§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I welcome this opportunity of giving a review of the work of the Factory Department of my Ministry. The Factory Department was one of the earliest of our social services. It is right to say, I think, that it was introduced as the first big corrective to check the evils of the Industrial Revolution. It was given the tremendous task of dealing with child labour and the regulation of hours for women and young persons, and also to carry on a great educational work for the safety of the people in the industrial sphere. I think no Department of State has a better record of work for well over a century than this Department can claim. It has made a great contribution to the health of our industrial population, but perhaps one of its greatest contributions is that, as a result of the policing of industry, it has helped to increase the efficiency of production during those years. Like so many other things, it was opposed because, we were told, it would ruin industry, but it is rather striking that every piece of industrial legislation that has ever been carried into law by the House, whether it was factory legislation, trade boards, or any kind of legislation of that character, instead of ruining industry, has really promoted industrial efficiency.
The Factory Department developed a tradition which was twofold and which, I think, in the general administration of our industrial legislation, has set a standard in dealing with these problems the like of which' does not exist in any other country. It can be described as persuasion with sanctions in the background. This has resulted in giving flexibility for innovations and opportunities for change that one cannot always embody either in regulations or in law.
The Factory Department, and its administration, was transferred from the Home Office to the Ministry of Labour and National Service in June, 1940. The transfer took place in order to facilitate the development of the wider schemes for the welfare of the workers during the war in the widest possible sense. This transfer assisted in securing co-ordination and co-operation inside the factory with the outside necessities as well. It was obvious that there would be many problems 51 of an industrial character, not entirely new, but certainly more comprehensive, that would have to be dealt with as the war proceeded.
We could not separate this question of factory inspection and welfare from the wider issues which had to be dealt with in the mobilisation and use of our manpower generally. The transfer, therefore, gave to the Ministry of Labour, in its development of the other schemes associated with the mobilisation of manpower, valuable experience, long tradition, great knowledge of the factories in the country and contacts which served a double purpose. It was necessary for me to appoint a great many new people, men and women, to act as inspectors in other spheres such as labour supply, concerned with the efficient use of man-power, transference and the handling of many other problems of that character. The contacts, the knowledge and the experience which the factory inspectorate and its administration were able to bring to bear, in conjunction with our Industrial Relations Department, facilitated the introduction of the methods adopted by this new and wider inspectorate.
Therefore, in the first instance, its great value was that it gave us a broader foundation on which to build, and at the same time placed valuable and long experience readily at our disposal. The main problem which we had to visualise at that time was that of dealing with the difficulties arising from the tremendous movement of workers from their home districts to other districts. Nothing on the same scale had existed in any previous war. The coming of air power caused factories to be built in a variety of places which were without domestic arrangements; the housing and other problems which had to be faced were more manifold than any which had existed hitherto. The second problem which we had to face was that of the enormous physical strain which was bound to arise out of war conditions. This was not easy to deal with, because in this war we had to face the special circumstances arising out of blitz conditions which, I assure the Committee created physical difficulties, particularly among our womenfolk, such as no one could have foreseen. These difficulties "ere of a character which required to be handled with very great care. War strain 52 took forms which, if not dealt with sympathetically and by the application with care of the right methods, might have resulted in serious illnesses and the retarding of production. I am happy to say that notwithstanding the blitzing of homes as well as factories, the health of the population has stood up to the strain very well.
It must always be remembered that in time of war you immediately take out of your population the strongest and most virile elements for fighting purposes. When you turn to deal with the population which is left in industry or which is added to industry in these circumstances, you find that you have not quite the same physical calibre as that which normally exists, and the longer the war goes on, the smaller becomes the "feed" into industry of young and virile men owing to the demands for the Fighting Services. Thus, in addition to the special problems affecting our women, we recognised early that if this war lasted a number of years production would have to be carried on by the older generation because of the size of the Armed Forces which we would be compelled to develop. That threw upon us the necessity of making new approaches to the problem. We felt as a Government that one of the first things we had to do was to assume greater responsibility for the welfare of the worker, not only inside but outside the factory. We did, however, lay down a principle which has worked extremely well. I emphasised to employers and trade unions at the time the need to remember that the worker inside the factory is a. different person from the worker outside the factory; that we must not have a kind of industrial feudalism growing up in war, under which firms would take the responsibility of looking after their people even when they had left the factories. A person will accept discipline inside the factory, but immediately he is outside the door he becomes a free citizen. Therefore, it is necessary to have a different organisation to deal with him after he leaves the factory gate. It was possible, thanks to the collaboration of this very fine staff to which I have referred, with its long experience, to assist and direct, without merging, the new welfare organisation which I found it necessary to establish outside as well as inside the factory.
53 The next thing in regard to which we deemed it necessary to change a long-continued policy which had been followed by successive Governments was this: It had been the practice not to interfere in disputes until the parties had failed to reach agreement. But you could not afford to follow that practice in a war. Indeed I do not know that you can afford it in peace-time either, if you are to have peace in industrial relations. Therefore, a very close association was established between the Factory Department and the Industrial Relations Department. I take the view, which I am sure the Committee will endorse, that the best way to get good industrial relations is to remove grievances at the source and not allow them to drag on until they become almost insoluble. Many of the things regarding which disputes take place in industry are questions not of wages but of irritating conditions. Men will stand these for a certain time. Very often the public grow alarmed and ask why did a certain dispute take place on such a paltry issue. The paltry issue may be very stupid, but in 99 cases out of 100, it is only the culminating point in a variety of things which could have been attended to earlier if the facts had been known. It may be ill-health, it may be lack of food, it may be any one of a number of things which produces the irritation. Therefore, another of the steps which we took was to bring the Factory Department into close association and make it a contributory part in the promotion of good industrial relations.
There is one body of people with whom factory inspectors have to deal very closely—works managers. I know of no more harassed persons in this war than works managers. A works manager has a terrible responsibility. He has to keep production going, and as a rule he has to be a good engineer, a good psychologist and a variety of other things. He is not always blessed with the most intelligent of directorates. He has a tremendous responsibility thrown upon him, and he is harassed daily by all those magnificent orders which, to the amusement of hon. Members, are read out in the House from time to time. The works manager deserves more recognition than he has yet received. How much this country owes to him in this war, and how much we all owe to the mines manager and the works manager for over- 54 coming problems which no Government Department could have foreseen, and which no scientist or technician could have foreseen. Happily, there is a very close understanding between the factory Department and works managers. There is much in common between them, because to a very large extent they are trained from the same personnel, and, therefore, understand not only each other's problems but each other's approach to the problems. This has been a great help in these difficult times in regard to the responsiveness of managements throughout the country. I made a joke about works managers not always being blessed with the best directorates. I always draw the distinction, and I think industry will have to face it in the future, between what I have called the working directorates who understand the actual operations of the job, and I put these working directorates in the same category as works managers. These two, with our Industrial Relations Department and with the Factory Department, have been able to overcome many difficulties.
The next big thing which was thrown on the Department was the question of communal feeding. We had foreseen the necessity of establishing communal feeding, whatever the prejudices might be, Prejudices are not always on one side, because conservatism is very strong among the workpeople as well as among managements of industry. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary explained it in this way, when he said that the reason why canteens did not take on so well in the North as in the South was because in Lancashire and Yorkshire they could not get used to having a Sunday dinner every day Whether that is true or not, I do not know, but my hon. Friend knows more about it than I do. We foresaw that one of the greatest things for us to do in the case of being attacked was to make available well-cooked food, and, where necessary, to have feeding arrangements in the works so that if homes were blitzed in a particular district we could temporarily assist in feeding women and children. The great danger in a sustained attack on a port or a town was that the population would scatter and much time be lost in getting them back again into full production.
55 Perhaps I may make a digression here. I do not think I am giving away any secret if I tell hon. Members of the experience we had in Coventry. When the fierce attack took place on that town we calculated that it would take us several weeks to get the show going again—at least, that was the anticipated calculation if these towns were attacked. When the attack took place roughly 80,000 people were working in that district. Notwithstanding the destruction, it took only 14 days to get 77,000 back at work, and I think that is a remarkable tribute to the people of this country. The same thing can be said of Liverpool Docks. After eight nights of blitz had passed, with the co-operation of all the Departments the thing was got working so quickly that every shift was working in about three days after the attack ceased. The establishment of communal feeding was of great assistance to us, and later in my statement I will give hon. Members some figures.
One of the steps taken in connection with the transfer of the" administration of the Factories Acts to the Ministry of Labour was the establishment of the Factory and Welfare Board. We tried to the best of our ability to bring into association representatives of the employers and the trade unions together with people of experience. While it is true that it is called an advisory body, it has been a good deal more than that. It receives regular reports covering the whole field and acts as a focal point in the development of policy. I do not remember having had to reject a single recommendation which has been made. They have gone into matters with very great care in conjunction with the officials, the Industrial Research Board, the Trades Union Congress, the employers and a number of others interested in this class of work. What has assisted us so much is that when we have had to make orders or give instructions we have been able to avoid loss of time and act quickly in dealing with the problem. I regard this procedure as a safeguard against the rigid bureaucratic methods. It gives industry and public service a proper place in this branch of administration, and I hope that a board of this character will remain a permanent feature to enable us to get over the changes and difficulties which will arise in our industrial system in the vexed 56 and difficult times which lie ahead. In its early days I presided over this body, but my work got so heavy that I could not continue to be chairman. It has been a great advantage to me to have my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who has had a lot of experience in this work, to guide and help the Committee as my deputy.
In association with this Board, there is another board which strictly speaking does not deal with factories, and that is the Seamen's Welfare Board. We adopted the Geneva Convention, and we are establishing proper arrangements for seamen in all ports, not only in this country but overseas. They deserve it. This part of our work has now become permanent. It is not a temporary war development, and I am happy to say that the arrangement which has been made with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, for the use of the Consular Service in different parts of the world will contribute materially in ensuring that seamen will be dealt with better in the future. It will become part of their functions, as agents for the Seamen's Welfare Board, to look after seamen oversea, and I think that is a very wise and good development.
Of course, one of the main functions of the Factory Department is that of prevention of injury and bad health. I regret that the accident rate, as I think must have been inevitable, has to some extent increased, owing to the very large recruitment of inexperienced workers who have been poured into the factories at such a rapid rate. There has, too, been an expansion of more dangerous industries, but we have given close and continuous attention to all problems of skin disease, or anything arising out of the war, and I am glad to report that all things considered the percentage rate is low, almost below the normal. Every device that can be thought of to reduce the incidence of disease, and the removal of workers who are prone to it immediately to other occupations, has tended to keep it under check and control. Sick bays in hostels for immediate and separate treatment have been a very great help. Another big contributory cause to the increase of accidents is, of course, the tremendously increased pressure on supervisory staffs in this terrible drive, right down through industry, to get output. You have to be in it really to understand what it means. 57 The foreman and the charge hand and everyone has been harassed day in and day out, and that has made their task difficult in watching new people coming into industry. There are also the longer hours of work, with which we are dealing at present.
There is, too, always a greater tendency to take risks in war-time. It is rather ironical to run "safety first" propaganda in war-time. It is a little incongruous. On the other hand, the constant incitement of propaganda for a variety of things leads people to take undue risks, and so accidents increase. We have, however, run a consistent and persistent campaign, in co-operation with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, during the last few years. We have used the factory inspectorate, and we have maintained safeguards and tried to educate the people not to take unnecessary risks. I should like to see more attention paid to this issue by the joint production committees and works committees which have been established. One of the greatest hindrances and delays to good production is accidents. They produce some of the greatest losses, and, instead of looking at their work in a narrow and limited sense, these joint bodies can render great service in industry by educating the people in accident prevention. You cannot by the best devices in the world draft regulations to cover everything. The great thing is to teach your people how to act in order to safeguard their life and limb.
I should say the same thing about feeding. All these canteens have been established, and I lament the fact that sufficient interest does not always appear to be taken by the workpeople and the managements in running them. Do they want them to be permanent? I do. I believe that good, scientific feeding is one contribution to the health of our people and the avoidance of domestic trouble. I hope we shall not do as we did after the last war and just let it go into decay. From the point of view of the management of industry it is a great economy. People have often asked me whether the Treasury allow this or that off the Income Tax. Every modem firm which has adopted these arrangements has told me it has paid them over and over again. If they are well run and managed, it is a great break from toil. The use of the 58 canteen is not limited purely to feeding. I am very glad to have had the opportunity of introducing such things as workers' playtime, E.N.S.A. concerts and a variety of other things into the factories. We do not want to be too miserable.
I remember an old employer for whom I worked who passed his business on to his son. The son, who had come down from Oxford, thought he would be a great disciplinarian and stopped the women singing. The firm nearly went bankrupt. The work did not go on at all. The old chap came back and restored the singing, and things went much better. I went to a factory not long ago when the women were working on the night shift" and the whole place was ringing with song at midnight. It was one of the best nights I have had, and I have heard other things besides songs at 12 o'clock at night since I have been in the Government. The Factories Acts, of course, still place, and must continue to place, responsibility for safety upon the managers, but at the same time I think co-operation oh this basis, for feeding, education and the safety and health of our people, is a thing that both parties ought to be associated with and to help.
In January, 1941, the number of factories engaged on Government work and employing more than 250 people which had canteens was 1,650. In April, 1942, the number was 3,540. In addition, 803 canteens were in course of being established. This means that canteens have been or were being provided at 96 per cent. of such factories. These numbers do not include mess rooms only. The number of smaller factories with canteens was 3,000, and where it was impossible to put in a canteen we have, in association with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food developed British restaurants in suitable places for groups of smaller factories. When handled properly that system, even after the war, might be used to contribute much to the health of our people.
Another branch of the work we have developed and intensified during the last two years is that concerned with the medical supervision and nursing services in the factory. A good many employers looked with great disfavour on the introduction of the works doctor, but I think that nearly all those who have introduced-doctors will now admit that it was a wise 59 step to take. There have been these tremendous transfers of population and the bringing in of new people. Absenteeism in the factories has been reduced owing to the fact that a doctor and nurse are on the job. Very often if men or girls were away from home and fell ill, and if they had to go back to an uncomfortable billet and find a doctor somewhere in a strange town, it might mean the loss of a week or month's work owing to illness. The co-operation between the works doctor and the general practitioner has, shortened illness enormously and in cases of accident it has meant quick attention. The works doctors are most valuable in organising the first-aid arrangements throughout the works and keeping them efficient. They are also able to look after workers who are exposed to special risks, and they have performed a great educational service which has supplemented our own work in that direction, They have been particularly valuable in attending to the special problems affecting juveniles and women and their co-operation with the private doctors and local health services has made the general service more readily available.
As an illustration, suppose a person is working on a dangerous or poisonous commodity for war purposes, it is useful for the local practitioner to be able to consult the works doctor to know exactly what the person was doing. It is difficult for a person going to a strange doctor's surgery to be able fully to explain, and this ready knowledge from the expert to the expert facilitates quick and proper treatment. That is of immense value in avoiding loss of time. The doctors employed whole time have increased during the last two years from 35 to 150. It is obvious that doctors cannot be employed in every little works in the country. There are not enough of them. If there were enough, I think perhaps it might be bad for the rest of us. We must not have too many doctors if we are to survive.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I hope my right hon. Friend will not compel me to report him to my trade union.
