§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)
Over three months have elapsed since the close of the International Labour Conference at Philadelphia, at which I had 778 the privilege of leading the British Government Delegation. I feel, therefore, that I am now sufficiently far from it, both in time and space, to be able to review some of the principal characteristics of the Conference and to give some estimate of its significance. I have before me on the Table what is, in effect, the agenda of the Conference, but Members need not be perturbed, for it is not my intention to go through it. I have also the provisional record of the proceedings which, as hon. Members can see, constitutes a reasonable volume. I may say that the speeches in the volume, particularly those of the British representatives, are worthy of some consideration. I want to say, in the first place, that the Philadelphia Conference was genuinely international. It was international, not simply because 41 States members of the organisation were represented, but because of the real international spirit displayed by the various delegates. If the Philadelphia Conference had done nothing else than demonstrate the value of international co-operation and the interdependence of nations, that alone would have made it worth while holding.
As I listened to the delegates of Governments, employers and workers, describing the problems in the field of labour and industry with which they were faced in their own countries, I sometimes wondered whether, out of this mass of differing national problems and differing national experiences, any international agreement could possibly be achieved. Yet international agreement was achieved on a very large number of important points. The Acting Director of the International Labour Office characterised the conference as a conference of achievement. It succeeded in being a conference of achievement only because of the genuine spirit of international co-operation that was manifest. Within the international framework of the organisation the need became clearly evident at Philadelphia for some development on regional lines. Particular problems arise in particular regions of the world, on which it would be helpful for discussions on a regional basis to take place. This need for regional development was voiced by speakers from various parts of the world, from the Fast East, from the Near and Middle East, and from the occupied countries of Europe, as well as from 779 America. The desire to have special regional conferences is due to the desire to have discussions of regional problems, on a regional basis, and also to afford direct evidence to the peoples of the various parts of the world of the operations of the I.L.O.
The Philadelphia Conference was genuinely representative, not only of Governments, but of workers and employers. It has always been one of the essential characteristics of the I.L.O. that it is a tripartite body in which, through consultation between Governments, employers and workers, comprehensive programmes of labour and industrial reconstruction can be worked out. I would like to remind the House that the first draft of the constitution of the I.L.O. was prepared in our Ministry of Labour under the impulsion of Mr. George Barnes. It is interesting to recall also that the present acting director, Mr. Phelan, Was on the headquarters staff at the time. The draft was submitted to the International Peace Conference in response to the demands of the delegates of the nations gathered at that conference. The Commission met under the chairmanship of Samuel Gompers and thus the I.L.O. was brought into being as a tripartite organisation representative of Governments, employers and workers.
It was an experiment, and the experiment worked. Time and again, at the Philadelphia Conference, the importance of this tripartite system of representation became evident. Both in committees and in the plenary sessions of the Conference, the co-operation of Governments, employers and workers was indispensable to the success of the Conference. In this country we have a long and honourable tradition of co-operation between the Government, the employers and workers in dealing with matters of common concern. This tradition has now become internationally embodied in the I.L.O. Its maintenance is an earnest of the continuing success which will, I hope, be achieved by the I.L.O. in the post-war world. The Philadelphia Conference was, in a real sense, an historic conference. It was the first regular session of the International Labour Conference held since the war.
A conference had been held in New York in 1941, but the ordinary Constitution and Standing Orders did not apply to that conference. At Philadelphia, repre- 780 sentatives of the Government, employers and workers came together, after the testing years of war, to consider the action to be taken by the Organisation in relation to the problems which would arise in the transition from war to peace and in connection with post-war reconstruction. Further, the conference took the opportunity to re-examine the constitution and procedure of the Organisation with a view to rendering it better fitted to cope with the problems which lie ahead in the difficult times that face us. I want to submit that it is a sign of vitality when an organisation voluntarily undertakes a process of self-examination and self-criticism. This process resulted at Philadelphia in the adoption of a declaration concerning the aims and purposes of the I.L.O., the text of whch has already been communicated to the House. If each of the representatives of the Governments, employers and workers a t Philadelphia had been asked to submit to the conference a draft of this Declaration, these would no doubt have been very different; but they could and did agree wholeheartedly with the final draft adopted, which represented in a very real sense the common will of the Conference.
The discussion which led to the adoption of this Declaration showed that there was agreement among all the speakers that the International Labour Organisation must be maintained and that it should be developed in order to undertake its increasing responsibilities. It was agreed by all that if this organisation had not existed, it would have been necessary to create it now. It was recognised that the world needs, more than ever before, an organisation to bring together the representatives of Governments, employers and workers of the freedom-loving peoples of the world, to work for the promotion of the common well-being. It would be wrong of me, in emphasising the importance of the Conference and the success of the work it achieved, not to draw attention to certain dangers against which, it became evident in the proceedings of the Conference, the International Labour Organisation must be on its guard.
The principal danger, as I see it, is that of adopting recommendations or resolutions without sufficient preparation and discussion. The normal procedure of the Organisation is based on careful preparatory work by the Office and by technical 781 committees of the Conference, detailed prior consultation of Governments, on the basis of a questionnaire, and the submission to the Office of drafts for the consideration of the Conference, sufficiently far in advance of the holding of the Conference for consideration to be given to those drafts by all concerned in the various countries. This procedure has sometimes been criticised on the ground that it is too elaborate and complicated, but experience in connection with the Philadelphia Conference shows that some such procedure providing for adequate preparation and consultation is essential if the respect with which the decisions of the Conference have always been treated is to be maintained.
In the case of the Philadelphia Conference there had been no time for the Office to undertake the usual procedure of preparatory consultation, technical committees or conferences or even to consult the Governments on the basis of questionnaires. The drafts for submission to the Conference were prepared by the staff of the Office on the responsibility of the Acting-Director, and in some cases, owing to difficulties of communication with which we were all familiar, they did not reach Governments, employers or workers before they left their own countries for Philadelphia. The Conference, as a consequence, found itself faced with such a mass of business to transact that it was very difficult to give sufficiently careful consideration to all the details of some of the proposals made. In these circumstances there was considerable risk of hasty decisions being taken which would not redound to the credit of the International Labour Organisation. The British Delegation felt this danger to be particularly acute in connection with some of the proposals made on social security. The Committee on Social Security submitted to the Conference their detailed recommendations, one dealing with income security, one dealing with medical care and the third dealing with income security and medical care for persons discharged from the Armed Forces and assimilated services, as well as from war employment. In the case of the third recommendation we agreed that it was urgent, in view of the nature of the problem, that the views of the Conference on this matter should be formulated at that Session in the form of a recommendation and we voted for it.
782 On the other hand, we felt strongly that the very detailed recommendations proposed regarding income security and medical care had been adopted by the Committee without it being possible to give them the thorough consideration that they deserved. We therefore took the view that it would be best, in the interests of the development of social security legislation and in the interests of the standing of the International Labour Organisation, that those recommendations should not be adopted at the Philadelphia Conference but that they should be sent to the Governments for their observations and report and that the whole matter should he placed on the agenda of the next Conference, with a view to the adoption of draft conventions. We felt strongly that this procedure would lead to more effective action than the immediate adoption of recommendations, but the Conference did not agree with us on this point, and the British Government Delegation therefore abstained from voting on those two recommendations.
This country continues to lead the world in the sphere of social security and it has ratified all the social insurance conventions previously adopted by International Labour Conference. We recognise the admirable work that has been done by the I.L.O. in the field of social security and we are anxious that that work should not be compromised by the hasty adoption of recommendations, some of which, by recapitulating the provisions in existing Conventions, may have the effect of weakening them.
I have referred in some detail to these social security recommendations because they illustrate the danger to which I have referred of decisions being taken by the Conference without adequate prior preparation and consultation. Even when one country is concerned we know, from our own experience, the care with which the plans have to be considered. When all countries are affected, and when there are so many different stages of development, it is obvious that hastily considered proposals, however attractive they may be, may not be practicable over wide areas of the world. As I have said, this attitude of ours led to misunderstanding. We took up the position that if the Conference were to concentrate upon guiding principles and if those guiding principles 783 were referred to Governments for them to report upon, with a view to a Draft Convention at the next conference, we should get more progress on the part of the nations represented than by the simple adoption of the recommendations there and then. The Conference chose to regard this as delaying tactics. Why it should be assumed that the British Government should want to delay it is difficult to understand. Our record should surely have saved us the necessity of answering this charge. I am not referring to remarks which may be made in this House, and I am not particularly concerned about being criticised and egged on by people who have done more and are wanting to do more, but I do feel resentment at being charged with seeking to delay progress when all that has been asked for by that Organisation has been previously done and a lead given to the world.
§ Mr. Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Surely that is not correct. When did this Government ratify the whole of the Social Security Convention, the Childbirth Convention, the 48-hour week Convention, and others?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I said, and I repeat, that this Government leads the world so far as the adoption and application of Conventions are concerned. I have not suggested that this Government has ratified every Convention that has come before it—it certainly has not—but very often we have passed legislation covering points which are part and parcel of recommendations, and agreements entered into between organisations of employers and trade unionists also cover the recommendations which are embodied in a Convention.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
But surely there was time for the Government to ratify these Conventions and thereby encourage other countries to do likewise.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
One of the reasons for the ratification of Conventions is that other Governments will follow suit. When questions are asked with regard to social security I would ask hon. Members to read the recommendations that have been put before the Conference by the I.L.O. and, with the exception, maybe, of two items they will be found to be embodied already in legislation which this House 784 has passed and from which the I.L.O. has received its inspiration and will, I hope, receive more inspiration in the future.
It has been suggested that if we were not prepared to vote for these recommendations but had put in reservations with regard to their application, that might have been a better procedure than to allow ourselves to be charged with using delaying tactics. In my view reservations can render a recommendation innocuous, and it seemed to me that many of those at the Philadelphia Conference who were finding fault with our attitude were voting for resolutions with sufficient reservations to make those resolutions non-effective after they had been carried. Honesty, it has been said, is the best policy. I have discovered that it is not always the best policy, particularly at international conferences, but I believe it is the best line to follow if one wants to come out right in the end. A further danger against which the Organisation will have to guard is the risk that the Conference should be used for the adoption of resolutions of a propagandist nature. The prestige which the Organisation has rightly acquired throughout the world has been based on its success in avoiding being used for propaganda ends, and if its status is to be upheld it is essential that any such danger should be carefully guarded against.
