§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I beg to move, "]hat the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a Bill to regulate the remuneration of workers employed by public, private and limited carriers who provide mechanical transport of goods by road. It directly affects 250,000 holders of licences and 500,000 vehicles, driven and attended by between 500,000 and 600,000 workers. It will be, I suppose, described to-morrow as one of the odds and ends of the Session. Nevertheless, it may well be of greater importance from the point of view of the historian than some hotly-debated controversial Measures. I shall describe the Bill as being one to help a rapidly growing modern industry towards settled self-government as regards wages. No one who, in the intervals allowed us from world affairs, has paid any attention to the course of industrial diplomacy can fail to realise that this is a necessary Bill. It takes a form which is new in our industrial legislation, because of the rapid development of this form of industrial transport. It will not be the last Bill, although it is the latest, as development and change are taking place with startling speed in this industry.
The pace of these changes has brought with it, as all Members know, its own difficulties and its own problems. These are all the greater because road haulage is, on the whole, a service of small units. Its history is so short that it is covered by the span of life of Members who are now in this House. Its legislative history as regards hours is only eight years long, and as regards wages it dates back only to 1933. In order to understand the Bill it will be necessary to look at this recent and fast-moving history. The statutory obligation in respect of wages was first placed on the employers of workers in the road haulage service by the Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933. Before that the only statutory obligation was one imposed by the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which limited the number of hours any 1612 persons was permitted to drive any kind of motor vehicle and provided for periods of rest. This obligation was imposed in the interest of public safety on the roads. Wages and conditions of employment were nominally the subject of collective bargaining, but there was no national joint machinery for negotiating wages. The only agreements in existence were between organisations of employers and workers in a few industrial areas. There was, however, no machinery whatever for linking the results of their work.
It was because of the lack of voluntary wage regulation that the 1933 Act imposed an obligation to pay fair wages in accordance with the Fair Wages Resolution of the House of Commons. This was an important step. The requirement applied to drivers and statutory attendants of vehicles authorised under A licences, that is a public carrier's licence; or, B licences, that is to say, a limited carrier's licence. The Act further provided that any organisation representative of persons engaged in the road transport industry could make representations to the licensing authorities of the traffic area concerned, to the effect that the fair wages requirement was not being carried out, and if the complaint was not otherwise settled it was referred to the Industrial Court.
It is important to note that the element of compulsory arbitration for the limited measure introduced by Part II of this Bill does not bring in any new principle. During the passage of the Act of 1933 an undertaking was given on behalf of the Government that the Minister of Labour would consult with the organisations of employers and workers with a view to setting up a joint voluntary body or bodies to settle wages and working conditions. It was hoped that an agreed basis could be found to which the Industrial Court could refer. This promise was carried out. We—I mean the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Labour—invited experts from the industry to advise us. With their assistance, and following consultations with the various trade organisations of employers and employed, the National Joint Conciliation Board for the Road Motor Transport Industry (Goods) was established for England and Wales in March, 1934. Ten-area boards were established for the purpose of grading the towns and dis- 1613 tricts in England and Wales. In Scotland separate joint machinery was set up.
Thus in 1934 we had arrived at a position where there was the appearance of a complete system of joint machinery for determining wages and working conditions. I say "appearance," for in working the scheme it was found at once that difficulties and disagreements took place, and there was failure to secure observance of wages and conditions which had been decided by the national and the area boards. It became clear that the lack of organisation in the industry rendered the joint machinery largely ineffective. The apparent theoretical completeness of the system was found in practice to be illusory. The result was that in March, 1936, the members of the National Board united in urging me to introduce further legislation to give effective force to the boards decisions. The board also urged that it was necessary for the holders of C licences, that is private carriers, to be subject to the same degree of regulation as the holders of A and B licences. Our investigations showed that the statutory provision with regard to fair wages proved in practice to be almost unworkable in its application to such an unorganised and mobile service as the transport of goods by road.
In view of the chaotic conditions in the industry—that is not too strong a word—and the complexity of the issues and of the interests involved the Minister of Transport and I appointed a committee known as the Baillie Committee in July, 1936. This committee's duty was to examine the position with regard to the regulation of wages and conditions of service of persons employed in connection with the carriage of goods by road, and to make recommendations. The committee consisted of Sir James Baillie (chairman), Sir Gerald Bellhouse and Mr. John Forster, to whom the greatest credit is due for the thorough and efficient manner in which they tackled a most difficult and troublesome task. After taking evidence in public for many days from all the interests involved they came to a number of unanimous recommendations which are contained in their comprehensive report. The Bill follows very closely the recommendations made in that report.
Before I deal with the Bill itself I must say a few words about definition. It is 1614 important in our consideration of some of the difficulties which we are now seeking to overcome. I would point out that the work in respect of which statutory remuneration can be fixed under the Measure is road haulage work as defined in the Third Schedule to the Bill. The Baillie Committee's recommendations relate only to drivers and statutory attendants. As a result of long discussion we have thought it right to deal with all the travelling staff who accompany a vehicle, either to drive it or attend to it or to its load. The van boy is clearly as much in need of statutory protection as the driver. We have, therefore, included all workers while engaged on road haulage work within the scope of the Bill. There are most important exceptions. We except all workers whose remuneration is the subject of other statutory wage regulation, such as a trade board, workers employed by railway companies whose wages and conditions are determined by the machinery of negotiation which exists by agreement between the companies and the railway trade unions.
So, also, if and when a scheme becomes operative for the statutory regulation of wages in the retail distributive trades, the transport workers in these trades will automatically be excluded from the Bill and will come under such a retail distributive scheme. At present it is in the power of only four trade boards to fix minimum rates of wages for transport workers. If in future the scope of any of the other trade boards is extended to include the transport work and minimum rates are fixed for it, such workers will automatically fall outside this Measure.. But until such rates are fixed transport workers in trade board trades will come within the Bill.
§ Mr. Brown
Those for milk distribution in England and Wales, for milk distribution in Scotland, the General Waste Materials Reclamation Trade Board and the Cotton Waste Reclamation Trade Board. Those are the four. This system that we have adopted has a most important bearing on the problem of C licences. Those who remember the Debates of 1933 will recall that one of the great difficulties in dealing with C licence holders was that a driver employed by a C licence holder, 1615 such as a grocer, might be employed on driving for part of his time and as a shop assistant for the remainder of the time. It was felt to be a very serious difficulty, especially if there was the possibility of such a worker having to be paid as a driver for all time worked. But this has been overcome by our method of limiting the fixing of statutory remuneration to road haulage work, so that a C licence holder who employs a man partly on driving and partly on other work will be under no obligation to pay haulage rates for the other work.
Let me now turn to the Bill. It is in three parts. Part I deals with A and B licences, and Part II with C licences. A licences are licences required by those who sell transport. C licences are licences for those who provide their own transport, and B licences are licences for those who do both. That is a general statement of the difference between the three. Part I deals with the regulation of the remuneration of road haulage workers who are engaged under either A or B licences, which are required for the carriage of goods for hire or reward. Part II contains provisions dealing with the remuneration of road haulage workers employed on goods vehicles for which C licences are necessary for the carriage of goods for, or in connection with, a trade or business, but not for hire or reward. Part II will not come into operation until a wages Order under Part I of the Bill has come into force. Part III deals with finance, with the special provisions relating to Scotland, and with enforcement of statutory remuneration by a wages Order under Part I or by a decision of the Industrial Court under Part II. Part III follows in general the well tested and tried system of Trade Board enforcement. If hon. Members realise that they will understand the whole structure of the main part of Part III. Part I deals with the remuneration of A and B licence workers. It may be said, speaking colloquially, to apply to the road haulage industry proper. We have adopted here the trade board principle of a board representative of the industry with an independent element. This board will determine the wages payable and recommend them to the Minister who will be empowered to make a wages Order enforceable on all employers covered by this part of the Bill. It provides for the 1616 setting up of a Central Wages Board for Great Britain, and area boards for Scotland and the existing 10 traffic areas in England and Wales. Each area board is to consist of an equal number of representatives of employers and workers appointed by the Minister after consultation with the organisations representing employers and workers in the area.
The Central Board is to consist of 12 representative members, six representing A and B licence holders and six representing workers, to be appointed by the Minister after consultation with any organisations representing such licence holders or workers. Twenty-four members from the area boards, that is, one from each side of each area board in England and Wales, and two from each side of the Scottish Board will also be appointed by the Minister of Labour after consulting with the area board concerned. In addition, there will be not less than three or more than five independent members appointed by the Minister of whom one will be the chairman. The Central Board will, therefore, consist of not less than 39 and not more than 41 members. It will be my aim in determining the representation on the area boards and the Central Board, to see that both the A and the B licence holders are adequately represented, and for this purpose it is expressly provided in the Bill that in making appointments to the boards I must have regard to the types of trades and businesses affected, the number of goods vehicles licensed and the various circumstances in which the vehicles are operated. I must also consult at every point with organisations of employers and workers concerned.