§ Mr. Bevin
My union is nearly as good as my hon. Friend's. The number of part-time doctors has increased from 70 to 550. We set to work to organise this part-time service for the smaller factories, 60 but we have been handicapped owing to the large number of doctors who have had to be called up for the Services. I would emphasise again that this is work which I hope will not be allowed to die at the end of the war. I feel that this close association of the works doctor and the general practitioner can be a great contribution to industrial progress and to the health of our people. This is, of course, in addition to the statutory work of the examining factory surgeons and the less comprehensive services of many other factories. I have been studying with the Department how the certifying surgeons and the examining factory surgeons can be brought more fully into the picture, not merely as examiners, but as an integral part of the industrial health services which we are seeking to establish. One of the great values of what I will call industrial medicine is that it is preventive and, therefore, very vital; and I am certain that the technique which will be developed in this field can be of tremendous value to the medical services of the country as a whole, because it is a field where experience can be gained of a character which, with all the research available, cannot be gained outside.
We have sought to expand the factory nursing service as rapidly as we could, and have provided short courses of special training in conjunction with the Royal College of Nursing. We could not give the long training that is usual because of time, but the training has continued after the nurses have gone to the works with the help of the medical people who are employed. In all the large works it is a profitable investment and the factory department is to be congratulated on the steps it has developed. I would like to make clear that we have not set out in the last two years to launch a lot of inquiries into all kinds of subjects associated with industrial life. I have taken the view that in a department of this character one ought to build a lasting instrument, and the policy we have been following has been to add on to the functions of the industrial welfare and factory departments such things as are likely to be permanent and only to take special measures where we are driven to do so by circumstances associated with the war effort. It will be seen from the sketch which I have given that nearly everything which has been done can be continued to the great advantage of peace-time industry.
61 The factory inspector has a wide job and a difficult job to do, and it is very difficult to get good inspectors for the work. In war-time, when our young men are being taken for military service, it is extremely hard for us to bring the factory inspection service up to the size we should like. We have engaged a good many inspectors, some have been successful and some have not, and therefore we have resorted to other means which I have described to supplement their work. In one field the new effort is bearing very great fruit. I refer to the development of welfare supervisors in factories. We have established courses at six universities. We have paid the men and the women who have gone there for training in the same way as if they had gone to a training centre for anything else. Bursaries have been provided by the Board of Education, and we have given a three months' course—a month in the university, a month at the factory and then a month back in the university, thus sandwiching the training at the factory in the middle and letting them acquire a good factory sense. We have found this a successful method of getting efficient people expeditiously for this purpose. So much depends upon the way in which these people carry on their work as to whether or not this new development is likely to be a success. We also encouraged the establishment of personnel managers in the larger factories. I have referred to the anxieties of works managers. I sometimes feel that too much is imposed on the works manager in receiving deputations and all the rest of it and being expected to run the works as well. A good deal of specialisation is essential in handling these problems, and to have a personnel manager as part of the executive is a great asset in big works.
Another vexed problem with which we have had to deal has been that of the hours of work in factories. After Dunkirk there was rather a wild rush, and at one moment there appeared to be a danger that the whole Factories Acts administration would break down. I must be careful in what I say or it may be taken as a criticism of others when I make a general statement, but I have never been very much impressed by "go-getting" methods. Production is a question of rhythm, production is a question of organisation, production is consistency, and if you rush in and break up the discipline which the Factories Acts 62 have imposed, it will be a very difficult task to restore it. There was a positive danger at one moment that the system would break. Happily, we were able to take steps to impose a check, and get the system back on the rails. On the other hand, we have had to do things concerning hours of labour which have been extremely distasteful. We have been forced to grant exemptions in respect of urgent work, allowing up to 55 hours a week to be worked. We have also been compelled to agree to a maximum of 60 hours for those over 16, which is a longer period than I care to see. But now, I think, we have got production into such a form and have mobilised our man-power in such a way that I am considering the tightening up of things at an early date. War production is so much a matter of jumps and changes—the mechanical changes are so great, particularly in the case of aircraft production—that one has to be careful in what is done, but, on the other hand, things do now need tightening up.
One trade, as regards its young people, has caused me very great concern and has been the subject of a good many Questions in this House, and that is the building trade. I extended a Welfare Order so as to bring this side of the building trade and all the great contract works under the Factory Department, and I am glad to know that at the Building Trade Conference now being held Mr. Luke Fawcett expressed on behalf of his men his gratitude for that step. We have revolutionised the living conditions in connection with big works all over the country. The change was very necessary and had been long overdue. On the other hand, lads of from 14½ upwards had been taken into the trade, and I am now in consultation with the industry and with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works and Planning with a view to preparing an Order with which I hope to prohibit anybody under 16 being employed on these scattered jobs, unless he is an apprentice, and also to limit the hours of those over 16. That will, to a large extent, get rid of any scandal. I ought to explain that the building trade has never been under Factories Department Orders before.
In the cotton trade a very difficult situation for me arose owing to the vagaries of the war. I had to extend the hours to 52 a week. I do not think there is any need to go into all the reasons for that, but cotton production had been limited in the 63 light of the conditions prevailing and people had been drafted away to munitions. Then came a change with the entry of Japan into the war; cotton production had to be suddenly expanded, and there came the choice of holding up this work as against that work. It took time to reorganise things, but the changes have now been made, and as has already been done in the case of the pottery trade, the special order in the cotton trade is to be terminated at the end of August. In the meantime it did serve its purpose.
§ Mr. Bevin
Yes. I think we have given sufficient time to make the necessary adjustments. There is one class of young persons concerning whom many Questions have been put to me—young persons engaged in hotel work and occupations of that character. They do not come under the Factory Department. The education authorities have been very good in sending forward information as to instances in which long hours are being worked, but I should like to draw their attention to the fact that they have sent me quite a lot of cases for which the local authorities are responsible under existing legislation. If a local education committee find that a lad is being worked too long hours and the local authority are responsible for the administration of the law, I would ask them to call the attention of their council to it. On the other hand I would express my gratitude to local authorities for the work they have done in the registration of young persons and for the information that it has brought to light. A good many people thought that this was being done primarily for military purposes, but I think the information in the reports coming in will enable us to deal better with the adolescent in the future than in the past.
In conclusion, I repeat that the methods -which the Department have adopted during the year are not of mushroom growth. They have not been designed merely in the excitement of war. They serve the purposes of war and of protecting, feeding and maintaining the health of our people in the midst of a most strenuous situation, but they have been designed in order to strengthen the administration and to introduce new, wider and more comprehensive duties and methods of grappling with industrial 64 problems and I hope that they will be of lasting benefit to the community.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
Members who have been present during the speech of my right hon. Friend will have appreciated the comprehensive manner in which he has dealt with this matter. I appreciate it especially, because it places on record the work which has been done during war-time, so that people in industrial areas will be able to read it to-morrow. The Minister dealt with the historical development of the Factories Acts and he rightly gave credit to the Factory Department and its inspectors. He said that the Factory Department of the Ministry had made a great contribution to the maintenance of health and the policing of industrial conditions. He said that that had been done in this country on the basis of a policy of persuasion, with sanctions in the background. I consider that the historical growth of this country proves that that has been a correct policy. Those of us who have spent the best part of our lives in industry cannot forget our experiences. Those who have read industrial history, such as Hammond's "The Town Labourer" refuse to forget the way in which our forefathers were treated. We remember the resistance to the Factories Acts and to the appointment of factory inspectors in particular. I shall smart under that knowledge of history for the rest of my life.
To-day, we do not approach consideration of Factories Acts administration in any factious spirit. We realise that we are fighting for the retention of all that' is dear in life and all that is worth holding on to. In that fight, millions of the best of our men and women are giving their all. Therefore, we must take a reasonable attitude on the questions that we are considering to-day. We are prepared, within reason, to agree to any relaxation that will assist the increase of output, in order that our men and women shall be helped as much as possible. Our desire is to minimise the effects of any changes, to safeguard health and to take the best remedial action at all times. If anyone asked me what organisations in our country had done most for the people, I would unhesitatingly say the trade unions, but, in order to win the war, the trade unions will, as I say, agree to anything, within reason.
65 I have been informed of, and I have also myself seen, some of the benefits of the Ministry's welfare work during wartime. The organisation of relaxation periods, for example, has brought joy to thousands of people throughout the country. A few weeks ago I saw hundreds of women with their children enjoying themselves on barges on a canal, and it brought emotions of joy to my mind. That is only a small thing, but to people living in an industrial centre it was a real treat. Music and dancing in the parks are other forms of entertainment which have been introduced. British democracy has not done enough of this kind of thing during the past 20 years. It has required a war to bring these things into operation by a Government Department, in addition to the E.N.S.A. series and the general welfare work. Prior to the war, people worked from morning to evening, and no-one seemed to take any interest in their recreation, with the exception of a few people. This change means a great deal to our workpeople who have worked and lived through such times as the world has never seen before. Let me quote from the report of the British Medical Association for 1941:It was not until the alarming conditions in munition factories in the last war had compelled the Government in 1915 to appoint a Health of Munition Workers Committee that public attention was directed to the welfare and health of industrial workers … A valuable contribution to the promotion of the principles of safety and health in factories has … been made by the factory inspectorate of the Ministry of Labour … and by the statutory arrangements for detection of scheduled industrial diseases… It is to be hoped "—and I want to emphasise this sentence—that this war-time experience of the value of medical supervision will be absorbed into the future industrial organisation.I want to give a further extract. I would like every hon. Member to read this tomorrow in the OFFICIAL REPORT, because it means very much to the life of this country. It is in paragraph 6 of the report of the British Medical Association, which says:Figures published by the Ministry of Health show that, through ordinary ill-health in the workers, industry loses some 31,500,000 weeks' work in the course of a year. While it would be untrue to suggest that conditions in industry are the primary source of this loss, it cannot be doubted that the environmental conditions prevailing during the working day have a marked influence upon the health, both mental and physical, of the working population. 66 The industrial loss resulting from accidents to workers is estimated in terms of money to be over £30,000,000 a year. Accidents do, of course, occur to the healthiest employee, but they are less frequent if the workers are fit and alert, and much of the time lost as a result of accidents is saved when the firm's administration includes arrangements for medical supervision.I have never known our case on factory administration better stated. Let me now quote from the report of the Trades Union Congress:The Factory Department of the Ministry of Labour have done good work in the measures they have taken to make toxic anaemia notifiable. They have also issued regulations outlining steps to be taken by workers and employers to safeguard health in the process of luminising, which can be very dangerous. Our suggestions were wholly approved by the Department, which has shown commendable vigilance in the matter.There are several war-time industrial processes by which the health of the operatives is liable to be affected. Are we satisfied that all possible steps have been taken to minimise their effects? Has not the milk supply been stopped in too many cases? I know that the medical authorities in some cases have stated that milk was not necessary, but has not the consumption of milk a preventive effect in the case of people engaged in these dangerous processes? Let me call the attention of the Committee and of the Minister in particular to what this means. Most of these people are working from eight to ten hours a day. They have to travel, morning and evening, for anything between one and two hours. This means, if they are working 10 hours a day, that they are away from home at least 12 hours. Would not the consumption of milk periodically during the day act as a preventive, and enable the operatives who are engaged in these dangerous industrial occupations to resist their effects? We are concerned in particular about the dis-colouration of the hands and face which affects so many people engaged on certain processes. Are we doing all we can to minimise this discolouration? Are washing facilities provided and has any preparation yet been brought out which would enable the operatives to wash themselves, rather than go home with this discolouration on their faces? Or is there any preparation which can be put on the skin to prevent the effect? The people concerned do not complain because they realise that they are 67 engaged in the war effort. Their spirit is fine. At the same time, this has a psychological effect, and if it could be minimised it would be a big step in the right direction. Is research being conducted in that matter?
More interest is now being taken in silicosis and asbestosis. I welcome that, for nowhere in this country, probably nowhere in the world, has suffered from that dreadful industrial disease as has North Staffordshire. During the passage of the Factories Act a number of us, on behalf of our party and of the trade unions, moved Amendments on this subject. We were very encouraged because we received the support of public-spirited Members in all parts of the House. I had one of the most encouraging evenings I have ever spent in the House when hon. Members from all parts of the country expressed their sympathy on learning what that area had gone through as a result of silicosis. The present arrangements with regard to compensation for silicosis and asbestosis are not satisfactory. There are too many anomalies. I understand that an investigation is taking place now, and I hope that the lessons brought out by the investigation into silicosis among anthracite workers will be applied to the potteries and asbestos industries.
May I quote very briefly from the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for the year 1940? On page 6 the Chief Inspector writes:… three pictures come to my mind of the many that have reached me from my staff:I have known of this, having lived amidst it, and knowing the wonderful spirit of our people, it has gone very hard with me to hear hon. Members on all sides quibbling in the way they have done during the past few years. I saw an example myself which I shall never 68 forget. A large works had been heavily bombed. The conditions were terrible. The roof was blown in. It was one of the coldest days we had, during what was probably one of the coldest winters of my life; draughts were coming from all quarters. It was raining, but the men were working as hard as men could work, in order to reconstruct the building as quickly as possible. In addition, there were thousands of men and young women working behind tarpaulins, giving the maximum output. Having seen that, and knowing that nearly the whole of our people are prepared to do the same, one cannot but remember it and try to be worthy of it. I consider that to-day this representative House of Commons should place on record a tribute to the thousands of men and women of our land who have carried on under such appalling conditions. I want to place on record also our appreciation of the work of the medical section of the Ministry's Factory Department. The trade unions are pleased with the work they have carried out and only ask: Is the staff large enough to enable them to do all they want to do?
- (1) Skilled men in a Midland factory still continuing their work to the finest limit of engineering practice in wet weather on rusty lathes, without any roof to the shop.
- (2) A more riotous scene of a shop full of women and girls giving practically full output from the automatic machines in a roofless shop, working in heavy rain in mackintoshes under the protection of a few tarpaulins, to a full chorus of It ain't gonna rain no more.
- (3) A wood-working shop in the East End of London where the machines were got to work from a temporary steam engine before even the walls were erected around them."
During the early days of the war—and I am not speaking critically, because it is understandable—black-out arrangements were made very hurriedly. The result was that it was not done as efficiently as it might have been. In, too many cases those black-out arrangements still exist. The other day my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) asked whether we could not have more sunshine in this Chamber, and he was cheered all round. If that is the position here how much more does it apply to men and women engaged on repetition work, day after day? I consider that the Ministry officials ought to take steps to see that there is an improvement in the black-out arrangements in order that the feeling of depression that exists in many cases should be removed. It is a result first of all of the black-out being in operation all day, and of the long hours of work in the factories and it leads to people feeling stale and jaded. It has a psychological effect of which no one who has not experienced it himself has any idea. We do not know how long this war may go on. It may go on for some time, and not only have we to equip our own men but in the near future we may have to equip millions of men on the Continent. Therefore, if we are to maintain our output and increase 69 it where possible in order to supply the Allied Armies of freedom, which some of us hope will play their part in the near future, it will be necessary to have the very best possible conditions for our people. I guarantee that they will respond when the Government adopt a policy of that kind. Therefore, what I ask for is improved ventilation and more fresh air and sunshine in the factories.
