§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Barnes
I beg to move, in page 40, line 4, at the end, to insert:(d) for securing that where, by virtue of the order or scheme or of anything done in pursuance of or in consequence of its provisions, any person employed otherwise than in the permanent service of a local authority in connection with any market undertaking or auction or slaughter-house suffers any direct pecuniary loss by reason of the termination of his employment in that connection, then, unless some other provision for compensating him for that loss is made by an Act for the time being in force, or by any instrument having effect by virtue of an Act, compensation for that loss shall be paid to him by the employer in accordance with such principles as may be determined by the order or scheme; and(e) for requiring the Commission to pay to any person the amount of any sums which that person is obliged to pay by way of compensation under any provisions of the order or scheme having effect by virtue of the preceding paragraph.The Amendment raises, a matter of great importance to a considerable body of persons who are likely to be affected under the administration of the Commission which is to be set up by the Bill. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) appeared to be somewhat concerned as to whether we desired to claim the whole of the advantage for moving this Amendment. I should like to acknowledge the stand that he took on this matter in Committee upstairs, and I trust that he and those associated with him will stand equally firm on this occasion. The purpose of the Bill is to reorganise the livestock industry, and an examination of the Bill indicates that ample—one would almost say meticulous —provisions are made to see that no person holding any property or professional interest in this industry shall suffer in any respect. If a market is affected by any proposal of reorganisation, any person who may have an interest in the 825 land or the market rights or an auctioneer's business in that market is to be compensated under the Bill. In the event of any central slaughter-house scheme being created, then again anyone whose business interests are affected by the operation of that scheme will find his interests amply provided for in the way of compensation. But in securing reorganisation, if any workman, or any person whose livelihood depends more or less on manual labour is displaced by the operation of any reorganisation scheme, no provision whatsoever is made for the compensation of that individual loss of livelihood.
In the Standing Committee upstairs we had to enter our very firm and strong protest at a Bill being passed which secured the payment of compensation to every interest affected by the Bill except those whose livelihood would be displaced by loss of employment. We think it is high time that Parliament should recognise the principle that a person who loses his livelihood as a result of legislation which Parliament deems to be in the interest of the nation as a whole, or of a particular industry, should be compensated for that loss of livelihood. The Minister, in replying to our Amendment in Committee, stated what was, in his opinion, the difference between a person whose livelihood is displaced and a business interest. He said:The reason for the distinction for compensation for loss of business is this: the Act deliberately prevents a man from carrying on his business. It does not merely change it and make it easy for him to open another business; it closes him down altogether. The workman is in a different position."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 8th April, 1937; cols. 729–30.]I fail to see how the workman is in a different position in circumstances of this character. If an auctioneer is closed down in a particular market, more often than not he has a business or a professional interest in some neighbouring market, or in a number of markets, and the closing down of a particular market may in fact add to the value of the branch of his business in some other market. If, however, you take the case of an employé in a particular market, it is almost impossible for him to move to a neighbouring or a distant market and to find employment in the same industry. As a matter of fact, reorganisation of this kind does not add to the manual labour 826 in an industry; it invariably reduces the number of persons who are employed for wages in an industry. Therefore, a person whose livelihood is definitely displaced by the operation of this Measure is less likely to find employment in his trade than is anyone with a professional interest. The person who gets compensation for the closing down of his business, or for the loss of any land interest that he may have in a concern of this character, gets a capital payment and is able to invest that capital sum in industry and to ensure for himself the continuation of an income, or of part of an income, that is commensurate with the income that is lost. But in the case of the workman no capital sum and no guarantee of future employment is given, and we feel that, as the Minister alleges that this Measure closes down the business of some firm or undertaking, in the same way it will close down the livelihood of the persons employed in that business. It is difficult to understand why we should not meet the same obligation by way of compensation.
We feel the injustice of the attitude of the Minister on this matter because, at the same time that he refused to accept the principle of this Amendment, he accepted an Amendment to pay compensation to established employes of a local authority if they should be affected by the operation of any of these reorganisation proposals. In the case of employeés on the established staff of a local authority the principle of compensation is met; in the case of the auctioneer's professional business the principle of compensation is met; in the case of a person who is engaged in business the principle of compensation is met; in the case of anyone with a landed interest in a market the principle of compensation is met; and we desire to establish the principle for the workman in a trade as well.
During the post-war period Parliament has been engaged to a very substantial degree in developing this principle of compensation, and I feel that it is essential that, at every stage at which Parliament concedes the right of compensation for property, the point which I am making in this Amendment should also be pressed. Soon we shall be endorsing the principle of compensation for the coal royalty owners in this country. We have endorsed the principle of compensation for the 827 owners of slum property when their property has to be cleared away in the interests of public health, public decency and public living accommodation. If a street has to be widened or a public highway cut for the benefit of the community or the convenience of the nation, we do not hesitate to compensate, and compensate lavishly, those people who are being disturbed. If a public house has to be closed down, the trade has to compensate the business that is closed. In all unification schemes where property is affected we concede this right of compensation. In the Sugar Industry Reorganisation Act we even went to the extent of paying compensation to various sugar companies to enable them to pay back the debt that they owed to the State under the Trade Facilities Act.