It will be the duty of the Central Board to submit to the Minister proposals for fixing the remuneration to be paid to road haulage workers employed by A and B licence holders. The Central Board will, however, have to consult the area boards and consider their reports. They will also have to publish their proposals in order to give any persons affected an opportunity of lodging objections before sending the proposals to the Minister. If objections are made the Central Board will be required, after consulting the area boards, to consider their proposals in the light of the objections before finally sending them to the Minister, who will then he empowered to make a Wages Order giving statutory effect to the proposals, 1617 unless he considers it necessary to refer them back to the boards.
The Bill recognises the special position of Scotland. In some quarters there was a desire for a separate board for Scotland with power to fix statutory rates of wages for road haulage workers in Scotland. That desire can well be understood in view of the separate voluntary Scottish Conciliation Board which at present exists, but it must be remembered that transport, unlike a factory, is mobile and the Border is not a transport barrier. For such an industry it is clearly right to have one board with final authority, but in order to meet the legitimate claims of Scotland special provision is made in the Bill for the Scottish Area Board to have the power to initiate proposals for fixing the remuneration to be paid to workers in Scotland.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith:
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain what happens if, after an objection has been taken and the matter has been referred back to the board, the board sends it back to the Minister?
§ Mr. Brown
The answer is that it is his duty to deal with it. He must in the end make up his mind whether an Order is to be made or not, or whether he desires any further remarks from the board concerned. In making proposals for fixing remuneration the board will have power to deal with all kinds of remuneration, including, for example, overtime rates, subsistence allowances and commission as well as—the House will find this of topical interest—holiday remuneration. This last proposal is a new and an important step. It will be the first time that the question of holiday remuneration has been dealt with by Statute, and it may prove to be a landmark in our industrial and social history. I must emphasise, also, that this part of the Bill is the outcome of requests made to the Minister by both sides of the industry to provide effective machinery for determining and enforcing proper rates of wages and conditions of service, and these provisions are designed to help the industry to assist itself to escape from 1618 the chaotic conditions which at present exist in regard to the regulation of wages for this large body of workers.
As regards Part II of the Bill, I have explained that it contains provisions dealing with the remuneration of road haulage workers employed on goods vehicles for which C licences are necessary, that is to say, those road users who provide their own road transport. It has been made perfectly clear—and I want to make it abundantly clear to the House—by organisations representing A and B licence holders that the problem of the rates of wages for those employed by C licence holders has relation to the general problem of the road haulage industry. There can be no effective regulation of wages in the industry arid no proper co-ordination of transport unless C licensed vehicles are dealt with as well as A and B licensed vehicles. This is not only the view of A and B licence holders but it is also the policy upon which the Baillie Committee based all their recommendations and also the view of those who have had the difficult task of hearing scores of organisations on this most complicated industry, and of watching the speedy development of this important industry. In fact, it has been made quite plain to me—and I want to make it quite plain to the House—by both sides of the industry—the employers and the workmen—that their request for and concurrence in the proposals in Part I of the Bill is on the definite understanding that there is to be some form of regulation for C licensed vehicles.
The proposals in Part II of the Bill are based upon a different method from those in Part I. While the C licence holder is in many cases in competition with the A and the B licence holder, the problem of wage regulation of workers employed by C licence holders is for the most part quite different from that of the road haulage industry proper. In general, C licence holders are employers engaged not in the road haulage industry itself, but in one of the industries and trades of the country, for example, in engineering, shipbuilding, iron and steel, gas, and building industries, in the distributive trade, and in such trades as dyeing, laundering, aerated water and scores of others. [An HON. MEMBER: "And coal."] Certainly. Industries of that kind would make a very long list. Road haulage workers in such industries 1619 are more often than not ancillary workers and, in general, cannot be regarded as in the same position as haulage workers employed by A and B licence holders. We have, therefore, approached their problems from a different angle—from the point of view of the various industries in which the employers of the road haulage workers are engaged.
Let me make it abundantly clear to the House that the problem has presented many difficulties and I do not claim that this Bill is the last word on the subject. I am well aware that some would have had us do more and others would have had us do less—some a good deal less. I would ask the House and all concerned outside, to regard the Bill as a practical experiment. I may, however, claim that the method proposed will provide a measure of regulation which is practicable and workable. I believe it, personally, to constitute the fairest solution in existing circumstances of the competing interests of those who have transport to sell, those who provide their own transport, and those who do both. It will do justice to the workers engaged by all.
The basis adopted in Part II of the Bill is that of ensuring that an unfair wage is not paid. Provision is made for the settlement of complaints of the payment of unfair remuneration and for indicating what is regarded as not unfair. A worker, or his trade union, or—and this is very important—a trade union representing a substantial number of road haulage workers may complain to the Minister if it is considered that the workers' remuneration is unfair. Unless such complaints are frivolous or vexatious, or unless they are withdrawn after the Minister has made representations to the employer concerned, they are to be referred to the Industrial Court. This is, of course, compulsory arbitration which, as I have already pointed out, is not a new principle so far as A and B licence holders are concerned, but was laid down in the 1933 Act. This extension of compulsory arbitration to C licence holders is subject to a very important exception, and I would ask hon. Members to take particular note of it. The Baillie Committee recommended that all such complaints should be referred to a tribunal, but the strongest objection was taken by employers in the well-organised industries 1620 having comprehensive voluntary joint machinery for the settlement of disputes in their industries to this widespread application of compulsory arbitration. They contended with very great force that such a system would seriously damage their joint machinery built up as a result of many years of hard work. The force of this contention had to be recognised, and we have recognised it. Indeed, the principle of compulsory arbitration runs counter to our general method of voluntary collective bargaining.
Accordingly, the Bill provides that if there is in existence, in pursuance of an agreement between organisations of employers and trade unions representative of substantial proportions of employers and workers engaged in the industry concerned, joint machinery for settling disputes, any complaint concerning an employer whose organisation is a party to the joint machinery must be referred to that machinery for settlement, and can only be referred to the Industrial Court at the request of both sides. Both sides must agree if a case is to be referred to the Industrial Court under this Bill. The House will recognise that this is of fundamental importance, particularly from the point of view of preserving and encouraging voluntary joint machinery in industry. The effect will be that in unorganised or badly organised industries all complaints will be referred to the Industrial Court, but in those well organised industries with comprehensive joint machinery only agreed complaints will go to the court. It is rightly anticipated that this will result in increasing organisation in all industries, in strengthening existing joint machinery and in steps being taken to set up machinery in those industries where it does not now exist.
I wish to make clear that the aim of this part of the Bill, equally with Part I, is also to help industry to self-government. Further, the proposal I have outlined to the House reduces the element of compulsion to the greatest possible extent. The Government are anxious to minimise compulsion and to do everything possible to encourage and help voluntary wage negotiating machinery. The value of our voluntary collective bargaining system cannot be overestimated. The development of individual freedom in this country has gone side by side with industrial freedom, and 1621 it is becoming increasingly recognised that our voluntary collective bargaining system is one of the most potent instruments for the stability of our national life. That being so, it is our duty to foster and encourage the establishment of such machinery over an ever-widening field, and it is with this in mind that the proposals of the Bill have been made, and particularly the proposal to refer complaints for settlement to existing machinery where that machinery is adequate. Such a procedure, I believe, will lead to an extension of organisation and to an increasing measure of self-government and, therefore, of stability in industry.
Let me say a word about what is not "unfair," and point out one or two of the difficulties experienced under the 1933 Act in connection with the Fair Wages Resolution. It is laid down under Clause 4 (3) what is regarded as being "not unfair." An employer will not be deemed to be paying unfair remuneration if (1) he is paying the rates laid down by the Central Board for A and B licence holders; (2) if he is paying in accordance with an industrial agreement to which he is a party; (3) if, although not a party to the agreement, he is paying in accordance with the appropriate agreement operative in the same trade in the same district; and (4) if he is paying in accordance with an Industrial Court decision relating to corresponding work in the same 'trade in the same district. Accordingly, the employer can always protect himself from the charge of unfairness by paying in accordance with the appropriate agreement between a trade union and an employers' association. This is designed to further and encourage the making of voluntary agreements. If, when the complaint is referred to the Industrial Court, the court decides that the remuneration is unfair, it will be their duty to fix the remuneration to be paid, and in doing this they must have regard not only to the A and B rates and appropriate agreements, but also to the general level of wages in the industry concerned. In order further to protect the joint machinery, an employers' organisation or a 'trade union interested in any complaint referred to the court will have the right to attend the court and be heard. When statutory remuneration is fixed by the court it will apply to the case of workers in respect 1622 of whom the complaint was made and to other employés employed on similar work by the same employer. The decision will he operative for three years, it will be subject to review quarterly, and the court will have the power to make their decision retrospective for a period not exceeding six months.
It is only necessary for me to say a brief word about finance. The estimated cost to the Exchequer will be £25,000 a year, and it will be borne on the Ministry of Labour Vote. Account, however, will have to be taken of this cost in the fixing of the fees payable for licences under the Road Traffic Act, 1933. It is only right that the cost should be borne by the industry itself. If the industry were well-organised, there would have been in existence voluntary machinery the expense of which would have been borne by those concerned. The fact that the assistance of the Government is necessary, as it is here, in setting up proper machinery, shows that there is every reason why the industry should bear the cost, which, spread over licence holders as a whole, will be a very small price to pay for the benefits which will in clue course accrue.