Now, I want to touch very briefly upon the question of women in industry. I was at a conference on Saturday, and afterwards one or two men came to speak to me on the question of their wives working in factories. The biggest grievances they have at the present time are, first, the lack of facilities for shopping, and secondly the problem of transport. Cannot something more be done to give our women who are working in the factories, and the thousands who are about to be called on to go into the factories, equal shopping facilities with other women who have not been called into industry? It is essential that the best transport facilities should be organised so that women in industry can get to and from their homes within as short a time as possible. Further, I am absolutely opposed to the "minding" system which has been brought into operation in some districts. I have had the privilege of seeing the residential nurseries that have been opened in Stoke-on-Trent, and from my experience, and that of many of my fellow trade unionists and workers, I am confident that the best policy for the Government to adopt is that of residential nursery centres and that the "minding" system should be done away with as quickly as possible.
The 1941 Trades Union Congress carried the following resolution:Congress urges that in addition to the examinations prescribed under Section 99 of the. Factories Act, 1937, there should be a further thorough examination, including an X-ray lung examination, not later than 12 months after entering employment in factories or workshops and every succeeding 12 months up to the age of 18 years.We know the difficulties of operating that in a war of this magnitude, but we want the resolution to be operative at the conclusion of the war. What I am asking for now is that the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education should co-operate, in order to minimise the effect of war conditions on 70 the future health of our young people. I know the difficulty of the shortage of medical men. We are not asking for too much. What we are asking is that the effect of the war on the future health of our young people should be minimised. We want everything done to safeguard their health; they represent the future of the community.
Section 43 of the Factories Act makes arrangements for the accommodation of clothes and changes. Enough has not been done yet in this respect. This is what happens particularly in war time. People leave home in the morning, travel to the bus centre, and queue up for buses. During that time they get wet through and cold, especially in the winter. When they get to their place of employment, in too many cases they have to work in wet clothes. Yet the Factory Act makes provision that clothes should be put in a special place and arrangements made for drying them. Many of these workers arrive early at their employment; it is late in the evening when they leave, and when they have wet stockings and damp clothes these can have a very serious effect on health and can also have an effect on output. If we are to maintain output to the extent to which we should be doing, it is necessary that more provision should be made in order to avoid the effects of people getting wet and cold.
In his reference to accidents the Minister referred to the tremendous drive for output. Some of us, knowing our responsibility, want this tremendous drive to be further increased. He said that one has to be in it to realise its effect. That is true, and, of course, it is a contributory reason for the increase in accidents. Page 4 of this report deals with accidents. Accidents cause suffering, in many cases unnecessary suffering, both to the person injured and to his or her dependants, and they also cause a loss of production. The increase in accidents is understandable in view of the large increase in the number of people employed.
The Ministry however have done good work and Ministry officials show understanding and feeling towards the injured people in industry and towards the problem. Their attitude in this instance belies the generally accepted view of Government Departments. I consider that more "Safety First" campaigns should be carried out. I know it may 71 sound contradictory in a war to suggest that, but I consider that, from the point of view of maintaining the health of the people and output, more "Safety First" campaigns should be conducted. Striking posters are good, but often they are not displayed in the best places. There should be more simple short slogans like, "Safety First," "Look" and "Be careful." I think we should enlist and stimulate more interest among the managerial staff and workpeople. I was glad to hear the Minister appeal for representative people to take a greater interest in the question of "Safety First." It would be better if the representative people were elected to do this instead of the employer picking and choosing people. When employers pick and choose people, suspicion is aroused, because of that choice. The best person to carry out this kind of work is the person selected by the vote of his or her fellow-workers. This indicates confidence in the individual, and a greater response will be obtained that way than by the employers selecting people in the way they have done up to now.
I should like to have an answer to this question: What percentage of people who are injured and who go into hospital, return to their pre-accident work? I put. a Question on this to the Minister of Pensions a few days ago. He replied by saying that this subject was one for the Ministry of Labour. I then put the Question to the Minister of Labour and I was disappointed with the answer. I have the privilege of serving on a committee of the Trades Union Congress that has been giving special attention to the importance of a national scheme of rehabilitation. My interest has been further stimulated for several reasons. First, as far as I am concerned, I intend to do all I can to prevent this and future generations being treated as my generation was treated. We came home after the last war and scarcely anyone bothered with us. Our men spent their lives humiliated. They were crippled; they bought newspaper or chip potato businesses, and when they lost those businesses they were simply put on the scrap heap. I am going to do all I can to prevent a repetition of that. Not only does this apply to our injured men in war; it also applies to the injured men in the workshops. Very few people bother 72 about people who are injured in the workshops, and yet the percentage in war time is very high. The percentage of cripples after this war will be higher than it has ever been before, because of mechanised warfare and quick movement. Never indeed did so many owe so much to so few. I ask, are we going to be worthy of these few? That relative few will be thousands of the best sons of our land, and I hope that all public-spirited men and women in this House will join in seeing that we shall not after this war allow human suffering and tragedies to exist as they did for 20 years—the best part of my life—after the last war. We should be doing all we can now to minimise the effects of injuries in industry and to men and. women serving in the Forces. What I ask for—and I hope that many other speakers will emphasise this—is a satisfactory national scheme of rehabilitation, to be established not after the war, but as soon as possible. This is a total war—although we are not yet total in this country to the extent that many of us think we should be—and we should have an all-inclusive national rehabilitation scheme.
I have visited several rehabilitation centres. I wish more hon. Members would see them. I visited one at Mansfield. It was a great experience. This centre has been established because big business realises that it is a business proposition. The miners are very appreciative of the services rendered to them by Mr. Nichol and his assistants at this centre. All they complain of is that the workmen's compensation payments are not nearly as large as they should be. I remember speaking to a man of 63. I took him aside, and when I had won his confidence he told me a terrible story. He said that he was a non-smoker and teetotaller, and he prided himself on having saved £50. All that money had gone since he became injured. The insurance companies and most firms want to get the men back to work as soon as possible, not for the men's sake but to save the cost for industry. So they offer light work. What tragedies lie behind the words "light work." We say that there is only a limited amount of light work, and that men should be rehabilitated by scientific processes, instead of being deceived and cajoled back to work too early. In these rehabilitation centres they have electrical exercises; the nerves are stimulated, the muscles toned up, by an electrical 73 tonic. But this service should not be left for broad-minded firms and individuals to provide; it is a Government responsibility; and it is time that the Government accepted the responsibility.
In the past, men have suffered fractured spines and fractured legs, and then have been thrown on the scrap-heap, and very few have bothered about them. We should get away from that sort of thing. Is there a course for the training of rehabilitation specialists? If so, are the students turned out fully qualified? What is the length of the course? And how many are fully trained? I had a great experience a fortnight ago, when I visited a rehabilitation centre of the Air Ministry. I would invite the Minister to go to this place, to see it for himself. It is a credit to all concerned. I shall talk and talk and talk about this centre, until we have a national rehabilitation scheme, with centres throughout the country, for men and women who have been injured in industry and in every other way. This place is at Hoylake. National rehabilitation centres should be run by competent, young, active, enthusiastic men, like Mr. Watson-Jones, of the Air Ministry, and Mr. Nichol. Eighty per cent. of the injured men are returned to the Forces. What would we not give if 80 per cent. of our severely-injured men in industry could be returned to their employment. Ten per cent. are returned to limited flying duties. Two per cent. are returned to industry.
The old idea—the idea of many people even yet—is that an injured person should continue to lie in bed. What tragedies we see in industrial areas, of men limping to the tram or the bus, and then limping into the hospital, and then limping home again. With this treatment, they would not be kept in bed, but would be doing exercises to restore the muscles, to tone up the body, and to restore confidence. Many Members of this House, including Ministers, and many civil servants are too easy-going on this question, as on other questions. Britain has been too easy-going for 20 years. These young men in the rehabilitation centres are too good to be treated as my generation has been treated. They are anxious to get back to industry, or to get back to the Air Force. These young people truly represent the spirit of Britain, and we must cater for that spirit. If the Nazis saw these young men in the rehabilitation 74 centres, they would be given the lie to their assertions in the past that this country was decadent. I ask that we should set up, as soon as possible, an all-inclusive national rehabilitation board, composed of men like Mr. Watson-Jones, and Mr. Nichol. I ask the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Pensions to work out, as soon as possible, a national, comprehensive scheme of rehabilitation.
§ Miss Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the very wide survey he made. I want to make only one or two points, very briefly. One of the main problems facing us is the shortage, not only of man-power but of woman-power. The demands of the Services and of industry have become so heavy and so insistent that it will take the right hon. Gentleman all his time to supply them. Therefore, it becomes all the more vital that we should make the most economical use of the woman-power now available. I would mention some things which are now militating against the use of woman-power. One is the question, dealt with by the Minister very fully, of the excessive hours worked by women. In some industries women are at the factories for 12-hour periods. That, of course, is not the whole of their day, because they have to travel to the factories and home again. Very often, their travelling periods amount to three-quarters of an hour or an hour, every day. Even that is not the end of their day, because when they reach home they have often to prepare their own meals before they have relaxation and rest. I think that there is no adequate realisation in the country that the women being mobilised into industry are being called upon to do two jobs: to work in the factories, and to run their homes as well. It is a pretty tall order at any time, but if they are to be asked to work these hours, I think if is a completely indefensible proposition. It is something which is beyond their strength to do. We hear a great deal about absenteeism. Does any hon. Member wonder that there is absenteeism when these excessive hours are worked? This is not only something which is beyond a woman's strength to do, but we have no right to ask her to do it.
As the Minister has reminded us, at the moment he has the powers under the general Emergency Order to authorise an extension of hours up to 60 a week. It 75 is completely wrong and out of keeping with the spirit of the times that at this stage the Minister of Labour should even be in a position to authorise women to work up to 60 hours a week. I do not think that he should be in a position to do it. The justification for the Order and for these excessive hours is the need for increased production, and the need, at certain times, to exert great pressure in order to get contracts through. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister said that production was a matter of rhythm and of constancy. All experience has proved that to be true. The policy of excessive hours defeats itself. It was tried in the last war, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will remember, and he has knowledge that it failed. It has been tried in the intervening period between the two wars and again it has failed. All informed opinion is now agreed that excessive hours not only cannot be justified on human grounds, but they cannot be justified on productive grounds as well. Now, in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, we have fresh and weighty testimony. I would like to quote one paragraph to the Committee because it is a very remarkable one.Owing to enemy action in a factory it became necessary to cut down the hours of work, since the black-out had been damaged and work could only proceed during daylight. Previously the working week had been 60 hours for men and 58 for women. These hours were reduced to 52 for both men and women, which involved a net loss of 400 hours a week. In a fortnight production had reached the original level.That is the very striking instance given in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. The Minister spoke of the drive for output. We all recognise the vital need for that. We can understand the difficulty of some of these firms which are being pulled in two directions, first of all, by the Ministry of Supply, who say, "You really must get on with this contract." They are perpetually harrying them and asking that they should put it through, and driving them. On the other hand, the Ministry of Labour is urging them to keep down the hours. If they are to reduce the hours, they will have to re-organise inside the factories. That is a very good thing to do. It is well that we should realise that the factory was made for man and not man for the factory 76 and employers should be prepared for the reorganisation which this will entail. I hope, therefore, that the Minister really will see to it that excessive hours are not worked in factories not only because production must suffer, but because, inevitably, these long hours must have a thoroughly injurious effect upon the health, stamina and vitality of the women of this country. Therefore, I was very glad to hear the Minister say that he was contemplating tightening up the Regulations. I hope that he will see to it too that his colleagues, the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Aircraft Production, are brought into line in this matter. I hope very much that, when either of these Ministries is contemplating giving a major contract, one of the considerations that will weigh with them when they have to come to a decision as between one firm and another will be the hours that are worked in these firms.
The other point I would like to raise, which was also mentioned by the Minister—I rather wished he had said more about it—is the question of the welfare and personnel of managements. The Minister spoke of those paltry issues, as he called them, which are the culminating point of many irritating and aggravating problems that have been left unsettled. I believe that many of these irritating problems could have been settled had there been adequate personnel management in the factories. The Minister believes in the appointment of personnel managements and I wish that he believed in them as much as I would like him to do. He issued a letter some time ago which contained a memorandum which he sent out in March, 1941, to employers all over the country. It was a letter affecting the employment of women only. In that letter he said that it was vitally important, as so many women new to industry were being drafted into factories in very great numbers, that all practicable steps should be taken so that any difficulty which might arise both from the inexperience of the employer and from the new worker could be anticipated and removed, and this was the phrase that he used:So that the maximum benefit to production through this new expansion of our new industrial army shall be achieved.That is what he sets very great store by. I would like to know what has been the result of that appeal of the Minister? Has the response been great? What is the 77 proportion of firms who have personnel and welfare managements to-day? I believe it to be small in comparison with the need, but I hope' that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some information on this matter when he comes to reply. I would say myself, judging from the very limited evidence I am able to get, that there is a lamentably small number of firms who appreciate the potential value of this new function of management. Everywhere that it has been tried it has been found to result in smoother working, in increased production and in wiser and more economical use of man and woman-power. We have been told that quite a number of personnel managers have been placed. I do not know what the figure is but I suppose that recently there must have been something like over 300. What does that mean exactly? What is the position of these personnel managers in the factory, because that is all important? Simply to appoint a man and call him a personnel manager does not mean anything at all. The real importance is the status and position given to that man. I am informed that in many instances his influence in the working of a factory is about as much as that of the office boy. Obviously, that cannot be helpful.
I would like to know whether the personnel managers appointed are in a position where they can exert their influence and where their knowledge can be made use of. Otherwise, the thing will be a complete farce. I would like to know whether their advice on the human element in industry, which is vital, is treated with the same respect and with the same weight as the advice of those who speak for the commercial and production side of industry. I realise that there are all sorts of difficulties to be overcome, difficulties, for instance, of getting trained personnel. The Minister told us to-day that courses have been instituted in, I think he said, six universities, and I gathered that they had accommodation for between 30 and 40 students. I would like to know whether it is possible to extend these courses to other training colleges in the country. I realise, too, that there is the difficulty of the employer who does not see the necessity for having a personnel manager, and I think it would be a very good thing if the Minister could make him see such a necessity.
78 I have been told, when I have raised this question at various times with the Minister of Labour, that the best way of doing it is to educate the employer. Well, I do not know whether that is the right process to adopt at this stage of the war. I father think not. It seems a rather slow and leisurely process, judging by the past. I am all for compulsory education, and I know that the Chief Inspector already has power to direct employers to make arrangements for the appointment of supervisory officers in factories, if he is not satisfied. I also understand that that power has been used on two or three occasions. If it is right to use it in two or three instances, I cannot see why it cannot be used much more when the need really does exist. So I hope the Minister, in this respect, will speed up that process.
