannot live under the stress and strain under which they have had to live for the last six years without it having some effect. There is abundant evidence to show that the effect of this strain on children is seen in the increase of behaviour disorders and delinquency, especially in urban areas, and psychiatrists, who are the best people of all to judge in this matter, are united in saying that the burdens which women bear in attempting to run their households and also to do extra work in addition are having a bad effect on them, and women generally are becoming tired out and inclined to be depressed and moody.
Industrialists also support this point of view. Those who take a keen personal interest in the welfare of their workers have told me that they have been much struck with the unduly tired appearance of their workers at the end of the day's work. These things may not appear to be very much singly, but taken together they are straws which show the way the wind is blowing. Nature provides a remedy for the tired mind and body in two ways, by sleep and holidays. Every person needs a definite number of hours' sleep according to age, and the younger you are the more sleep you need, as a rule. It is during a holiday that the ravages of the wear and tear of the day's work on the body are repaired. Sleep has been interfered with in many ways, by night shifts, noises associated with air raids,,aeroplanes overhead, and also by summer-time—especially double summertime—and the evidence is overwhelming from teachers that the children are being adversely affected by this. Theoretically they ought not to be, but, do what you like, they have to get up earlier than they would normally, and they will not go to bed until a later hour—
I did not mean to spend so much time on that, I merely wanted to show that it was one factor causing wear and tear. Fortunately the human mind and body can stand up to a tremendous lot of hard work without cracking. We cannot do anything about lack of sleep under present conditions, but it is all the more important for that reason, I think, to give full play to the other important healing power of nature, that is, holidays. It is of the utmost importance that workers should have as many chances as possible of having holidays when they can get change of scene, relaxation, and the benefit of fresh air. Therefore I beg to support very strongly this Prayer and that protest against the cutting down of any holidays whatsoever.
I am rather suspicious when I look at our opponents on the other side who are so anxious about the welfare of the workers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is unprecedented in this House. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you raw the same array of talent opposing us when we appealed for, and eventually carried, holidays with pay. The Tories always opposed that—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—headed by the leading reactionary in the House—
There he is up to it again. Though he has not spoken, he rose, but he had not the courage to utter his thoughts. [Laughter.] Now, Sir, if you will allow me to give my point of view it is this: that the workers do not want to work on holidays. It is not the workers, it is you fellows who have forced them—
It is not the workers who are to blame. But the workers are anxious to work overtime, to work on holidays, even on Sundays, in order to get money to buy the necessities of life even during the war. If hon. Members opposite are in earnest, if this mood is an earnest mood, is a demonstration by the Tory Party that they have been reformed and converted by Socialist agitators to come along here on to the Floor of the House and put something that they know will get across—if they are in earnest on that, will they then support me in my agitation to see to it that the workers get as much for a 47-hour week as they get to-day for a 60-hour week?
This is my point, that the workers are quite willing and anxious to work 6o hours—never mind 47—and they are being forced to do that in order to get enough money to buy what they require to live on.
I desire to support the Prayer, and I hope the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will not suspect my motives. I support it because Good Friday is a day of very sacred memories, and should be a day of sacred memories for us all. In my parish I have discouraged the holding of any secular meeting on that day. I had a request for one on Good Friday, but I asked that they should hold it a week earlier, and this was agreed. I have consistently held that Good Friday should be a sacred day, and for that reason I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will accede to the Motion. Good Friday should not be secularised in any way. Newspapers cease publication on that day, which is also a sacred day for this House. I want to draw attention to paragraph 3 of Order No. 164. By it we are being deprived, in Northern Ireland, of a Bank Holiday, without any consultation with us. The 17th March has proved of great value as a Bank Holiday ever since it was established, I think, in 1903. Our folks have been kept busy since Christmas, and this day has meant a break for them. I do not see any advantage accruing to the war effort, or anything else, by forgoing this Bank Holiday of 17th March in Northern Ireland.
We have done our duty during the war, and we shall do it to the end, and no part of the British Empire will rejoice more in the coming victory than Ulster. The Parliamentary Secretary should not ask us to have no Bank Holiday on that day, which is a day which is held in esteem by all in memory of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs has probably got enough with which to carry him through and so have I, and so will the workers. We must turn our thoughts to Christ, who was the real friend of the workers and whose teaching, if it were followed, would make a new earth for us all.