We are continuing to make alterations in our industrial structure to meet the new and changing circumstances, and this Bill is such an alteration. It is intended to assist the building up of the self-government of industry. Much pressure is being brought to bear on the Government for statutory regulation in respect of the large number of workers who have not taken the first step to improve their position by joining associations. The existence of these unorganised and unregulated sections is a menace to those who have achieved good conditions, and employers should no longer be subject to the unfair competition in respect of lower conditions observed by others. It will be only where circumstances demand that the Government will take the responsibility of assisting such workers. The Government have no desire to take the responsibility of fixing and enforcing minimum conditions.
We are using every effort to assist the extension of orderly and well organised self-government in industry. This Bill will aid responsible trade unions and employers to secure better and more orderly conditions. It will assist in putting road haulage on a sounder basis. It should also be a great asset in industrial 1623 diplomacy. The co-operation of transport operators can also have the wider result of assisting them towards that co-ordination which is necessary for the uninterrupted progress of their industry. I believe it is a necessary Bill and a practical one. I believe it is a good Bill, the result of much examination, many deputations, and much stiff and friendly negotiation, and I would like to offer my congratulations not only to the Minister of Transport and the Parliamentary Secretary, but also to both sides of the industry who have co-operated in enabling me to present the Bill in this form. I have been assured too that their co-operation will be continued inside the House. I thank them most warmly. I believe this is a big step forward in this difficult problem.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have opened his speech by more or less apologising for this Bill and regarding it as one of the odds and ends of the Session.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I did not suggest that. I said I was desirous that it should not be so regarded. Personally, I think it is of great importance. I saw the phrase to which the right hon. Gentleman refers used in a newspaper and I did not want that view to be taken outside.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am afraid that is not a complete explanation, but I accept it for what it is worth. I always regard a Bill affecting a large body of workers as important. There have been far more "odds and ends," and particularly "odds," than this Bill. I agree that it is a necessary Bill. The people for whom I speak have desired a Bill of this kind for a long time, and I am glad that the Government have now responded to the demands made by organised labour and other agencies and by certain employers' organisations, regarding the conditions which exist in this rapidly developing and very important road transport industry. I will not be expected to say that I am completely satisfied with the Bill. It would be a break with tradition if I should find myself completely satisfied with anything introduced by this Government. But I do say that the Bill marks an important milestone in the progress of the industry, particularly as regards one aspect. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—and it is not often I do so- 1624 that it will do something to improve the efficiency of the industry, and I think it may do a great deal to improve the wages and conditions of the people who are engaged in it.
I have three major points to make on this Bill. I do not speak as one having authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin) can speak with a closer knowledge of the problems than I possess, but it seems to me that in any licensed industry all should be treated alike. This industry was licensed not in the interests of the contractors or the workers, but in the public interest. If that be so, clearly, the industry ought to be treated all on the same basis, having regard to the fact that the public interest is at stake. Therefore, it is obvious that unfair competition should be stopped. The Baillie Report recognised that. The right hon. Gentleman said the C licence holders were not engaged in the same kind of trade as others, but if the C licence holders were not carrying their own goods, those goods would have to be carried by the A and B licence holders. Secondly, I think fair wages and conditions are demanded in the interest of the workers and in the interests of public safety. In a licensed industry there ought to be a degree of regulation which hon. Members opposite would not accept for the ordinary private industry. The road transport industry is a rapidly developing service. My hon. Friends and I believe that the co-ordination of the whole of our transport services is vital in the interests of the nation, but it is clear to me that you cannot have a co-ordinated transport service in this country until you have integrated and organised the road transport aspect of it. That point was accepted by the Baillie Committee. I do not say that they committed themselves completely to co-ordination but they said it was clear that there could be no co-ordination until the road haulage aspect of road transport was properly organised and conducted.
My third point is one which the right hon. Gentleman himself made. He used the term "self-government of industry" several times. His definition of self-government would be widely different from mine, but, broadly speaking, without committing myself to details of the statement, I agree with the attitude which he indicated. I believe this country must tread the path of democracy, and democracy depends on the temper and 1625 spirit and self-respect of the citizens of the nation. Workers in all industries, especially in such essential industries as transport which is the circulatory system of our economic life, must be treated with dignity. They must enjoy honourable conditions of employment and must have at their disposal adequate machinery for the redress of grievances. They are entitled to that, if our system of democracy is to be maintained. I believe the Bill goes a considerable way to meet my three points of principle.
As regards the first point about a licensed industry, the C licence holders in this country, who far outnumber A and B licence holders—they are more than twice in number, and judging by an answer given this evening their numbers are growing—enjoy a liberty which the law has taken away from the holders of A and B licences. I do not accept the competitive system. I do not believe it is right for competition to rest on low wages and sweating. A competitive system, as long as it endures, should rest upon efficiency, organisation, foresight and management. C licence holders, unfortunately, are carrying on competition primarily on the basis of unregulated conditions and low wages. The lot of the lorry driver is hard. I should hate to be a lorry driver myself, even if I were technically capable of driving a large and unwieldy lorry. It seems to me unjust that because of an economic accident one man enjoys the advantage of working under an employer holding an A or B licence and another man, because of an economic accident, works for a man who has a C licence, does not enjoy the same advantages and whose conditions of employment may be more onerous than those who are working under an A or B licence.
Lorry drivers, in my view, are worthy of special consideration. I suppose a majority of hon. Members drive their own motor cars. How would they like to drive a heavy, cumbrous lorry through the crowded and congested areas in our great cities? Lorry drivers have to conform to regulations almost as complicated as those of railway engine drivers. Probably they are never able to remember the regulations, but they can always be quoted against them. I understand that the railway rules are so complicated that whatever a railway driver does he can 1626 be proved to be wrong, and I think that is probably true of lorry drivers. There are systems of payment which make it very difficult for the lorry driver always to obey the law. I do not want to go into details, but there are methods of payment by bonuses which encourage the driver to break the law, and indeed may demand that the driver should break the law. There have been law cases, but I do not propose to refer to them. It is undoubtedly true that under the pressure of a bonus system drivers are expected to travel at speeds which are detrimental to the public, and against public safety. That makes it very hard for the lorry driver, because the employer can always bring something which looks like evidence to say that he did not know anything about it.
For the most part lorry drivers are careful drivers on the roads, far more careful than the owner driver, and I understand more careful than the owner woman-driver. Last year one lorry driver was killed per week in an accident, and nearly 70 lorry' drivers were injured, that is to say, nearly 10 a day. [Interruption.] I think my arithmetic is right. Last year one lorry driver was killed every week and nearly 70 lorry drivers injured every week, which divided by seven is nearly 10 a day. I mention these points because we are dealing with an occupation where the people employed are under some difficulties, because they have to conform to the law and the regulations, they may be persuaded by their employers to depart from the law, and they also are employed in circumstances of considerable danger. It is unfair, as I have indicated, to discriminate between one class of licence and another. Even more important is this point—I make a present of it to employers who have foresight. Where progressive employers are prepared to abide by the results of industrial negotiation they ought not to be penalised by their less reputable competitors who sweat their workers, subject them to long hours of employment, rather than put their minds into increasing the efficiency and organisation of their business.
I think the Bill goes a long way towards dealing with the problem of this industry. There are, however, what I regard as certain weaknesses in the Bill. I am not going to deal with them in 1627 detail, but it is my duty to point them out. The right hon. Gentleman made a brave attempt to defend Clause 4. What is the position in regard to the non-federated employer? I think there are about 160,000 licences now, and 60,000 of these licences are covered by trade agreements. That leaves 100,000 non-federated.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Then my case is all the stronger. If 60,000 are covered by trade agreements, it means that 136,000 are outside the scope of any organised agreement. The case has always been that the matter should come before the industrial court. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the industrial court is not capable of carry this burden: it is far too large for it. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider—I do not want to press him too hard at the moment—strengthening the machinery with regard to what he called the odds and ends of C licence holders who are not within the scope of any kind of industrial agreement. They are people who are obviously selfish, who have not got the team spirit and for whom this House need have no special consideration. Then I must draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Clause 7. There has been a disposition on the part of employers to pass the buck to their agents. That seems to me to be unfair. It is not a principle which has been widely accepted in this country, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to look at Clause 7, Subsection (3), under which an employer can escape conviction if his agent is convicted, and the agent often enough tries to pass it on to the employer, which seems to me to be unjust.
In regard to the Clause dealing with the powers of licensing authorities, I am disturbed by the fact that licensing authorities are not working effectively, and I hope something will be done to make them more effective in their operations. My last point of criticism—not of criticism but of comment, is with regard to Clause 11 and the inspectors. I have on many occasions in this House pleaded for an extension of the staff of factory inspectors, because it is clear that the effectiveness of the law depends on adequate supervision, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear this point in 1628 mind. I have said that the Bill goes some considerable way. I realise the difficulties which the Minister has had to face in dealing with a heterogeneous group of people in what he called a chaotic industry, but I hope he will reconsider those Clauses of the Bill which I have indicated briefly in no unfriendly spirit. In principle, I commend the Bill to the House as an advance which will be welcomed by organised employers, and especially by the workers who will profit by its provisions.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I think the Minister of Transport must be a happy man to-day, for I cannot imagine that there is any hon. Member who will not welcome this Bill. After reading the report of the committee of which Sir James Baillie was chairman, I feel sure that everybody who has taken the trouble to read it must be convinced that the machinery at present in existence in this industry is inadequate for the purpose. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) should have assumed that whatever happens to any worker is the responsibility of his employer, because I believe that what we need is real co-operation between the workers and the employers. Driving a lorry at the present time is a verw important job, and there is no employer who does not feel very much aggrieved if anything happens to the driver of his lorry. If we are to have efficient drivers and to assure safety on the roads, it is essential that these men should be paid adequate wages. I am sometimes worried when I see lorries driven by mere boys, very often of small weight, who are probably working longer hours than they ought to be called upon to work. From the point of view of the safety of the public it is right that there should be some assurance that men driving lorries should have a wage that would enable them to be as physically perfect as possible.