One cannot but contrast all these instances and examples of the carefulness and regard of the House of Commons for the owners of property with its callousness towards workmen whose only means of livelihood is their labour and employment. I suggest that there are very few owners of property or businesses who have not their eggs distributed in more than one basket, so that, if some interest of theirs is injured by legislation, it is seldom that it affects the whole income of the company or persons; but, if a workman is displaced by these reorganisation proposals of Parliament, he is very often turned out of employment, sometimes when he is of middle age or past middle age, and the future is pretty hopeless for him. I trust that the House of Commons itself will be more favourable towards this proposal than was the Standing Committee upstairs, and will request the Minister to acknowledge the principle.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I support this Amendment, and hope that the Minister will give it his favourable consideration. As I covered the Order Paper of the Committee upstairs with numerous Amendments, and then, owing to the accident of Parliamentary choice, was unable to be a Member of the Committee, perhaps the Minister will give more favourable consideration to what I say, as I was not at the Committee, than he may to the remarks of some other Members. I very much hope that he will consider this Amendment seriously and 828 sympathetically. In the course of his reply in the Committee upstairs he said there were numerous precedents for compensating the employés of local authorities when they lost their jobs through some rationalisation scheme, and the inference was drawn from that remark that there were no precedents for compensating employés of private employers in the event of similar displacement. I do not know whether the Minister has in mind now the various electricity schemes, which certainly provide some precedents, and Section 73 of the London Passenger Transport Act contains provisions which are very germane to this Amendment. It provides for compensation foran officer or servant of a local authority, company or person specified in the Second Schedule of this Act.Those companies or persons, as the Committee will know, included any number of small independent omnibus undertakings, and, the House having recognised their claim to compensation under that Act, I cannot see why in fairness similar regard should not be paid now to persons who will be affected by the provisions of the present Bill. Therefore, I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
I should like to reinforce the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), whose Amendment it was that I moved in the Committee upstairs. After a long debate, I did not receive any support from my own side, though it was rather significant that on that occasion more Members deliberately abstained from voting than in any previous Division upstairs. It was clear that a good many agricultural Members on my side had much sympathy with my Amendment, but did not quite like the idea of the money coming out of the Cattle Fund, and it was the fear that the compensation would come out of the Cattle Fund that was, I think, the reason why I did not receive more support than I did. It is a little difficult to understand every one of the provisions of this Bill, but, if I correctly interpret the Bill, any compensation that would be payable under this Amendment would, so far as Part IV is concerned, come out of the levy, and, so far as Part V is concerned, would come from the fortunate proprietor of the 829 monopolist central slaughterhouse. None of it, I understand, would come out of the Cattle Fund. As that doubt has been, I hope, completely resolved, those of my hon. Friends who either abstained or reluctantly voted against me upstairs will now have the opportunity of signifying their support, since the only reason for their hesitation is now removed.
Let us bear in mind that there are precedents in the Bill itself. As the Mover of the Amendment has pointed out, every other interest is compensated, including the permanent workpeople of a local authority, and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) has just reminded me that the Railways Act of 1921, which brought about the amalgamation of the railways of this country into the four big groups, contains the most elaborate provisions for the compensation of displaced workers, while my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedford has just drawn attention to the fact that the Electricity Supply Acts and the London Passenger Transport Act also contained provisions for the compensation of displaced work-people. Since we had our discussion upstairs, I have received a letter from just the kind of individual that I was imagining—the somewhat elderly clerk, who has been with the same firm of auctioneers for some 30 or more years, and whose chance of getting a new job is almost nil if he loses his existing job. We all know how terribly difficult it is for a man of 50 or 55, who has been in one job all his life, to make a new start, and that is the kind of person whom I have principally in mind. I am not very much worried about the young people, who do not find it very difficult to move elsewhere, but I am always horrified when I find an elderly man who has been displaced through some reorganisation or amalgamation.
There is not a Member of the House who has not from time to time had a pathetic letter from a constituent describing the circumstances of a man who has worked faithfully for many years, whose firm, perhaps, has got into difficulties, it may be through nobody's fault, and has been obliged to cut down its staff, with the result that some of the elderly people have had to go—people whom the employer may not have been in a position to take any steps to look after. We are now, by State action, bring- 830 ing about a number of these cases, and I think the House of Commons ought to make very sure before it allows a Bill to become law on terms which will create a number of new pathetic tragedies among decent, elderly people in small country towns. I can see many of them in my mind's eye at the moment, and we have all had from time to time letters from people of that type. In the interests of these people I most earnestly beg the Committee to consider very carefully before they decide to vote against this Amendment.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
I desire to support the Amendment. The Bill makes provision for compensation for owners of property, auctioneers, and other interests, but it makes no such provision for the humble employé who is deprived of his livelihood. Why should vested interests be considered sacrosanct and the worker's living be of no concern? I have had experience of what happened as a result of amalgamations and trustifications shortly after the War, where one found that men who had given 20 or 30 years' faithful service, and who, by their tact, initiative and ability, had helped to build up prosperous businesses, were, when amalgamation and trustification took place, suddenly thrown on the scrap-heap without any possibly prospect of obtaining other employment, for the simple reason that they had been too long with one particular firm. Where that happens in a small town or village, what chance has an individual in such circumstances of being able to secure employment?
Many of these men had been in good positions, earning incomes over the limit for unemployment insurance; they had sometimes purchased their houses, perhaps on mortgage, and their children were attending secondary schools. They had to get rid of their houses and to take their children away from the secondary schools, and, having no employment, they had to appeal for Poor Law relief. Those who were covered by unemployment insurance were only entitled to benefit for 26 weeks, and they received nothing after that. Besides, what does unemployment benefit really amount to when a man has to keep a wife and family? Where is the justice of giving compensation to these other interests, and 831 not to the men whose living will be taken from them? As has been pointed out already, there are provisions to this effect in the Electricity Act, the Railways Act and the London Passenger Transport Act. Here is a case where the State itself is going to deprive people of their livelihood, and I say that, if these other interests are entitled to compensation, surely the man who is thrown on the scrap-heap and has nothing coming in ought to be considered. I hope that the Committee will decide in favour of this Amendment.
