§ 10 p.m.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I beg to move, in page 11, line 19, to leave out the words "A licence and of every B."
If this Amendment is agreed to Sub-section (2) will then read:It shall be a condition of every licence that the provisions of section ninety-three of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, as amended and applied by this part of this Act, are complied with in relation to the persons to whom that section is so applied.We discussed this matter rather fully in Committee and the Minister promised to give it further consideration before the Report stage to see whether he could settle the matter satisfactorily to us. He has courteously written me a letter to say that he has given it further consideration, 1936 but is sorry that he cannot find grounds for accepting the Amendment. The Amendment is comprehensive, because we feel that the "C" licences ought to be brought within the same conditions as apply to "A" and "B" licences. The Minister said it was his intention to meet the parties to discuss the difficulties that were said to surround the proposal to include "C" licences. According to the letter he has sent to me, he has met the employers, but he does not say anything as to whether he has met any of the organisations representing road transport workers, though they ought to be given the same consideration as is shown to the employers' organisations. If, as appears, they have been left out of court the Minister has based his conclusions upon what has been stated to him by the employers' organisations. The report of the Salter Conference said:We consider that hauliers and similar users should be subject to regulations enforced through the grant of licences as regards fair wages and conditions of service and the maintenance of their vehicles in a state of fitness.We contend that it is impossible to comply with that recommendation if we exclude "C" licences from this obligation. There is the further fact that if the Minister refuses to include the "C" licences he is going to exclude approximately 75 per cent. of the transport industry. The prospect of cheap labour will induce industrialists to cease placing contracts with proper haulage contractors and themselves undertake haulage. They will provide their own fleets of vehicles, and there will be an inducement to them not to recognise the real rate of wages. It will be an opportunity for them, by a side wind or a back door, to get out of a responsibility which they really ought to undertake.
Another point that arises is that part-time drivers may be employed. In Committee a great deal was said about shop assistants and agricultural workers who are called upon to deliver goods by motor vehicle, but I did not pay very much attention to that argument, because it brings in a class of man who is a part-time driver and is not in a sense responsible either for ogee job or the other. I understand that certain large firms do employ men to drive for part-time only, and it is really a public danger. A man may work in a factory or 1937 a mill or on a farm until night and, after having done there a full day's work, may then be called upon to run some produce somewhere or to take out some orders which had been obtained during the day. In that way men are called upon to do more than a standard day. The chief objection raised to the inclusion of "C" licences is that there is not in existence better machinery for maintaining the wages and the conditions of the men employed. In view of the present position there will be no opportunity, because really the Minister has offered to these people a kind of agreement on which, I suppose, he will make a full statement later.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I understood that the Minister stated that he had agreed with, or had consulted employers, and that they had agreed to the Amendment. He must have made some agreement with the people with whom he has been in negotiation or consultation. Whether there has been any agreement arranged or not, and whether he has expressed himself to the employers' organisations which he has been meeting, does not in any way endanger their organisation or the agreements which have been arrived at to regulate trade union conditions. There are a large number of organisations which I have here who have their own agreements which will in no way be broken by the acceptance of this Amendment. They include many of the organisations which were mentioned upstairs—cooperative societies, flour and oil distributors and retailers, who have agreements of their own. They will come along even if the "C" licence were accepted in the same way because of the agreements which have been made between employers and employed in the application of the "C" licences.
There are many other things which have to be taken into consideration. There is the point as to how large the business is to be, stow that these people have "C" licences. I have in mind a colliery company engaged in selling its own produce by land sale. They go out to various districts in the county of Lancashire. I do not know how many vehicles they have, but they are very heavy and large. The same thing may apply to a brick or tiles works, where 1938 commodities are very heavy or very large. It is rather hard, in my opinion, that the whole of the employés employed by the various companies must not he brought under the regulation of Section 93 of the Road Traffic Act. The Minister said in his Second Reading speech that he would like to have the wage Clause applied to everyone in the transport industry, if it were practicable. We maintain that it is practicable. We do not agree that the leaving out of the "C" licences will in any way influence matters. It is going to lead to a kind of long-drawn-out struggle which will have to be ended some day as to who shall have the "C" licences and who the others. It would be much better, in our opinion, if an attempt were made to bring them altogether and to get the whole of these licences regulated, by the three sorts of licences being under one authority. The people who are included under the three licences should be governed by the same conditions of labour in the industry, and by the full application of Clause 93 of the Road Traffic Act.