There is another point in this Bill which I like. I remember that when the trade board was introduced in my own trade, I was very strongly in favour of it, and I got into trouble because of that. The reason I was in favour of it was not merely that I wanted to see a decent wage fixed, but I found that the man who was prepared to pay a decent wage was very 1629 often knocked out of the market by the man who was not prepared to pay it. I think that to a great extent that applies in the industry with which we are now dealing. From time to time I have been surprised to see figures relating to the transport of goods by road. I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield say that people buy lorries in order to save money. That has not been my experience, because I have found that I could hire haulage cheaper than I could get it by having my own lorries. What I have found is that the C licence-holder does not get lorries merely on account of costs, but because, with his own lorries, he can get his haulage done at the time when he wants it done, and very often he gets a privacy which he is not able to get by hiring haulage.
I am sure hon. Members will agree that a good thing about the Bill is that it will limit unfair competition arising out of the payment of low wages. I claim to be a big believer in private enterprise, but I like private enterprise to start off on a fair basis as between one man and another. It is not fair that one man should gain an advantage because he is prepred to pay much lower wages than he ought to pay. I believe that the payment of fair and adequate wages is in the interests of public safety, in the interests of the decent employer, and in the interests of the decent employé. Anything that I say with regard to the Bill will not be in the nature of carping criticism, but more in the nature of questions as to the working of it. I am a little doubtful as to how the Central Board and the area boards will work. I believe it is true to say that the area boards under the previous machinery were not satisfactory. I wonder whether the initiative with regard to wages ought not to rest with the area boards. The Central Board has to initiate the wage scale which it is suggested should be paid, it is then sent to the area board for remarks, and there is general consultation between the two. I think it will always be found that there are differences between different areas. That has been found to be the case throughout the negotiations that have taken place not only in this industry but in many other industries. Would there not be a great saving of time if the area boards had the power of initiation, as is 1630 provided in the case of the Scottish Road Haulage Area Board?
In putting that suggestion to the Minister, I do not say that it is better than the proposal in the Bill, but I wonder whether it would not bring about some saving of time, since the area boards would have a better knowledge of local conditions than the Central Board could have. I know that the right hon. Gentleman may say that previously area boards have had great difficulties in reaching agreement, but I should be prepared to give to the Central Board final authority to impose their decision on the area boards if the latter failed to come to some kind of agreement. I wish to say a few words also about the constitution of the area boards. I do not see how they will function very well if they are composed of an equal number of employers and employés. I think it would be much better if, as in the case of the Central Board, they contained some independent members. I ask the Minister to consider whether it would not be wise, even on the area boards, to have some independent members. Another point which I want to raise concerning the Central Board and the area boards is the appointment of the members. In the First Schedule, paragraph 4, it is stated:In appointing members under either of the last two foregoing sub-paragraphs, the Minister shall have regard to the types of trades and businesses affected, the numbers of vehicles connected therewith, and the various circumstances in which the vehicles are operated.The question I want to ask is whether there will be some opportunity for the representation of small men both on the Central Board and on the area boards? In reading the report of the Baillie Committee, I was struck by the tremendous number of small units in this industry. The report states that the average number of vehicles specified on an A licence is about 3¾, on a B licence 1½, and on a C licence 2. I suggest to the Minister that it will be necessary not only to consult with the organisations, but to give some attention to people who are not in an organisation. Seeing that the industry consists, in general, of small units, does the Minister intend that some regard should be had to the representation of small businesses? I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about voluntary negotiation: it is a great principle, and I was glad to hear the right 1631 hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield refer to it in the same way. There is one thing, however, which we ought to watch in connection with this Bill. Under Clause 1, the railway companies are exempted from the machinery that is set up. The point I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is that even if there is some kind of negotiating body, it ought not to be possible, when we are attempting to co-ordinate transport—for that is the aim of this Bill—for a railway company, under Clause 1, to get away with paying smaller wages for any men who are engaged in the same employment as is covered by the Clause. I do not say that they do it under the present machinery, but would it be possible to put in some covering provision to the effect that, while recognising that there should be voluntary negotiation, the railway companies should not be allowed to pay for the same work lower wages than would be imposed upon the road haulage industry because of this machinery?
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I think I said that I do not suggest it is done now, but that does not mean that it would not be possible. If, for instance, the Central Board decided on a higher wage than is now being paid, that would happen, and I want to prevent it happening. I do not wish to say much with regard to Part II of the Bill, which deals with C licence holders, but I am somewhat doubtful about the machinery. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulty with regard to the 100,000 people who are not in any organisation, and on the face of it, it almost appears as though there will have to be individual hearings before the board concerned under Part II. That seems to me to be a very long-drawn-out machinery. I recognise the differences between the holders of C licences and the holders of A and B licences. I do not agree that they are in competition with one another, but I would say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield that I think that usually the conditions of service are vastly different. I agree with him that in many cases there are abuses, but very often the driver of a vehicle which carries a C licence has what we call in Yorkshire a standing wage and a guaranteed job which is very 1632 often different from what other men employed in road haulage have. Very often holidays with pay are given in the case of such jobs. But I agree with the Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield that we ought to make certain that in the case of C drivers a decent and fair wage is paid.
I would like to ask a question about part-time workers, because that matter seems to me to raise a difficulty. Take the case of a man who spends part of his time driving a lorry and the remainder doing something else. I understand from the Minister that he is to be regulated in so far as his work consists of driving a lorry, but the remainder of his work is not to be regulated. Would it not be possible, under those conditions, for a man to be paid the proper wages for his road haulage work, but paid only a nominal amount for the other work done by him, and in that way the system would really mean the payment of a cheaper rate for the haulage work? Because of the absence of regulation he would be paid only a small sum for his other work, and the total in some cases would be inadequate. I see the difficulty which arises in that connection.
May I confirm what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield about inspection. I have always believed that trade boards would be far more effective if there was adequate inspection. I find that most employers become fearfully annoyed if they find that they are observing regulations which are not being observed by their competitors. I am willing to say let us try this machinery as far as the C licences are concerned, but what you have to do is to make certain that there is, in being, an adequate standard of inspection to ensure that the regulations are being carried out and fair and adequate wages are being paid. As regards the cost of the Measure surely the people using road transport to-day, the hauliers, even the holders of C licences, are already paying sufficient. Only last week we put another penny per gallon on petrol and the right hon. Gentleman knows how the vehicle duties were raised in 1933. I should have thought that the burden imposed on the industry at present is heavy enough without adding to it, even this comparatively small amount. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider what has been 1633 taken out of the Road Fund for the general expenses of the country, and to ask him whether he could not provide the small amount of money necessary for this Measure without adding further burdens to an already over-burdened industry.
The regulations are to be laid on the Table of the House, and unless a negative resolution is put down they will go through without any discussion. This is a matter which I have raised time and again in connection with other Bills. I have always objected, in principle, to that procedure. It would be much better to require an affirmative resolution. That would make it necessary for the House to take a definite step before the regulations were confirmed. The proposed procedure is really another way of handing over to the Minister powers which, I think, no Minister ought to possess. These Orders usually come before the House in such a way that people do not notice them unless they are particularly interested in the subject with which they deal. It is not treating the House fairly to present a set of regulations and to say, "Take them or leave them, but you cannot amend them." That assumes infallibility on the part of some Department. The Minister has claimed credit for having mentioned for the first time the question of holidays with pay. Let him earn the further credit of being the one democratic Minister who is prepared to give the House an opportunity for adequate discussion of any regulations which he places before it. I hold, therefore, that the Bill should provide for an affirmative resolution and that there should be the power and opportunity of amending the regulations. I end, as I began, by welcoming the Bill and congratulating the Minister on the measure of unanimity which he has achieved for it.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
A motor vehicle is far too dangerous a machine to be entrusted to a tired man, or a physically unfit man, or an underpaid man. Those who drive motor vehicles ought to be carefully selected, because they carry the lives of ordinary people in their hands. There are far more accidents on the road than there ought to be, and that is due to the short-sightedness of successive Governments who have adopted the fatuous policy of endeavouring to make the trans- 1634 port fit the roads, instead of making the roads fit the transport. All Governments have been equally guilty in that respect. They have all been subject to the sinister influence of the older forms of transport. There has been no endeavour to provide a proper road system, and I do not know whether we shall do as much benefit to the skilled drivers of motor vehicles by this Bill as we could do, if we provided them with splendid roads on which to drive.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) spoke of the innumerable regulations which an engine driver on the railway has to observe. But the engine driver's job is child's play compared with the driving of a heavy motor lorry. The engine driver has only to keep on the rails and he is all right, and he knows that there is little or no danger of goats of sheep, or dogs or hens, or cats or children straying on to the road on which he is driving. He is hedged in and protected. But the motor lorry driver has an infinitely more difficult job, and I should say that the nervous strain of driving a motor lorry or bus is tremendous. That is all because of the folly of successive Parliaments in neglecting to provide proper roads for motor transport. I should think that a man who does an eight-hour day driving on the roads at the present time must come out of it almost a physical wreck. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has probably been engaged in harder and tougher litigations than have fallen to my lot. He will agree that if you spend eight hours in court, especially in a jury trial where you have to watch every point closely, you will be a very exhausted man at the end of the day. The driver has to watch the other traffic all the time, and that must be a tremendous strain. When I see the number of lorries on the roads I am amazed to think that the casualties are not even more numerous than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield indicated, and the fact that they are not more numerous is an indication of the extraordinary skill of the drivers. How many casualties are avoided by their skill it is impossible to say.