§ 5.15 p.m
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson
Many of us are sympathetic towards the principle of the Amendment, but what we are concerned with is that the Cattle Fund should not have to bear such costs as will decrease the amount going to producers. I should like an assurance from the Minister that he is quite sure that any compensation that is paid under this will not come from the Cattle Fund. There is another point. If the fund from which compensation is paid is one contributed to by auctioneers in other markets, will they not pass on the cost again to the producers of cattle, so that in meeting the increased costs that the Commissioners are going to meet by this compensation, will not the producers be, in fact, paying a contribution?
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
In the Committee an Amendment to compensate officers and servants of local authorities was agreed to with alacrity by the Minister and incorporated in the Bill. Several of my hon. Friends expressed surprise at the reluctance of the Minister to agree to compensate manual workers or auctioneers' clerks. I said that I was appalled at the differentiation between officers of local authorities, land owners, owners of market rights and auctioneers and the men who did the hard manual graft, who had no financial resources and who were to be left out in the cold. Many of these workers are getting on in years and most of them are uninsured. They have no recourse to unemployment benefit. The only thing they can do, if they are thrown out of their jobs, is to appeal to public assistance. We on this side would have supported the Amendment to pay 832 compensation to servants of local authorities if it had been put to the vote, because we believe that compensation for people who lose their jobs is a sound principle. It was said that this was doing it piecemeal, but until the whole question of compensation is decided by the House there is no need for the innocent victim to be penalised. The people who are going to receive compensation under the Bill have very often sufficient financial resources to see them through bad times till they get more work, but these elderly uninsured people are not in that happy position.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I hope we shall not have the same position under this Bill that we had under the Electricity Act, where all the well-to-do interests were entered for compensation whilst those who were not well paid were denied it. In the year following the passing of that Act we were forced to pass a Private Members' Measure to effect our object. In that case the compensation goes a little further than this Amendment. I wish the Amendment included not only loss of employment but the worsening of conditions. I am surprised that at this time of day there should be found any opposition to this proposal. It is really unjust that in the case of people not in the same position as those for whom we are speaking there should be such a readiness, in fact such a determination, that they shall receive compensation. Even if they were entitled to benefit under Unemployment Insurance or any other scheme, they would still in fairness and in justice be entitled to compensation. It may be said that people have invested some of their capital in the concern. These people have invested all their capital—their labour power—and they have a right, if there is any justice left in the country, to be compensated. If the Bill goes through without some such provision, it will be a discredit upon the Government.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I appeal to the Minister to reconsider any decision that he may have made. When so many interests are being properly compensated for action taken by Parliament, there is a strong case for what must be, after all, a comparatively small number of men who may suffer unless the Amendment is carried. These are not vast masses of 833 industrial workers, of whom it might properly be said that, when they lose their employment, unemployment insurance would be the appropriate remedy. It will be a very small number who will once and for all suffer loss of employment. Whether the cost of this will have to be borne by the Cattle Fund or in some other way, I hope the Minister will be able to grant this concession. Even if it were borne by the Cattle Fund, I feel sure that the best part of the agricultural industry would rather that justice were done to a small number of men than they should be left out of the scheme of compensation.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley
We are not asking in this Amendment for an extravagant sum in order to provide employés with pensions for the rest of their lives. We are asking for similar provision to that made for loss accruing to an owner of land or an auctioneer through the closing of a market "as may be determined by the order or scheme." This is a very reasonable point of view. No one can question that there is a flagrant inequity in an Act of Parliament providing for certain classes of persons who are going to be disturbed in a reorganisation and singling out the employés as the only persons who are to suffer pecuniary loss—singling out every other section for compensation and leaving the ordinary employes without any at all. Such a distinction is entirely indefensible. It may be that many of the persons affected have no experience whatever of any other class of work. On all grounds I suggest that the Minister should at least take power to provide this compensation.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I have listened with great attention and sympathy to the appeals that have been made to me. If I were dealing with my own money instead of other peoples, I should probably adopt a different attitude from that which I ask the Committee to adopt. We frequently have to face problems which make a great appeal to our sympathy when they are confined apparently to a narrow compass, but we have to ask ourselves, how will this little action that is proposed here, if we accept it, affect other cases? Will it be regarded as a precedent for wide and sweeping changes which some of its proposers have 834 not foreseen? The Amendment was fully discussed in Committee and negatived. May I state the reasons that I advanced then against it? I should like, in the first place, to clear up one matter which has been put to the Committee as an apparent inconsistency and novelty in the different treatment that we have meted out to employés of local authorities and employés of private persons. I accepted an Amendment to enable local authorities to pay compensation to persons in their employment if they were excluded from that employment by the operation of the Bill. I did so for these two very good reasons: In the first place, unless that Amendment had been accepted and the law altered to that degree, it would have been illegal and impossible for any local authority to disburse its funds in payment of compensation. That is the one big difference. No alteration in the law is necessary to enable any private employer to make some provision for his employés if he wishes to do so. There is no disability upon him as there is upon a local authority in that respect.