§ The question really is, How vital is personnel management to production? Is it really worth while, or is it merely a lot of hypothetical theory, in other words, "all my eye "? If it is, do not let us bother about it, but if it is a vital condition of increased production and the best use of the man and woman-power in this country, we must tackle it in a much more energetic and forceful way than we are doing at the present time. The Minister himself has issued a pamphlet which he sent to all employers in the country emphasising its importance. I hope he will use his statutory powers and his own powers of drive and dynamics in order to see that these two vital problems—excessive hours and lack of personnel management—which, I believe, are impeding production, will be put right, so that not only the health of women may be safeguarded but the full use of their capacity and powers may be utilised in the service of the country.
§ Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) in his interesting and valuable contribution to the Debate made reference to the blacking-out of factories and the interference thus caused to production. I would like to support him in everything he said. It seems to be a complete "Alice in Wonderland" that now, on the one hand, intense labour and effort should be put into the blacking-out of factories to make conditions as bad as possible for our workers, when they are required to be as good as possible for increased production, and that on the other hand, when fuel needs 79 to be conserved, we should shut out natural daylight and put in its place artificial daylight. It does not make sense, and I hope the Government Departments concerned will issue instructions that there should be used to the full all the natural light possible and that there should be an avoidance of this blacking-out business. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) referred to long hours worked, and the way they hindered production, and she gave an example showing how, by reducing hours worked, production was increased. I should like to support that. Only the other day I was talking to a man who is responsible for many thousands of people, and he told me that he had reduced the hours worked per person by 10 and that production had actually increased. People were not so tired. They were in better health and were working better. It seems to me that the war effort is definitely being hindered by these long hours of work.
The hon. Lady referred to the effect on health and standards of vitality of these long hours, with particular reference to women in their dual capacity of working in their homes and factories, and I want to draw attention to the long hours of work which young people are now being required to undertake. I was glad to hear the Minister say he was considering a tightening-up in this matter; it is long overdue. About two months ago I asked a Question in relation to high wages being paid to boys in Wiltshire. The Minister of Labour said he had no evidence of it, and in reply to a Supplementary Question said that if, indeed, high wages were being paid to these boys, they must be working excessive hours. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) then said it was most unfair that I should make such allegations unless they could be substantiated. Well, I am unhappy to say that I have more than substantiated these allegations. The high wages paid to these boys were due to the very excessive hours they worked. The result of these long hours has been that our young people are suffering in health, and that, at this stage of the war when the physical standards of our young people ought to be maintained and improved, should not be so.
The Minister, in his speech to-day, said the longer the war goes on the narrower the field of virile youth. The policy being pursued will narrow the field faster than 80 need be. I have had given to me a number of examples, which I will quote to the Committee, to show how these long hours of work are hindering the war effort, are detrimental to health, and are preventing our young people from preparing themselves for service in the Armed Forces when they are of an age for calling up. Only last week-end, in my constituency, the mother of a youth told me that her son had volunteered for air crew service and had been told to attend for educational instruction," she brought me a note from the boy in which he said that it was quite impossible for him to do this because he was required to work 66 hours a week, excluding travelling time, and simply had not the time to attend for educational instruction. I have evidence of a boy, just 17 years of age, who is working 72 hours a week, exclusive of travelling time. On Monday he works from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Tuesday from 8.a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Wednesday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.—a total of 72 hours, exclusive of travelling time.
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
As this is a rather important matter, will my hon. Friend tell me whether meal times are included in the 72 hours? Surely it is opposed to the Factory Act and to common sense for anybody to work from 8 o'clock in the morning till 8 o'clock in the evening without having at least 1½ hours off for meals.
§ Mr. Wakefield
The total hours are the hours during which the youths are absent from home, and hours for meals should be deducted, but the total excludes travelling time. I will give other detailed examples from my own constituency and the County of Wiltshire; I will not give any examples from any other part of the country, but only from that part and the neighbourhood which I represent. I have details of youths of 17 years of age a number of whom are working over 60 hours a week and of others under 17 who are working over 60 hours a week. It may be of interest to the Committee to know that I have details from three separate towns in Wiltshire. From one of them it is reported that there seems to be a general practice of leaving for work soon after 6.30 a.m. and returning about 7.30 p.m., which leaves very little time over for the boys. 81 From another town it is reported that a considerable number of adolescent boys are working very long hours, 16-year-olds doing as many as from 80 to 85 hours weekly, including travelling time, and that their physical condition seems to indicate that this work is detrimental to their well-being. I have another report that a group of 15 boys from 16 to 17 years of age are working more than 60 hours a week, and that of these 9 are working over 70 hours a week, including travelling time. I have information from another place that the Youth Council heard reports of its members concerning interviews with boys and that they were appalled at the lengthy hours of work during which several boys of 16 and 17 are employed, and that as a result of the observation of these cases they regard these hours as being detrimental to the health of the boys.
How can we improve and increase our production if we use up the capital of our youth in this way? If we treat these young people in this way, how can they be physically healthy, fit and well to undertake the duties that many of them will be required to undertake at sea, in the air and on land. It is not helping the war effort to work these young people for these long hours. Any industrialist knows that if you work anybody, but in particular young people, too long hours, you do not get the results. I hope the Minister of Labour will really set about tackling this problem. If he does his duty in this respect, he will not only preserve the health of the young people, but will definitely increase production in the war effort, which is what all of us want. I do not want to weary the Committee, but I assure hon. Members that I have a number of examples of the sort I have given which show how impossible it is for these young people either to prepare themselves for work in the Services or to achieve satisfactory production because of the long hours of work.
§ Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)
Can my hon. Friend say from what industries he has taken the instances he has cited?
§ Mr. Wakefield
I have quoted examples from a number of industries—munitions, aircraft, the building industry, and other firms—and from varied conditions, to show that this matter is not particular to one industry, but covers a number of industries.
§ Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing)
I think it should be made abundantly clear, if my hon. Friend agrees with me, that this is the exception and not the rule. We do not desire to see the exception, but in view of present circumstances, I think it is expedient to make it abundantly clear that my hon. Friend is referring certainly to not more than 5 per cent. of those who are now engaged in industry.
§ Mr. Wakefield
I do not know on what basis my hon. Friend makes that assumption. I am referring to young people, particularly boys from 15 to 19 years of age, and I can assure him that, from the evidence I have seen, I do not think it is the exception, and in any case, even if it is exceptional, why should it exist? Simply because it is the exception does not make a wrong right. I ask the Minister to put the wrong right, and so to increase production and help in the war effort. If he does that, he will get the thanks of the House and the country.
§ Sir F. Sanderson
We heard from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour a very instructive and comprehensive survey. In the course of his remarks, my right hon. Friend made special reference to the subject which has been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). I would like to preface my remarks by following up the interjection which I made in my hon. Friend's speech. I fully appreciate that there are instances—far too many—where long hours are worked in factories, but, speaking with some knowledge of the subject, I say that this is the exception and not the rule. I am, and always have been, opposed to the principle which became rather familiar a few months ago—generally known as "go-getters "—the conception then being that the men and women in our factories should work all possible hours in order to secure the maximum amount of output in the minimum amount of time. I have always been of the opinion that it is false economy to try and speed up the machinery of man-power for a period of time beyond human capacity. You always get the reaction, and the net result is not an increase but a reduction in output over a period of time. What we desire is steady and continued hours and consistent work. My hon. Friend referred to some workers in factories in his own constituency who were putting in 72 hours a week.
§ Sir. F. Sanderson
It coincides with my viewpoint, because, whether my hon. Friend refers to young people or to old people, I submit that 72 hours per week is far too much, and I suggest that in cases where it is necessary to work 72 hours those factories should consider adopting the two-shift principle. During the course of this war the development of the two-shift and three-shift principle has materially progressed, but it has not developed at the rate I should like to see. I believe, and I can speak with some experience, that the most effective way to run a factory is, wherever it is practical, to run it on the three-shift principle—40 hours a week per man at eight hours per day for five days in the week—15 shifts per week—and when necessary 15½ shifts per week compared with 5½ shifts. The result is almost incomprehensible. There is a vastly increased output, and the costs of production are very materially reduced. It enables one in normal times to compete favourably in the markets of the world.
Some reference has been made to women workers, and I should like to take this opportunity to pay my tribute to the wonderful part which they are playing I have under my control women who are doing very heavy work in a factory where women have not hitherto been employed, and the results are fully equal to those of the men. These women are working on the three-shift principle. They do eight hours per day and in succession work the clock round week by week. It is a tribute that women are able to give results which compare so favourably with those of the men. We hear a good deal about factories running at 75 per cent. of their possible output, but I can show that not only do we reach 100 per cent. of normal capacity per week with women, but actually average 116 per cent. of essential war work.
My right hon. Friend referred to accidents. I think one must bear in mind that for a variety of reasons workers to-day are being subject to exceptional conditions. When machinery is running at high pressure for 24 hours a day, it is quite obvious that the risks to machinery and to personnel are greater. I should like to make one reference in regard to 84 what my right hon. Friend said about the directors of our great industrial concerns. He said that he would like to see what he called the working director, and I subscribe to that view. I welcome the working director, but do not let that be misunderstood. I hope that I interpret what my right hon. Friend also had in mind when I say that nothing would be more dangerous than that our great industrial concerns should be controlled absolutely by what is known as the working director. The work of a factory and the development of an industry, from the administrative point of view and from the financial point of view, require a brain which is different from that of the working director. I would even subscribe to the view that the supreme head, the chairman, of any large industrial enterprise should always be a man who is not too closely associated and immediately in contact with the workers in the factory, and its general management. It is necessary to have a man who can take a broad, comprehensive outlook, a national and international as well as local outlook, who is able to make decisions without being unduly influenced, unconsciously perhaps, by the working director or by the board of directors. Let me say again that I am not putting up a case for what is known as the guinea-pig director, the man who joins a board, whether it is of a railway company and a utility company or a business company, whose only qualifications are who he is rather than what he is, and what are his qualifications. These men will have little place in the post-war period. They are of no value to industry or to our great corporate bodies.
§ Sir F. Sanderson
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the development that had taken place in the matter of factory canteens. It is true that in many cases we have canteens worthy of the factories that own them, but there is much room for improvement and further development, and I should welcome any step that may be taken in this direction. In regard to housing conditions, I take what is perhaps an extreme view. I have considerable interest in a city which has suffered from bombing perhaps as much as any in the country, and I am bound to say that were it not for the tragedy of 85 the loss of life and casualties sustained, the blitz has done in many parts a good work. It has destroyed thousands of houses which should have been condemned years ago.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Major Milner)
I do not think the hon. Baronet ought to pursue that subject.
§ Sir F. Sanderson
I regret if I have transgressed. I only wish to say that I hope slums will be cleared away entirely and our manufacturing cities rebuilt after the war. I greatly appreciate the Minister's speech, and gladly pay my tribute to him. He has shown that he understands the work for which he is responsible, and I hope he will continue to pursue his policy on the lines which he is at present developing.
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
I should not like to follow all the way with the hon. Baronet, nor should I like to be thought as disagreeing with him all the way. No one will take issue with him in the unqualified tribute that he has paid to women labour. Everyone from every industry, perhaps excepting shipbuilding—and I hope that will not continue to be an exception—has been impressed with the miracles that women have achieved in industry. None of us would disagree with the conclusion that he drew from long hours. We know that, in simple industrial arithmetic, when you get beyond 58 or 60 hours in any industry productivity drops. But, unfortunately, the Minister and his colleagues have been faced with this problem, that in the manipulation of the most precious machine tools there simply are not the skilled workers to give us three shifts. It is bad arithmetic, but it is the best that can be made with this limiting factor.
I will not waste the time of the Committee in congratulating the Minister. Everyone who knows the work that he is doing agrees that we have not had a more energetic man, or perhaps one with more vision, in the job since the office was instituted. But there are three points which I should like to urge on the Parliamentary Secretary. The Minister said that a good many employers looked with disfavour on the introduction of works doctors. Here again the arithmetic of the situation is irrefutable. Where you have a works doctor in a large factory the firm and the country are well compensated, in terms 86 both of finance and of effort. But that is not a new conclusion. There are some few firms which for 20 years have seized upon this weapon which the Minister very properly called preventive medicine in the shape of a works doctor. It is equally clear that in times of great pressure like this the need for a works doctor is more urgent than ever.
I shall not be thought to be criticising the Minister when I say that the figures that he produced—a jump from 35 to 150—are hardly dramatic, nor does the increase from 75 to 150 in the employment of part-time medicoes, though it is a considerable improvement, in any way meet the situation. The hurdle which the Minister has to get over, and which all progressive medical opinion has been trying for 20 years to get over, is this disfavour of the employers. The Minister has a simple method of tackling this. The Committee is perfectly familiar with the case that has been put up from the operatives' side in the coal-mining industry against the fireman being an employee of the firm. If the fireman in the pit does his duty he loses his job. If, on the other hand, he keeps his job, he does so only by shutting his eyes to conditions endangering the life and limb of miners. The doctor does not face the same degree of economic necessity, but he has to face this dilemma, that without the good will of his employer he dare not attempt to force through improvements which will pay dividends in health and production or at minimum he forfeits good will and at maximum he terminates his contract.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
What is the difference between a man being fit to do his work and being fit for his own benefit? It is the same thing.
I am sorry if I seemed to suggest that the works doctor is not fit to do his job. That is the last thing that I wish to convey.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
The hon. Member was suggesting that the works doctor was engaged by the employer and therefore would return men fit for duty, as if that were against the interest of the worker. Surely he is doing both things at the same time.
I must have been very crooked in my thinking and inarticulate in my speech. Perhaps I may give an 87 example of what I mean. I start from the postulate which the Minister has laid down that employers look with disfavour upon the employment of a works doctor.
I must say I do not think that that is very well said. The employer objects because the industrial medical man frequently wants to change the methods of management in the factory. He wants to space progress men, he wants different placing of machines and different conditions of ventilation, and he wants these things so that he can produce industrial arithmetic to show how effort can be lessened and productivity increased. I was going to argue that if the Minister in these urgent times cannot secure the good will of the employer, the remedy is in his own hands with one limiting factor with which I will deal. He has power to place within any factory a medical man as a servant of the Crown if he does so within the terms of his inspectorate. There is no reason why he should not plant one medical inspector in a factory and tell him that his job is to put the factory in such an order as will commend itself to the Department. There are factories in this country employing 20,000 people. The only one with which I am familiar has more than one medical man, but there are inspectors in the employment of the Crown not covering the number of workers, and I can see no reason why the Minister should not place a medical man as his representative, as an employee of the Crown, wherever he thinks there is a necessity to do so.