The question of the C licence drivers raised by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) involves a 1635 very difficult point. Men usually keep their own lorries for their own haulage. It is not very expensive to-day to get one of the cheaper class of mass production lorries, and it is much handier for a man to have a lorry at his beck and call than to engage one every time he requires transport. Suppose a man only wants his lorry once or twice a week for his own goods, it will be a very difficult thing to adjust this matter, and one only hopes that the wages which he gets for his other work will bring him up to the required standard. It may be that a man is only hired casually for a particular job. The owner of the lorry may have it lying by and may telephone to his casual driver and ask him to drive his lorry for him and carry certain goods, because the saving in conveying goods by lorry, instead of by rail, is enormous.
The hon. Member for South Bradford also referred to the overwhelming burdens which have been placed upon the road transport industry. Indeed, I was surprised to hear the Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield refer to it as a developing industry, because every attempt is being made by Parliament to strangle it and further burdens are now being placed upon it. The circulation of goods and the general welfare of the people are being injuriously affected by all these regulations. It is as if in the case of the human body you were to apply tourniquets to stop the circulation of the blood. Tourniquets of all kinds are being put upon our road transport system and what is the result? Our villages are becoming depopulated; the population is gathering round the rail heads and the people in the country cannot get the supplies of goods which they ought to get. It is a policy which, I fear, has been followed by all Governments. None has been guiltless.
I hope that the result of this unification of labour conditions will be good for the industry. It will be a good thing if we get all the road transport men under this scheme, into one large unit. The difficulty in the past has been that there were so many small employers that it was impossible to get the men into one large union like that of the railway men. The result was that they had not the political power possessed by the railway men's union. Nor had they behind them a great mass of shareholders ready to 1636 get up and say, "Our capital is at stake. We must not be allowed to lose if we are threatened by some new invention. We must have it strangled by Parliament." I have always thought that a contemptible attitude, because the great feature of private enterprise is that it does things for profit. What right, then, has it to squeal if it loses? None of these big combinations appear to be willing to take the chance of a loss. They want it both ways. They are willing to take the profits, but are never willing to take the losses, if they can come to Parliament and get a means of avoiding them.
One of the advantages of the Bill, as I say, will be that it will get all these lorry men into one large organised unit. Their union will be larger and more politically powerful, and I am sure the reply of the employers will be themselves to organise and the result will be to bring the worst employer up to the standard of the best, for the benefit of all parties concerned. There is a vastly greater sum invested in motor transport than there is in railway transport and a far bigger number of men engaged in it, and if the power of all these interests is brought together, the result may be to relieve the stranglehold that has been put on the industry. When we do that, we may see great roads devoted to motor transport alone, as should have been the case from the beginning. If that had been done, we should never have had these frightful casualties. Far more people are killed and injured than in war, but they are taken one by one on the roads, and so you do not notice them, unless they happen to be your own people. I always say to my people, "Whenever you go out in the morning, the first thing that must enter your mind is that there is some fellow driving a car who will run you down if he possibly can, and you must be a spring-heeled Jack all the time if you want to escape him." If we had had a proper development of our road business, such as I hope will be materially helped by this Bill, we should have got rid of many of these dreadful casualties.
It is a sad reflection on democracy to think that the old aristocratic, undemocratic Parliaments of the 'thirties, when the railways were instituted, said, "We must preserve human lives and the lives of animals, and if you put these dreadful instruments on the countryside, we must at least protect the people from them." 1637 And they did so, and we had all these safety regulations, including fenced-in tracks, with the result that our railways to-day are conducted with an amount of safety that is almost unparalleled in any other part of the world. They are one of the safest forms of transport and are almost safer than going downstairs in your own house. Yet in our democratic Parliaments, with all the people having votes, we have permitted, for all these years, these dreadful slaughterings and annihilations, especially of little children, because I am told that the age of five is the most dangerous age in this respect. We have sat here in Parliament for all these years and done nothing definite to put an end to this sort of thing, and indeed we have accentuated it by refusing, in the interests of railway capital and of railway employés, the means of ensuring greater safety by having adequate roads to meet the needs of the people.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver
I would not like this opportunity to pass without saying a word or two in support of this Bill and adding my meed of appreciation of its introduction. As a general principle, I think there is a consensus of opinion that the Bill is extremely desirable, on the ground that it will endeavour to organise and bring about some form of order in an industry which is notoriously disorganised at the present time. For that reason, I am glad to see that there is to be a board vested with the power of establishing rates of remuneration for the haulage industry, and more particularly of fixing, not only the amount of pay, but the number of hours for which that pay shall be given. In addition to that, there are one or two other aspects of the duties of the Central Board which deserve commendation, and one of them is the question of remuneration for holidays. The Minister has rightly pointed out this Bill is the first to deal with that aspect of industrial life. It will be the duty of the National Board to consider also the health of the driver and his safety, and I think it is about time that that was the case, particularly in view of the comments which have just been made by the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) on the appalling death-rate and on the appalling injuries on the roads. Now that there is to be a board, one of whose duties will he the considera- 1638 tion of safety matters, I feel sure that they will bring an element of experience to bear on the measures which are essential to make our roads much safer in the future than they are at present.
The point which strikes me as the most difficulty one in this Bill relates to the C licences. The procedure with respect to A and B licences seems to be fairly simple, but with respect to C licences it would appear to be a very tortuous one, when one considers the enormous number of trades and industries covered by that category. As the Bill is now drafted, it would be possible for a person to lodge an objection to the Minister, and he, being satisfied that it is a bona fide claim, may refer it to the Industrial Court, which will come to a determination. Consider the enormous number of individuals who may make application to the Minister that their wages are inadequate or unfair, and consider the many hearings which must be held by the Industrial Court before the whole of the industry is covered.
I think it may be possible for a very important revision to be made with respect to C licences. Would it not be better to fix some system whereby employers who are not associated with any federation should be called upon in the first place to pay the wages peculiar to A and B licences? If that were laid down in the Bill, I feel certain that three-fourths of the difficulties of the C licensees would disappear almost at once, because if the employers were compelled to pay the wages paid by the holders of A and B licences, they would take the earliest possible opportunity of becoming associated with the federation to which their own particular industry entitled them to belong. That, I think, would short-circuit to an enormous extent the difficulties which otherwise, I feel certain, will arise when this Bill becomes an Act and the machinery of Part II becomes operative. I feel that that is a matter which can be discussed in Committee, but I hope we may have some indication, in the reply from the Government this evening, as to the probable line that the Amendments may take, because I am certain that Part II of the Bill will not only not meet the needs of the people whom it is intended to cover, but that it will not meet with the approval of the people who will be called upon to work it.
1639 There is one other point to which I would like to refer, and that relates to what I regard as the innovation in this Bill of exonerating an employer if he can show that a failure to carry out the Statute is not his failure but the failure of his agent. That appears to me to be rather an innovation in legislation of this character. Why should an employer be immune from a prosecution on the ground that he was not responsible but that his agent was responsible? Surely this is entirely a new feature.
§ Mr. E. Brown
That is not so. I would refer the hon. Member to the trade boards and the agricultural wages boards.
§ Mr. Oliver
May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this important fact, that under the Road Traffic Act many offences are committed for which the driver himself must be penalised along with the employer? It is no defence to the driver to say, "Oh, I am acting under the instructions of my employer, and therefore I have not committed the offence of my own volition; I am merely carrying out the instructions which I have received." Let us take also the compulsory insurance Sections of the Road Traffic Act. It is no answer for a driver to say, "I have been sent out with this vehicle although it is not insured. I did not know it was uninsured until the matter had been investigated." The driver cannot put up the plea that he knew nothing about it. Not only is he fined, but in some instances his driving licence is suspended for a period, although he was totally ignorant that the vehicle which he was driving was not insured. Therefore, I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter. Why should the employer escape and his agent be made the scapegoat? I feel that this is a very useful means of diverting responsibility, and I suggest that there should be an Amendment dealing with that question on the Committee stage.