The second reason why I differentiate between private employers and local authorities—and public utilities rank very much the same—is that, we have in the past, time and time again, recognised that peculiar degree of permanence and pensionability about the employés of local authorities, and we have made provision on many occasions for compensation, when, by Act of Parliament, this apparently permanent employment has terminated. The question is, shall we carry this provision into the wide arena of private employment? Shall we take the step of giving a statutory right of compensation to every individual up and down the land whose employment is affected because of some change in Government policy or some action of that sort? [Interruption.] I understand that in the State which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) holds out as our desideratum, such a policy would perhaps be adopted, and no doubt that might be one of the good points which would counteract its equally numerous, and perhaps more numerous, bad points.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member will not expect me to argue upon the basis that his system of society is the one with 835 which we are dealing. What is the difference between these societies? The hon. Member's interruption is perfectly timely, because it contrasts the different views of society which are in his mind and in my mind when I ask the Committee not to take the very important step of accepting this novel Amendment.
§ Mr. Morrison
As to its novelty, hon. Members have given certain instances of the Electricity Commission, the amalgamation of London Passenger Transport, and the railway amalgamations, and have put that before me as an example of ordinary private employment such as that which we are now considering. We all know that the statutory utility companies which deal with the large-scale provision of services are in an entirely different category from the private butcher or private auctioneer or whoever else may be affected by this Bill.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the case of half a dozen omnibuses being taken over under the London Passenger Transport is analogous to large undertakings?
§ Mr. Morrison
In the case of large amalgamations, the railways offer an exact case in point. When you amalgamated the railways you said that there should be no more railways. All the railways were closed down with the exception of those which were incorporated or were amalgamated into a particular group. The railways consisted of the national reorganisation of the whole transport system. Let me get back to what is the main issue, and deal with it in all seriousness.
§ Mr. Barnes
Surely, when the central slaughter-houses scheme is created it will be a monopoly, as in the case of railways?
§ Mr. Morrison
I will come back to the question of central slaughter-houses in a moment, but I do not want to be diverted on these small points from the Amendment upon which the Committee have to make up their mind. I return to the interruption of the hon. Member for West Fife. The actual point is that the system with which we are dealing in this country at the present moment is a free system, in which employment by private individuals is contractual, is free and is 836 temporary. There are two sides to the bargain. In ordinary cases, they make the bargain on the basis that the contract shall be terminable at the will of either party, and that is fundamental in the present state of society, which is made clear if one examines the whole of our history and the present conditions. The workman enters into a bargain to keep the contract, but he claims, and clings tenaciously to, his right to withdraw his services if the conditions of employment cease to please him. All our trade union system in the country is based upon the fact that there is free association between those who employ and those who are employed. I suggest very strongly to the Committee that, before they take a step of this character and attach some condition to the Livestock Industry Bill to change this system, they will reflect seriously upon what is likely to be the effect of such a condition.
§ Mr. Attlee
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman has omitted to notice the difference that here the State has stepped in by legislation to alter the conditions of employment, and that is precisely the reason why compensation was adopted under the Electricity Act.
§ Mr. Morrison
I have already said that I consider electricity undertakings, public utilities and local authorities—many of these electricity undertakings are in fact run by local authorities—as Parliament in the past considered them, in a special category. Hon. Members opposite are asking me to enlarge what has always been accepted as being a special character of employment because of its permanence in the whole system of society. I do not expect everyone in the Committee to agree with me, but I want to make clear the vital importance of the matter, so that we shall have no doubt about it whether we think it right or wrong. I suggest to the Committee that they ought to be very careful. When terms of ordinary employment are contracted for, it is on the basis that the employment shall be temporary and governed by the contract of service. The workman says, "I will go as soon as it pleases me; as soon as I can legally." The employer says, "When I can go no further with this business—my business may fail—I am under no obligation to compensate you." That is the basis upon which the contract is made. It is upon those terms, 837 arid upon no other, that the remuneration and the contract of service and all its details are perfected.
I am asked to interfere with free service by contract, and to attach the statutory right of compensation to a man who, under his contract of service, does not possess it. Where is it to stop? Suppose that you get any system of reorganisation or rationalisation of any great industry in this country, is it to be said in every case that everyone who is affected is to be compensated? I ask hon. Members who think that that is the view, How far are you going to carry it? If we impose sanctions on Italy as we did in the recent case under the Legaue of Nations, are we to be told that everybody who suffers by a policy of that character is to be compensated? If you have, as you have here, a contractual system of employment, temporary on both sides, with the workman claiming his undoubted right to withdraw his employment, how are you to assess the damage done in cases of this character? If a man is employed in a slaughterhouses and loses his employment through the operation of this Bill, how are you to say that it is through that fact that he has lost his employment? How are you to say how long he would have been there, and how are you to compensate him for something which is so indefinite?
I should like to refer the Committee to what I said when I started. It is not because of any great hardship or burden on public funds that this would involve, and it is not because of any lack of sympathy with the persons involved, but simply because of the principles involved that I reject the totalitarian conception of society under which men are not free to bargain about their employment. Men would not be free to bargain with their employers, with the assistance of the organisations of their trade unions, and it is that free association which ought to be retained.