The limiting factor is the one to which the Minister pointed: there is not an inexhaustible supply of medical men. I meet my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) in advance by saying that I am aware I am mildly criticising the medical profession when I say that there is an even more limited number of men who have made a special application of their skill in terms of industrial medicine. Much more work has been done in the United States and the Scandinavian countries in that direction than we have done here, although I am not at all pessimistic. We have to face the fact that there is a scarcity, and we cannot get over it within six months. I am not convinced, however, that people not possessing medical qualifications, like 88 sanitary inspectors and people with nursing qualifications and experience in industrial residential districts, cannot be trained to undertake certain essential duties in factories such as those relating to sanitation, ventilation and the detection of specialised industrial diseases. I appreciate, however, that I am on very slender ground here, and anyone who feels it his duty to reply to me will also appreciate that we are in very delicate conditions just now and that our need is great.
I want to make another point, although I fear that it is met before I make it. I suggest that last winter the black-out killed more people than did bombs. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. An interesting article by two members of the public health department of Glasgow was published this week. The figures plainly show that the rise in tuberculosis is confined almost exclusively to the industrial worker. The figures are almost stable for the commercial and professional worker, who has not had to undertake an extension of his hours commensurate with the industrial extension and has not to undertake night shifts in black-out conditions. I know that this problem has been considered, and I confess I knew the answer before I started on it. There are in this country essential industries which cannot be blacked out, such as blast furnaces. We deal with the blast furnace on the old device known as the "purple." When the "purple" is sounded the blast furnace damps down. Why should not we open the windows in every engineering factory and close them by a similar device? I am not arguing a hypothetical case. The figures are stark and urgent. I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary will not attempt to deny that blackout lost us more man-hours than bombs last winter, that this trouble is in arithmetical progression and that the figures will be worse this winter. If what I say seems a little heated or unorthodox, I would reply that the problem which confronts us is completely unorthodox and that our loss may be very great indeed.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones (Swansea, West)
One is tempted to follow the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) in his reference to the appointment of medical men in industrial establishments. There is much that is debatable in what he has raised, and he seems not to be aware that in most 89 large works there are well-ordered medical staffs doing some of the very tasks that he thinks should be organised. It is my intention not to touch on that or any of the other questions that have been referred to in the Debate but to refer to two outstanding matters in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. One is his reference to the high accident figures and the other the long hours worked in factories. As one who has followed rather closely the Chief Inspector's Report for many years, I regret that this year it has not been possible, for reasons no doubt which are sufficient, to incorporate in the Report those invaluable tables which provided us with so much information as to the numbers employed, the causes of accidents and the dissection and analysis of the accident figures. There must be reasons why those figures cannot be published this year—it may be defence reasons, shortage of paper, or shortage of staff, perhaps. The Minister talked about the accident rate. I do not know whether it is wise for a back bencher to suggest that perhaps the Minister used the wrong term, but my complaint about the Report is that we have not at this time got what I may term an accident rate in industry. It is true that on page 4 of the Report this statement appears:The figures for 1940 were 1,372 fatal and 239,607 non-fatal accidents, being "—And these are the important figures—about 24 per cent. and 20 per cent. respectively higher than the figures of 1939.Those percentages do not give us an accident rate. I note that the Chief Inspector says that the bulk of these accidents could have been prevented, but I suggest that all that the figures show is a percentage increase in accidents in 1940 over 1939. For the figures to be of real value to us we should know how the number of accidents is related to the number of people employed. It must be obvious that in 1940, with an influx of countless thousands of men and women into industry for the first time, there was a considerable addition to the man-power and woman-power engaged in industry, and I suggest that the number of accidents, if related to the number of people employed in 1940 might not show such a serious increase in accidents as the percentage figures in the report indicate. Those of us who are engaged in industry and those also who are interested in factory legislation have been concerned for a good many years about the high accident 90 rate among youths in industry, and it is really rather impressive to find in this Report, for the first time for a considerable period, I believe, that the percentage increase in accidents among young persons is considerably lower than the percentage increase among all employees in industry. It is a considerable satisfaction to know that those little devils we had in industry, those callous boys who were inspired by a spirit of bravado and risked things that a grown-up would not risk, have apparently learned their lessons, although their numbers are very much greater.
§ Mr. Jones
I think so. On page 6 of the Report it states that the decrease in accidents to young persons reported last year has apparently not been maintained as compared with 1939. Then it gives the actual figures, and says that they show an increase of 18 per cent. in fatal accidents and 11 per cent. in non-fatal. What I was pointing out was that these percentages are considerably less than the 24 and 20 per cent. respectively covering all classes of workers.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I think the hon. Member was making a perfectly legitimate point earlier when he was saying that the percentages must be related to the numbers of workers engaged in industry, but what I am not so sure about is that the number of youths has gone up. The number of adults in industry has gone up because there were great reservoirs of labour to be tapped, but very large numbers of young people have gone into the Army and elsewhere and I do not think the numbers in industry have risen so rapidly.
§ Mr. Jones
I was not arguing that point. I am not in a position to dispute what the hon. Member has said, and it is possible that the number of youths does not show the same increase as the number of adults. What I was pointing out was that the increased percentage in the case of youths is lower than in the case of adults. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) shakes his head, but the figures are there in the Report. I am hoping that we may be given figures to show what is the relativity of the accident rate to-day to the numbers employed in comparison with the previous year. What 91 I am asking for could be provided, because in the Report, at the bottom of page 4, the Chief Inspector calls attention to the figures for some large shipbuilding firm where the formula which I suggest should be used has been accepted. There they gave the accident rate per 100 employed for the years 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940. If the figures to which I have referred are to be of any value to us the Factory Department ox the Minister of Labour ought to give us an accident-rate for 1940 in comparison with 1939 on the lines of the figures for the shipbuilding plant to which I have referred.
Although I deplore this temporary increase in accidents indicated in the increases of 24 and 20 per cent. respectively, to which I have drawn attention—though I think the accident rate may not be as high in 1940 as in 1939—we must experience a considerable degree of satisfaction when we remember how large is the number of inexperienced people who have gone from what may be called safe industries into dangerous industries. Many women have gone from safe jobs into dangerous jobs in engineering and other trades. From my own observations I believe there are more young people in industry than ever before. After all, this is an engineering age, and with all our new factories, with increased production, with the increase in the number of women workers and young workers, not forgetting the rush to get production, one had reason to expect that the accident-rate throughout industry would have been considerably increased. I am glad that on this occasion he has assigned the cause of accidents to war-time conditions.
When discussing the Factory Inspector's Report in this House we have some-limes bandied words across from one side to the other, hon. Members opposite blaming the employers for callousness, and some of us being inclined to blame the boys for bravado and taking of unnecessary risks. I am glad to find that the Chief Inspector does, at any rate, pay a compliment to the employers of the country when he says that the great majority of them are law-abiding and genuinely desire to maintain reasonable standards of safety and health in their works. That is very interesting. In view of the increase of 24 per cent. in the number of fatal accidents and of 20 per cent. in 92 non-fatal accidents, it is interesting to see that the number of charges in the courts for breaches of factory law and Regulations was down by 30 per cent. One is bound to give credit therefore, as does the Chief Inspector, to a genuine attempt in the direction of safety first. Accidents in factories cause as much concern to employers as to anybody else. Apart from the human aspect of it, it is obviously an economic and financial proposition, affecting the question, which is of great concern to us to-day, of delay in production.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that abolition of the piece-work rate would bring about a reduction of accidents?
§ Mr. Jones
Another question arising from the Factory Inspector's Report is the long hours worked by women in this country. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) gave some startling figures about the hours worked in Wiltshire. I do not know why we should look upon that county as living behind the times. In Wales it would be an arithmetical impossibility for any young people on the three-shift system to work more than about 40 hours a week. When I hear of people working 73 and 80 hours a week, it passes my comprehension. I am glad that the Chief Inspector has called special attention to this serious question and that the Minister underlined what the Chief Inspector has said. It is now obvious that long hours bring industrial fatigue, which is one of the most serious factors in keeping up the accident rate.
The Industrial Health Research Board this year published its Emergency Report No. 2, dealing with hours of work, lost time and labour wastage. The Chief Inspector's Report is for 1940; the Emergency Report was published early this year. Already the people concerned with that Report confirm the view of the Chief 93 Inspector by saying that long hours have contributed materially to the accident rate. The conclusion arrived at by experts who have examined the question is that the hours of work for men should not exceed 60–65 and for women should have a maximum of 60 hours. The Committee should be very grateful that the Minister has not waited even for this Debate before taking the necessary steps to impress upon factories generally throughout the country the importance of this subject. I am glad of the steps which have been taken.
I would like to make a reference to the inspectorate of the Department. The Minister told us how difficult it had been for the Factory Department to cover the whole of the work which it had had to undertake. I am sure that hon. Members will join me in congratulating the Chief Inspector on the wisdom he has shown in paying a great tribute to his staff. It is very fine of the head of a Government Department to take it upon himself to pay this tribute. When I think of the increase in production in this country and the staggering number of Regulations issued to govern that production, I am surprised that the number of factory inspectors increased by only about 20 per cent. in 1940. It is amazing that they have been able to accomplish so much important work. I am expressing the view of all employers in the country when I say how much they value the kind assistance and advice so readily forthcoming at all times from His Majesty's inspectors of factories. Reference is made in the Report to the wonderful co-operation existing between the Department on the one hand and employers' associations and trade unions on the other, I am glad to see that the late Minister of Labour is here, because I can tell him that he did a very wise thing in the early days of the war in setting up the National Joint Advisory Committee to advise him on labour matters. The Commitee has given valuable service to the State on general labour questions, and in consultation with the Minister in matters of factory legislation and welfare generally.
Reference is also made to the very important work by the Safety First Council and the National Association for the Prevention of Accidents. I would like to sec some tribute paid to the Industrial Welfare Society in the Chief Inspector's Report. It has done wonderful work in educating employers 94 and employed, and it has been well in advance of legislation. It reminds me of the story told of a schoolmaster, who must have been Welsh because he was very up-to-date and intelligent, and who was able to teach anything that people wanted to be taught. One day he was found teaching a man how to play the cornet, and he was asked how he was able to do that. He replied that he always managed to keep one lesson in front. The Industrial Welfare Society is always one lesson in front of Government Departments on industrial legislation. Both the employers' side and the trade union side of industry will watch with interest how the Minister of Labour is tackling one of the biggest jobs any Minister of Labour has ever had before him. On all this forward legislation on welfare work, medical inspection and so forth, he will find the British employer only too anxious to cooperate with him with a view to improving the standard of industrial welfare throughout the country.
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
My hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Lewis Jones) in his well-informed speech has referred once again to the question of hours in industry. Whilst I will agree with him and with others that in many cases hours too long for maximum efficiency or maximum production are being worked, as one who is responsible for some part of the war manufacturing effort I should like to strike a warning note. I too often hear it said in the Committee and outside, that if hours are reduced to about 52 or 54 from something like 59 or 60, the same production can always be obtained. But that is not so, because in industry to-day there is a very great deal of wholly automatic machinery, which merely needs tending, and the tending of which does not throw upon the operator nearly so much fatigue as the more manual operations. If the hours of the operators on those machines are cut down, a proportionate amount of production is lost, and the only way in which the hours of automatic machine tenders can be reduced is for the Ministry of Labour to make more man-power or woman-power available in the factories to tend the machines. In view of the fact that the automatic machine is becoming increasingly important, particularly with the increasing dearth of man-power in industry, I should like to emphasise to the Minister that if he is proposing to make 95 any new Regulations with regard to hours he should bear in mind the very particular problem of the fully automatic machine.
The second point I hope he will bear in mind is this. I hope he will not bang and bolt the door on hours in the upper 50's, so that if conditions suddenly come upon us in which a special spurt has to be made, for example to include some modification which has been found necessary at sea, on the battlefield, or in the air, we shall not be precluded by the local factory inspector from working the extra hours, at any rate for a brief time. Therefore, whilst I hope that he will take a firm stand against too-long hours, it should be possible for the factory inspector to allow factories to meet individual responsibilities which the progress of the war may thrust upon them.
In the subject matter of his speech to-day I imagine that the Minister dealt with what is probably the least controversial and also the most successful Department in his Ministry. Birmingham has always been a relatively congested industrial area; it has absorbed many thousands of workers, many wholly unskilled, from all parts of the country. It has lost some of its factories, it has had enormous burdens placed upon it, and it has fulfilled those burdens, but in spite of that striving for production Birmingham has maintained the standards which we have learned to expect under the Factories Acts. I think that that is tremendously to the credit not only of the factory inspectors in the Birmingham area but also of all those who have to carry out in the works their individual requirements—the doctors, the nurses, the welfare workers and the personnel managers, who have maintained those standards even when production was being pressed so hard.
Sometimes I fear that we tend to get away from what, in war-time, is the crux of a discussion of this kind. I was reminded of this when only a few days ago one of the controllers for a heavy war material in one of the Ministries came to me and said, You have tried various things in your different works, and I want to know if you can suggest anything on this problem." This was his problem: he had had allotted to him 37,000 workers for this war material, but in fact he only got the work of 30,000, because owing to absenteeism, lateness and above all to 96 sickness some 20 per cent. fell by the way in the course of the year. His problem was that in the coming year he must have, out of his 37,000 workers, an effective 35,000 all the year. He could not get any more personnel from the Minister of Labour, so what was he to do? That is the type of problem which becomes increasingly evident as, more and more, there is a dearth of labour both skilled and unskilled even for the most urgent jobs in our munition factories.
The first point in the question of whether he will get his 35,000 or only 30,000 is that of physical health. I have been examining a number of charts showing the physical health of the workers in a number of different factories this year, and a most extraordinary condition reveals itself, which as far as I know certainly did not obtain before 1940. Whereas normally there is maximum absenteeism due to bad health in the winter months and particularly, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) will agree, in the spring, in these works this year the graph of absenteeism has been rising since the spring and into the summer. In some cases absenteeism in June was worse than in any of the spring months. That is a very extraordinary state of affairs, as all hon. Members will agree, and I have analysed it in this way. Either those workers are suffering from severe industrial fatigue owing to the winter or, on the other hand, now that the weather is better, there is more pressure on the doctors by the workers to certify that they are in some way in need of a rest.
That brings us to the serious problem—and it is serious in some industrial areas—of the doctor in relation to production. Many doctors these days are most shockingly overworked; their partners may have gone into the Forces, and I think that they are attempting to cope with the problem of looking after their patients in a most praiseworthy manner, but nevertheless I think that there are some who are not as careful as they ought to be in issuing certificates for absence. I feel that the time has come, particularly in view of certain very curious cases—to say the least of it—which have been brought to my notice, when the Minister should very carefully go into this matter again with the medical authorities. Let nobody think that I or anyone else desire to bring unfair criticism upon the medical practitioners 97 throughout the industrial areas—that is not my point at all—but there is a certain tightening up which is essential if we are to maintain production in the coming months.
The second point after physical health which will affect the number of effective workers in the coming months is the mental health, and I think that one can assess, in a very difficult analysis, the mental health of the workers best by seeking out the residual figure for absenteeism after eliminating absenteeism due to illness, to lateness and to granted time. You then get the absenteeism which I might call "French leave," and here again I have found in general—and I have had a member of my staff making very widespread investigations in this matter—that the absenteeism among women in a relatively good factory is round about 10 per cent., and the absenteeism among men in a relatively good factory is round about four or five per cent. In bad factories these figures are sometimes double or even higher than that. I would like to know, when he comes to reply, what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would say with regard to these figures. What does the Ministry believe is the curable absenteeism, and what steps are they taking in order that it may be cured? In our own organisation we have found that it is very important to question absentees as to why they have been away. It takes time, but it is tremendously valuable, and sometimes you will find that there are problems which your own organisation can eliminate from the lives of the workers and make their absenteeism less.