I heard the Minister say that this is a new feature in our legislation, so far as fixing wages by Statute is concerned, and I notice that there is no mention in the Bill as to the length of time during which the Measure shall be operative. I feel that it is important to fix some period in the Bill, say, five or seven years, so that if the Measure should prove a failure and 1640 not meet with the approval of the workers or the employers in the industry, it would automatically come to an end. I think that might be a useful provision, because if it is highly satisfactory, there will be no question arising as to the future, but if it is unsatisfactory to one or other of the parties concerned, I think, as we are breaking new ground and do not know what the prospects are, whether it will be a popular or an unpopular Measure, it may be useful to insert some limit for its operation.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher
I wish to join with previous speakers who have congratulated my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on the production of this Measure, which I believe will do much to improve the conditions of road transport in this country. In particular, I believe that one of the most effective results will be that it will bring to the occupation of motor driving a rather better type of employé than has been available for some time past.
§ Mr. Butcher
I trust that it will attract a more desirable type of employé for a more desirable type of employer, and that is certainly the intention of my right hon. Friend. One of the disadvantages of motor transport in the past has been that the conditions of employment and the rates of pay have varied so much between employers and kinds of motor driving that the number of people entering and leaving this particular form of employment has been very large. Therefore people have not taken up the occupation of motor transport as a serious career, but rather as some odd-time job to be filled in while they have been looking for something else. Therefore also I approve the general principles behind the Bill.
I think my right hon. Friend will have some difficulty in dealing with class C licence holders, and I rather regret that he has not seen his way clear to drawing the distinction drawn by the Baillie Committee between the two classes of C licences, namely, those held by retail distributive firms purely for the distribution of their own goods in a limited area, and those held by people who may have large and heavy quantities of goods for conveyance for long distances, but who prefer to use C licence vehicles rather 1641 than employ A and B licence holders because of the privacy and also because they can have absolute control of their goods until they reach their customers. The suggestion put forward by the Baillie Committee of a trade board to deal with the retail C licence holders who largely consist of an entirely different type of people using vehicles under 15 cwts. or a ton shall be adopted; and there should be a distinction drawn between this class of vehicle and the men driving it and the heavy lorry which goes long distances from the manufacturer to the wholesaler.
Subject to that, the only other criticism I have to make is with regard to enforcement. As an employer I deprecate the setting up of a further body of inspectors. I feel that the number and variety of inspectors who can come to a factory are already too many and that the work of many of them could be co-ordinated with advantage. This inspection of wages and conditions of employment could easily be shared with the factory inspectors on the one hand and the examiners of records under the Road and Rail Traffic Act on the other. A new body of inspectors is, therefore, unnecessary. As this is an experimental measure to a large degree and one on which my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated, he might enable us to make our congratulations entirely wholehearted by charging the small amount which the operation of the Bill is likely to cost not against the industry, which has already had one heavy bill this year, but rather against the substantial sums already being derived from the motor transport industry.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Simpson
I do not want to re-traverse some of the detailed criticisms and suggestions that have been made with regard to this Measure. I want rather to join in the more or less general commendation which it has earned in all parts of the House. Even the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), who is sometimes rather a lonely apostle of private enterprise, has found it in his heart to approve the Measure generally. We rather appreciated his apprehensions, in regard to his railway comparison, that it might be the case that the central board would advance the wages of road operatives to a point beyond which the railway companies were paying. In that connection. fortunately, there is machinery already in existence that would soon re- 1642 pair any disparity of that kind, and it is a hopeful sign and symptom of the Measure that any change of that kind is likely to take place. The importance of this Measure is by no means restricted to the immediate interests of the workers for whom it provides. The Bill offers a contribution to the general health and efficiency of transport generally, and as transport is such a vital necessity in a highly developed community, that is a distinct advantage in itself.
For three-quarters of a century the railways were the primary, almost the exclusive transport service in this country apart from that provided by horse traction. With the arrival of the internal combustion engine we saw the advent of a new and rapidly developing alternative in the form of the road services. In the early stages of that competition there was certainly some dubiety, even antagonism, in some quarters, against this unexpected competitor, but we would agree that that attitude was as short sighted as it was anti-social, because, although the road services have been competitive in part, they have not superseded, but rather supplemented, the railway services. In so far as the conditions of employment are made comparative and other protecting legislation is provided, the arrival of this new form of transport is definitely a social advantage. It is true that in the early history of railway development the financial and other interests connected with that period, particularly in regard to labour conditions, were by no means creditable and it was soon discovered that public control, scrutiny, and protection from the more unscrupulous forms of promotion and management were essential in regard to both the interests of those who were working on the railways and those who were served by them.
When the road transport industry came into being fortunately, from that standpoint, many standards had already been set and general rates and conditions were already in existence with regard to transport employés. It was, I suppose, not unexpected that in this period of rapid and fiercely competitive transport development many undesirable, indeed, indefensible elements grew up. Those undesirable elements were not only unfortunate in themselves, but they were definitely prejudicial to the other transport standards and to the best interests of the community as a whole. I suppose 1643 it is true that there are no inventions or forms of progress that do not carry some counter disadvantage or evils if such are not checked and if the main features of the change are not brought into conformity with public interests. That seems to me to have been particularly the case in regard to the development of the road transport business. Fortunately, the unions catering for the transport workers have played a useful part in the protection and development of the industry up to the present time. Indeed, we recognise them to-day as an integral part of any well ordered industries.
Again, so far as the railways were concerned the unions made an important contribution to the safety and efficiency of the service and played a useful part in the public interest in addition to their favourable reactions on the conditions of the staff. Apart, again, from the material improvement in wages and hours, the fact that they secured some approximation to justice and fairness in their working conditions is also a considerable social advantage which we are glad to find is carried forward in the proposals we are considering this afternoon. The railway companies are directly interested, of course, in road operations in conjunction with their rail business, and in so far as that is the case they carry forward their trade union tradition of machinery covering that section of their employés. It is imperative that those conditions should be applied generally in order to put their competition on a fair basis and to make the best standards of employment generally operative. We therefore support this Measure. We give it a welcome and hope that some of the difficulties already mentioned will be successfully overcome when they have been considered by the Minister.
I would offer only one criticism. Apart from the specific provisions in the Bill for the employés for whom it provides, the general argument and implication of the Bill are that other sections of employés not specifically dealt with are provided for by way of negotiating machinery or some other method. It is rather ironical that in the case of one of the big road transport undertakings owned, I think, largely by one of the railway companies, the clerical and supervisory sections of their staff have not the provisions 1644 equivalent to those which are now proposed in the Bill for the other sections of operatives. That is an anomaly, especially in view of the fact that the railway companies, in giving evidence before the Baillie Committee, definitely claimed as part of their argument in favour of this Measure that they have provided that machinery and standard conditions for the whole of their employés. They said:The railways claim that no industry possesses a machinery of negotiation more comprehensive or more effective than that described which covers every member of the railway companies' road parcels and cartage staff.That statement is important and represents a state of affairs where negotiating machinery is provided for every section of the staff. That is the case broadly speaking, but it is unfortunate that in connection with one big company which is covered by this Bill it is not in other respects conforming to the spirit and essence of that statement and has not given the trade unions the recognition which is so vital to the clerical and supervisory sections of the staff. I hope that the Minister will ensure that in conformity with the general spirit of this Measure he will see that the clerical and supervisory staffs, whose interests are as important as that of other sections of employés in road transport, are covered in this respect, and that the difficulties which have previously existed between the railway trades unions and the management of these firms—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Gentleman is now going far beyond the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Simpson
I bow to your Ruling, but the fact is that the references which I have made were included in the evidence submitted to the Baillie tribunal. I will not pursue the matter beyond the references I have made, but I trust that the Minister will consider this matter in conjunction with the Measure, which otherwise we wholeheartedly approve.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
The reception which this Bill has received in the House must be a little embarrassing to the Minister of Labour. Most of the matters he brings here are of such a highly controversial character that he must wonder whether he is dreaming or not. This Bill 1645 will undoubtedly do a good thing for the road transport industry. While I join with my colleagues in all parts of the House in giving a welcome to it we must not lose sight of the reasons that made it essential for it to be brought in at all. I have been connected with the transport industry, and this section of it in particular, since 1911. I have seen this industry evolve from horse to mechanical transport. I was present, I believe, when the first agreement was made in 1911, when the hours were to be 72 a week and the wages 27s. In 1919 we were successful in setting up national machinery for the industry, but owing to the type of employers who were parties to it at that time —I do not embrace all of them in that statement—that machinery broke down, and for years the employés were in the economic wilderness.
The Minister said that for eight years we had been dealing with hours in this industry and for four years with wages, in the case of certain sections, but the whole point is that the hours agreed upon have never been observed. One can meet almost hourly, at any terminal point, drivers who will tell you that their job is of such a character that the hours are not observed at all. Every I form of duress has been brought to bear upon workers to falsify records. There is the system of the men not ringing-in on the time-clock in the yard—if there is one—until such time as they have done all that is necessary to get the lorry ready for service and loaded. They start the record from that moment. It is a breach of the law. The law lays down definitely that the time worked on a vehicle includes all loading and waiting. Although those provisions were brought in as a public safety measure employers in general, the good ones being forced by the bad employers, have been dishonouring the Act of 193o and the amending Act of 1933.