The two classes of employés to whom references have been made are those employed by auctioneers as clerks, on the one hand, and those employed in private slaughter-houses, on the other. We shall come at a later stage to a new Clause which enables a service scheme for compensation to be undertaken by the auctioneers themselves on a national scale, if they so desire. They can, if 838 they so desire, embody in the service scheme conditions for the compensation of their employés. But I have no power to compel them to make such provision unless I am prepared to compel every one up and down the country to drop the free contract of service. I should like the Committee to be reassured as to the facts with regard to those who are employed in the slaughter-houses. I do not believe that there will be any great displacement of labour because of the introduction of experimental slaughter-houses. I am advised that there is actually a shortage of skilled labour in the slaughtering trade, and if in any area one of these abattoirs is erected and certain slaughter-houses are closed down, I have little doubt that the slaughtermen will get opportunities of employment in the central slaughter-house with perhaps better conditions of service than those they have enjoyed in other employment.
I will deal with another reason why we should not accept the Amendment. It has been said—I confess with a show of reason—that here you are compensating the business and not the man who may be affected indirectly. That is a point which has to be met. I ask the Committee to see how different is the effect of the Bill upon the business, on the one hand, and the employé on the other. The Bill says of the business that not only shall this particular part of its work cease, but that the whole thing has to stop, and must not start again. In the case of the workman there is no interference with his right to work, but in the case of the business there is the interference with the right to carry on or to go elsewhere.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member must recognise that inside the area of a livestock market order a business may not only be closed down but it may be prevented from opening anywhere else in that region. A business, if it is to be a business at all, is tied to its place. As I said in Committee, it is like a person adscriptus glebae; it must have a local habitation and a name, if it is to have a good will which is one of the elements of a good business. By closing it down in one place you not only interfere with its working but you destroy its right to exist. That is quite different from the position of a man whose right to earn 839 his living is not altered or affected by this Bill.
I am trying to make my attitude clear. I have no lack of sympathy and have no desire whatsoever to shirk the issue involved, but what is now being asked, this granting of a statutory right of compensation to persons in private employment, however desirable it may be, is not the system under which we are working at the present time. It might have very far-reaching consequences once it were conceded, and for that reason I am not willing to take the step of introducing such a precedent into the Livestock Industry Bill.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
This has been a very remarkable Debate. Only four hon. Members from the benches opposite have spoken and three of them were out-and-out supporters of the Amendment, because they felt that discrimination had already gone too far. They made out an admirable case for the Amendment. The fourth hon. Member made no reference to the principle of compensation for displaced employés. What he said, in effect, was this: "I am more concerned about the Cattle Fund of £5,000,000 per annum than I am either about the employes that will retain their jobs or those that may be dismissed." He was certainly sympathetic but his sympathies stopped if it meant going beyond that point and meant interference with the Cattle Fund. We can at least say that there has been three speeches to one in favour of the Amendment from the Government side, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, in view of that fact, will allow a free vote when the Amendment is put. It has been said on many occasions that when the House is moved on great principles it can never do wrong if it is allowed a free vote, and I think this is one of those occasions when a free vote ought to be allowed.
The right hon. Gentleman has restated the principle of the Socialist case as I have tried to understand it for a good many years. He tells us, in effect, that the nation is divided into two sections, one, comparatively small, which is engaged by local authorities and enjoys permanent economic security, and the other and larger section which has the privilege of free bargaining with em- 840 ployers for whom they can either work or whom they can leave just as they desire, and he argues that he does not want to cut across this free institution. Trade unions enter into bargains with employers, we are told, and there is no law to prevent the employer from compensating one of his employés if he should be displaced. There is no law to compel him to compensate him. The free institution to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is sound up to a point, but there is a colliery within 10 miles of my house where on 12 occasions men have come together to form a local branch of a trade union. They have elected a president, secretary, treasurer and committee, and on 10 different occasions within a week of those men forming their branch of the trade unions they have all been sacked. That is at Harworth Colliery. So there is no free institution universally in this country.
When the right hon. Gentleman discriminates between a person who can take employment for three months, three years, or 15 weeks with a private employer, and a local authority employé, I would ask him where is the difference? In my own division I can recall a case within the last year or two where an electrician employed by a local authority found that he had become redundant as a result of the onward march of the Electricity Act, 1927. He was paid £200 or £300 compensation, on the basis of the number of years he happened to have been engaged by that authority. There was nothing to prevent him from leaving that job after having given the appropriate month's notice, either in January, June or December. He was just as free to leave as the miner who works down the pit or the railwayman who works on the railway. Therefore, there is no difference between these men. This House in its wisdom provided compensation for that electrician who worked for the local authority when he was displaced as a result of rationalisation. Where, therefore, is the difference between the local authority and the private employer when the position of equitable treatment comes in? I do not see any difference.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we live under a certain system in this country—he did not say a certain economic system—and that it works out like this: If a person is employed by a local 841 authority you regard him as being perfectly secure, and for all practical purposes he will work for that local authority until the day he dies or until the day he retires on superannuation. Why does the right hon. Gentleman assume that the person engaged by the local authority will remain in their employment or in the employment of some other local authority where superannuation benefits are transferred from one authority to another, and at the same time assume that other workmen will be leaving their employment every day in the week or every month in the year and therefore, one need not worry about compensation for them? Workmen leave their employment only to improve themselves. If a man is working either in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Timbuctoo and he can improve his position or find a greater measure of security, he goes.