The other point with regard to absenteeism where I think the Minister needs to take more specific action is with regard to records of the workers in this respect. He has, in a recent Order, called for industry to keep records of absenteeism and lateness, but so far as I know, and I have made some inquiries, there has been no specific instruction or form issued whereupon these records may be kept. As a result one gets the most extraordinary figures quoted. In fact, in one case a works manager said that his absenteeism was 75 per cent., and when he was questioned about this he said," Well, on Tuesday night there is a cinema in our village, and three-quarters of the girls will not work overtime, so my absenteeism for the week 98 on any one shift is 75 per cent." In another case we were quoted figures of 0.2 per cent., which is definitely not likely to be accurate, because it was much less than industry was accustomed to in times of peace. I think we need to have guidance from the Minister as to how we are to define these various aspects of absenteeism, and I would like to suggest that after a certain amount of discussion and investigation he should take sickness, granted leave and lateness out, and then deal with the residual absenteeism. Then, I think, if we analyse that, we shall be enabling ourselves to bring home to the workers what they are losing in national production. We need it, obviously, in terms of men and women separately, and above all, let us have it as a percentage, not of the standard week, because that means nothing now, but as a percentage of the planned week. That is essential if we are to have any accurate figures.
Then, I believe, when we have a standard basis so that we may have up in our factories what these percentages are for the past week, we can have real emulation in industry, and be able, particularly in an organisation where there is a number of dispersed factories, which is most common, to show the figures for each of one's factories and stimulate a rivalry between the factories, which I am quite certain will tend to reduce absenteeism, and press forward with regard to production.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
Would not such a standardisation be apt to be very misleading? For example, a factory which brings its workers from up to 50 miles away can never be compared with a factory which has its workers living practically on its doorstep. To have any standardisation between those two factories would be totally misleading in both cases. To take a factory employing married women and compare it with one employing single women would be misleading, as would be the case if one took a factory with new workers compared with factories which have workers of long standing. It is extremely difficult, would not the hon. Member agree, to have any standardisation?
§ Mr. Simmonds
I am indebted to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I would not suggest that any factory can be compared with any other or that a factory in 99 one industry can be compared with a factory in another industry. What I mean is that I think there is enough competitive spirit in our people that in any organisation of any size in the war industries there can be found a comparison which would be inspiring to the workers and would be very much better than a mere blank appeal to do better. Such an appeal, after a time, gets rather old and ceases to drive home the very point which it is so important we should do at the present time. I do not suggest that there should be a widespread comparison of things which are unlike each other
The next point I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to address his attention to, and also speak to the Minister about, is what I will term, in mechanical language, the removal of the defective cog from industry. No management wants to sack anybody in these days. In days of peace very few managements had a very big turnover if they were managements of discretion and reputation. On the other hand, if it is necessary to sack a man, is it an effective economic hardship? I would say that in these days it most definitely would not be. Indeed he could most clearly obtain other employment, probably at a higher figure, and therefore it would seem that if we try to say to ourselves that we must not have this change of personnel in industry because it would be unfair to the worker, we are missing a crucial point in production, which is, that the essential interchanges of workers between one organisation and another are sometimes vital for production. Men do not always pull their weight all the time in an organisation, and it may be well that they should be changed. In his speech my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour dealt more or less with this particular point when he was stressing the trials and tribulations of the works managers and foremen and charge hands.
I would say that under the present system—and this has been brought home to me very frequently and clearly by many firms in my own constituency as well as by those under my own control—these foremen and works managers, who ought to be devoting themselves to production all the time they can afford, are spending too much time, when they find it is necessary that a man should be discharged or changed, in having to argue 100 that through the various stages of the official machine. I would like to put to the Minister this point: Has not industry now sufficiently justified itself, has it not yet manifested sufficient good will to the war effort and to the workers, that a little more trust and confidence could be shown to the works managers and foremen? When they need to make a change in personnel it is like taking a case first through the lower court, then the middle court, and then the upper court, going through all that, with the time given to them not put into production, but there should be a more simple system of dealing with these cases. We all know that there is the National Service officer and the works council who can be brought into this chain, but in fact these are delaying instruments. They take up more time of the production engineers than some simple system that could well be worked out.
I would make a special appeal to hon. Members opposite, and to the senior officials of the trade unions. I have talked to a number of them, and not one has denied that a great deal too much time is expended by senior officials, who ought to be devoting their time to production, in arguing the case of this man or that woman, who should be transferred, or whose services should be dispensed with. Industry, I think, has for a long time felt itself to be somewhat in an official straitjacket. It has shown itself so anxious to fulfil every requirement of the national need that the Government, and, above all, the trade unions, should be liberal to the managements and to the works foremen, and should release them from an unfair and unnational responsibility.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has recently insisted that the hours of staffs in works should be increased. I think industry generally would endorse that demand, but I would ask my right hon. Friend not to go too far in regimentation of the staffs. He has appealed to industry for a spirit of service. Nowhere is that spirit of service more manifest than among the staffs of industrial organisations. When the Minister suggests that up to a certain number of hours the staffs should be paid ordinary time, and after that time-and-a-quarter, and after that time-and-a-half, I say, desist. The staffs are not interested in time-and-a-quarter and time-and-a-half. They have a sense of service which 101 will not allow them to look for payment on so arithmetical a basis. They know that the managements will take into consideration the extra hours they put in. I hope that the Minister, before pressing this matter unduly, will review the peculiar services which the staffs render.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) spoke of the post-war era. I hope that in the days of peace we shall hang on to some of the things which we now have in industry. I have always thought, since I first entered industry, that it was unfair that not every worker regularly employed for 52 weeks in the year had some kind of a guaranteed week. In my own organisation I have tried, in the different departments, to instill that spirit. But do not let us go too far. I do not suggest that throughout the whole ramifications of industry a guaranteed week in its present form will be possible after the war. But I would say—and I know that a large number of my hon. Friends on this side will support me wholeheartedly—that the general principle of the guaranteed week in industry is right, and that we should not lightly let it go. Canteens should be maintained and improved, as they will be, in the era of peace. But we must get back to freedom of movement. Workers must be free to move in and out of organisations as they desire, and managements must be free to choose where they will. I hope there will be no question of regimentation on these lines, and I ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to give an assurance, on behalf of the Government, that there is no proposal whatever to withhold freedom of movement from the worker after the war. Nobody knows what will be the form of industry after the war, but I believe that the basis will be that the maximum financial reward shall go to workers or to managements for the maximum successful effort. On any other basis, I believe, our industrial efficiency is doomed. To that end, I hope and pray that Members of the Government will be very careful not to suggest that all the criticism can be levelled at the workers or at the managements. There are still bad managements, I regret to say, and there are still bad workers. But if Ministers, and other Members, when speaking of industry, will take the average—not necessarily the best—they will find much to praise and much to develop along our 102 normal British lines, without introducing any Continental system. On those lines, peace in industry wil be assured, together with efficiency for British trade, in the post-war era.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Duddes-ton (Mr. Simmonds), who made some remarks about my own profession and. some remarks about workers with which I would like to deal. He suggested that in times of stress doctors give certificates to workers, saying that they are not fit for work, when there is no justification for such certificates. If the hon. Member makes statements of that kind, he should supply figures to the Minister of Labour, in order that there may be an investigation of this serious allegation, which I do not believe can be substantiated.
§ Mr. Simmonds
My hon. Friend will know perfectly well that there are such cases. I have sent instances of them to Ministers, and so have some of my colleagues. But it is not a question of dealing with individual cases, although they may be investigated, but of drawing the attention of a high-minded medical profession to the danger of any laxity in this regard.
I appreciate the high motives of the hen. Gentleman in drawing attention to this matter, but if he makes allegations of this kind, he should substantiate them, or withdraw them. I believe that he has no justification whatever for them. As for his argument that too much time is spent by managers and foremen in debating whether a man is to be dispensed with or not, I suggest that if a great deal of time is spent on it, it is obvious that there is a great deal of doubt whether the man should be dispensed with. I quite appreciate the hon. Gentleman's desire, as an employer—I do not know whether of the old school or of the Bedaux school—at any rate, of the mechanical school—to give a man the sack if he wants to; but I do not think: that that would make for harmony in industry. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman does not turn to another form of organised work, in one of the Services, where any question affecting a man is gone into with the greatest care, and there is no possibility of treating a man as the hon. Gentleman obviously would like to treat his own workmen.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I am not talking about my own workmen. I will allow my own workmen to speak of the way they are treated in my organisation. I was speaking nationally, and particularly as a Member of Parliament for Birmingham, which is our largest industrial city. I assure the hon. Member that, in discussing these matters with National Service officials, the production engineers in Birmingham are taking up too much time, and that with a better organisation this time could be economised.
I do not think that the hon. Member has improved his case. He said he was not speaking about his own workmen, so he was therefore speaking as a representative employer, and a representative employer from Birmingham. I can only say that I hope that that is not the attitude of the Birmingham employers, and I do not believe that it is. I do not think that a great many employers want to have greater facilities for giving men the sack quickly without the whole case having been gone into in the way in which it is now gone into. I believe that that is the view of the Ministry of Labour, and I hope that it is not going to be upset by anything the hon. Member has said.
What I intended to do before I heard the speech of the hon. Member was to make some constructive suggestions about the importance of medical services in works and factories, to which I was very glad indeed the Minister of Labour paid so much attention. I hope that the amount of medical supervision will be increased and extended more and more to the smaller factories as well as being given to larger factories of 350 employees and over. I also want to suggest—not details, but just a broad outline—that it would be advisable to stress even more than has been done at the present time the preventive side of the doctor's work. A good deal has been said about prevention, but there is a great deal of common-sense prevention, the kind of thing which is done as a matter of course by the medical officer of a unit in the Army, which might be done in the factory also. It is the common sense of looking after the conditions making for the man's or woman's health and the ordinary surroundings of work, such as the temperature of works, which is his duty, but more ought to be made of it. I suggest that wherever there are works doctors—and I hope that there will be 104 more of them—they should consult at weekly intervals with the representatives of the men and women employed in works on matters affecting the well-being and health of the men and women in the works.
I was, some little time ago, looking at a shadow factory in improvised premises, where on the day that I was present they were working in a temperature of 85 degrees in the works. This is a very difficult situation. The workers were working under conditions of very great distress. The works having been improvised, the ventilation was not working very well, and there was no works doctor. It would be well under such conditions if workers and doctors could meet in order to devise a simple means which could be worked out at once to ameliorate the conditions. The times of meals, the places where meals are served, the actual ingredients of the meals—all these details make up the conditions of the health of men and women working in factories or anywhere else. The Minister referred to the difficulty—with which I am very familiar now—of getting sufficient doctors for that work. I think the hon. Member opposite, who is chairman of the committee for allocating medical personnel, will agree that his committee has not taken special note of the requirements of industry for works doctors in allocating personnel, and merely regarded that as part of the general civilian requirements. I wonder whether something can be done by paying special attention to requirements for works and giving a special quota to them.
§ Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare (Norwich)
That particular problem has been considered by the Priority Committee, and we received evidence from the Ministry of Labour. Efforts are being made to supply the demands of the Ministry of Labour in respect of this new service.
I am very glad to hear that that is being done. There is another way in which I think the position might be improved, and that is by the employment of women doctors. Women doctors cannot fit altogether very reasonably, for obvious reasons, into Army occupations. But as anaesthetists and for doing various hospital duties, and for doing work in factories and workshops, there are some women available. It should be possible in present circumstances to get some of the 105 older medical men or women who have retired or semi-retired back into doing this kind of work. I would ask whether it would not be possible to make some arrangements by which the panel doctors who are in attendance on the workers in a particular district and in those particular factories could give a certain amount of attention to the preventive side of medical work in the factories themselves. I am making these suggestions because I know of the very great difficulty in getting medical personnel.
Another suggestion I have to make is with regard to nurses. In ordinary public health work, nurses—for example, those belonging to the school medical service, and to the service of nurses who visit in the homes—do a lot of extremely valuable health work, and I do not know whether any of the nurses who are working in factories are doing much work of that kind. They are doing a little, but how much I do not know. Would it not be possible for nurses to do rather more of that kind of work in order to help? I say this because I know from my personal experience how very easy it is for great changes to be made by quite simple rearrangements. It is one of the duties of a school medical officer to look at the structure of a building, its ventilation and lighting and all that. It is one of the duties of anyone medically looking at a factory. Could not that be extended and systematised in the sense of being done regularly? I do not mean the making of long reports in triplicate or quadruplicate but verbal reports probably to managements saying that this or that might be improved so as to facilitate the working of the factory and make the conditions of the people there easier and better. Some little time ago, when I was being shown over a large works, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the medical officers. It was a large works where they had a small staff of medical officers, and he told me that they were employing large numbers of married women on part-time, and that given two sets of married women, each doing half the time that the one set of unmarried women would have done, they got 25 per cent. more production. I thought that that was an interesting statement, and I wonder whether more could not be done in that way. I believe that it is a project which has the Minister's cordial support. It has many difficulties, 106 but it is something which might be further explored.
I have also brought that up for another reason. I believe that the question of the hours which people can work, especially the hours which women can work, requires more consideration than has been given to it up to the present time. Many of the women who have now been brought into industry have not been accustomed to the regular hours of industrial employment. They have not the rhythm, that men have got and therefore they cannot produce, even if their hours are less than those worked by men, the same amount of output because they tire and crack up more easily. That is certainly true in the experience of many doctors.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
I know the hon. Member has been a great supporter of women's rights, but I think that when he says women are incapable of the same hours of work as men he must take into consideration the fact that very many women have family work to do before going to a factory in the morning, and more such work to do when they come back at night. Women work far longer hours than men. They have never been able to stick to normal hours like men; their work is never finished. The whole point is that they work at home as well as in the factory.
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Lady says, but I was not attempting to take up that point. I was trying to say that women had not had the same opportunities as men for getting into factory rhythm, partly, it may be, because of their family work before they go to the factory and when they come back, although I know many men who do this sort of work as well these days. I was endeavouring to say that more attention should be given to what individual workers can do, and to the two sexes, so that they can be given the best kind of work to do.
If the hon. Lady could assure the same conditions for women as for men from the Ministry of Labour, that would be all to the good, but it does not happen. If the Minister would give his attention to the number of hours put in by one group of workers, he might get 107 more production. A great deal of our machinery now is automatic and requires tending, but even that takes a good deal of energy out of people. I want to see our people not tired out and exhausted at the end of the day; I want to see them continue in health, strength and efficiency over the long period which may be necessary in order that we may get the production we require. If more use could be made of doctors in factories in the same way that use is made of them in the Army, with regard to ordinary matters affecting the hygiene of men's and women's lives in factories, there would be a greater increase of efficiency than some think is possible at the present time. I hope the Minister will pay attention to that, will endeavour to make greater use of doctors and will be able to enlist a larger number of doctors in his service.