Much will be done to overcome these dangers when it is possible for the regular procedure of the Organisation to be restored. As the Acting Director pointed out, frequent meetings of the governing body, followed by regular meetings of the Conference, should once more bring the technical work of the Office into the closest harmony with the policy which the representative organs of the Organisation pursue and should allow time for Governments to consider proposals well inadvance of their discussion by the Conference. I should like to take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the Acting Director and his staff for the admirable work which they accomplished under conditions of exceptional difficulty in preparing and carrying through the work of the Conference. The governing body of the I.L.O., which met immediately after the Conference, adopted a budget for the Organisation for 1945 which should enable it to face its developing responsibilities and to undertake adequately the fresh duties that will be laid upon the Office as a result of the Philadelphia Conference. 785 Hon. Members will not expect me to refer in detail to all the various recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Conference. The report of the British Government delegates has been submitted to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, and he proposes to present it to Parliament at an early date, together with the full text of the recommendations and resolutions adopted. In the meantime, however, I should like to refer to one or two matters which are of particular interest. In the consideration of the declaration on the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organisation, the Conference had before it the views of those who thought the Organisation should assume some responsibility for formulating and coordinating economic and financial policy, but it decided, wisely, I think, that the proper function of the Organisation was to examine and consider all economic policies and measures in order to see whether they could be regarded as promoting or hindering the attainment of conditions in which the fundamental objectives of the Organisation could be achieved. The Organisation will judge all policies and measures, in particular those of an economic and financial character, in the light of their effect on the well-being of the people, and will use its influence to ensure that the main object of such policy shall be the improvement of human conditions.
To this end the declaration which I have previously referred to and which has been reported to the House makes what I consider to be a first-class declaration in this direction. It begins by saying—and this was part of its original constitution—that "labour is not a commodity." How fundamentally true that statement is has been more clearly demonstrated in our own country during the past four years than at any other time in its history. Had labour not been regarded as something other than a commodity to be bought and sold it would never have been possible to utilize it to the forging of a weapon by the means of which the freedom of the world could be saved. It also reaffirms that freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustain progress. This, I think, is self evident, for it is the basis upon which the constitution of the I.L.O. rests. It also states that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere, and if only we 786 could make that a living faith it seems to me we should be on the high road to many achievements. Finally, it suggests in the first paragraph that the war against want should be waged with the same urgency as is the war that is being conducted at the present time. This declaration, reaffirming the principles and setting out the new objectives, is not only worthy of the consideration of the House but, I believe, is worthy of the support, and the active support, not only of the people of this nation but of people of good will throughout the world.
Interim provision has already been made for the association of the Organisation with the Food Organisation, with U.N.R.R.A. and other international organisations, and the governing body, acting in accordance with a decision of the Conference, has appointed a committee to consider the whole question of the relationship of the I.L.O. with other international organisations. That committee will also review the constitution and finance of the Organisation in the light of present day circumstances. The Conference recognised that the promotion and maintenance of high levels of employment and the raising of social conditions require action in many fields to make these objectives attainable.
Perhaps the main preoccupation of all delegates to the Conference was the question of full employment. From the beginning and throughout the Conference it was clear that this matter filled the thoughts and informed the actions and speeches of all those present. One of the most heartening features of the Conference was the unanimity of representatives in their determination that we must never again acquiesce in the kind of unemployment from which so many countries suffered in the inter-war years, but that, on the contrary, Governments and peoples must take every practicable step to ensure that suitable employment is available for all those who desire to work. In the words of the Committee on Employment, on which I had the privilege to sit along with one of my colleagues in the Ministry:Policies to assure full employment constitute an indispensable condition for the successful solution of the problem with which this Conference is faced.Access to employment in the production of useful goods or services is essential for 787 the preservation of human dignity as well as for the proper support of physical existence. The assurance that sufficient jobs will be available must depend upon the willingness of nations to adopt whatever measures may be necessary and appropriate to promote employment—opportunity for as many men and women as may seek employment. The work of this Committee was not concerned with wider measures for ensuring full employment. Those are matters for discussions elsewhere. Its deliberations were concerned with the organisation of employment in the transition from war to peace. Its business, in other words, was to consider organisational arrangements. It must not be thought that these are unimportant. The organisation is not right if it does not perform efficiently its function of bringing together available workers and available jobs in an orderly manner. Even in a time of widespread prosperity there may be waste, dislocation and avoidable unemployment. Organisational arrangements are, it is true, only part of the problem of full employment but, again in the words of the Committee, "They are of great potential significance for the post-war era." Even questions of organisation may give rise to controversy, and it was not to be expected that there would not be any difference of opinion on this very large Committee, a Committee of 33 representatives of Governments and 22 each of employers and workers, or 77 in all. Members addressed themselves to their task in a spirit of co-operation, and with the determination to make a report which would be of maximum assistance to Governments, and of great potential benefit to people. I believe they succeeded in their aims. They produced three most valuable recommendations, and two resolutions which, with the full support of the representatives of His Majesty's Government, were adopted by the Conference. It is not possible to describe in more detail the provisions of these recommendations and resolutions, but I venture to hope that hon. Members will study the provisions for themselves, when, I think, they will agree that they make a substantial contribution to the important problem of employment.
The recent International Monetary Conference was a further important step towards this aim. In their recommenda- 788 tions for present and post-war social policy the Conference expressed the great importance they attached tothe establishment, at the earliest possible moment, of effective international machinery for settling balances arising out of international trade and other transactions, and for maintaining stability in rates of exchangeand urgedthe authorities responsible for its application to have regard, in framing and applying their policy, to the effect of their decisions on employment and living standards.A very necessary and, I believe, a very vital admonition. All of the recommendations of the Conference on this subject indicated the importance of international measures for the expansion of constructive economic activity to the achieving of the Organisation's own objectives. The cooperation of the I.L.O. in these measures will bring the employers and workers of the world into close touch with all such measures. It will not only enable their experience and knowledge to be brought to bear on international deliberations, but will also give them, in their various countries, that sense of responsibility which is necessary.
In the resolution concerning social provisions in the peace settlement, in which it is hoped that the Philadelphia Declaration will be included, the Conference recommended that the Governing Body should call a special conference of the Organisation when, in its opinion, there is a danger of a substantial fall in general employment levels, for the purpose of recommending appropriate national or international measures to prevent the development or spread of unemployment, and to establish conditions under which high levels of employment may be maintained or restored and to correlate the activities of the I.L.O. for the end of maintaining full employment with those of any other international agency or agencies which may be designated by the United Nations to have responsibility in economic fields. The Conference also proposed that there should be a regular exchange between Governments of information and statistics on uniform lines, for the purpose of assisting in the promotion of economic advancement and social well-being. Thus, the I.L.O., as a tripartite organisation, seeks to take an effective part in the great work of world reconstruction and to bring all those affected into active relationship with 789 Governments in this great task. Recommendations on social security, transition from war to peace and minimum standards of social policy in dependent territories, may all be regarded as a commencement of the work of the I.L.O. in their own post-war field. It will be possible to discuss these in more detail when the question of their adoption is debated by the House, but, in the meantime, they provide a basis for consideration of all Governments in reconstruction and resettlement after the war.
The representatives of the occupied countries, however, pointed out that many of these proposals applied to countries which have not been devastated by the invader and there must first be relief and rehabilitation. Other countries, also, in which the conditions are primitive, have a long period of development to face before they can be expected to put into operation measures more suited to the most advanced countries. Having set out their long-distance proposal, it is necessary for the I.L.O. to have regard to these practical considerations and to provide the guidance and assistance that are required, and it is interesting to note that the I.L.O., through the difficult years, has been doing this. More than one representative from what might be described, not as a backward, but a somewhat backward, nation, referred with gratitude to the assistance they had received from the Office in the promotion of their own social service organisation. It is with that in mind that, as soon as circumstances permit, regional conferences in the East and elsewhere are proposed. It is in the interest of the whole world that educative measures of this kind should be taken.
I should like to refer to one other matter which was considered by the Conference. The British Government proposed that international joint committees should be established in the major industries of the world, such as coal, textile, transport and the metal trade. Two objectives are in mind, first, to increase the machinery for international co-operation by bringing together those who have that close natural affinity which comes from working in the same occupation, and, secondly, to enable those in these great industries to mix together internationally for the discussion of their common problems and to assist in raising the conditions in the new areas of in- 790 dustrialisation. I am glad to say that this proposal was adopted by the Conference, and that the Office was instructed by the Governing Body to set up an Industrial Relations Department, among the duties of which will be the formulation of proposals for setting up such committees. That is my report of some of the things which took place at Philadelphia, a truly historic Conference. I want to express to the House my thanks for having been given the privilege and also to express the hope that the work that was done will lead, as we believe it will, if it is honestly carried out, to the promotion of the well-being of the peoples of the world.
§ Mr. Thorne (Plaistow)
May I be allowed to put two questions to the Parliamentary Secretary? The first is whether there is any Convention to be ratified by this House, and the second is whether hours of labour were discussed.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The answer to the first question is that the two recommendations and regulations which will come before the House were passed. The answer to the second is that the hours of labour were not discussed, except in relation to employment.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
We have had from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary the frank kind of report which we expect from him, and I am sure he will agree that the best purpose we can serve to-day is to be as equally frank about the Conference and the future of the International Labour Office. The I.L.O. is the only piece of machinery created at the end of the last war which has survived the storm. All the rest has gone. All the rest has been overwhelmed in the international anarchy that destroyed both the hopes and the peace of the world. It is, indeed, the orphan of the storm, and the fact that it has survived for these last 25 years is proof that it has, by its work and by its influence, won for itself a permanent place in world organisation. Its survival gives us hope that this time we shall build on firmer foundations a world organisation, of which the I.L.O. will be an integral part, a world organisation that can create the conditions of peace and that will provide effective machinery for creating and for keeping the peace.