In restating the Socialist case the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps inadvertently or perhaps unconsciously, restated what was said upstairs. He implied that there is no such thing as security of employment for the ordinary physical worker. Therefore, in passing a Measure of this description and providing £5,000,000 per annum, which is a fairly generous gesture, for the cattle producers, if we were to create a precedent by making provision for a comparatively small number of ordinarily engaged persons, so that they can have compensation if they are displaced, he asks where is it going to land us. I appreciate the point of the right hon. Gentleman's question, and I reply, "Why was compensation started?" Speaking for hon. Members on this side my point is that what we desire is the right to work at all times and in any circumstances. We are not asking for compensation to make people rich when they happen to lose their jobs. We would prefer that if a man or a number of men were displaced from their jobs as the result of rationalisation or improvement in the efficiency and technique of industry, that immediately another job should be waiting for them. Under a rational system that would be the case and compensation would not be neceessary, but Governments with the mentality of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) have always been prepared to discriminate to the disadvantage of the paid worker.
842 In this Bill the Government provide compensation for the auctioneer if he loses part of his trade, compensation for the man who owns land adjoining the slaughter-houses, compensation for Uncle Tom Cobley and all, but no compensation for the poor old worker, as is always the case. If there had been no such thing as compensation for loss of office in Act after Act this Amendment would not have been on the Order Paper. It is because the party opposite has been discriminating for generations that not only we on this side but people outside are beginning to worry at this discrimination against the poorest of the poor. But when we make a plea for fair treatment the right hon. Gentleman asks us where this precedent will land us. Let it take us where it will. If the principle is right, the right hon. Gentleman ought to concede it at once. If as a result of accepting this precedent it is found that the question of compensation is leading to general chaos and destruction, then let us retrace our steps. Let us go back to the starting point and cease to discriminate. We shall probably save £66,000,000 if we go back to the starting point and pay no compensation in any form or other.
The right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite have accepted the principle of compensation, and we say that they ought to be logical, and that if a person is not guaranteed by the State any right to work, then he ought to be granted compensation, despite the consequences of the precedent referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters have said to-day he ought to disregard the consequences arid do the thing because he believes the principle is right. He tells us that he has sympathy. My reply is that the most sincere people on earth are the biggest danger to the general community. I should like to see that sympathy translated into this Measure in order to give that element of justice to the workers which has so far been denied to them.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I should not have attempted to speak but for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. When the Act of 1927 was before Parliament exactly the same question was put by a Liberal Peer in another place, asking how far it would take the community if compensation was 843 given to the weekly wage-earner. It was clearly laid down that they were entitled to compensation if they lost their position. The right hon. Gentleman made the point that in every other case where compensation was paid it was paid to people employed by public bodies. That is not so. Many of those who receive compensation under other Acts of Parliament are employed by private employers, and if it is right in their case to pay compensation, then it is right in the present case. The point was also made that auctioneers and others would not be entitled to engage in the same business in the same area. That may be so, but they will not be barred from investing in some other concern or engaging in some other branch of work to get a livelihood for themselves and their families. The right hon. Gentleman was in rather a poor way for something to defend the position he has taken up, of refusing to give compensation to these weekly wage-earners. Those who are displaced will be compelled to seek employment elsewhere. They may secure it in the same neighbourhood, but it is not right for them to be turned adrift merely because an Act of Parliament says that there is no further need for their labour. If Parliament says that, then it is the duty of Parliament to see that they receive compensation. That is surely the justice of the case, and the fear that compensation might be demanded by other people is not a sufficient reason for the House refusing it to these people. I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman should say that we must sacrifice the justice of the case because something else may happen.
§ 6.3 p.m.
The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) as usual has made a very able speech, but he skated lightly and cleverly over the main objection to the Amendment. If I had an opportunity for research I could find cases where people employed in private employment have received compensation when legislation has brought their employment to an end. It is certainly the case of those employed by public utility companies and by local authorities. But the real difficulty which is in the minds of most hon. Members is that by accepting the Amendment we should be putting an unknown charge on the Cattle Fund. 844 I do not know what that charge may be, but in the end I think it would be a very substantial amount, and I am quite sure that is the consideration which moves most hon. Members. As far as the case of sympathy with those who will leave their employment is concerned, that has been well and very forcibly made, but no hon. Member has dealt with what lies at the root of the problem. The Bill is to help the cattle industry. Its methods do not appeal to hon. Members opposite as they do to hon. Members on this side of the Committee. Are we to lay an unknown burden on the Cattle Fund which might be so large as to hinder the beneficial action of the Bill? That is the question which should be answered and which is in the mind of a large majority of hon. Members.
§ Mr. Leslie
The right hon. and gallant Member says that the compensation may come from the Cattle Fund, from the £5,000,000. Where does the compensation for auctioneers and others come from? [HON. MEMBERS: "From the levy."] Why does not this compensation come from the same source?
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I intervene only because of the extraordinary performance of the Minister of Agriculture in replying to the Debate. He said that his unwillingness to accept the Amendment was that it would put an end to freedom of contract as between employer and employed. It does not do anything of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to come to that conclusion when he replied to an interruption by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). The Amendment has nothing whatever to do with freedom of contract, and I hope the Government will reconsider their decision. The Bill will put many people out of a job. It is a Government Bill that is doing that. The man's employer does not want to get rid of him; it is not a case of trouble between employer and employed. They are getting on all right together, but the State intervenes and makes an alteration which is responsible for the employer saying that he will have to dispense with his services. Surely, in those circumstances the man is entitled to say that the State which is throwing him out of his job, directly, should provide him with compensation. He is in precisely the same position as his employer. 845 His employer is to be compensated, but the Government say that the employer is tied to a particular village or town or area, and is not to start another business in that area. But the employé cannot get a job in that area either. He has to change to some other form of activity. His employer, who is receiving compensation, may go into an entirely different line of business in the area, just as the employé may have to get a job in a different line of business. They are in the same position. There is one argument which interests me very much. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) says that they have sympathy with these people, but the trouble is that it may be a much bigger charge on the Cattle Fund than they anticipate. He also pointed out that the object of the Measure is to help the cattle industry. That does not mean only the employers, it means the work people as well.