§ Mr. Higgs (Birmingham, West)
I have listened to the Minister of Labour on many occasions, and I have heard him make good, bad and indifferent speeches, but on no occasion have I been able to support him to the extent that I can today. Practically every speaker has made reference to the question of hours worked per week, but all have overlooked one practical difficulty with which the manufacturer has to contend, particularly with regard to women and young persons. The Factories Act lays it down that the maximum period of work shall be 4½ to 5 hours and that after the expiration of that period a rest period has to be given. If the worker does 4½ hours and has a rest of half-an-hour, it is not worth working another half hour, and the additional half-hour keeps the worker away from home for one hour. Therefore, the period of work, as stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield), 72 hours, including rest periods, makes it longer than necessary. Several Members have referred to the necessity for doctors, but I consider first-aid nurses of far greater importance, particularly in smaller factories. A first-aid nurse is so necessary in case of minor injuries that can be attended to immediately. Where there is no first-aid nurse a hospital case is often the result, and I think the Minister will agree on that. There are not sufficient doctors to go round for the large factories.
The Minister of Labour is the real Minister of Production; he holds the 108 strings to the situation. It is labour we depend upon. We have any amount of machinery. Restriction of output is due to labour shortage, which is our great difficulty in industry to-day. There is more idle plant to-day for the want of labour than for any other reason, and the position will become worse as time goes on. I consider there is too much movement of labour. Too many are compulsorily moved from one factory to another by the Ministry of Labour. Proper consideration is not given to that movement before it takes place. It appears that officials in the Ministry are credited more by the number of people they can get out of a particular industry than by the amount of work they can get out of that industry. Moving one per cent. of labour may affect output in a particular factory by five per cent. It is very difficult to measure the effect of the movement of labour, but it is certain that it is having a detrimental effect on certain factories in the Midlands area. Conditions under which people are housed are none too good. I have had a letter stating that two men have been sleeping in a single bed and that five more are in the same room. The writer states:It is a case of having three strangers in one double bed.The movement of labour contributes to this congestion.
§ Mr. Higgs
I heard the Minister say that that was contrary to his information. Well, I have heard rumours but I can give him this concrete information that the movement of labour is causing considerable difficulty in the congested area of Birmingham where, I believe, labour conditions are more acute than in any other part of the country. There are labour reserves which the Minister has not tapped, and one of them, to which I have referred in this House before, is boys and girls from public schools, between the ages of 13 and 19. They are away from home at the present moment; if they returned for a period, there would be no billeting problems, and employment could generally be found for them in munitions and engineering works. The labour reserve of these people from 13 to 19 years of age numbers between 30,000 and 40,000, and they could be brought into industry for a period of only one year. No matter what these young people 109 might do later in life, a year in industry at these ages would be very beneficial to them and would not be detrimental to their studies. There is here a labour reserve that could be tapped immediately, and I think that in present circumstances the Minister should give this matter very serious consideration.
Did the hon. Gentleman say young people between the ages of 13 and 19, and if so, would he mind telling the Committee into what types of industry he would wish girls of 13, 14 and 15 to be taken?
§ Mr. Higgs
I said between the ages of 13 and 19, and I was referring to the children at public schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) referred to doctors' notes, as did also the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest), who said that proof should be brought when making statements of that sort. Recently, in a speech in the House, I referred to doctors' notes, but I was called to Order by the Chair; I will refer to them again now. I have in my possession some doctors' notes. On the first one the signature cannot be read, and the note is filled in by pencil. There is a serious objection to filling in the notes by pencil to which I will refer in a moment. On the next note there is no indication who issued the note; there is a scrawling signature which I defy anybody to read. The next note reads, "Attended here to-night and is able to follow her employment." I may be asked what is the objection to issuing a note of that description. The next note will explain the objection. In it the "able" has been rubbed out and "unable" inserted. That particular note was accepted as an explanation for absence. Then there is a note on which there is no crossing out; it says "so and so is suffering from — has been suffering from—is unable to attend school— is able to attend school." The next note states, "is unable to follow her employment owing to her aunt's illness." That is a doctor's note; it is accepted by the timekeeper, who does not look at it; and the person concerned gets away with it. These doctors' notes are issued far too liberally. I hope the hon. Member for North Islington will accept these examples as concrete evidence that undesirable notes are being issued.
I cannot accept things that are just read across the Floor of the Committee, but if the hon. Member will send them to me, I will give him my written opinion about them.
§ Mr. Higgs
I will give them to the hon. Gentleman after the Debate, and perhaps then he will be satisfied. I have another note which states, "unable to work at the present moment," and the next week the person concerned was passed Grade I for the Army. These things are ridiculous and there is no sense or reason in them. The practice is being abused. I think it is up to the Minister to take steps to prevent these doctors' notes from being issued too liberally. The Minister has recently issued a pamphlet on planning for part-time work, and I consider that in it he has dealt with the matter very fairly indeed, in theory. There is one vital factor, that the turnover in part-time workers is colossal, with the result that from part-time workers we are not getting the output we expected. I believe that the turnover in a press shop which I investigated the other day is such that only one person in 30 is engaged for a period of over a month. There is no compulsion on these workers to stay. To a certain extent the turnover is due to competition in wage rates. I think the Minister ought to insist on bringing part-time workers under the Essential Work Order. I know that he granted to them a concession which made them free of the Essential Work Order, but it has been proved that they are moving too rapidly, and that we are not getting the full benefit from practically 50 per cent. of the women labour. I hope the Minister will look into the question of the movement of women, particularly those over 31.
Reference has been made to night shifts. If only we could get complete day shifts, there would be a much better output without working night shifts, which are an absolute comedy. The other day I heard of a case where 750 people were working day shift, and there should be the same number on night shift, but only 25 were there. The night shifts are worked for effect, so that people can say, "We are working night and day, we are working every hour in the 24." But some people on the night shifts are not working. The real difficulty about night shifts is supervision. As long as day shifts are not fully 111 manned, it is criminal to work night shifts, which are detrimental to the health of the workers, and a lot of foolery goes on. Some hon. Members who have had experience of working at night will know how much work they have done.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
What evidence has the hon. Gentleman that night work is deleterious to the workers' health?
§ Mr. Higgs
The hon. Member asked for evidence, and I am giving it. Night shifts are not effective, from the point of view of production, in peace-time, let alone in war-time. The Minister has records concerning this matter and he knows all about it. I feel that he should give very serious consideration to the question of not sanctioning night shifts unless the day shifts are fully manned.
The Minister referred to the Joint Production Consultative Committees. They are complementary to the management, and to a certain extent are beneficial, but I do not think they are making any major improvement in output. They may be a war-time gain. I would like to pay a tribute to the sanity of the workers who elect those committees. They seem to get the right type and the best people on them. The other day I analysed some minutes of a production committee which had held six meetings. There were six appeals in respect of holidays and the relaxation of discipline, 10 appeals calling for expenditure and improvements which would not increase output, 12 appeals in respect of canteen problems, seven in respect of general items, and five in respect of subjects to improve output. If only one out of the five suggestions is of use, we are probably getting something out of these committees, but I do not think we have got out of them what the Minister anticipated when they were first instituted, although I subscribed to their being held and have every hope that conditions may improve in the future.
Then there is the question of canteens. I consider that uniformed speakers would considerably improve the enthusiasm of the workers. The Ministries will supply these speakers when asked to do so, but, 112 unfortunately, when one wants uniformed speakers the Services have to be approached, as the Ministry of Information supply only civilians and men from the Merchant Navy. If the Minister could make it more simple for manufacturers and industrialists to engage these uniformed speakers—I emphasise "uniformed "—who have much more influence on the average workers than the civilians, it would be a very beneficial addition to the canteen programmes and would help to inspire the workers. The longer the war lasts the more restless people will become, and that, of course, applies to all nations at war. Economic factors and not the Fighting Forces may ultimately decide victory. The essential supplies are limited, and they will be limited more before peace is secured, but, in the meantime, I hope the Government will realise the importance of continuing to supply the worker with his drink of beer, which gives very considerable satisfaction, especially to men working in the heavy industries. I am pleased to advocate that, although I know there is opposition, and rightly so in certain directions; but it is necessary that the Government should consider that part of a man's supplies as being as essential as food.
§ Mr. Burke (Burnley)
I should like to add my congratulations to the general paeans of praise which the Minister has received from all quarters of the Committee. All Members have agreed that he has a very difficult task, and that he has set about it in a very fine way. We know that the business of keeping up the Services, transferring labour and looking after the conditions inside the factories has been supplemented by an outside welfare organisation which we were very pleased to hear had been set up. The ordinary outlook on factory legislation has been changed considerably while the Minister had been in office. Into the ordinary protective legislation with which we are all familiar, he has introduced a good many positive concessions, and he has brought about many provisions which we hope will remain long after the war.
A good deal has been said on the subject of the health of the worker and on the subject of longer hours. Hon. Members in all parts of the Committee have, stressed the need for keeping hours down as much as possible. When the war started there was a rush to increase production; 113 there was a demand on all sides for longer hours, with very bad effects on the health of the people concerned. Fortunately a check was placed on this tendency and while it is perfectly true, as has been shown from the examples given during this Debate, that in some cases excessive hours are still being worked, in the main the hours are more reasonable. A good deal of work was being done on Sundays and at week-ends, and there was a good deal of overtime, which, in the opinion of most people, did not lead to an increase in production. Longer hours do not give results. As one foreman said, in giving evidence, extra work on Sundays simply means eight days' pay for seven days' work and six days' production.
The Minister has carried both sides of industry with him. Both employers and employees have been advised and directed and the opposition which was first encountered has to a large extent been brought into line by methods of persuasion. There has been some trouble over the Essential Work Order, particularly in regard to the miners, but that has now been overcome. I am afraid the Minister will run into a little trouble in the application of that Order to the cotton trade. The miners got something good out of it, and I hope that the cotton industry will also get something as a result of the application of this Order and of the extra consideration which, as I understood from his speech, the Minister is to give to the industry.
May I say a word in regard to factory inspectors? The factory inspectors have had to do a great many things since the war which were not normally part of their duties. Everyone agrees that the factory inspectors have borne these extra burdens very well and have done their work in a splendid spirit. They are not merely policemen, they are going into factories now not merely to find out, as in the past, breaches of the Acts and Regulations, but to advise, persuade and co-operate with both sides of industry. That positive side of the legislation seems to me to be one of the most remarkable things about the new attitude. The work of factory inspectors has grown enormously. Under the 1931 Act, there were about 5,500,000 people under their care, and under the 1937 Act that figure had jumped to 7,500,000. I do not know what is the figure to-day, but I think there 114 must be something like 7,000,000 persons covered by the Essential Work Order alone.
One thing, however, is lacking. The inspectors have to look after about 280,000 different factories and workshops. But the number of inspectors has not increased. That is perhaps inevitable in war time. Three hundred inspectors cannot deal with 280,000 places adequately. I should like to stress the importance of an immediate increase in the number of inspectors. They are agents of the State and not mere policemen. I was glad to see that they have been taken out of the purview of the Home Office and put under the Ministry of Labour. I think that that is their right and logical place. They should not be in the police department amongst criminals and evildoers; they should be with those who labour by hand and brain, helping them to get a better reward for their labour and helping the country to get increased fruits of their labour. I hope the Government will retain the department permanently under the Ministry of Labour after the war.
The Minister gave us a picture of many of the good things that have been done in welfare and generally as regards such things as canteens and medical supervision, but I think most of his speech referred to places doing Government work. I believe that 96 per cent. of Government factories are covered for medical supervision but not much is being done in the way of medical supervision or of canteens outside those places which are directly engaged on Government work. For instance, there are 280,000 factories in the country but only 3,500 canteens. Only 75 have full-time medical supervision, and only 550 part-time medical supervision, so there is still a very wide field and a big area to be tackled.
May I now say a word or two about the cotton trade? The Minister gave us to understand that the Order which had been in operation since 26th January for extended hours of work in the spinning industry was to terminate in August. I gathered that the cotton industry would then be in line with the pottery industry and that extra hours will finish after August, but if I read the Press correctly, an Order has been issued, which only came into operation yesterday, for an extension of hours to 52 in the manufacturing 115 section. The impression given us to-day was that the cotton industry had been put back to normal hours, whereas it appears that certain firms are now going on to the longer hours. I would ask the Minister to watch these extra hours as he watched the extra hours put on the pottery industry and put them back to the normal 48. The people in the industry do not want these extra hours. There has been a considerable increase in tuberculosis amongst women workers, and the cotton industry is largely composed of women workers. The situation will not be helped by longer hours. We have been asking young people to come into the industry. They will not be attracted by an industry that is working longer hours than any other. I hope the Minister will watch very carefully the working of this Order to see whether he cannot withdraw it at an early date. I am certain that production will not be affected if he does so. I believe there is a 15 per cent. shortage, in relation to the target set by the spinning section, and yet we are asking the weaving section, which cannot get the yam, to work longer hours. Whatever the reason may be, it seems very strange, when there is a shortage of raw material, that the industry is to work longer hours. In addition I think it might be possible, if we could get part-time women into the industry, to employ some of the idle looms instead of increasing the number of hours.
I understand that, in addition to the increase of hours, women who left the industry for munitions work are now to be directed back. I hope something is to be done for these women, and men if there are many concerned. I understand that 10,000 people are wanted. The concentration scheme drove those people out of the industry; then they were asked to come back; then they were sent out and put into munitions and now they are to be brought back again. What is the industry to which you are bringing them back, and what are you going to offer them when they get back? Not the same conditions that you are offering to people in the ordnance factories. According to the June "Labour Gazette," in the ordnance factories men's wages are 155s. and women's 84s. a week. In the cotton industry the average wages are to be for men 58s. and for women 42s. 3d. Will anything be done to make up the difference? The miners got something out of 116 their little bit of trouble. Will anything be done for the cotton industry? Will anything be done to provide canteens and medical supervision? Whatever may be happening outside, none, or very few of these things, obtain in the cotton industry. In the main the buildings are old, the ventilation is bad, the atmosphere is bad, the lighting is bad and the places are not at all nice looking. I know only one cotton mill where there has been any attempt to make the place look decent by painting the walls a nice clean colour, usually there are dirty walls, black, ugly looms with narrow places between, in which people have to lift heavy weights. You are going to drive people into that wretched industry with those wretched conditions. You are going to get 2,000 back from munitions and reduce their wages by pounds.
Is anything to be done to get away from the wretched old wages system in the cotton industry? Now is the chance of reconstructing and replanning it and doing something which will enable the industry to compete more successfully with its rivals after the war. We shall need the cotton industry after the war because, no matter how self-sufficient we may try to make ourselves in this country or how much farming we go in for, we shall still need a big export industry. Whether by barter or the ordinary channels of finance we shall still need to send goods to other countries and get goods in exchange. The one industry which has formed the basis of our export trade in the past has been the cotton industry, but it cannot go on in the way in which it has been conducted. I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the changing conditions as far as his powers will allow him and to bring pressure to bear on the leaders of the industry to make the conditions better.