In its 25 years existence, I think it can be fairly claimed that the I.L.O. has 791 performed three major services to the world. First, it has, by its recommendations and by its Conventions, laid the foundation upon which a just labour code could, in part, have been built and can still be built. I say "could in part have been built" because the recommendations and the Conventions agreed to at the trade conferences of the I.L.O. were not adopted by the Governments at the Conference. That includes our own Governments of the inter-war period; I will come back to the rôle of our Governments later. The second service that has been rendered by the I.L.O. is that it has proved that there is, in the field of industrial and social improvement, a great opportunity for the development of international action. This is the field which offers the best opportunity, for it is in this field of international economic cooperation that we can lay the basis upon which a peaceful world can be built. Thirdly, I think the International Labour Office has created an organisation which can be made into an effective instrument for achieving the aims and purposes which it has set for itself. I would like to say, too, that it has not only created the organisation, but has created a staff fully equal to the tasks which have been imposed upon it and which, with strengthening, can be made fully equal to the tasks to be imposed upon it in the future.
Those of us who have endeavoured to follow the work of the I.L.O. in the last 25 years have occasionally had opportunities of meeting those who serve on the staff, and I am sure we would like to pay our deep debt of gratitude to the staff for the way they have done their work. I can only wish that the Governments had done their work as well. I should certainly like to pay tribute to the way they have tenaciously hung on to their tasks and done the work of the I.L.O. in these war years. The Philadelphia Conference, in the main, devoted itself to passing a number of resolutions. It adopted a number of recommendations, and these resolutions and recommendations have now to be considered by the separate Governments, including our own, and, as the Parliamentary Secretary has told us, in due course they will come up before the House. Perhaps before the end of the Debate we may be informed when our own Government will submit these recom- 792 mendations and resolutions for adoption by this House.
I do not propose, therefore, to discuss these detailed resolutions and recommendations, but to discuss the two major issues which came before the Conference. The first was a resettlement of the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organisation, and the second was what place the International Labour Office—the International Labour Organisation—is to occupy in the immense tasks of reconstruction that confront us on the morrow of victory. First, about the restatement of aims and purposes which took the form of what has become known as the Philadelphia Declaration. My hon. Friend referred to the fact that there were two dangers which the I.L.O. had to avoid. I shall say a word about both. The second danger to which he referred was the danger that the I.L.O. would adopt Declarations and Conventions and resolutions for mere propaganda purposes. I agree. I think it would be a very bad thing if representatives of Governments, or employers or trade unions, went to a conference of this kind, and gave their consent and approval to and voted for any recommendation or convention, resolution or declaration, if they did not mean it. I want to put this to our own Government, because we cannot put it to any other Government. Do they mean everything they said in the Declaration? Do they mean to carry it out? The Declaration is one of very great importance. I hope it will be read. I do not propose to quote at length from it, but I may wish to quote one or two sentences, because this has been agreed to by 41 nations assembled in Philadelphia, these 41 nations being represented by representatives of their own Governments and the employers and the trade unions, in the usual manner of the I.L.O., and unanimously they have made this Declaration, which I venture to hope, like my hon. Friend, is not propaganda which will be forgotten when the victory is won. Look at what it claims and asserts:All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.It says "of race, creed or sex," and our own Government, which has responsi- 793 bility not only for our own country but for a great Colonial Empire, has declared that every human being in the world is entitled to those material conditions, without which no real dignified human life is possible. Having laid down that objective, it lays down, secondly, thatthe attainment of the conditions in which this shall be possible must constitute the central aim of national and international policy.First there was stated, "This is the goal"; secondly "That goal must be the central aim of national and international policy"; and thirdly:all national and international policies and measures, in particular those of an economic and financial character, shall be judged in this light, and accepted only in so far as they may be held to promote and not to hinder the achievement of this fundamental objective.That is what 41 nations have said. If they mean it, not as propaganda but as a definite aim in policy, then I believe we can at the end of this war look forward to a better world, but only if they mean it as an aim in policy and not merely window-dressing propaganda.
I want to refer to the second danger to which my hon. Friend referred, that is that resolutions will be adopted without sufficient attention or pre-consideration. I agree entirely; but that is not the only danger. There is another danger which is emphasised very clearly in the Report made by the Office to the Conference. It is that really we must not judge the speed at which we require to do things in the light of that required in pre-war years. I want to refer to that in two connections. I want to refer to what my hon. Friend said about the attitude he was compelled to take, as the representative of the British Government, towards the proposal on economic security. Let me say frankly that I regret that the Government took that view. I do so for two reasons. First I regret it as a Britisher, if I may be allowed to say that. For a few months last year I was in America and Philadelphia. My experience as a Britisher was that I found everywhere that this country's prestige and standing there and, as I am told, elsewhere in the world, fell in those miserable inter-war years. There was a time long ago when this country had a prestige in the world which could not be explained by its material possessions or wealth but was in great 794 measure due to the fact that in the 19th century it took the moral leadership in the world and not merely the material leadership. In the inter-war years we lost that place of pioneer nation, a nation of great moral strength, of greater moral strength than all our economic wealth. The fact that, as the Minister of Labour has said, for 17 years we suffered—and we ought to be ashamed we suffered it—1,700,000 unemployed persons, and that in international policy we scarcely ever took the lead, gave us a low place.
Then I found that the events of 1940–41, the behaviour of this city and of its common people, the way in which the common man sprang to the challenge, have given this country a new place in the mind and the heart of the world. I think it is desirable and essential for the future of the world that this country shall keep that place, that we shall be known as a country that is prepared to take the lead and not to keep behind or draw back. Therefore—I know my hon. Friend realises that I am speaking frankly but not personally—I do not like the idea that when a question of economic security comes up—because without that we are not going to have a peaceful world—the British Government should have even given the impression they were holding back and not prepared to go with others.
The second reason why I regret it is because of what is set out so clearly in the Report presented by the Office to the Conference, for the Office has an unrivalled knowledge of world conditions and world trends. If any body of men and women is able to sense how the world is moving and how the people are moving, what is taking place, what are the hopes and desires, it is the I.L.O. If I needed advice as to how things are going in the world I would go to the International Labour Office and its staff. They talk about the social trends, the claims laid down in the Declaration and say:These social claims are the claims which the common man whose conception of the possible has been enlarged by two world wars expects the economic system to satisfy. The problem of post-war reconstruction is the problem of how these claims shall be met.Note, not whether they shall be met but how shall they be met, for they say this about the problem of whether they shall be met: 795No political or economic system which fails to satisfy these claims will be acceptable to the people who have understood the potentiality of Government action in two world wars.Here is the second danger. Here is a great chance. Here are these social claims. We have in the last five years taken our part, and have every reason to be proud of the part we have taken, in this great conflict. The mass of our people everywhere have given their best to the nation, to Parliament and to the Government. Never has there been such loyalty, such effort. Common men all over the world have been profoundly affected by this war. They begin to ask questions. It has enlarged their view of possibilities. All over the world there is a movement of the common people which will demand these rights from the economic and political system, and in the post-war period no economic system and no political system which fails to satisfy these claims of the common man will survive the storm. That is the truth—they will not survive the storm.
Sometimes I listen here to question and answer on what we will do in the postwar world—chop off a bit of one country and chop off a bit of another. That is not the problem of post-war reconstruction. The problem is to build a world which will provide peace and economic security for the people. If we cannot do that no chopping about of nationalities will accomplish anything at all. This is said by members of this staff, who have an unrivalled knowledge. That is a declaration. This Government, a Government composed of the major parties in this country, has been committed by the Parliamentary Secretary and his associates to that Philadelphia Declaration. There is the commitment. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the worst thing to do would be to make that Declaration mere propaganda. That means that our economic policy and social policy at home and in the Colonial Empire, our influence in helping to shape the economic and financial policies in the world, must be determined by that Declaration, and if we do not live up to it, we will have passed it for propaganda purposes, not for real purposes.
I want to examine for a moment or two the part which the International Labour Office can play in these aims and objects 796 set out in the Philadelphia Declaration. There are two aspects. First, what place is the I.L.O. already accorded in the consideration which has been and is still being given to some of the problems of. post-war reconstruction by what the Report calls "functional organisations" set up during the war? Instead of a comprehensive organisation to consider all international problems, we have had set up in the last two years functional organisations to consider special problems. First, there was the Hot Springs Conference on food supplies. There is U.N.R.R.A. Then there has been the Bretton Woods Conference on finance, which has just come to an end. The Office, in their Report, make the point that in the past the International Labour Office and the International Labour Organisation were very often precluded—more often than otherwise—from examining general economic and financial policies. Their job was to consider whether they would agree, say, to a draft convention for a 48-hour week, to the abolition of night baking, or specific matters of that kind. Up to now they have been precluded from examining general economic and financial policies pursued by nations, either singly or in collaboration, or financial and economic policies that regulate the relationship of nations.
The claim they make is that the I.L.O. should not be restricted in that way. Questions of financial and economic policy must affect aims and purposes. Therefore it is not fair or right or desirable to say to the I.L.O., "Here is a little bit. Examine that, but what happens outside is no concern of yours." Let me give an example from the coal industry. The I.L.O. was permitted in the interwar years to consider questions of the length of the working day, questions of workmen's compensation, questions affecting the standard of life of those in the industry. But when the I.L.O. sought to have a voice in another problem vitally related to it, that of the marketing of coal, and the price-fixing of coal, they were told "That is economic and financial policy. That is outside." How can it be outside? How can a body be asked to consider terms on which men work if it is not allowed to consider the very terms on which those wages are based? I would like the Minister, when he replies, to say whether the British Government 797 fully accept the view that the I.L.O. ought to be accorded a full place in all the discussions on social and economic policies, because those policies must vitally affect its work.
I come to the question of the place of the I.L.O. in any contemplated world organisation. So far we have had these international conferences: Hot Springs, U.N.R.R.A., Bretton Woods, and the others. But not only our own Government, but the Congress and Government of the United States, too, are committed—by both parties in their election proclamations—to the setting up of a comprehensive world organisation. The I.L.O. was set up at the end of the last war, and it had a very definite organic relationship to the old League of Nations. Now that we have, unfortunately, allowed the old League of Nations to die, and another world organisation has to be created with a new constitution, what is the place of the I.L.O.? Is it to be accorded a place? If it is, is its authority to be widened in the ways that I have described? If it is, there comes the other question, which the Conference pronounced upon, I believe, with equal unanimity. That is, that it was desirable to write into the peace terms that would finally be adopted, setting up a world organisation, the Philadelphia Declaration, to which I have already referred, as part of the objectives of that world organisation.