§ Mr. Stephen
The right hon. and gallant Member agrees. He also said that as a result of the Measure there may be a large displacement of labour and that the Amendment would put a heavy b1rden on the Cattle Fund. It is also said that the Bill is to help the cattle industry. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They must accept the view that employés are part of the cattle industry as well as the employers. I would say to hon. Members who are afraid of the possible charge on the Cattle Fund by way of compensation that they should not be so frightened about it. The Government are agreeing to make this contribution, and if a charge is placed on the Cattle Fund, which was not anticipated, it will be the job of the Government to meet it. I do not see why they should be in such a dreadful state of trepidation about the Cattle Fund. I would suggest to hon. Members that they are taking the worst possible way of trying to persuade the Government to do something for the livestock industry, if they allow the employed to be treated in this way, to lose their job without compensation. Possibly a man of 55 would be thrown on to the scrap heap. He would be a living monument of the Government's plan for putting the cattle industry on a better basis. I hope the Committee will realise that what the Minister said with regard to freedom of 846 contract was completely irrelevant, because compensation to the employés does not in any way interfere with freedom of contract. We say that if the Bill becomes law then everyone who is thrown out of work should be entitled to adequate compensation.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
I intervene in this Debate because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, the Leader of he Opposition and the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) have raised a question of principle, and have endeavoured to make it an issue between the two sides of the Committee. I do not think a question of principle arises in this matter. All the speeches from this side of the Committee and from the other side have been quite sympathetic. The question of principle might justifiably be raised by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) if this country were, in fact, a Communist State where everybody was an industrial conscript more or less—
§ Mr. Boothby
—under the orders of the State, and had to do what the State told him or be liquidated; but nobody expects the Minister of Agriculture to iquidate these unfortunate people. Moreover, we have not in this country at the present moment a system of completely free contracts for service. The Minister of Agriculture spoke as if everybody had an untrammelled right to offer labour or to accept labour under any conditions, but hon. Members know that that is not entirely true. Consequently, the question of compensation is not one of principle, but one of expediency and of what is right and just. On that question it seems to me that nobody except the Minister could decide the issue, and he would have to give cogent reasons for the decisions which he reached. Hon. Members opposite ought to be very careful before laying down any hard-and-fast rules regarding compensation, because one day they may have to consider compensation. There is no doubt in my mind that during the next 20, 30 or 40 years there will be passed many Acts of Parliament which involve some measure of State interference with the conduct of industry, and with regard to each one of those measures—most of which, I hope, will be brought forward with the object, 847 which this Bill has, of improving the efficiency of and rationalising industry—cases of disorganisation and temporary hardship will occur.
It is impossible for us in this Committee to lay down a hard-and-fast rule that everybody who is temporarily inconvenienced by any Act of this character shall be fully compensated. It is purely a matter of expediency. As to these particular people, I think that probably they will find re-employment quite quickly in a much more efficient industry. I believe this Bill will make the opportunities. With regard to the practical side, if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture is convinced that there is a case of real hardship for these people, he ought to come to the Committee and say, "Here is a case of special Hardship which the Treasury should compensate." But, as representing one of the big beef-producing constituencies in this country, I should be very reluctant to see the whole Cattle Fund whittled away in paying compensation to every sort of person who might consider himself to be unfairly treated by this Measure. In this matter, in which no question of principle arises, we have to be very careful that no hard-and-fast rule is laid down.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I wish to make a few remarks arising out of the strange and peculiar digression of the Minister of Agriculture, who served up the most hopeless muddle of economics and sociology that I have ever heard. As far as the workers are concerned, he told us about free contracts. I wonder why some of the hon. Members opposite do not avail themselves of those free contracts. They do not seem to be anxious to make free contracts to work down a pit or in a shipyard. No, hon. Members opposite do not have to do that; but the workers have to do it. There is no question of free contracts for them, because they are forced to work in order to live. Some of them get jobs in industries which are affected by Government Measures. An hon. Member has referred to the case of a man who will lose his job after 30 years' service. The man will lose his job, on which his livelihood depends, and the person for whom he is working will lose his business, on which his livelihood depends. Is the livelihood of one 848 of these men more important than that of the other? One man's livelihood is taken away and he does not get any compensation. The other man is a business man, he has money invested, and he gets compensation. It is not a question of livelihood or of humanity, but of money invested. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour forgets that the business man has as much right to invest his money in a business as the worker has to put his labour into it.
If the Government were not bringing about this re-organisation of the cattle industry, there would be chaos, and the result would be that these business men would have to go out of the industry because there would be no cattle market in the country. It is sure that if the cattle industry were left to go on as it has been going on, any number of these business men would be forced out of the industry through bankruptcy. They have the right to invest money, the right to lose money, the right to continue making profits and so on; but before giving them the opportunity of going bankrupt, the process of re-organisation is to be taken up by the Government. Now we have the question of one man going out of business and the other man going out of his job. It is a question of the livelihoods of two men, and I maintain that the Minister, of Agriculture would not dare, in this House or in any part of the country, to claim that the livelihood of one man was more important than that of the other.