With regard to wages, the Fair Wages Clause has certainly not been implemented even by the organised employers. We have tens of thousands of workers organised in the union I represent, and the employers who sit on committees, national and area, and have agreed to the wages and conditions laid down, immediately circularise their members that they are not bound to pay 1646 these wages or meet the conditions or in any way implement the agreements. Therefore, while we agree that it has been a good thing to bring in this Bill, we must point out that the conditions made it absolutely essential that some such action should be taken.
When speaking of Part II of the Bill the Minister said the C licence that was to be adopted would follow the system of trade boards, agreements with statutory bodies and voluntary agreements. He mentioned gas undertakings and what I may call corporate bodies within the transport industry. He said that, among other things which the board would have to do would be to look to the general level of wages among other employers—not necessarily the central board's agreement on wages and not necessarily the sates of wages agreed to for people employed in transport by various other bodies but that certain other industries might be brought in. So the level of wages may be based upon those in an industry which is not road haulage. The effect of that will be that we shall get people employed in transport who, though working under identical regulations, are getting different wages because they are working for different employers. There can be no real uniformity if that is to be the result of the Minister's effort.
One thing which I regret is that the Bill does not deal with rest houses on the roads. I think the Minister could have found time for it if he had thought of it. The rest houses, like the lorries, should be licensed, to ensure that they are at least decent, respectable, sanitary places in which men can stay. It is no use the union laying down conditions of subsistence for people away from home at night if conditions on the road make it impossible for them to get decent and respectable lodgings. An hon. Member for one of the Bradford Divisions asked why the area boards should not be the initiating bodies in matters of wages. I think it will be agreed by all acquainted with the subject that the whole trouble in regard to wages has arisen from the fact that area boards have in the past initiated wage conditions, taking the view that the Central Board had no authority. The Acts of 1930 and 1933 met with no measure of acceptance by the employers. When a new area board was set up the 1647 Minister wrote a letter in which he said that it was being createdin the hope that the board when constituted would find itself able to reach determinations of wages and hours which will generally be accepted in the industry and will form a basis for the administration of Section 32 of the Act of 1933.Everybody knows that that hope has not been fulfilled. I was one of those whom a misguided electorate failed to return to Parliament in 1931, but I had something to do with the Act of 1933 in the Committee stage. I told the then Minister of Labour that unless he faced the wages question in connection with C licences we should be back in this House dealing with the matter, because there would be no order or unity in the industry. Now, four or five years afterwards, we have another Minister of Labour who, accepting the advice of the representatives of the workpeople and of the best employers, and of the Baillie Committee, has brought this Bill to the House.
I have raised with the Minister the fact that the machinery under the road-rail measure has never been effectively used. I asked to be informed of the number of examiners appointed. The number of workpeople is approximately 600,000 and I believe there are fewer than 400 examiners. It is no use introducing Acts of Parliament for the regulation of industry unless sufficient people are appointed to see that those Acts are observed. Under the trade board system there are inspectors and under the road-rail legislation there are examiners, and I have wondered whether those two bodies of officials could not be amalgamated and employed to see that the proper records are kept in connection with road haulage and that the wages which have been agreed to are really paid. In the Commissioner's Report one reads of almost hundreds of cases in which proper wages have not been paid, and yet according to the Baillie Report only two cases concerning wages have been brought before the courts, and no licence has ever been suspended or revoked. I hope the Minister will tell us that it is his determination to see that present conditions are changed and that more effective machinery for the enforcement of agreements is introduced.
Hon. Members have rather cast aside the point about competition between the 1648 holders of C licences and the holders of A and B licences, but there is no question that that competition exists. I have in my hand correspondence from Derbyshire, where there is no restriction on obtaining a C licence. A firm state that previously they had done all the haulage for the quarry people there, and that they had tried to meet all their obligations as holders of A and B licences, but that they are being put out of business because the quarry people have joined in the purchase of a number of lorries which they are running under C licences, with wages and conditions such as bear no reasonable comparison with those imposed upon A and B licence holders. I am sure the Minister will agree that the systems of payment which are in existence are entirely wrong. There is payment by mileage, payment for full mileage and payment for empty mileage, payment per trip and payment per number of trips. All these conditions are an incitement to the men to exceed the speed limit and to break regulations, and if a man fails he is a loser the whole way through, because he loses his licence and his job. I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in asking the Minister not to make up his mind definitely that the machinery under Clause 4 provides the right method. There are about 128,000 C licence holders, or authorised vehicles.
§ Mr. Smith
But 60,000 of those are already in some form of organisation, with some sort of working conditions, and that leaves 128,000 who are not directly organised and whom it would be very difficult to deal with. The waiting list will almost correspond to the waiting list for the Divorce Court. Could not the Minister say that unless it can be proved that the wages paid, the hours worked and the general conditions of service are comparable with those agreed to by the Central Board they will be dealt with in a summary way, instead of being brought, every Tom, Dick and Harry of them, before the industrial court? If there is a will to enforce proper conditions of service there is the power in this House.
The hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) raised the question of agents being responsible and not the proprietor or the employer direct. I notice that the Minister stated that this is trade board 1649 custom. While that may be true, I would point out to him that the difference lies in the fact that in road transport there is nothing comparable to the ordinary factory conditions which have to exist under the trade boards. It is possible for the employer to put up an agent who will take the responsibility, and who may be found some measure of compensation or some job by the employer, provided he saves the licence, which would probably be suspended if the employer were made liable for the acts of his servants. There is the real difference.
I have a case here relating to Messrs. Reid and Company—this case appeared in the "South Wales Argus "—and it meets all the claims that we make that the employer, and not his agent, should be responsible. The driver left his employment in consequence of a dispute, and then he reported it to the Commissioner. I would observe that the driver who does that sort of thing starts off with a bad book, because when he gets to the court whoever is defending the employer says, "This is malicious." The driver was asked whether he would have handed his records to the Commissioner if he had not been dismissed. He replied: "Fancy ones would have been handed in." He maintained that the drivers were expected to cook their records. O'Sullivan, who would be the agent of Reid and Company, said, regarding the driver: "We reported him to the Traffic Commissioners for using threats and one thing and another before he reported us." The solicitor for the defence argued that the summonses must fail because of the word "cause." There was no evidence, he said, that the driver was caused to make or to commit an offence, that is, to drive excessive hours. O'Sullivan, the agent, said that there was no reason for the driver to break the regulations, and O'Sullivan's manager stated that during O'Sullivan's absence he had rung up a shareholder of Reid and Company, and the shareholder had told him to see that the driver obtained his legal rest, and he was instructed accordingly. Here is the whole gamut—agent, employer and shareholder. The employer was convicted for compelling the driver to work longer hours than he was required to do by law. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to close his mind to possible amendment in Committee that will make the employer liable on such an occasion, irrespective of whether the methods 1650 adopted under the Trade Boards Act have been efficient, so far as factory organisation is concerned.
One or two Amendments will be proposed in Committee and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, with whom everybody is joining, praising him, as it were, for bringing this Bill before the House, will consider them sympathetically. We shall try to make the Bill workable, and I hope that we shall carry that spirit from the Floor of the House into the Committee room. We are trying to achieve a unity, to establish for the first time in this industry reasonable conditions, and to eliminate the general Cinderella attitude that applies to transport as a whole. I often wonder whether hon. Members really understand the conditions under which some of our men work. The men acting under economic duress often bring out upon the road inefficient vehicles that are unworthy to be there and that are grossly overloaded. That is an aspect of the problem at which the Minister might look. Those drivers are subject to all the rules of the road and to the police regulations and are often compelled by the length of the journey and the time at which they begin it to exceed the statutory speed limits, often in fog and, during the winter, on icy roads. These are not ordinary men; they are marvellous to achieve the things that they do. If this House will recognise, as apparently we are going to, the fact that these men are worthy of consideration and support, we, when the Bill goes into Committee, will do our best to make the Measure workable and efficient.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
The praise which the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith) has generously given to the Bill is particularly welcome, because everybody in the House knows of his work for the transport workers in this country. I can assure him that the fears which he has expressed about the possible immunity of employers who manage to overload responsibility on to an agent, which fears have been expressed by other Members of the House, will be carefully examined and sympathetically considered. I ought to point out one or two points which may have escaped the attention of hon. Members who have made reference to 1651 this possibility. As my right hon. Friend said, the practice under the Trade Boards Act has worked well in these cases—and in agricultural wages regulation—and it is unlikely that it would not work well in similar cases under the Bill. None the less, the point made by the hon. Member will be considered. I would point out also that the immunity would arise only if the agent had been actually convicted. Both the employer and the agent would be prosecuted, and if the agent had been convicted, and if the employer could prove to the satisfaction of the court that he used due diligence to see that the proper remuneration was paid and that the undertaking by his agent was without his own consent and connivance, he would not also be convicted for an offence of which he had not known and when his agent, who had been responsible, had already been convicted.