For this and many other reasons, which have been put by my hon. Friends, I seriously ask the Minister to give the greatest possible consideration to the point. If he has taken advice from one organisation, it is only reasonable and fair to ask him to take advice from the Transport Workers' Organisation, because they represent more people than the employers' organisations which the Minister has already consulted. To be honest and fair with each other, the Minister ought to give the same consideration to one side as to the other, with a view to arriving at a balanced opinion before he definitely decides upon the action that he is going to take.
§ 10.10 p.m.
I apologise to the House for intervening on this Amendment at an early stage, but I thought that it would probably be for the convenience of the House, in view of the history of this proposal, that I should immediately say what has happened since the Committee stage. My hon. and learned Friend will, of course, reply later in the Debate, to points which are raised subsequent to my speech. When this Bill was being considered on Second Reading, I said that, from theoretical considerations, I should have liked to have seen the "C" licence holders made subject 1939 to this fair wage provision, and that what had made me exclude them was the impracticability of making them subject to those conditions. The two grounds on which I said that it was impracticable was because of the small man where you had a double employment, and because, in view of all the industrial agreements for a particular industry, you might have some disturbance by this occupational treatment. It was clear, when the subject was discussed in Committee, that the Committee as a whole sympathised with my view, that is to say, they wanted to see this provision extended to the "C" licence holders, if it were in any way possible. I am convinced that they wanted me, between then and the Report stage, to explore the possibilities of so extending this condition and, if I was convinced that the difficulties were not insuperable or the impracticability-not so great as I anticipated, that I should submit such an Amendment to the House. I promised in consequence of that that between then and the Report stage I would consult these organisations, and see what I could do to remove the difficulties.
The hon. Member is not quite fair when he makes the accusation against me in regard to not meeting the unions, but I take it that accusation does not emanate from him. I tried to make it perfectly plain who were the people that I was going to see, and it was open to the hon. Member, at that time or at any time subsequently, to suggest to me that I should see the unions as well. I should certainly have done so. The hon. Gentleman cannot pretend, as a consequence of what I said in Committee, that I considered only the employers' point of view; I was accepting the trade union point of view as being correctly put forward by him. I therefore do not think that he is quite fair, but, as I say, I do not think that it was really his attack.
I did not consult them because I was accepting the hon. Member as speaking for them, that their views were as represented by him, and that they wished to see this thing done.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I am not making any charge against the Minister on his 1940 statement. I think that the difficulties presented by the employers ought to have been submitted to the representatives of the workers. I never said anything upstairs about the unions because I took it, for granted that the unions' point of view was accepted. I think that if there were difficulties between the employers' organisations and the Minister, it would have been only reasonable and fair to have a joint consultation, with the two bodies represented.
I am perfectly willing at any time to see any representatives of any trade union that the hon. Gentleman thinks would like to see me, or that it would be profitable for me to see. It would have been open at any time for any of these unions to ask to see me, but, as far as I am aware, none has done so.
Let me now turn to the history of what has occurred since the Committee stage. As the result of the promise that I gave, I first received a deputation from organisations included in the National Federation of Employers' Organisations. The industries there represented are mostly the heavy industries, such as are represented by the Engineering Federation, the Gas Employers' Federation, the Mining Association, the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, the Wool Textile Employers' Federation, and the Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers. In the second place, I saw a deputation from the National Conference of Road Transport Organisations, which is roughly speaking representative of the retail distributors. Whatever my hon. Friend may say this evening, it was common ground in the Committee that the small man at any rate would have to be excluded. My hon. Friend was talking about the shop-man who had to leave the counter and get on a lorry, and said that of course he did not expect him to be included; and the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall)—
§ Mr. PARKINSON
That is not quite fair. I said that there had been great talk in the Committee about a man being called from behind the counter or from the farm to take out orders, but I made no comment on it except to say that which had been said in Committee.