No one has mentioned to my satisfaction why we should make any fuss at all about Good Friday. Why is the day called "Good Friday "? I would like to know why there should be any difference in our position as a nation and as a people from the position which has existed since the 1876 and the 1937 Acts. We are a Christian nation. God knows I am no better than anybody else, but not for the first time in this House do I have to put this on record—that to us as a Christian nation, Good Friday is the Lord's Day. It is a symbol. It is not a day in the week only. It is a symbol to the fact that we are a Christian nation. Good Friday has been a calculated sacrifice from the foundation of the world. It has been from the beginning. I should be alien to my training and to my eternal hopes, if I did not say a word for Him Who has been suffering for mankind. I do say that to have here in a document a phrase other than Good Friday, is making the thing very common and mean. I would like to know from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary why he finds it necessary to controvert the laws of this country by making a regulation that this day must be done away with. From a humanitarian point of view and for religious reasons, I do suggest that the onus is on the Parliamentary Secretary to justify this regulation. If he can do it, I shall be very glad to hear him do so.
I hope I shall not embarrass the representative of Northern Ireland if I, as a native of Eire, holding very different views from his, say now that I agree with almost everything that he has said. After all, Good Friday is the most sacred day in the Christian calendar, and that should be considered by all of us who call ourselves a Christian nation. The children especially should be considered, because, after all, Christian children should be brought up to regard it as the most sacred of all days, and if they are, for any reason, to be taught that it does not matter at all, and that it is not a matter of importance owing to the exigencies of the war or anything else, then I do not think it will be well for their moral outlook afterwards. I think in referring to St. Patrick's Day I am on rather more delicate ground, for I believe that we from Eire share St. Patrick's Day with those from the North. I, for one, propose to celebrate it in the usual way.
Mr. John DuÃÂ£dale:
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the hon. Member who preceded him why, if they held these very deep deligious convictions, they did not raise this matter last year or the year before? Why raise it now?
I am glad to find this enthusiasm on the part of Members in all parts of the House for this doctrine of shorter hours with equal production. I am not going to take second place in that to anyone in the House. I have spent my life advocating it, and I am not going back on it at this stage. But I would remind those who have supported the Prayer that, if the Order is annulled, it will not make any difference except that those who engage workers on that day will be liable to prosecution. It simply means that the speeches that have been made to-night should have been made on a previous occasion, challenging the advice given by the Ministry to employers as to what should be done with regard to holidays. It may be that the time is arriving when consideration need not be given, but from the standpoint of the Ministry of Labour that time has not arrived yet, and when we submitted the advice upon which this Order was made I think we were justified in assuming that the advice that we had tendered for the past five years with regard to statutory holidays should be fol- lowed again. That is the course that has been followed, Good Friday was Good Friday in 1941, and has been Good Friday all along, and in the legislation which has rendered this Order necessary it is possible for an employer to substitute Easter Tuesday for Good Friday at any time for the purposes of the Act.
In England and Wales and Northern Ireland it is a holiday for Customs houses, bonded warehouses and dock companies under the Customs Consolidatory Act, 1876, and this is cancelled by the Order. Under the Factories Act, 1937, Good Friday, or the day substituted for it by notice, often Easter Tuesday, had to be allowed as a whole holiday for women and young persons in factories in England and Wales, and this obligation is cancelled. The Order simply makes it possible for the substitution to take place, and we suggested it in the advice that was given, on which the Order is based.
I was not referring to that. I was answering the hon. Member's theological argument and his suggestion that there was some sinister motive in taking away Good Friday. It seems to me in the fifth year of the war that if we discussed the question whether we shall make a different Order on another occasion, in the same spirit in which the Prayer has been discussed to-night, it would be to the advantage of all concerned. The annulling of the Order would not do anything at all in the direction of helping forward what the hon. Member had in mind in calling it to our attention. It is suggested that if an individual in the course of his religious observance stays away from his work he may be prosecuted by the Minister of Labour, but I challenge anyone to say that any individual has been prosecuted for that during the four years this Order has been in operation. I would ask the House not to grant the Prayer for another reason. Since last year a Select Committee has been set up to look at these Orders and bring to the notice of the House any which they thought did things which the House would not stand for.