Reference was made by the hon. Member to the ready acceptance of these proposals by those on whose behalf he is qualified to speak. It is a matter of very great satisfaction to my right hon. Friend and to the Government that the Bill commands such a universal measure of informed agreement. It is a matter of congratulation, not only to those officers of the Ministry, who, through many intricate and difficult negotiations, have managed to succeed in introducing an almost agreed Bill, but also to those interests which have collaborated, employers' and workers' organisations, in pooling their experiences and making recommendations. Not least, the gratitude of this House is due to Sir James Baillie and to the other two gentlemen who served on his committee, for their remarkable and illuminating report which has formed the foundation of this legislation.
I should like very briefly to deal with one or two of the points that have been raised. Where they would more properly be considered on the Committee stage there will be an opportunity then for further and more detailed comment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who spoke first after m37 right hon. Friend, made a suggestion, but did not develop it very closely, that all workers and licensees should he treated alike, 1652 whether they hold A, B or C licences. I take it that the House knows the extreme difficulty that would arise if similar treatment were extended to the A, B and C licensees. The A and B licence involves people who are engaged in transport as a business and as an end in itself. The C licence holder is essentially an ancillary user of motor goods vehicles, and the transport of goods in his case forms part of that very industry or business which it subserves. For the C licence workers it is essential that the prosperity of the industry as a whole should be taken into account in fixing the wages of a driver.
A different approach is inevitable in considering the position of workers under C licences. Their problem must be approached from the point of view of the various industries in which their employers are engaged. The Government, with full conviction, are including C licence workers within the ambit of the Bill. They do not intend, nor did the Baillie Committee recommend, that similar treatment should be accorded to the A, B and C licensees. They are satisfied that the provisions in regard to fair wages, with their very considerable powers of enforcement, will go far—we hope the whole way—to secure that the C workers engaged in this most important side of the industry shall receive fair remuneration. We are satisfied that the difficulties which have confronted the working of the Fair Wages Regulation in the past will be substantially overcome by the provisions of the Bill.
Both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield and the hon. Member for Rotherhithe referred to what they called the large and voluminous army of C licence owners whose cases are bound to be brought before the Industrial Court. I do not expect that any such result will ensue. We believe that a very speedy result of this legislation will be a substantial growth of the number of agreements that will be made before any machinery involving penalties will need to be invoked. I cannot imagine an employer, faced with the possibility of being obliged to saddle himself for three years with the obligation to pay certain wages and with all the penalties that attach to nonconformity, preferring to delay making some arrangement. If he makes his own voluntary agreement at 1653 once and it is a fair agreement, he would obviously be in a preferential condition. Both Members rather overlooked the fact that the local conciliation officers of the Ministry will be available as they have been in the past, but now with increased opportunities of useful service, to bring about conciliatory results which will make recourse to the Industrial Court unnecessary.
An interesting observation was made by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), and I would like briefly to deal with it. He suggested that it would be preferable if the initiative could have rested with the area board rather than with the Central Board as envisaged in this scheme. That suggestion, as the hon. Member no doubt knows, was fully considered by the Baillie Committee. A number of employers urged it strenuously at the early meetings of the committee, but a little examination was enough to show the profound difficulty that would attach to such a solution. I think it true to say that before long some of those who had most strenuously advocated it saw that the difficulties were overwhelming. As the hon. Member knows, the Baillie Committee did not recommend it, but recommended what the Government have accepted, that the initiative should rest with the Central Board. I need sketch only very briefly the sort of difficulty that would arise. Goods vehicles are very mobile. No boundaries operate and the business is highly competitive, not only locally, but nationally. As the hon. Member for Rothcrhithe showed, people who have had experience of the life of transport and other workers, can conceive some of the difficulties that would arise if the initiative were left with the area board.
The hon. Member mentioned the case of Scotland, and gave the impression that he thought it fair to suggest that, because Scotland was being given the right, through its Area Board, to initiate proposals, a similar right should be extended to the area boards in England and Wales. He will recollect, however, that Scotland for the last two years has had its own separate Scottish Conciliation Board, and, indeed, the capacity for collective bargaining that has been shown in Scotland between employers and workers, and for organisation almost purely confined to Scotland, has been such that we feel that it can safely be left to Scotland to initiate proposals which have application to that 1654 area, subject, of course, to the fact that the Central Board will be the deciding authority. The hon. Member also suggested that it would have been better if there had been a provision in the Bill for inequality of numbers on the area boards, and he hinted that the continual deadlock that might arise would prevent the felicitous working of this machinery. It might be that, if the area boards had the initiating power, it would have been advisable to have independent members whose decision might enable a majority decision to be reached, but we feel that, as the area boards have no such power, it is better that the Central Board and the Minister should know exactly what the representatives on the area boards feel, even if they are in disagreement with one another, rather than that a valueless illusion of agreement should be given.
The hon. Member also made reference to the case of the small man, and I take it that he was referring in particular to the provision in the Bill which says that, in fixing representation, regard shall be paid to the number of vehicles. I think everyone in the House will agree that the small men have a right which it must be the intention of the Legislature to preserve, more particularly because their size frequently makes them less able to defend themselves. I can assure the hon. Member that we have every intention that the interests of the small people shall be protected. I think that what he had in mind more particularly was that if there were in an area, say, 10,000 A licences and 1,000 B licences, obviously that proportion would have to be borne in mind in arriving at adequate representation. The hon. Member referred to the railway workers, and expressed the hope, which I think has been expressed from another quarter of the House, that the railway worker would by Statute be protected against getting wages less than this Bill will secure for road transport workers. I take it that he realises that the union concerned, the National Union of Railwaymen, has no desire that there should be interference with that railway machinery of negotiation which has worked so happily in the past; and I also hope he realises, as I am sure he does, because no doubt he has studied the Bill with care, that, if some such provision as he suggested were included in the Bill, the railways would surely have the right to be represented on the Central Board 1655 which would fix wages—a result which, I think, no members of the transport industry particularly desire.
The hon. Member also made a reference to the possibility that, if a worker under a C licence was employed for part of his time as a driver and for the remainder of his time in some other capacity, his employer might give him a substantial part of his weekly wages by contract in return for what he did as a road haulier, and then pay him some very small, trifling sum, or perhaps even nothing at all, for his non-road haulage work. In practice, of course, such a contract is very unlikely to be made. I cannot conceive that any worker would willingly accept such a division of the reward, nor would public opinion in this country approve of any arrangement under which the worker could be paid nothing for work in his non-haulage capacity. If no particular proportion is fixed in the contract, the result will be somewhat as follows: Assuming that a worker did two-thirds of his work on road haulage and one-third on non-road haulage work, and was paid, for example, £3 a week, then it would be assumed that he was paid £2 of that £3 for his road haulage work, and this would be judged according to the general machinery of the Bill. The next two points made by the hon. Member can, I think, be fairly easily disposed of. He suggested that £25,000 was a large sum of money to spend on this new machinery; but, bearing in mind the fact that it will affect the whole of the quarter of a million road haulage operators, I am sure that on reflection he will not repeat that suggestion.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I did not suggest for a moment that it was a large sum, but I suggested that it should not be added to the heavy burden which the road hauliers are now bearing.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the hon. Member reads the explanatory memorandum to the Bill, he will see that it will be taken into account. The last point that he made had reference to the actual procedure whereby these regulations are con-finned. Earlier in his observations he expressed the hope that it would be possible to institute some changes in the general machinery of the Bill whereby expedition could be secured. But, if he 1656 desires that there should be an opportunity for a full Second Reading and Committee discussion on every regulation, such as a different procedure would probably involve, I am sure he will agree with me that conclusions would be reached at a far slower speed than under the present procedure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Butcher) also made a very interesting contribution to the Debate. He expressed some disappointment because he felt that the conditions which the Baillie Report recommended for C operatives were not embraced in the Bill. My hon. Friend will, I think, be aware that negotiations are now going on between the Ministry and various interests in the retail distributive trades, and, if those negotiations reach a satisfactory conclusion, the workers in those trades will be automatically excluded from the provisions of the Bill. The same, of course, would apply to those people who now or in the future are covered by trade board or other agreements. It is felt that it would be undesirable, and my right hon. Friend will be ready during the Committee stage to develop this argument further, to exclude those people from the provisions of the Bill at this stage, and we are satisfied that, in the provisions which are included in Part II of the Bill, we are putting forward proposals which are most likely to secure justice to those workers whose employers hold C licences.
In conclusion, I commend the Bill to the House because I believe that it will bring about a measure of justice to a large number of people engaged in this very important trade; that it will bring about improved conditions for those employers who have been trying to work satisfactory wage agreements and have found themselves subjected to competition from others who were not so inclined; and that it will also—and this will be of interest to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), who spoke earlier—make a substantial contribution to safety on the roads. The need for co-ordination of transport as a whole is universally recognised. That this Bill is a necessary step towards that result was, I think, in the minds of the Royal Commission on Transport, and certainly it was in the minds of the Salter 1657 Conference when they held that coordination of transport needed a fair basis of competition. There can be no fair basis of competition if unfair wages are being paid, and this Bill, in so far as it will secure fair wages, fulfils that need. It is not the view of the Government, nor is it, I believe, the view of the majority of Members of this House, that competition is undesirable, but I believe we are all agreed that competition on a basis of unfair wages is very unsatisfactory, and, because the Bill will do much to remove that unsatisfactory condition, I ask the House to give it a Second Reading.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Grimston.]