The hon. Gentleman certainly gave me, and I think the House, 1941 to understand that that was an argument which he dismissed, but I was going to point out to the House that the hon. Member for Aberdare agreed to an Amendment which was intended to exclude the small man, and the reason he gave was that there would have been an interchange of employment, such as when a person who might be serving in the shop was called upon to deliver goods during a portion of his time; and it is clear that the hon. Member, speaking for the Labour party, felt that this question of double employment was a very difficult one, and, therefore, he was prepared to support an Amendment to exclude all holders of licences in respect of less than three vehicles, because he thought that by eliminating the small man in that way he would to a large extent get rid of the difficulty. I made that special point because I, too, was under the impression that that Amendment which the hon. Member was prepared to accept, would to a large extent have done away with the very real difficulty, which we all saw, of the double employment of the man who spent perhaps an hour or two a day on a lorry, and the rest of his time on a different job, and the difficulty of knowing, in a case like that, what was the rate of wages applicable to his real employment. I am sure hon. Members will agree that one essential in a condition of this kind is certainty. If you are to prosecute a man for breaking it, and possibly take away his licence for breaking it, you must be sure that he knows o what the condition really means, and that, in breaking it, he is breaking it knowingly. Therefore, the question of double employment remains in the eyes of all of us a question of great importance.
I found, however, when I came to discuss the matter with these heavy industries, that this question of double employment was by no means confined to the small man, and that an Amendment to exclude the holder of a licence for less than three vehicles would not by any means meet the case. I found that in a large number of these heavy industries the wholly employed transport worker was the exception rather than the rule, and that the vast majority of them were employed only for part of their time in driving lorries, the rest of their time having to be filled in in various ways. It was explained to me that the spare 1942 time occupation of the driver depended on his capacity, and his remuneration depended on the way in which his spare time off the lorry was spent—that the more skilful man, who in his spare time was put on to a more skilful job, would receive a greater remuneration than the man who, in his spare time off the lorry, was put on to only the simplest jobs, and I think I am right in saying that, in a great many of these industries, the organisation between employers and employed for the settling of these wage questions is on such a detailed basis that it almost comes down to settling the individual wage of the individual man in accordance with the particular job that he does in his spare time, and the particular skill that he brings to bear upon it.
The case was brought to my notice where a man who drove a lorry for a gas company in some cases would be able to fit the gas fittings and in other cases would not and, therefore, the remuneration would be different. In some cases the lorry driver in his spare time could only be put on to sweeping floors, and in others he would be able not only to drive the lorry but also to do some repair work to it. It became quite plain to me that as far as these heavy industries were concerned, although I thought it might be possible to reach agreement, it would only be at the expense practically of taking them out of the "C" class position. The utmost that one could have done with the heavy industries would be to propose some proviso which would have excluded from this fair wage provision any industry in which an agreement subsisted between the worker and the employer where the licence holder was a party to the agreement. It might have been possible, had no other difficulty presented itself, to deal with the case of the heavy industries in that way, but the practical effect of that would be to withdraw them from the purview of the "C" licence. But I was quite certain that, short of that, it would have been impossible for the Industrial Court to be called upon, as it would be, to decide, not on cases covering whole classes of individuals but really on a, fair wage applicable to one man in particular circumstances which very likely was applicable to hardly anyone else in the same industry.
1943 So much for the heavy industries at one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale, by common agreement, we have decided to omit the small man. The limit was suggested of three vehicles. There remains, therefore, the middle lot, and the middle lot were represented largely by this National Conference of Road Transport organisations, who are chiefly the retail distributors. I found immediately there certain practical difficulties all on the line of this double employment. In the first place, I found that this three vehicles provision would not have suited the case of the big multiple store. A case was quoted to me of a store in Liverpool with something like 140 individual shops. Each shop, as far as transport was concerned, was organised on a separate basis. Each had its own little fleet of transport. It had its lorry, its delivery tricycle, and it may have had some form of cart. All those vehicles would have to be included in the licence of the company that controlled the 140 shops but not one of the shops, although they were organised on a small mall basis, would have got the benefit of this three vehicle proviso, and yet in every one they only had probably one motor vehicle and the man who drove it spent practically the whole of his time on some other job. In fact, it was exactly the case my hon. Friend pointed to as suitable for exclusion from the Bill. So immediately I should have to make some provision for arranging, if it vas possible, this three vehicle limit as regards the unit, and not necessarily the aggregate in the possession of the licence holder.