Then there is the question of speeding up its procedure. I know that the dangers of inadequate consideration have been urged. But at the end of the war we shall move with very great speed. Problems will crowd upon us. Is the procedure of the I.L.O. to be of such a character as to enable it to play a full and effective part? There is a danger of problems and events crowding upon us so rapidly that we shall be discussing a problem which was acute 18 months ago when we are confronted with other problems. Speed in action is going to be essential in the post-war period, and I do not think that any of us, including the Parliamentary Secretary, would claim that at the moment the procedure of the I.L.O. is quick enough to meet coming events. The other problem is what can be done to bring influence upon Governments who agree to Conventions, and fail to ratify them. There is the question whether we ought to adopt more than 798 influence, some sanctions. If there had been sanctions of that kind before the war, our own Governments would have had sanctions applied against them—and they would have deserved them. Is not some machinery for such sanctions desirable?
Another aspect is referred to in the Report. I will not quote it literally; I will trust to my memory. That is in relation to the formation of a United Nations Bank, to provide loans to countries to enable them to rehabilitate their economic life. It is suggested that the United Nations bank, when making loans, should lay down conditions. Generally speaking, these loans to other countries, in the past, have been made by financiers in Wall Street and the City and elsewhere. They have been concerned only to secure their own vested interests. But if a loan is made by the United Nations bank to a specific country to develop its economic life, cannot we lay down that, in its economic development, that country must observe the conditions laid down in the I.L.O. Code? We can tell a country: "Yes, you can have a loan to rehabilitate your country, to develop its resources, and to build up its economic life, but not unless you observe the conditions of the I.L.O. Code." [An HON. MEMBER: "The Fair Wages Clause."] There would be much more than that: it would include social services, and all the other things. In that way, it will be possible to build up the standard of life in countries everywhere. I have tried to raise some very general questions. I have left out a good deal that I wanted to say, but I have already taken more time than I ought to have done, and I know that we shall have time later on to consider these detailed recommendations and resolutions, which must come before us for ratification. I hope that we shall be told by the Minister when these are likely to come before the House.
In its discussions the Conference was preoccupied with these enormous problems which will confront us at the end of the war. Peoples have been disturbed as never before. I do not know whether Members have read a document by the Conference—one of the most striking documents I have read—on the displacement of populations during the war. The enormous problem of finding new roots and new homes, and of bringing back people, is dealt with in this document, 799 which I hope will be read by many Members. It is a document which indicates the measure of the problem which awaits us. We have all had the experience, as we have seen problems mount up, of feeling a sense of being overwhelmed. The staff of the I.L.O., having looked at the problems, having listed them, examined them, and reported upon some of them, say, "Here are immense problems, so immense that perhaps the first reaction is to hide from them, because they are so big. But there are the assets. We shall face these problems with great resources and great assets." They list those assets. On the material side here is one—the stimulus given by the war to technical development. I will quote their words:In terms of technical and social evolution, the war has telescoped years into months, and generations into years. We, therefore, at the end of the war, will be technically equipped for facing these problems in a way the world has never been technically equipped before. Secondly, there is another material asset and resource at our side to meet these problems, the fact that during the war there has been the acquisition of new skills by labour, on a scale hitherto undreamed of.It is true of our own country. We shall have more skilled, better trained, and more competent workers than we have ever had in our history. They have learned new skills. Our girls have learned new skills. Who cannot be proud of the work they have done, and are doing still, and the adaptation they have learned? On the material side, therefore, we have assets big enough to meet this problem. On the other side, the Report lists the moral and spiritual assets. Mr. Henry Wallace said that this is the century of the common man everywhere—not the century of an Empire but the century of the common man—irrespective of race or colour or creed. In the young men in the world there are great moral resources. It seems to me that, in so far as we can determine our own policies and shape the future of the world, the challenge to all Governments is, "Here are the problems: here are the assets. How can we mobilise these assets so as to conquer these problems and provide a world which the common people not only want, but deserve, for the part they have played in the last few years? "I hope that we shall, as a Government, as Parliament, as a nation, not only continue our adher- 800 ence to the I.L.O., but become a pioneer and a leader among the nations of the world, and play our full part in the work of the I.L.O., without which there can be no lasting peace in the world.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
I am certain that the House has listened with interest to the wide and comprehensive survey which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave us of the work of the Philadelphia Conference. He mentioned that the British Delegation had been the subject of some criticism; but, whatever our shortcomings are, let us not forget to tell the world that this country has been the pioneer in a humane outlook and in the development of the social services. Do not let us forget that here in this House of Commons William Wilberforce first raised his voice against slavery, that here in this island Lord Shaftesbury first protested against child labour in factories, that here in this country Elizabeth Fry first toured the prisons and improved the conditions of the poor wretches locked in their cells. Among all classes of our people pioneers have been found in the development of the social services, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and old age pensions; and these have left our generation a legacy to improve upon, and an encouragement to go one better. Looking through the Report of the Philadelphia Conference, one is tempted to pick out so many points that one might fall into the error of Miss Margaret McBride, known as "the housewife's friend" in America, who is accused by her critics of "prattling rudderlessly."
The first point I wish to stress, which was noted by the Conference, is thatpoverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.When M. Litvinov told the League of Nations that peace was indivisible, it was thought by the statesmen at Geneva that he was uttering something very new and very important. But, surely, if peace is indivisible in the political sphere, so prosperity is indivisible in the economic sphere. We cannot have a shattered Europe or a shattered China, and a prosperous world. I ask myself why the I.L.O. has succeeded and has maintained its reputation as an international body, when the League of Nations has already passed, and is to some extent discredited. It is for this reason. The I.L.O., I believe, has dealt with concrete problems in 801 a practical way. Surely international affairs do not concern themselves solely with the mere signing of conventions, or the signing of treaties. It is not merely the statement of principles that is important. It is the fact that men and women in every part of the world learn to work together successfully.
We have had a remarkable illustration of this fact, in the military sphere, in this war. Look at S.H.A.E.F. in this country, where British and American officers do not work as two separate teams, but as one. We have our joint general staff conference in Washington, and likewise the Middle East Supply Centre, and I hope that this practical co-operation will continue effectively in the post-war years with the joint occupation of strategic bases. If that is the success which can be achieved in co-operation on the military side, how much more can the practical approach to economic and labour problems hope to succeed after the war. For if we can ensure that workers in every part of the world—say in China, Brazil or in Europe—can come to their factories in the morning, to work in a well-ventilated and well-lit building with the best working conditions, safety devices against accidents, good feeding and reasonable hours of work, and can return at the end of the week with an ample pay roll, then indeed we shall have found a practical way of reaching peace in the world.
What are some of these tremendous problems which will face our people after the war? Let me take a brief look at the world. We must all hope that the great country of Russia will see its way to rejoin the International Labour Office. Obviously, so vast a country, stretching from the Pacific to the borders of Europe, and from the Arctic in the North to the confines of India in the South, must play an effective part in the world, and its absence from world councils when labour problems are discussed must be damaging. What are these problems? It seems to me that, in Europe, it is a question of salvage, first and foremost. We must not forget that the German General Staff has organised the entire industry of Europe for the benefit of its war effort. The German army, fighting in Italy, on the Eastern front and in Normandy, has been supplied and supported by the work of the subject peoples in Europe. When the day comes on which the workers stand 802 by their factories, and see the German tanks disappear down the bend in the road for the last time, they will be temporarily unemployed and will have to find new work in times of peace.
Then, again, there is another great problem for the I.L.O. the problem of Germany. What goods is Germany to manufacture? All her workers have been employed entirely in the armament industry, but, when Germany is struck down and her power dissolved, they will have to find new work to do. Secondly, we had the question raised at Philadelphia of dependent territories. I believe that nothing will more effectively help to increase the understanding of the peoples of the world of each other than the fact that the great Colonial Powrs are collaborating to ensure standard conditions of welfare in those territories.
Finally, we come to what, to me, is the most important question of all—the question of Asia. Look at Asia at the present moment. In India, I believe I am right in saying, during the last twelve years, the population has increased by something like 60,000,000. How are these people to get rice for their rice bowls? They must import more food from abroad, and if they do, they must earn the money to pay for their imports. Obviously some attempt must be made to industrialise India, and where, before, the primitive plough scratched a bare living from the soil, factories will have to rise and increase the purchasing power of the people. Look at China. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek has stated that he intends to develop his country in a great series of five-year plans. Perhaps, in twenty or thirty years, China may find itself linked by great arterial roads and railways, and equipped with hydro-electric plants, and perhaps some of us here, if still alive, will fly over the Yangtse Valley and will see below us the smoke rising from the chimneys of a Chinese Detroit. But what about the people working in those factories? It is important that their living conditions should approximate as closely as possible to those of Europe. I remember in 1931 touring my constituency with samples of Japanese goods and telling people how the Japanese managed to under-sell Lancashire, not only because of lower wages but because girls from the agricultural districts came to live in hostels to earn their marriage dowry. 803 That is a problem of Eastern ways. If we are to avoid a terrible trade war between East and West, I believe the I.L.O. offers the best way of overcoming that problem. If we can assure that the workers in China and the metal workers in India shall work to standards very much approximating our own conditions then a great cause of friction will be removed.