Perhaps more than any other person I contributed to the setting up of that Select Committee. The duties of the Committee are perfectly clear. They are to draw the attention of the House to anything which is obscure or which raises points of difficulty or makes substantial changes. The Committee is not entitled to express any opinion on the merits of the Orders. I am sorry that the Ministry has supplied the hon. Gentleman with a brief that is so grossly misleading.
In fairness to the people who supplied the brief, I would say that if my hon. Friend had waited until I had finished he would have understood that I was not questioning the decisions of the Select Committee which he had some influence in setting up. Nor was I going to say that the Committee contravened in any way its terms of reference. What I was going to say was that it has looked at this Order and found that there was nothing in it which suggested to it that it should refer it to the House. By the annulment of the Order by the granting of the Prayer the hon. Member would not achieve the object he has in mind. He would not make the holiday he has spoken of any more certain. All he would do would be to confuse the employers who have been advised by the Ministry of Labour, as they have been in days gone past, that in fixing their holidays they should take notice not only of what has been customary in war-time but what has been deemed essential. A good deal has been said about the overtime that has been worked by the people whom we have directed from one place to another. It has been questioned from time to time whether or not the production has been all that perhaps it would have been with shorter hours. I question whether there is an individual in the country who could assess the value of the effort which was put in at that time, and I am not so sure that the sacrifices that were made in the longer hours, whether they resulted in increased production or not, have not had a great deal to do with keeping up the morale of the country.
The hon. Gentleman has given a reply which is very unsatisfactory.
I understood him to say that it was competent for an employer to arrange for some other day than Good Friday on which employees could work. According to the warding of the Order, in paragraph 2 (2) that is specifically excluded, because it says:
Any notice posted in a factory in pursuance of the said Section seventy-eight of intention to substitute for the said Friday some other week-day specified in the notice as a whole holiday shall be of no effect.
Therefore, it is clear that it is impossible for the employer to arrange for work to take place on any day other than Good Friday. I do not understand the attitude of hon. Members opposite on this question. Surely the time has now arrived when we can begin to reinstitute the fuller observance of the holy days in this country. At the beginning of the war, when circumstances were very grave and when war production was of vital consequence to our security, there was a case for overriding these important days of religious observance.
Is it not time to give to those who are pretty near exhaustion in our factories, having worked very long hours for nearly six years, some opportunity to seek relaxation, particularly on the day of all days in the calendar on which any Christian man or woman would wish to seek that relaxation? I do not think the argument of the hon. Gentleman goes nearly far enough to meet the situation, so I shall vote in favour of the Prayer.
I am very pleased indeed to have heard to-night the very great concert there is in this House about working on one of the holy days that are respected by this country. I do not know anybody in this House who pays more respect to Good Friday than I do, and it is a very healthy sign that we are having this respect shown in the House of Commons for that particular day—but this is "a new one on me," particularly having regard to the quarters from which it has come. Some of us could have wished for this kind of spirit to be expressed from the Tory benches long years ago, when we were compelled, many of us as boys, to work on Good Fridays, Sundays, and all kinds of days when we should not have been working, in order to get something like, not a decent living but bread and a little butter to it, and when the representatives of those benches were paying us such wages as made it possible for employers to compel us to work. We shall remember this one in the days to come.
We shall remind hon. Members of this exuberant support for the holy days. We will tell them that they had better remind some of their friends in the industrial world who are employers about this new attitude of mind. I could tell the House of great collieries, and I daresay it would be true of many factories, where one can sit at home and hear the march of men coming from work every Sunday as though it is the marching of troops. Now hon. Members have got something to tell their friends. Let them take it from me that those friends will be very surprised to hear about the new spirit that is abroad in the House of Commons, particularly on the Tory benches, and about this wonderful example of the benevolent employers. It is also a new spirit on the part of this gentleman, the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), so far as I am concerned.