Then I found, pursuing my inquiries with regard to these distributors, that this practice of part-time employment, at any rate as far as the wholesaler was concerned, was almost universal. Hon. Members will appreciate that the use which the wholesalers—and, indeed, I find many distributors—have for their motor vehicles is limited to a short period in the morning when they collect their goods from the market. I was informed that in many cities the cost of house-to-house retail distribution by motor vehicle is too expensive, and that it is almost entirely done by tricycle or bicycle, or whatever it may be, and that the use of lorries is confined to picking up the produce wholesale at the market, and delivering it to the shops—a process which 1944 perhaps takes two or three hours every morning. For the rest of the time, the men who drive the lorries are employed on other jobs of an entirely different character and at different rates of pay.
For instance, the representative of the butchers—I am not sure whether he was not the gentleman who is the namesake of the hon. Member for Aberdare, and, not only his namesake, hut, I understand, the political ally of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who was, I think perhaps, if anything, more opposed to the acceptance of this principle than any of the good Conservatives who visited me on that occasion—I found from the man who was speaking from knowledge of the butchers that of the lorry drivers who spent two hours in the morning picking up meat in the market and distributing it to the shops, some spent the rest of the day as slaughtermen, and were paid accordingly, and others were in the warehouses or doing odd jobs, and were paid a lower salary. There was this complete division of a short time as a lorry driver and most of the day as something else. Here, again, the three-vehicle limit, which in Committee we thought had more or less solved the problem, I found to be inadequate, because the double employment did not depend at all on the size of the fleet, and that the part time of the vehicles was dictated by the machinery of the trade, and that a man with 20 vehicles, just as a man with three, would always employ his drivers on something else as well as on the pure work of transport, and something would have to be done to provide for them.
Faced with the exceptions which would have to be made to this provision before it could be made workable, I came to the conclusion that no practical result could be expected from a Clause of this character. It was possible, as, I think, my hon. Friend suggested, that you should confine this to people wholly employed as lorry drivers. Of course, the House will see at once that that provision would be useless as a safeguard. It would merely be necessary for a man to take a driver off a lorry for an hour a day, and put him on to something else to evade the provision. The point I really had to decide was whether, partly for propaganda purposes, to show what the feeling of the House was, because we might sweep a few into our net, it 1945 was worth while asking the House to face an Amendment, which, as far as practical reality was concerned, I was certain could not be enforced, and, with the proviso it would be necessary to make, would have been useless. I came definitely to the conclusion that, not only was there no good in the House accepting such an Amendment, but that there was definite harm. The most dangerous thing from the point of view of the other provisions of the Bill, which we can enforce, and which will be enforced, is that you should add a provision which is notoriously evaded.
I am certain that, with all the difficulties, a man would be able to put up such a good case for uncertainty and for comparison with some other person who was doing something else, that I cannot imagine it would have been possible successfully to prosecute him for a breach. The danger was that once he had learned that that condition could be evaded and that he could drive a coach and four through a section of an Act of Parliament, he would be tempted to try and evade another section and see if he could drive a coach and four through that. Nothing is more fatal to a whole set of conditions such as we have in this Bill than that one should be capable of wholesale evasion. It is for that reason that I warn the House that the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, however desirable it may be in theory, is, I am afraid, wholly impracticable in operation. I fear the only result of our acceptance of it would be to encourage licence holders under this scheme in the belief that the conditions of the licence which we mean to see enforced could in fact be broken with impunity.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. G. HALL
Needless to say we are very disappointed with the statement made by the Minister. I agree with him that he did express his sympathy with the object of the Amendment on the Second Reading of the Bill and in the Committee stage. We attempted to meet him regarding the small man and, as he rightly said, we were prepared to agree to art Amendment which excluded the small man with three or four vehicles, because we felt that in dealing with him there was a real hardship. But I want the House to realise what it means in excluding I he other licence holders from the Fair Wages Clause. It is true to say 1946 that the "A" and "B" licence holders will have to comply with Section 93 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, but the "A" and "B" licence holders only represent 20 to 25 per cent. of the operators under this Act. 75 per cent. of the operators coming under this Act will have "C" licences. As far as we are concerned, while it is true to say that a very small proportion of them will be small men whom we thought could be dealt with in the way we suggested, we are very apprehensive about the large employers represented by the first group to whom the Minister referred.