The second point I wish to deal with concerns full employment and the raising of the standard of living. I was very interested to see some figures used by Mr. Colin Clarke in his book "Principles of Economic Progress," showing how very low the purchasing power of the masses in the world is at this moment. If Mr. Clarke is correct, only in the United States, Canada, the Argentine, Australia and New Zealand, Great Britain and Switzerland, is the average worker's income £200 a year. In India, it is only something like £40 a year, and in China £25 a year. I would say that the most urgent problem facing the I.L.O. is how to raise the purchasing power of the masses of the world. I believe that our Government were right in thinking that the practical way of tackling that problem was to get workers and employers of identical industries together to discuss their particular difficulties. If, for instance, a coal-miner from South Wales could discuss his problems with a coal-miner from West Virginia, or a French coal-miner from Lille, or a Lancashire cotton-spinner could talk to a Czech cotton-spinner, or an engineer from Birmingham could discuss with an engineer from Detroit, we could begin to establish more or less equal conditions in those industries. I would say that that is the right way of approaching the problem, and not by attempting to obtain an overall reduction of hours of work, say to 40 hours. The French example was disastrous. While French Deputies made eloquent speeches in the Chamber, and people dreamed of a new age, across the Rhine Germany was working her factories 24 hours a day. While, on French airfields, only 40 bombers a month were delivered, German production was soaring to 1,500 or 2,000 planes.
I warmly support the view of the Minister of Labour that a practical way of equalising conditions throughout the 804 world is for employers and employed in individual trades to meet each other and hammer out their problems together. That is the way to establish good and fair conditions, and I believe that the I.L.O., if it sees that the worker gets a good day's pay for a fair day's work and ensures that workers all over the world obtain reasonable wages and conditions, will prove itself to be by far the most effective instrument for international co-operation that we have so far found.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
I have no means of knowing what great hopes or ambitions the Parliamentary Secretary took with him when he "left for Philadelphia in the morning" of 18th April, or whenever it was, but I think the House is to-day well satisfied that he and his colleagues on the British Delegation have done a very useful piece of work. In fact, the word "useful" is quite a trivial word to use for so important a piece of work, which, I regret to say, is very imperfectly understood throughout this country. This arises in part from the difficult conditions of the supply of paper and the like, but the vast importance of the problems which are laid before the I.L.O. and also the importance of the decisions reached in the Conference itself are so little known that I hope the earliest opportunity will be taken of making them known throughout this country, because they are a challenge to our people.
The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred in some detail to some aspects of the Declaration of the Conference. It is a profoundly important document. It is, in fact, a new Declaration of the Rights of Man, and if any of us who sit here were to put that Declaration on our political banner and work for it for the rest of our days we should hope to accomplish something worth while. It is important, too, that we should realise what place the I.L.O. will have in relation to the postwar international organisation. It is to be noticed that that aspect of the matter has not escaped the attention of the Governing Body at the Conference itself, because it set up a committee to consider its relationship to other Government bodies working in the international field. In order that the I.L.O. may not overlap these bodies, it should be fully informed upon everything that is going on, so as to be able to co-operate. I 805 rejoice that there are to be set up certain functional committees to consider individual industries. That will bring it into direct relationship with many other bodies considering international problems at the present time. The International Labour Office and its functional committees will certainly come into the active consideration of questions of training, industrial education and the like, and it would, therefore, be essential that it should know whatever is going on in education of an international character. These are some of the matters which are of the greatest importance.
I am not sure whether we all realise to the full the significance of the fact that this Conference has again started after 4½ years and has made a good beginning. A gap of 4½, years in a business so intimately concerned with human affairs and developments is a very long time, and when those 4½ years have been revolutionary years with regard to ideas, to say nothing of personal feelings and animosities, and revolutionary in the field of production, the handling of labour and the means of co-operation in production, I think its restart is a remarkable achievement and one in which our own Delegation may be glad to have had a hand. It is also interesting to note that the international nature of the Conference has been advertised by the fact that it was least successful when it became least international, and notably in its consideration of the treatment of Germany after the war. I think that was where it went over the international line and became, perhaps inevitably, involved in those alignments which exist to-day in a world which does not exist so much for co-operation as for conflict.
Previous speakers have pointed out one or two dangers which lie before the I.L.O. In particular, reference has been made to the danger of proceeding with too little preparation and inadequate consideration of the problems. I confess that I think that is the least difficult of the courses which lie before us. My experience, going back over some years, of social security and these matters which come up at conferences is, that they are threshed out again and again, for years, before they come to a practical point. We say that we in this country are the leaders in social services, and that is right. We were the pioneers and we have, on the 806 whole, kept ahead in that field. But it has taken a war and revolutionary ideas to bring us to the sensible point of coordinating all our efforts and putting them, as I understand we are likely to do, under one Minister.
The matter which is urgent is that attention should be given to the means by which the machinery to give effect to the Conference should be speeded up. Sanctions against Governments whose representatives have supported Conventions or recommendations and do not carry them out have been suggested. I do not think that is a very hopeful way of accelerating the machinery, but the dilatory methods pursued by Governments since the I.L.O. began to operate should be dealt with. I am glad that steps were taken at the Conference to bring some machinery to bear on this problem with a view to trying to settle it.
I am convinced that an important step has been taken in setting up a number of committees to deal with regional organisations. The more we can establish, in modern society, organisations for the consideration of common service throughout the world, the more likely we are to break down international barriers and make the world fit for human habitation and make Europe into a family of nations. The I.L.O. has a great and important work in that field. If it does not function and it cannot be made to carry out its work effectively and efficiently, the fifth chapter of the Atlantic Charter will not be carried out, because there is no other agency in the field at the present time by which it can be carried out.
I said that we claimed to be the leaders in social services and labour matters generally. It is a claim that we are entitled to make and have to sustain, but it follows from that that no other country has a greater responsibility than we have towards the I.L.O. It also follows that in our own interest, apart from the international interest, we should support it in every conceivable way. I have a very lively recollection of sitting in this House during the discussion on the Beveridge proposals and hearing Members getting up and arguing, "These schemes are all very fine and very good, but what are they going to cost? They are going to put up the cost of our manufactured goods to such an extent that we shall be put 807 out of business." If these things were all to be done in isolation it would, no doubt, create a very awkward situation, but in the International Labour Organisation we have a Declaration pledging the various peoples to work nationally and internationally for the purpose of carrying out that Declaration. Therefore, we have a special interest in seeing, as leaders in these matters, that we share to the full our knowledge and experience with other countries where they are minded to proceed on the same lines and to follow our example. This fits very much into the rôle which we, as a people and as a Commonwealth, will be called upon to play when the war comes to an end and the transition period has been worked out. What that transition period will be is difficult to imagine.
My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to the number of people who will have to be resettled when the war comes to an end. The best estimate that I have seen is that, including the people of Russia, there will be 40,000,000 of people to be resettled in Europe after the war where homes no longer exist and when railway transport will almost have ceased to exist. This will not primarily be the work of the I.L.O., but it indicates the background and the difficulty of the matters with which it is particularly charged and will have to contend. The rôle which I would like to see us filling when we emerge into times of peace is that of the best example of a practical working democracy which has ever been seen in the world. That is the best example and encouragement that we can give to a prostrate Europe. We cannot, as a country or as a people, or even as a Commonwealth, aspire to be military dictators, or aspire to military supremacy in the world even if we wished to do so, although we shall make a great contribution to the maintenance of order in the world and the maintenance of any international force which may be necessary. That we can do and that we will do. Our population and resources, in comparison with those of America and of Russia, will preclude us from the possibility of aiming at a great measure of industrial supremacy. That is not to say that we cannot do a great deal and cannot make an important contribution to the rebuilding of a shattered Europe, but it indicates that it should be in the moral and politi- 808 cal sphere that we should seek to give such leadership as lies within us. I think that the part we have taken so far, and the part we may play in the future as supporting the I.L.O. and all it stands for, should be in keeping with this ambition and purpose.
§ Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)
I, too, would like to pay my tribute to the splendid survey and report given to the House by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. Reference has been made to the fact that the I.L.O. is the only organisation that has been kept alive during the war years. It has used its opportunities wisely and well, and I am certain that greater opportunities will be open to it as the days advance. I was reading a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour last December in which he outlined the functions and work of the I.L.O. and the objects and aims of the Atlantic Charter. They desired to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic adjustment and social security. I feel that the I.L.O. has been successful because it is an independent international organisation, is the servant of no Government or party and can make an independent approach to these problems. We are not likely to get social security unless we base the principles on the firm conviction that any country's greatness is built upon the foundation of the homes of its people. If I were asked what British women desire most I would say, good homes, security against poverty, a better chance for the children, and peace on earth and good will to all men. These are linked up with the work of the International Labour Office.
Several hon. Members have repeated the Declaration of the aims and the purposes, and I was particularly interested in two of these aims and purposes of the I.L.O. and the one which suggests that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere. Only those of us who have suffered from poverty know how true that is. If there is one section of the community very poor and unable to live decently, then they are not only degrading themselves but the whole of the community. If that applies to any section of any community in any country, then it equally applies to all the peoples in the other countries of the 809 world. I was interested—and I think it was significant of the change of modern thought—in the Declaration which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity. As a woman who has fought for economic liberty and freedom for the women workers of this country, I thought that this would bring hope to the women of Britain and elsewhere.
I hope that the British Government are going to affirm their belief by the practical application of legislation for equality of opportunity for women in the industries and in the professions of this country. If they do, it will remove the anomalies that now exist inside our own Civil Service, where many of the higher posts are reserved for men. Women who have proved their ability should not be shut out simply because they are women. I would also like to feel that this Declaration applies not only to women in industry, but also that we will give a new status of freedom and dignity to women in the home. We hear a great deal about charters for miners, charters for nurses and charters for different sections of the workers and the community, but we rarely hear anyone speak about a charter for the women in the home. These ideals, these aims and purposes of the I.L.O., include the wife and the mother, the housewife who, in the main, is doing work of the highest national importance in keeping the home going and also in rearing the children of the nation. Tremendous problems will face every Government at the conclusion of hostilities in the reconstruction period, particularly with regard to employment. Employment readjustments during the transition period will raise special problems and difficulties for particular groups of workers. I have in mind three groups: the young persons, the women workers, and the disabled workers. I find that consideration was given to these three groups by the International Labour Organisation and its committees.
If we examine the special needs of the young persons, we find that the Conference recommended that full advantage should be taken of the transition period to promote wide opportunities for work, 810 and training for juveniles and young workers, who have been unable, owing to the war, to complete their training or education. It is suggested that national youth employment programmes should include a higher school-leaving age, vocational guidance services for all young persons, pre-employment medical examinations, and follow-up health care, and broad apprenticeship and training facilities. I think the Conference did well to consider the special needs of the young workers. We all know how the youth of our country have been handicapped in their apprenticeships and in their education because of the devastating effect of the war, and I am reminded that this House considered some of these problems when it discussed, recently, the Education Bill and the National Health Services.