The right hon. Gentleman did not even suggest that there is anything in this proposal that is of a serious character as far as the Bill is concerned. He did not make a single argument against the proposal, because he was afraid it might be used in connection with various other industries, and so on. He was unable to put forward a single argument, either with reference to the Cattle Fund or anything else, as to why this proposal should not be adopted. Therefore, he spoke about the future and about what I and other hon. Members have in view. What have I in view? I believe that every man, woman and child in this country has a right to a livelihood—a view which I believe no one will dispute. They can obtain a livelihood only by working, unless they are like hon. Members opposite, who live on the sweat and strain of other people. If a man's job, and 849 therefore his livelihood, is to be taken away from him because of reorganisation, then he must be given some compensation. The man who is in business and who has invested money is to be given compensation, so that he will be in a position to go into another business and continue getting his livelihood. The right hon. Gentleman ought to agree to do for the man who loses his job the same as is being done for the business man.
If a man's job is to be taken away, he must be provided with another job, or maintained until he can get another job. Can there be any objection to that in politics? The Minister of Agriculture knows better than his speech indicated, for he used to be associated with a number of advanced political thinkers up in Scotland. He never paraded as being advanced, but he came into contact with advanced political thinkers. It is the Treasury that is the trouble. The right hon. Gentleman has never been able to combat the Treasury, even when he was working there, and it is the Treasury which is dominating the situation at the present time. I want the right hon. Gentleman to make a fight against the Treasury and to say that the livelihood of all these people is to be protected.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) is a very astute person, and he gave us a nice argument which I commend to the Minister of Agriculture. He said that these people who are losing their jobs and their livelihood will soon get jobs in a highly developed and more efficient industry which will result from the working of this Bill. But is not the case the same with regard to the local officials, the auctioneers and so on who are to get compensation? Why is it that the possibility cannot be foreseen of these other people getting jobs in a more highly specialised industry? If these people are not to be given compensation because they will have the chance of getting jobs in a more efficient industry, why should compensation be given to the others who will have the same opportunity? The Minister of Agriculture did not make one argument against this proposal; he did not make one argument as to the livelihood of these individuals which would justify any impartial person in saying that one man whose livelihood is taken away should be compensated and that the other whose livelihood is taken away should not be compensated.
850 What is to happen to a man who has been in the same job for a number of years, perhaps in a village or small town, if he is deprived of that employment without compensation? The Minister has not faced points of that kind. His argument has been based upon the possible effect of this Measure on the industry in relation to the employment of workers. I am prepared to see the country committed irrevocably to the principle of guarding the livelihood of every man, woman and child in it. If the Minister is not prepared to agree to that principle, I am sure he will keep the fact hidden even from himself when he visits his constituency. I am certain that in his own constituency the right hon. Gentleman would put a very different complexion upon this matter from that which he has put upon it to-day. I ask him to consider the livelihood of the people who are to be thrown out of jobs, as well as the livelihood of those who are to be thrown out of businesses.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Sir F. Acland
Having listened to all this debate there is one thing with which I am certain I do not agree, arid that is the argument that whereas it might be fair to pay compensation out of some other fund, it would be unfair and unreasonable to pay it out of the Cattle Fund. Representing a constituency of cattle producers I am as much interested in the Cattle Fund as anybody else, but if it is right to pay compensation it ought to be paid, whatever fund is utilised for the purpose. If it will put too great a strain on this fund, then it ought to come out of some other fund, once the principle has been accepted that it is right to give it. As to that, I feel a certain measure of agreement with some of the speeches which have been made on both side of the question. When one considers various instances of the manner in which compensation is now applied one finds that there is no uniformity of principle in the matter. If a by-pass road is made a man who has a garage on the road which is passed by and is cut out of the main stream of traffic loses heavily and in some cases his business disappears, but you do not compensate in that case. You compensate neither the landowner nor the garage owner nor the people employed in the garage. Then, suppose the case of a local authority which provides water or 851 collects refuse under a certain system. It then makes arrangements with a larger local authority to provide the water or collect the refuse on its behalf but it does not compensate the men whom it has been employing in pumping the water or collecting the refuse.
The Forestry Commission, with which I am connected, buys farms on which a few people may be employed in tending sheep. The Commission do so in order to put more people at work, looking after the woods. The tenant of the farm gets compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act but the shepherd gets no compensation when the farm is absorbed into the forest and he is deprived of his employment. Under slum clearance schemes we sweep away bad properties and we compensate the owners of the properties to some extent but not the men who have been employed by the owners in collecting the rents. Take the case of the nationalisation of mining royalties. Are hon. Members above the Gangway in favour of compensating out of some special fund formed by the State people who earn their livelihood now, in computing and collecting those royalties? If the same hon. Members propose the nationalisation of munitions, will they also propose special compensation for the
§ people formerly employed by those munition firms in their contract departments and in other work which will no longer be necessary after nationalisation? If they are prepared to compensate those workers are they also prepared to compensate the shareholders in the firms?
§ It will be seen that this principle goes extraordinarily far and that there is a lack of uniformity in the way in which it has been applied. One has to keep those considerations in mind when deciding how to vote on this issue. I think, on the whole, one cannot say, "We will compensate the big men but not the small men." The Government some day will have to try to deal with this matter on some basis of principle. Until they do so I would prefer to vote in favour of giving compensation to the small men who are put out of their jobs just as you do to the big men. The few instances I have given however show how far-reaching the question is and may incline the Government to take a broader view and to try to work out some basis of principle such as I suggest.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 98; Noes, 223.853
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.