We cannot see that it is impracticable for these people to agree to the conditions of this Amendment. What is there in the Fair Wages Clause which the steel makers, the iron producers and employers in the heavy industries could object to. There are agreements in existence which cover a large number of the industries to which the hon. Member has referred. Take flour milling. You have flour millers working large fleets of vehicles and they will obtain "C" licences. There is in existence agreements which cover not only the men who work in the industry itself but also drivers of motor vehicles which convey the grain from the dockside to the mill and the flour from the mill to the station. The same thing applies to furniture making, oil distribution, the building trades, brewing, and coal distribution, wholesale and retail, dyers, newspapers, printing trades, iron and steel trades, engineering, textiles, electricity, gas and water undertakings and building trades. The London retail stores have also an agreement. We can see no difficulty regarding the large operator. The difficulty we see is that it will have a serious effect on the holders of "A" and "B" licences, because if the holder of a "C" licence can work a vehicle cheaper as a result of not paying wages which he would have to pay under a fair wage clause the holders of "C" licences might be a real menace to holders of "A" and "B" licences.
Why is the Minister of Transport refusing to apply to the holders of "C" licences what the House of Commons 50 years ago agreed should be inserted in every Government contract? I cannot see why the House should refuse to accept this reasonable Amendment. In the Committee stave hon. Members opposite 1947 supported our contention, particularly the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) and the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), and with two exceptions every Member who spoke supported our Amendment. I believe if we had forced the Amendment to a division that we should have received the support of most hon. Members who spoke on it. I hope there is yet time for the Minister of Transport to reconsider the matter, because unless "C" licences are included then, as far as we are concerned, one of the most useful purposes of this Bill will be destroyed. I ask the Minister not to close his mind on this matter. Of the 400,000 vehicles which will be brought under the Bill about 300,000 will operate under "C" licences and therefore hon. Members will realise why we are emphasising the importance of the proposal. What is a fair wage clause? It is the minimum wage which can be paid to any person employed in a given occupation. Any employer who pays more than the amount he is forced to pay will not suffer. The good employer is not interfered with. It is the bad employer who is the real menace not only to the workmen but to the industry itself; and it is the bad employer who the Minister is supporting by his attitude, whereas he should endeavour to assist the good employer.
Let me deal with an inconsistency in the attitude of the Minister of Transport. He has agreed that Section 19 of the 1930 Act regarding hours shall apply to all holders of licences, whether it is an "A" a "B," or a "C" licence. All will have to conform to this Bill when it becomes an Act. Safety conditions, hours of employment—all these things will apply in the same way to "A," "B" and "C" licences, but when it comes to the question of the fair wages clause, which is one of the most important things, the Minister says that it is impracticable, and that he could not get the employers to agree. I hardly expected him to get the employers to agree when we discussed the matter in Committee. The difficulty is that a large section of the employers will have to be forced. The fact that trade boards operate is in itself evidence that there are numbers of employers who can be forced only by way of Act of Parliament to pay the absolute minimum wage to their employés.
1948 I again appeal to the Minister to reconsider this matter. If he will take his courage in his hands and accept the Amendment, the difficulties which he has mentioned this evening will very likely be overcome. What difficulty is there for a large employer, with 20 of 30 vehicles, to employ efficient drivers for conveying his goods? The Minister mentioned that payment is made for some of these drivers, and that, while they may be unskilled, they could not be depended on for continuous driving. Those drivers are a real menace to public safety. The Minister referred to butchers, but that difficulty could be easily overcome. I know of no large employer who could not so organise the distributive side of his business that, if he has 20 or 30 or 40 vehicles, he could employ whole-time men in dealing with distribution.