Then there is the question of the women workers. Everyone admits the splendid part the women have played in this war, whether it be in industry or the Services. They have made a very fine contribution to the success of our war effort, and I sincerely hope that, after the war, we shall not be faced with a special woman-worker problem. I believe it will be essential in the interest of the nation, and indeed of all nations, that we should make use of the skill and the expert knowledge of our women workers and give them greater opportunities for the utilisation of their skill and knowledge in wider spheres. What did the I.L.O. say on this problem? They called for the application of the principle of complete equity of employment opportunity for men and women, and asked States to encourage the establishment of wage rates based on job content, without regard to sex. They pointed out that action to improve standards in industry and occupations in which large numbers of women have traditionally been employed will serve to encourage women to seek work in these fields. So I hope that the Government will take cognisance of these recommendations of the I.L.O. and seek to give effect to them.
The third group of workers for whom the special need exists is that of disabled workers. The recommendation there suggests a series of steps to provide these workers, whatever the origin of their disability, with full opportunities for rehabilitation, specialised vocational guidance, training and re-training, and em- 811 ployment in useful work. I was particularly interested in this problem because in our own country, by the joint efforts and co-operation of the Ministry of. Labour and the Ministry of Pensions, we have a very fine scheme for the rehabilitation, the training, and the employment of our disabled Service men and women. If we could make a great success of that in this country, as we have done, then in my judgment it can be extended to include all disabled workers, no matter what the origin of their disability may be. That scheme has been a success because, although it was initiated by the Government, we have secured the cooperation of the employers and employed in carrying it out. I think it reflects great credit upon all concerned. A great many people think that if men and women are disabled, they have no future. That is not true. Work gives disabled men and women a chance to feel that they can be made economically self-supporting, that they are of some use in the world, and by doing useful work they can promote their own health and happiness to a very large extent. We have proved in this country, in the splendid work which has been done in this sphere, that it can be made a great success, and it can be extended to other sections of the community.
I am interested in the place of the International Labour Office in the peace organisation. I feel that when the United Nations set up the peace machinery, the I.L.O. should be given a place therein. I believe it can do tremendously important work for the benefit of mankind. Our difficulties will arise very acutely at the end of hostilities. All the different problems associated with employment, with the removal of poverty, with full employment—all those will be very difficult of solution. It is no use trying to defude ourselves that things will be easy but, with good will and determination, and with our ideals capable of practical interpretation, I am quite certain that we shall be able to surmount those difficulties. But the people of this country, and particularly the women of this country—indeed, one might say the peoples and the women of every country in the world—are desirous that peace shall be built on a secure and lasting foundation. After all the years of the 812 devastation of war, when we have seen our homes blasted, when we have lost our sons and some have lost their daughters, we feel very acutely about securing a just and lasting peace. I believe that, with the experience of the I.L.O. and the work it has done, it should be given some place in the peace machinery which will be created by the United Nations. We simply must have a lasting and just peace if we are to have social security and prosperity, because wars not only create misery and sorrow but prevent nations from getting on with the task of reconstruction. Security for the peoples will result only if we are able to maintain the peace of the world.
§ Sir Lewis Jones (Swansea, West)
I would like in the first place to add my tribute to those already paid to the Parliamentary Secretary, for the review he has given us of the work of the I.L.O. and of the Conference at Philadelphia. The Parliamentary Secretary has already grown in stature since he took office in the Government, and on every occasion that it has been his responsibility and privilege to speak for his Department, he has won the general approval and confidence of the House. I feel that Great Britain was very fortunate indeed this year in its representation at the International Labour Conference at Philadelphia, and His Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on putting as leader of the Government representation, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. Just as he has won praise from his colleagues in this House, I am sure that he came away from America having won for himself the general approval of those he met in conference.
We must not forget, however—I think we have been reminded of it to-day—that the representation at this Conference was tri-partite. The employers were also a very good team. Sir John Forbes-Watson was probably the doyen of the Conference. He has represented British employers at 21 consecutive conferences and was fortunate in that he has always kept himself well in touch with the Ministry of Labour itself, and with trade union leaders. So far as the trade union representation is concerned, they were led by that very able trade unionist, whom some of us have had occasion to meet at many conferences and joint committees, Mr. Hallsworth. So that Great Britain was 813 fortunate in its tri-partite team, and I gather from friends of mine at the Conference that the British representation was unequalled by any other country. In opening the Debate, the Parliamentary Secretary referred to this essential feature of the Conference—the unique character of the formation of its delegation. I think the preamble to Part 13 of the Peace Treaty sets out the constitution for this labour organisation as a tri-partite one, with Government representatives, employers representatives, and representatives of employees, and all are given an equal status. By that preamble, these delegates become, as it were, the trustees of international democracy. I said that this tri-partite organisation is unique in the history of international economics and policy generally. Not only do they secure equality of status, but they are there, independently, to express their individual view and, what is more, can vote as they like. I emphasise this to point out what I believe to be the reason why in the years before the outbreak of war, Japan, Germany and Italy withdrew from the International Labour Conference. Obviously, the very method of election, the status given to the individual delegations, and the rights which they possess at the Conferences were in complete conflict with the ideology of those particular countries.
I have been reading some of the speeches delivered at Philadelphia and I was impressed by one point made by Mr. Hallsworth and by Sir John Forbes-Watson, which was referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary to-day. They emphasised that the International Labour Office will never be what it ought to be until in each country there is that tripartite co-operation, collaboration and consultation which we have in this country between the Government, the employers' organisations and the trades unions. I gather that one of the great weaknesses of the Conference in Philadelphia was that there was so much conflict between the delegates from the individual countries, whereas so far as we were concerned, our employers' representatives, our trade union representatives and the Government representatives knew each other so well, and had been in consultation and collaboration so much during the period of the war, that it helped them all very much at the Conference.
It is very obvious to me that national collaboration between Governments, em- 814 ployers and employees is essential before we can hope to have international collaboration in the same field. Cynics have questioned the wisdom of holding this Conference in Philadelphia while we are engaged in the war. Should the Conference have been held this year? Is the Conference carrying out policy which is set out in its constitution? Is it playing the part that was expected of it when its charter or constitution, was incorporated in the Peace Treaty of 1919? I suppose that in the years between the wars there was room for such cynics. They imagined long-haired economists, sociologists and the like, at Geneva, collecting and tabulating statistics, translating reports and sending out schedules. It was felt by many people that the officials of the I.L.O. were always aiming at bettering the industrial conditions of those counties which had the best conditions, and were doing very little to improve the conditions of the countries with the low standards. However, in spite of the few cynics, some of us who are particularly keen on the I.L.O., and on improving the social standard of the common man, were concerned lest the suspension of the activities of the I.L.O. Conference during the war might result in the complete cessation of the activities of the I.L.O. itself.
The circumstances of the war might easily have contributed to this state of things, when so many member States arc overrun by the Axis Powers, when so many member States are away from their own capitals, and when so many of the leading supporters of the member States are engaged in the awful task of waging war. When one considers the adverse conditions in which this Conference met, I think we are bound to look upon it as being one of the most momentous ever held, although at the same time one of the most difficult. What surprised me was that so many of the people who attended the Conference failed to understand its real limitations. I suppose this was due to the fact that, because of war conditions, so many inexperienced representatives had to attend the Conference on this occasion.
The House has already been reminded that the Conference has no executive power; it cannot enforce a decision. Its decisions can take one of two forms. They can take the form of recommendations—and I agree that recommendations may be 815 good propaganda, and that that is as far as they have gone up to now—or they may take the form of suggested international Conventions. We in this country have real reason to be proud of our record in regard to these international Convenventions. I have been examining the figures. The Conference does, however, behave rather strangely. For instance, an important country like Great Britain has only the same voting power as a small country, with a population of a few millions. When a State votes for a Convention at a Conference it need take no steps towards ratification of that Convention when its representatives go home. We find that in the last 25 years of Conferences there have been 66 recommendations. Nobody knows exactly what happened to them, but in regard to new Conventions, we have a good record of what has happened to them. Up to date 67 Conventions have been adopted at these International Conferences.
The country that ratified most of them was Spain. She ratified 34, although she is not a member of the I.L.O. at the moment and is probably not operating even one of those Conventions. The highest score, if I may put it like that, for ratification of Conventions over a period of 25 years is that of Great Britain. We have ratified 33 Conventions. It was suggested earlier to-day that we have not ratified all the Conventions that we approved But I think it is true to say that we have ratified the bulk of those which we supported at international conferences. It is pleasant to know that except in one case those ratifications had the full approval of the employers' delegates at these conferences.
I would ask the House to remember that 11 countries have ratified less than nine of the Conventions which have been drafted at Conferences. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) made a point with which I am in agreement. I have always felt that some obligation should rest on member States who have voted for Conventions to ratify them afterwards. If a member States goes to a Conference and votes for a Convention there is a moral obligation on that State to ratify that Convention and pass any legislation that is necessary to enact it. Once Acts of Parliament have been passed, based on, or following, the ratifi- 816 cation of a Convention, the country passing that Act ought to see that it is enforced. Anybody who has studied this matter knows that in the past, in most cases, these Acts have become dead letters. I well remember the case of the 48-hour week Convention. There was an exception to operation on the grounds that continuous processes should be outside the scope of the Convention, to cover electricity undertakings, gas works, blast furnaces and so forth. One of the countries which ratified this Convention saw that sausage-making and ice-cream making were continuous processes, and were outside the scope of the Act. That kind of thing makes Conventions a laughing stock.
It is surprising that an accusation should have been made against the British Delegation at the Conference that we were sabotaging and obstructing its work. I was delighted with the spirited reply made by the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, and also with the spirited reply which he made to this accusation at the Conference. To suggest that we have failed to give a lead in social and labour matters is stretching it a little too far. Anybody in Philadelphia who would suggest that must be grossly ignorant of the labour and social conditions of this country. What a tremendous improvement would take place in the labour and social conditions of all countries if it were possible to bring their standards up to ours.
The hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) hopes that the I.L.O. will have for itself a permanent place at the next peace conference. I feel confident that the agenda discussed at Philadelphia, and the recommendations made, have forced on the attention of the Governments of the United Nations the importance of the I.L.O. It is no good talking about planning a new world unless the United Nations are prepared to take the advice of the I.L.O. I am confident that the United Nations cannot afford, and will not desire to ignore, the I.L.O. in the peace negotiations. The Philadelphia Charter has been defined as the counterpart of the Atlantic Charter and as an international code of the rights of the common man.
Reference has been made to the fact that freedom of expression and association is essential to all progress. These are defined as the fundamentals of the 817 Philadelphia Charter. Whoever cares to examine the preamble of the constitution will find that these things are set out in greater detail, and with greater force, in the original Charter itself. I am convinced that it is impossible to operate the Fifth Article of the Atlantic Charter unless the I.L.O. is given its proper place in the post-war world, and unless it receives the full sympathy of member Governments in carrying out the objects for which it was brought into being. I am very glad to think that some of the recommendations affecting the transfer of labour, demobilisation, training and retraining of labour have already received considerable attention from our own Government. I very much hope that the result of this Conference and the action that Great Britain has already taken will provide a model for some of the other member nations as to the way they should proceed during the next few years. An international code of rights for the common man can be achieved.
It is hoped that all member Governments will renew their pledge to the I.L.O. The hon. Member for Llanelly expressed the view that the scope of the I.L.O. should be widened and that it should now examine and consider all international, economic and financial policies and measures. It is very difficult to see how it is at all possible to consider the raising of labour and social standards without allowing for the very serious examination of these economic and financial policies and measures. If the I.L.O. Charter is to be amended, I assume that the amendment will have to wait, perhaps on the recommendation of the I.L.O., until the Peace Conference is held. Whilst again congratulating the representatives of Britain on the part that they played in the momentous Philadelphia Conference, and expressing my pride at the unstinted support that Great Britain has always given to the I.L.O., I feel confident that, in any expansion of its responsibilities, Great Britain will always play a leading part.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
I listened with considerable interest to the very instructive speech of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and I certainly think no better representative of this country could have gone to Philadelphia. My hon. Friend expressed fear of hasty and ill-considered decisions. He was probably right as far 818 as the Philadelphia Conference is concerned, but in the past that has never been the case with the I.L.O. Its procedure has usually meant a delay of from two to three years before a recommendation or a Convention could be passed. Meantime defects hitherto hidden or glossed over were brought to light. Unfortunately, even in this country many business men knew very little of what was happening at Geneva. I have had occasion to address Rotarians and I was surprised how little these business men knew of what was happening. That was through lack of publicity and I hope that more publicity will be given in the future. Whatever may be thought of the League of Nations on its political side, no one can deny that the I.L.O. accomplished a great deal on the industrial side and, when I visited Geneva, I was struck with the efficiency and the energy displayed by the staff in their work. The I.L.O. has been very fortunate in the choice of its chief director. First of all there was that great Frenchman M. Thomas, enthusiastic and earnest in his task of making the I.L.O. a powerful force in the world. Next came Mr. Butler, one of the best type of civil servants. He was a master of efficiency, a follower in every respect of that great Frenchman. After him came Mr. Winant, a firm believer in international action, whose honesty and ability brought the United States into active participation in the work of the I.L.O. Today its chief director is a worthy successor of the former devoted chief.
The I.L.O., acting on the principle that universal peace could only be established if based on social justice, worked towards that end. It established a network of labour treaties, setting up a standard of life in many countries, hitherto thought nigh impossible and, if it was for nothing else than what it did for child labour in India, Persia, China and Japan, it deserves our wholehearted support. To my mind the nations must organise for peace no less earnestly than they have organised for war. Article 23 of the League of Nations stated that the League should endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations expanded. I cannot do better than quote what the Leader of the House said about the I.L.O.: 819The I.L.O. has struggled manfully, and with considerable success, to remove certain evils which are among the root causes of war, low standards of living, insecurity and unemployment. Unless we can cure these evils, no peace structure can be enduring. The I.L.O. must be strengthened and developed. I should like to see it become an improved instrument, giving effect to Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter.In the work of the I.L.O. I see the hope of the future in carrying out the main features of the Atlantic Charter, to which our Prime Minister, President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin have appended their signatures. The recent Conference at Philadelphia, representing 43 countries, unanimously adopted a Declaration of world wide significance. It held out high hopes of a better world for all, and the I.L.O. is well placed to carry out this Declaration. It has a well qualified staff which, however, must be strengthened because it is of too meagre proportions. It has records of conditions in every country, and it has a chief director of wide knowledge and ability. There is one clause in particular, in the Declaration, to which I wish to direct attention:The effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining, the co-operation of managements and labour in the continued improvement of productive efficiency, and the collaboration of workers and employers in the preparation and application of social and economic measures.Enlightened employers in this country have recognised the principles mentioned, but it behoves those progressive-minded employers to use their efforts in their respective associations to get their fellow-employers to toe the line, and so set an example to other countries. I want to see the I.L.O. armed with greater powers so that Conventions passed may be effectively carried out in every country. If we are to prevent the re-arming of enemy countries, so as to avoid future wars, I take it that there will be a form of inspection by the Allied Nations to see that the conditions of the peace settlement are effectively carried out. I think the same principle should apply to Conventions passed by the I.L.O. to prevent any country embarking upon unfair competition by sweated labour. I hope that, when Conventions are passed, the British Government will not decline to ratify them on the plea that similar conditions are already in operation here. I well remember being on a deputation to the then 820 Minister of Labour on the question of the 48-hour week and we were told that it was in operation among at least 95 per cent. of the workers of this country. My retort was, "If that is so, surely it is an easy matter to ratify a Convention which will only affect another 5 per cent. and, by ratifying the Convention, it would be an example to other countries to follow suit, and so long as Britain did not do it they would use that excuse and think there was something behind it." I hope that in future, when Conventions are passed after long and due consideration, this country will be the first to ratify them and so set an example to other countries.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I should like to add my congratulations to those already offered to the Parliamentary Secretary both for his speech to-day and also for his handling of this Conference. In fact his stature has risen so much, that it was indeed a tribute to the International Labour Office that he should be sent there. I had the interesting experience recently of seeing the I.L.O. in cold storage, as it were, at Montreal. It was a very suitable setting, very much like Switzerland in the winter, and the distinguished staff there were proud of the icicles which hung round their windows and reminded them of their old home. I think we are all agreed that the I.L.O. was the outstanding achievement of Geneva. In spite of the war, and in spite of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) and his friends, who have tried so hard and for so long to destroy all that was made at Geneva, the I.L.O. is continuing. It has come out of cold storage, and is now making preparations for peace and for a new world.
I want to discuss one particular aspect. I did not think the Colonial Secretary would be here, but I am interested to see that he is. It has been said that our task is mainly to persuade other countries to have suitable standards, and that we at last have those standards. Certainly we have standards of which we are proud. What they are due to, I do not know. It may be that they are due to the generosity of employers. On the other hand, I have a shrewd suspicion that they may be due to the work of the trade unions. I think my case will be a little stronger if I say that in the Colonial Empire, where in fact we have 821 not got trade unions, we find that the conditions are not such as would satisfy the I.L.O. I have here a note on the recommendation before the I.L.O. on minimum standards of social policy in independent territories and I hope it will be possible for the Minister to tell us something about what has been done to carry out those recommendations. The recommendation on wages says:There shall be created and maintained machinery whereby minimum rates of wages can be fixed for workers employed in certain of the trades or parts of trades in which no arrangements exist for the effective regulation of wages by collective agreement or otherwise and wages are exceptionally low.If that is so, I should like to know what we are doing and propose to do to carry out that recommendation. In the Windward Islands, to take an outlying part of the Empire, wages are is. a day. I do not think that is a satisfactory wage according to standards. That is not the only case. Throughout the Empire there are many other countries with very low standards of wages. Take, for example, the wages in Southern Rhodesia, which again do not come up to those recommended by the I.L.O. Wing-Commander Eastwood, in a debate in the Legislative Assembly of Southern Rhodesia, said:There were many adult Africans living in the urban areas who were receiving from 15s. to £1 per month, and even when housing and rations were supplied they had to provide themselves with clothing and blankets.… The irreducible minimum—where no housing or rations were provided for an adult inexperienced native—would be 45s. per month.They were getting 15s. to 20s. instead of the irreducible minimum of 45s. The second recommendation is on workmen's compensation and says:Provision shall be made by law for the payment of compensation to employed persons in case of incapacity for work caused by accidents arising out of and in the course of their employment, and to their dependent survivors in case of death caused by such accidents and for the medical care of persons injured by such accidents.In one of our Colonies, Kenya, the only workpeople, so far as I know, who receive workmen's compensation are miners. I hope that I am wrong, but I understand that that is so. I hope that that recommendation will be carried out in every part of the Colonial Empire. I come to the key point of industrial organisation. If 822 it is the fact that the height of our standards here is due to the work of our trade unions, it is essential that the third recommendation of the I.L.O. should be carried out. It is:The right of employers and employed alike to associate for all lawful purposes shall be guaranteed by appropriate measures. All practicable measures shall be taken to ensure to trade unions which are representative of the workers concerned the right to conclude collective agreements with employers or employers' organisations.To give a third instance of what is going on in part of our own Empire, a part for which we here are responsible, I will quote the case of Mauritius, where I understand that until recently trades union legislation was so bad that not only did it not come up to I.L.O. standards, but it did not even comply with the requirements of the Colonial Welfare and Development Act, so that the Colony was not eligible for a grant under that Act.
These are three examples of what the I.L.O. recommend. I want to know whether we have given our full support to all these recommendations and whether we intend to carry them out within our own Empire as rapidly as possible. The recommendations are tar wider than that. They include also questions of housing, health, the use of land and, above all, the prohibition of the colour bar. I hope that all of them will be carried out when the time comes. This is, primarily, a task for the Colonial Secretary rather than the Minister of Labour, but I would submit that it is a task for all of us, not only for one Minister—for we cannot throw the whole responsibility on him—but for other Ministers and, in fact, for every Member of Parliament.