The Minister ought to ask the House why there has been this delay until now in making this protest. Why is it that all during the war this has been going on, the workers going into factories and mines? People have been beseeching the miners, almost praying them, to go to work on Good Fridays. Employers and the country generally have been asking for increased output of coal. The same process has taken place in the factories, I am bound to tell my friends and opponents alike. I am bound to tell the truth about this. Let us honour Good Friday, but do not be hypocritical in your support, and take political advantage in order to win a particular victory at this moment. Tell the soldiers in Holland that they ought not to fight on a Good Friday. Tell the soldiers who are fighting our battles in every part of the world not to fight on a Good Friday, and that they ought not to fight on a Sunday. Let us be straight about this. This is a well laid plan to take advantage of a situation for the gaining of a political advantage. As far as we are concerned we care not what is the result. We will vote for this Order—at least I will—and if anybody tries to use it for a political advantage, let him come into my part of the country. So far as we are concerned we will support this Order, not only here but in the country.
I think some one on this side of the House should say a word in support of the Minister. Why need we pick out one particular day? There is nothing to prevent anyone keeping Good Friday this year, as in other years, as a sacred day. I pay this tribute to the Minister who has defended this Order; I know his deep religious convictions. Have we reached the moment during this war—in my opinion probably the most vital few weeks will be in the next few weeks—when we can say that we should refuse the Minister of Labour this particular power, if he thinks it is essential to the war effort? It is absolute nonsense to say, at this last moment, that we should do away with this Order if the Minister thinks it necessary. It shows total ignorance of what can be done so far as factories are concerned. There is nothing to prevent any employer of labour from giving Easter Tuesday, even if this Order is carried—
I know the Order as an employer of labour. If I agree to give my own people a holiday on Easter Tuesday, there is nothing to prevent my doing that. As a matter of fact I am going to do that. Let me say to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) that I agree absolutely with him about overworking. I am not stating that as an affirmation of faith. I carried it out before the war in my own small works. We had a 44-hour week, and I think we got better production than we got with a longer working week. I would say in answer to a challenge that was made, that I began holidays with pay before there was a legal obligation in that respect. I have never found myself out of pocket by doing it, and I believe with the hon. Member that nothing at all is gained by working hours that are too long.
I have found during this war that it is much better to give two days in one week than two odd days in two weeks. I bow to no one in my reverence for Good Friday. It is not necessary to forget what Good Friday means because one is working. I am certain the Minister has not proposed this for some mere whim. It is because of the war effort. I would emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). Have we stopped men fighting on Sundays? It may be Good Friday of this year will be one of the vital days of the war, and there would not be a single Member in this House who would raise his hand against our men fighting on Good Friday.
I hope that the House will accept the Minister's advice. I do not say "Let us clear our minds of cant," but let us clear our minds of confusion. If we are to base our opposition to this Order on respect for Good Friday, our respect should not be limited to the inspectors of Customs and Excise and the men and women employed in factories. Good Friday should be honoured by the whole nation, and not by one section of it. I do not know that the right way to honour Good Friday is to call it a bank holiday. Surely it is not a feast day; it is a fast day. That is a different thing.
There is no need to go into etymology. My opinion is that the right way to honour Good Friday is not to make it a bank holiday. [Interruption.] That is the suggestion—to make it an industrial holiday. If we desire the nation to recognise Good Friday in any way whatever it should not be done piecemeal. The arguments for or against this Order must rest simply on the question of the national production in time of war. If the Minister of Labour says that that is just as necessary in 1945 as in 1944 and previous years, I, for one, propose to accept that. I hope that my hon. Friends who spoke so eloquently about Good Friday will acquit me of any intention to impugn their sincerity, but I hope they will think more clearly on the matter.
I hope that the House will support the Minister. We are in danger of being carried away by sentiment. There is a very simple answer on this question. The case against the Order is put on two grounds. One is on the observance of a holy day, and the other is on the attraction of time off for the workers. They are both very good and very easy points to make, but so far as the holy day is concerned, Good Friday was just as much a holy day in every other year of the war as it is this year. There can be no possible grounds for distinguishing this Good Friday from any other Good Friday on religious grounds. If that is so, the only remaining ground on which it can be put is on the question whether it is now more advisable to have that holiday than it was three, four or five years ago.