As far as retailers are concerned, the Minister referred to Liverpool, where there are 140 retail stores. I can refer him to the co-operative societies, which have nearly 1,000 vehicles controlled by the English and Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Societies. There are 120 retail societies, all having a number of branches, and they, instead of taking any exception to Section 93 of the 1930 Road Traffic Act, rather welcome it. If a co-operative society can so organise its business as to employ drivers whole-time and bring them under this Bill, and give them conditions which are an improvement on what is asked for in this Amendment, there cannot be any difficulty at all in regard to the employers whom the Minister has mentioned.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
I think hon. Gentlemen are perfectly right in pressing this matter in the way that they are doing. I can appreciate the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Minister against the suggestions made, but if his arguments in resisting the Amendment mean anything at all they mean that it is perfectly stupid to apply this provision to any licence holder at all. In the first place the holder of a "B" licence is the same kind of man as the holder of a "C" licence, and every kind of argument advanced against the Amendment in the case of a "C" licence is equally applicable to the "B" man and to the "A" man. Reference has been made to exempting the small man. But there 1949 are small men holding "A" licences just as there are small men holding "B" licences and if, under the provisions of the Bill, Section 93 of the Act of 1930 as amended is to apply to some 25 per cent. of the vehicles on the road, it is obviously necessary to apply it to the remaining 75 per cent. It may be that the holders of "C" licences do not keep men driving vehicles all day long. Nor do the holders of "B" licences. Even among the "A" licence holders there will be cases in which a man may be driving part of the day, and acting as a warehouse-porter, a garage cleaner, or a mechanic during other parts of the day.
The question of double employment or "split jobs" will arise in all categories. Whether that is good or bad I am not arguing at the moment. I am only pointing out that every argument advanced by the Minister against applying this provision to the "C" licence-holder, is equally strong against its application to the "A" or "B" licence holder. I am not arguing that it should be dropped out altogether on that account. What I say is that it is highly inconsistent to put this provision into the Bill for anybody unless it is to apply to everybody. I hope that the Minister will review the difficulties which he has mentioned. I am not suggesting that they are not formidable difficulties, but on grounds of common equity it is only reasonable that if the man who holds an "A" licence, or a "B" licence is to be liable to this kind of thing, his competitor who holds a "C" licence should equally be liable. The latter category should riot be left out of the provision. If the Bill goes forward without this Amendment the Minister is going to create an absurd anomaly which will give rise to no end of trouble and will to a large extent frustrate the objects of this part of the Bill.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I join in the appeal which has been made to the Minister to go into this matter again, to see whether it is not possible to devise a scheme for bringing all sections of transport inside the provisions of the Fair Wages Clause. A most difficult and indefensible situation will be created if a large section of transport people are paying certain wages and others are not up to that standard, although the working conditions in both cases are very much the same. I appreciate 1950 the difficulty of applying the provision in certain cases. But there will be many instances among the "C" licence holders where men will be employed full-time as drivers and it is only a question of finding the appropriate machinery for including them within the scheme and seeing that they are paid the correct rate of wages There will be certain other cases, much more difficult to deal with, in which a man only works part time as a lorry driver, and is engaged in other kinds of work at other times. I should have thought it would be possible to lay down a law that in such a case a man should be paid the standard rate for the district. That would, necessarily, be somewhat lower than the full driver's rate but there ought to be some standard. Otherwise, it will be left to a certain type of employer, of whom, unfortunately, there are too many, to pay a rate which will be a long way below what any one could regard as a standard rate.