§ Mr. Wootton-Davies (Heywood and Radcliffe)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that concentration has caused concentration of machinery? It has been part and parcel of the Government policy to have as many looms as possible in the minimum amount of space and these conditions have been accentuated by the war.
§ Mr. Burke
That is not wholly true. The wretched conditions in the cotton industry are not the result of what has happened in the war or of the concentration of looms in fewer mills. I can assure the hon. Member that those conditions have grown 117 up over many years. The lack of medical supervision and of canteens is not due to concentration but to the fact that the industry has never done anything really worth while for its workpeople. AH that it has done has been to pay them the lowest possible wage and, when the wage was got down as low as possible, to stabilise it by legal enactment. The history of the Lancashire cotton industry is one that does not bear investigation and has not much to show in the way of credit to the employers. If women are to be brought into the industry may I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether attention will be paid to their conditions? The only source of labour for the cotton industry now is women, and some special effort ought to be made to improve the conditions.
The hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) spoke about doctors being lax in giving out sickness notes. I am afraid he will quarrel with a powerful trade union if he gets up against the medical profession. My experience among workers is not that they go off from their work easily, but that the tendency is for them to go back to work long before they should do so. In my area we have the difficulty that approved societies are sending people to certain selected doctors who examine them and pass them as lit for light work. They go off the panel, go to the employment exchange where there is no light work for them, and as a consequence they may be denied their benefit. The medical profession does not, as a general rule, do that kind of thing, but there are one or two cases in which the medical profession, instead of making things easier for the worker, tends to drive them back into employment before they should be sent back.
We appreciate the great amount of welfare work that has been done outside the factories as well as inside. I used to bear many complaints about conditions at an ordnance factory in the North-West, but most of them seem to be straightened out and the complaints I receive now are only minor ones. Even the minor complaints should have some attention. I am afraid that the welfare department does not always function as readily as it might do. Let me give two examples of the kind of thing that causes discontent among the workpeople. If there is no work in one of the departments at this ordnance factory, the men are sent to another department 118 to find work. Perhaps there is no work for them there and they go back to the other department. They are sent backwards and forwards in that way and if they find, work in another section they are often paid lower wages. That kind of thing should not happen. If men have to move from one department to another to suit the convenience of the factory, they ought to be guaranteed the same wage. The Act says that washing facilities must be reasonably accessible. I understand that at a certain factory it means a ten-minutes' walk in the rain to get to the washing facilities belonging to certain sections. There may be other washing facilities nearer but they cannot be used because they are allocated to another section. Little things like that might receive the attention of the Minister for they would help the general well-being of the workpeople and encourage their desire to assist in the war effort.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)
It has been very pleasant listening to the comments on the work of the Ministry of Labour in this Debate. One began to wonder whether we were discussing the Ministry of Labour Vote or not. I have not been in the House very long, but I have been here long enough to realise that whenever this Vote comes under discussion it is not only interesting but lively, and there is often some cause for the liveliness. I am beginning to wonder now whether the Ministry has not done its work too well. I was particularly pleased to hear that the Factories Acts section of the Ministry's work was well nigh perfection, for I have had a little to do with it. It would be impossible to deal with all the questions that have been asked and ail the arguments that have been put forward. Two or three outstanding arguments, however, deserve to be considered, and the attitude of the Department towards the problems that have been raised may be, if not restated, at least emphasised.
We have heard a good deal about the work of the factory department and of the inspectors. I am glad that it has been realised by the Committee that that work has taken what may be described as a new turn that, from being just a question of seeing that legislative enactments are upheld and the individuals who violate them prosecuted, it has become an organisation 119 which is out to help in a positive way, to bring assistance to both the employer and the worker in industry. The more we realise that aspect of the work the greater the value of the Department will be not only in war time, but in the building up of our industrial life on a peace basis when the war comes to an end. The Minister spoke of persuasion with sanctions in the background as being a sort of motto for the Department. That explains the position better than any sentence I could coin because in all this work, in every problem that has been raised to-day, unless there can be co-operation between the servants of the State, the employers and the work people, we shall not get the best out of industry.
By his own creative brain and by inspiring the Department with the idea of creating a machine that would enable industry to function in these difficult times in such a way as to give us the best results, the Minister has brought into industry many things which are now regarded as commonplace but were new when they were introduced. This has led to outstanding results, one of the most outstanding being that we have discussed for hours the Ministry of Labour Vote and heard scarcely a word of real criticism. Perhaps that is the greatest tribute which could be paid to the Minister of Labour in the difficult work he has been attempting to do. I would mention also the work of the Minister in regard to the Consultative Committee, through which the problems constantly arising in industry are brought to the attention of both sides in industry and their assistance is sought in solving them. The fact that the Consultative Committee has worked so well shows that the Department has inspired confidence in the two sides of industry and has thereby obtained results which would not have been forthcoming otherwise.
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), in his admirable speech, said that the Ministry had got the blessing of both the British Medical Association and the Trades Union Congress—I was tempted to say the two strongest trade unions in the country. The fact that these bodies—which through long study in many directions have a point of view which must be considered—both feel that what we call industrial health work is on the right 120 lines, is not only a tribute to the Minister himself but to those in the Department who have been seeking to work out a policy for improving the health of our workers. He also referred to a matter that has caused worry to many people in the Department and to a great many more in the country—the fact that in some industries connected with our war effort contact with certain powders which the workers are using leads to discolouration. He asked whether everything had been done to minimise discolouration, whether we are using all our known scientific resources to prevent it. I think I can tell him that we are. Not only the scientific resources of this country, but those also of the Allied nations have been brought in to help in finding a solution.
It is strange but true that many girls do not object to the risk of being blown to pieces, but do object to being turned yellow. I can understand it—we can all understand it—particularly of our Lancashire girls. I am full of admiration for those who, in spite of the fact that they know their work will lead to discolouration—harmless though it may be in a physical sense—will undertake the work week after week without grumbling, but only comparing their own discomfiture with the greater discomfiture which others are suffering. Anything we can do in the direction of minimising this what I would call "facial decoration" will be an improvement. If only we could discover something that would turn them a good tan brown instead of a dirty yellow, possibly they would be queueing up for the job, and I throw out that hint to the scientists in the Department in the hope that they will make the discovery. I was glad, too, that not only the hon. Member but others offered a word of encouragement to those who are working in difficult circumstances and difficult conditions. The stories he read from the Inspector's Report were not only worthy of consideration, but are a tribute to those who compiled the Report. That we have begun to make Government Reports interesting and human is, I feel, another feather in the cap of the Department which I humbly represent here.
Then there was the question of the effect of black-out conditions, especially of the permanent black-out which has been established in so many places, upon the health of workers. It is strange but it is true that we have been unable to find what 121 is the detrimental effect of black-out conditions on the worker, although we believe they are detrimental, probably more from a psychological point of view than physically. We have looked for evidence, we have hoped that we would be able to find it, but prejudiced though we are in that direction I am not able to say that we have found the evidence. I should have been glad to be able to say that we had, in order that we might further pursue the possibility of relieving the situation. Nevertheless, although the evidence is not there, we believe that it is better to have some sunshine in the factory and believe also that the permanent black-out interferes with ventilation and must be detrimental. We are pressing on as far as we can in the effort to bring back into the factories something of the sunshine which we were compelled to exclude at the beginning of the war.
The hon. Member for Stoke also referred to shopping difficulties. He asked for improved facilities for shopping, particularly for our women folk who have gone into industry. From beginning to end of the year under review this question has been constantly before the Factory and Welfare Committee. This, however, is not only a national but a local problem. In some districts we have been able to solve it, and there is the fact, also, that in some areas there is not nearly so much trouble as in others; but when we take into consideration all the difficulties that have beset the distributive trades and the distance which some of these places are from the shops we feel that it is only by local conferences and local agreements that it will be possible to ease the burden. The burden is being eased. To solve the problem, I suggest, is well nigh impossible, but we have a motto in the Ministry which says, "That which is difficult we do immediately; that which is impossible takes a little longer."
Reference was made by the hon. Member for Stoke to the "minding" system and nurseries. I want to assure him that, although the "minding" system has been introduced in places, it has never been regarded by the Ministry as an adequate substitute for nurseries. We have always suggested that nurseries would be the best solution, and the "minding" system has always been regarded as the second best. At the same time, although it may be the second best, I want to pay a tribute to those women 122 who put themselves to inconvenience in order to look after the children of mothers who have gone out to work. As one who himself was "minded" in his younger days I pay that tribute to some of those who do the "minding." The old ideas about the farming out of children do not accord with the Ministry's ideas of solving this problem of looking after the child.
Reference has been made to another problem—and I admit that the factory inspector is responsible for enforcement in this case—that of the drying of clothes in workshops. I know the difficulties. Here, as in so many other instances, there is need for education. I was in a large factory a few weeks ago, and the personnel manager said that what troubled him was that, although he had provided drying facilities, only a very small minority of the people working in the factory used them. I was sorry. I had an opportunity of addressing the workpeople so I spoke to them on the subject and pointed out the difference it made to go home, or go to work, or stay at work, in dry clothes instead of wet clothes, and I asked for their co-operation. It is a question not only of educating the employers to make this provision, but of educating the workpeople to make use of it.
The hon. Member referred also to light work, compensation and the necessity for rehabilitation. I cannot go into all that has been done in that direction because there is no time to do so, but I assure him that in the interim scheme for training the disabled which is now in operation through the Ministry, the foundations of a system to prevent the kind of thing of which the hon. Member spoke have been made possible. Within the last two months the Ministry have placed two individuals each of whom lost both arms during the war. We were able to provide them with limbs and place them in an occupation. It seems to me that we are now beginning, in war-time, something that may be of real value when the time comes for rehabilitating all our people at the end of the war. One of the difficulties is that before an individual is absolutely fit he can now go back into industry, as the demand for his services is great. He can obtain a job. You cannot rehabilitate an individual against his will, when he says that he is ready to go back to work, whatever the doctor may say about it. That has been our experience. Something 123 like 1,700 people are being trained by the Ministry of Labour, after being examined in the hospital and going through a process of rehabilitation.
Two points were raised by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) in regard to excessive hours of work in factories. She has converted the Ministry before upon the necessity to keep an eye on those hours. In order to get the best work from our womenfolk, we must be economical in our use of them, and that means studying the hours in factories. The hon. Member pointed out that a woman's job was not only in the factory but was also in the home. Having belonged to ah industry where it was customary for the wife to work, and then to do the housework at the end of the day, I agree with what the hon. Lady said, and I appreciate it to the full. It seems to me that what the Minister said with regard to his watch over excessive hours in factories will meet not only the point which the hon. Lady made but the point that was so well made in many parts of the Committee. We believe that there is an optimum number of hours that can be worked, not only by women but by men also, and that this should not only be found but should be insisted upon when found, in order to get the best results.
Then the hon. Lady spoke of welfare supervisors and personnel management, and wanted to know whether the response of managements to the pamphlet issued by the Minister some time ago asking for the proper place to be given to those individuals in their proper sphere in industry had been good or not. I believe it has been good. I am not in a position to give the figures, I do not think we have them, the factories are so numerous, as the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) pointed out. But the vast number employ so few people that we cannot very well ask them to engage supervisors or personnel managers. My own experience during the past 12 months leads me to think that the educational work which has been going on through this House, through the Ministry and through other organisations too has borne fruit.
I had the privilege, three weeks ago, of addressing a conference under the auspices of the Industrial Welfare Society at which 124 190 firms were represented. A fortnight later the conference was duplicated and another 190 firms—making 380 in all representing about 2,750,000 employees—were represented. Only one-third of the firms normally invited to send representatives had been written to on this occasion. Having had the privilege of attending such a conference three years ago, having seen the people concerned then, and the people who come now I believe it has done the personnel managers good too to be under the influence of the education of which we are speaking. At that conference, and wherever this subject has been discussed, the importance of personnel management is being felt. One of the difficulties, as was pointed out by the hon. Lady herself, is the dearth of such people. We have been trying to train them and have been training them, but not yet in sufficient numbers to meet all the requirements.
The hon. Lady suggested that we should use pressure, if pressure were necessary and could be used. If personnel management particularly in the shape of welfare superviser is to be of real value it can only be when the management has been convinced that such a person is a necessity. I know that you could compel them to employ someone against their will, but whether' in that case the personnel managers would be able to do what they are expected to do I am very doubtful. I was talking to an employer the other day and discussing this question with him. He hesitated about the employment of a personnel manager, he said, because during the last war he engaged a young lady and before the end of the war she was not only managing the operatives but was managing him too, and he had been very concerned about it. He had taken over the personnel management himself. It may be that fear of the consequences is playing some part in the lack of development.
The hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Lewis Jones) referred to the accident rate and to the fact that the Minister had quoted percentages as against the normal accident rate. I do not know what the answer is to that point. The numbers are there, and it is no less annoying to be mauled as part of a percentage than as a fraction of an accident rate. When you have met with an accident, it seems to me, the thing that matters is the doctor who can attend to you, and whether the services and facilities are there or not. 125 I was glad that the hon. Member answered the question himself, because he referred to the difference in the incidence of accidents. Great and varied changes have taken place, such as changes from light to heavier industries, and the entry into industry of people who previously had no experience, and who are described as "green labour" though it is not "green labour," otherwise we should not have been able to accomplish what we have done. All these have had an effect on the accident rate. It cannot be compared with what has gone before. What we want to impress is that whatever the number of accidents that have occurred there have been too many, and that every accident that can be avoided is an improvement in the industrial machine.
Far be it from me to go into the position of doctors, and absenteeism certificates in the two minutes that remain. I know that many disputes that have taken place anent the problem of whether a doctor's certificate should be regarded as one thing or the other. It was not new to me to hear that the name of the doctor or that the disease from which the individual was suffering was indecipherable. I think the only thing one should question is whether it has come from the surgery at all or not. There seems to be doubt in the particular case referred to whether it had not been printed as a sort of forgery—one of the coupons from the black market. In discussing this question of absenteeism I hope we are not going to underestimate the part which the healthy individual plays in all these problems. I believe in what the hon. Lady the Member of Anglesey said about the personnel or welfare managers becoming a vital part of the firms. They more than anyone else can work out these absenteeism figures and put them in the right perspective. They know something of the people. The right person in the right place in that respect will save the filling-in of a good many forms.
We are preparing a pamphlet on absenteeism with a model form and notes for guidance. Thus we are meeting the need voiced by the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds). I am sorry that I have not time to deal with many of the questions that have been raised. If I might say a final word about cotton workers—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley does not wish to put 126 me in a predicament—what I would say is that the Order to which he referred just now, to be attached, as it were, to the weaving industry, was applicable to the section all along. It only applies to those particular Government contracts in urgent demand, and the Cotton Controller will determine which firms shall and shall not go on to the extended hours. The hours of the young people about whom so much was said some time ago are to be definitely reduced at the end of August, not only in connection with weaving, but spinning too.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again "—[Major Sir James Edmondson]—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.