I am afraid that the result of the Minister's action, if he does not reconsider his decision, will be that in a large area of the country, men in this industry will be paid wages Which by no stretch of imagination can be regarded as otherwise than unfair and unreasonable. It will be a great pity if the machinery of the Bill cannot be used for the purpose of raising the standard. There is a good deal in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) that employers could do a great deal by reorganising their services. It is very easy for an employer to say that he has taken a certain line for a very long time, and that he wants to continue that line, and it is only when superior force and the influence of the State come in that he is forced to reorganise and change his system for the benefit of the men. It is no excuse to say, that because things are difficult to work out, you are therefore to condemn a very large number of people to work below a standard rate, whether it is a transport rate or a lower rate for the ordinary workers who come between the unskilled and the transport rate. I do appeal to my hon. Friend to go into, this matter again, and see whether he cannot devise some scheme which will do a great deal to equalise the rates through a very large area of industry, 1951 and which will improve the prospects of a large number of transport workers.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Sir B. PETO
Before going into the Division Lobby on either side, the House should have an opportunity of a word or two of explanation. I am not convinced by the speech of the Minister that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of applying the fair wages clause. We must assume that the Salter Conference went into this. I do not say they went into it as closely as the Minister has, but they recommended that on this question all licence holders should be subjected to the fair wages clause, and I think that was a reasonable recommendation. It is wholly unreasonable to provide that 25 per cent., the "A" and "B" licence holders, should be bound to pay under the fair wages clause, and that 75 per cent. of the road haulage should be under no such obligation. It imposes a definite disability on the "A" licence holders, who are in many cases in direct competition with the "C" licence holders.
To what does the disability amount? The Section of the Act merely provides that the wages paid by the holder of any road service licence to persons employed by him in connection with the operation of public service vehicles and the conditions of employment shall not be less favourable to them than the wages which would have been payable, and the conditions which would have to be observed under a contract which complied with the requirements of any Resolution of the House of Commons for the time being enforced and applicable to contracts with Government Departments. We are dealing with the most exacting and exhausting form of service that is performed by any class of the community, namely, the driving of heavy road vehicles, and I ask, why should anyone who is engaged in that occupation not receive a wage which is the minimum wage provided at the time by the House of Commons in the case of contracts for the public service?
After all, this is a matter of competitive haulage, and I ask the House to consider for a moment what are the wages paid to the locomotive driver. I think everyone would agree that the wages which would he applicable under Section 93 of the Act would not come up to the wages of the 1952 Locomotive driver. The driver of a haulage vehicle, whether an "A," a "B," or a "C" licence, has a far more arduous job to perform, and I see no reason why, if it is right to provide for a minimum wage Clause for "A" and "B" licensees, it should not also apply, as recommended by the Salter Conference, to the "C" licensees. The Minister said that he had seen the employers of various big industries, and they had put up to him a number of most ingenious objections, which seemed to make it quite impossible that they should comply with the fair wages Clause. I am aware that there would be a disinclination on the part of any body of employers to have any restrictions as to wages imposed upon them if they could possibly avoid it. That is common ground, and it is a matter of common sense. People do not like restrictions, and in saying that, I am speaking as an ex-employer myself; but I do not think these arguments are so valid as the Minister thinks.
I rather think that in this matter we are dealing with a bigger question than he thinks, and that he has a little lost sight of the wood by seeing too much of the trees. He has been closely concerned with these small objections that are put up, and I think there is very great force in what the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) said in favour of the Amendment, that there is very little which can be said against the general and universal application of the fair wages clause. Otherwise, let us not have it applied at all. Do not let us have the miserable compromise of applying it to the 25 per cent. of road transport, and nobody else. I have always understood that it is rather a question in these days of increasing and more widely distributing purchasing power, to get us out of our present troubles. This is a matter in the main of internal transport and of the most exhausting occupation that there is, and I do not see why Members on this side, and why, above all, the Minister—who, I should have thought, was a much more advanced Tory democrat than I could ever claim to be—should be objecting to and I should he supporting this Amendment.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
The Minister stated that he had only listened to one side and had not called in the trade unions, but I 1953 think the trade unions had a right to be consulted, and that, this question is altogether too important to be taken at the last moment and for a division to be run through because of certain arrangements. When it is a question of the fair wages clause for the drivers of vehicles, I think all traffic should be included, but under the Bill Class "C" drivers are to be excluded. It is no use for the Minister to argue that certain small people would not be able to carry this out. If he had gone into the matter thoroughly and could hold out some hope that some time later this could be done, one could agree with him, but he has not done that, and therefore we cannot allow this Clause to pass unless the Amendment is included in it, and unless we can get struck out of the Clause the limitation to "A" and "B" licensees and put all three on one footing. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give it the fullest consideration and to see if something cannot be done. When this matter was before us on a previous occasion it was evidently intended that a fair wages clause should be in.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.