The party opposite maintain that the best economic solution of international trade is a policy of tariffs and Imperial preference. I do not see how conditions such as those desired by the I.L.O. can be obtained throughout our Empire if that policy is pursued. I suggest, instead, that we should have a kind of adaptation of the fair wages clause. We should say that we will only buy from those countries, both outside and inside our Empire, which have a standard that is considered to be satisfactory by the I.L.O. If we carry that out we will be in truth doing our best to implement the recommendations of the I.L.O. This 823 is a policy, not only of generosity, but of enlightened self-interest. It will help both workers and employers, and not only workers in our Colonies, but workers and employers in this country who do not want to meet competition from sweated industries abroad, whether it comes from foreign countries or our own Empire. The only person that it would not help is the Englishman who goes out to the Colonies deliberately to exploit the native's inability to defend himself. If, as I hope, there are very few of these people, we shall in so doing be helping the overwhelming majority of our employers and our workers at the sacrifice of a very few, a few whom I personally do not in the least mind sacrificing.
§ Mr. Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I think it is well to recall, when discussing the Philadelphia Conference of the I.L.O., that when this organisation was launched some 25 years ago, it was an unprecedented experiment and that it was launched in a world where the idea of social security was almost unknown. In fact, outside Germany and Great Britain, there were no comprehensive schemes covering even sickness, invalidity and old age for the working man. It was a world in which the almost unrestricted policy of laissez faire was allowed to run rampant, and those who were responsible for the establishment of this organisation were looked upon as idealists and idle dreamers. It was because in those circumstances the I.L.O. began its task with a considerable degree of boldness and vision that it laid the foundations of its success. We may recall that at its first Conference in 1919 it was so bold as to tackle such fundamental problems as the 48-hour week and the maternity Convention, among others. At the second Conference in 1920 it laid down the series of Conventions which have come to be known as the Charter for World Seamen.
To-day, it is obvious that if the much more tremendous and urgent problems with which the world is to be faced immediately after the cessation of hostilities are to be adequately tackled, there must certainly be no less vision and boldness than were shown in the first experiment of 1919. There is no question but that the Declaration of Philadelphia is an admirable expression of principles and resolutions. The first principle, for example, 824 is that all human beings, irrespective of race, creed and sex, should be assured of economic security and equal opportunity, and that the attainment of the conditions in which this shall be possible must constitute the central aim of national and international policy. Further, to go beyond the scope of what was recognised as the I.L.O. field of activity in wages and hours, the Declaration adds:It is a responsibility of the International Labour Organisation to examine and consider all international and financial policies and measures in the light of this fundamental objective.Little criticism can be made of that, and it certainly opens up tremendous scope and expectation among millions of the world's people.
But I do not think it is irrelevant, having in mind the opening statement of the Parliamentary Secretary and some subsequent speeches, to recall that, in spite of the high ideals expressed in 1919, there were certain serious shortcomings in the implementation of those ideals, not only by European and Asiatic countries, but by our own country. I cannot understand why the Joint Parliamentary Secretary slipped up in his brief, when he said that this country had ratified all the Conventions dealing with social security. I was surprised to hear it, because it is simply not the case. There was the Maternity Convention, which was one of the first Conventions adopted at the 1919 Conference, and was never ratified by this country, although it has actually been adopted or implemented in the legislation of other countries. There were the Conventions dealing also with the 48-hour week, with white lead in paint, and with night work in bakeries, none of which has been ratified by this country. Again in the Preamble to Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles, it was recognised by the high contracting parties that among the most important and urgent of the principles to be applied by them in their respective countries, were such provisions as equal pay for equal work, upon which I do not think any comment is necessary. Nor is it desirable, when facing the present-day tasks of the I.L.O., to satisfy ourselves by referring to what has been done in this country in the past. Reference has been made to some of the forces which have been responsible for the comparatively high standards achieved in this country, but that of itself is no criterion, 825 nor is it sufficient merely to preen ourselves on our past history in social legislation. In fact, we were not actually the European pioneers of social security; the credit for that goes to Bismarckian Germany. So that arguments of that kind do not get us very far.
In facing our new problems, we certainly have a great advantage over the pioneers of 1919. We are not embarking on an entirely uncharted sea with an untried craft. We have the advantage of 25 years of experience, during which we have piled up tremendous reserves of documentary evidence, research work and statistics which must prove invaluable when facing the new tasks. It may be that some of the instruments with which we have to work may be a little faulty, or may be found inadequate for the modern tasks. It is to be noted that the Governing Body is now giving consideration to some of these outstanding questions, such as the question of machinery and the operation of the organisation as a whole. I presume that it is unnecessary for me to make reference to some of the most persistent of the difficulties, such as questions concerning the interpretation of the provisions in regard to the organisations of workers in relation to the U.S.S.R., and the question of the most representative organisation in relation to such countries as the United States, and European countries which may have big Catholic organisations, and so on.
There are one or two other points which are worth mentioning. I would refer, first, to the constitution of the Governing Body, which, with its emphasis an the industrial side, is not sound. The prominence of the representation of the eight countries of chief industrial importance seems to me to prejudice the position of the agricultural communities which, after all, represent 60 to 70 per cent. of the world's population. It tends to create the great difficulty of pushing into the background the importance of establishing and maintaining a high level of living among the primary producers of the world. Another difficulty is the fact that the trade-union-employer basis, which was quite obvious and inevitable, and should remain obvious and inevitable, nevertheless again tends to rule out, to some extent, or to prejudice the agricultural community, because, as has already been pointed out, vast areas of the earth, including particularly the Colonial terri- 826 tories, are not highly organised, and therefore have not the same representation at the Conference as have the industrial communities. The answer to that, in my opinion, is that steps must be taken towards encouraging organisation of the workers in those agricultural communities, so that they can be assured of complete representation.
The question of the Organisation's budget has already been sufficiently mentioned, but it remains a very important problem. I understand that the budget is to be doubled this year and that the staff is to be extended, which is inevitable in relation to the new and extended problems that will have to be faced, but the question of a greater measure of autonomy in the budget of the I.L.0. remains a problem that must be solved. The most important of the matters that have to be faced by the Governing Body in this re-examination of the position, is the implementation of Conventions and recommendations I will say nothing about those countries whose representatives move or support Conventions at the Conferences and then refuse to implement them when they get home, but one of the weaknesses of the present constitution that always impresses me is the fact that a country which does ratify a Convention immediately lays upon itself the obligation of reporting annually to the Conference what steps it has taken to carry out the conditions of the Convention, and it thereby lays itself open to criticism, and even to accusation. It is the target of all trade union inquiries and of the searchlight of public opinion. On the other hand, the country that takes no steps to ratify a Convention is entirely free. I have never been able to understand why it is impossible—or why it is regarded as impossible—that every member State should be required to report annually either on the steps taken to implement a Convention it has ratified or on the reasons why it has failed to ratify. I hope that this point may be given serious consideration.
The adjustment of some of these difficulties, and the refashioning of some of these tools, have become all the more urgent because of the development and extension of the powers of the I.L.O. as is referred to in the report. The I.L.O. has now gone beyond the stage of an organisation merely for considering questions related to wages and hours, and has 827 become one of the primary instruments in the war against want, which is now on an international scale; and it is having to take into account all the complex financial and economic policies, upon an international as well as a national scale—questions like full employment, the standard of living, the extension of production and consumption, economic fluctuations, world prices and the maintenance of a high volume of international trade. Those and other matters constitute the field now laid open to the I.L.O. and it is evident that very wide consideration must be given to the question of its recognition and participation in questions relating to reconstruction and rehabilitation, monetary policy, and food and agricultural organisation. In regard to the last point, I do not know the present position, but certainly the first representations made by the I.L.O. for recognition and participation in the food and agricultural committee were not a good augury of the collaboration that they might expect in future, in regard to those operations.
It is probably inevitable that the Philadelphia Conference concentrated particularly upon the European situation and upon immediate post-war prospects. It has to be recognised presumably that the United Nations are to be regarded as the immediate authority, as they must be those principally concerned with the establishment of peace conditions immediately following the end of the war. While that may be so, it is equally important that the status of the I.L.O., its universality and its authority, must be in no way weakened in the long-term programme. I have just referred to its universality. In passing, let me say that I noticed that the reference to the treatment of enemy countries and their administration in the first report has disappeared from the official bulletin. Presumably it has been referred to the Governing Body for consideration. That may be desirable, but we cannot ignore the fact that there will be an economic problem here that must not be laid aside simply because of any political policy; I would remind the House that Clause 5 of the Declaration of Philadelphia lays it downThat the principles set forth are fully applicable to all people everywhere.It would be a colossal blunder if we were to sacrifice the economic necessity which 828 exists in this problem to the considerations of a pure political demand for retribution. It is relevant to remember that, in 1919, the Charter of the I.L.O. itself drew attention to this fact, thatthe failure of any nation to establish humane conditions of labour must be an obstacle to other nations,which were prepared to establish such conditions. Again, referring to the Philadelphia Charter, there is the very significant Clause which says:Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.That is true irrespective of political colour, or of the difference between victor and vanquished in the war, or creed, or anything else. Those are facts which have been before the representatives of the 41 Governments, workers and employers at Philadelphia, and they have deliberately, not out of sentiment, but because of pure necessity, recognised them. Anyone who has had anything to do with these matters in the history of the I.L.O. will be aware of persistent difficulty in securing adequate progressive steps, as is shown by constant references to the plague spots of sweated labour. Governments in some cases, and employers in almost all cases, whether on a question relating to the abolition of child labour, the limitations of hours, or anything else, have gone into a sweat over that fear, that, if a Convention is adopted, some country will not accept its conditions.
It is probably inevitable that these European questions have been a central point at the Philadelphia Conference. European questions must predominate, but the problem remains a universal one. That is, of course, recognised in the recommendation that was adopted in regard to social policy in dependent territories. As a recommendation this must, of course, come before this House in the next two or three months and there is no need to discuss it here, but I should like, in passing, to congratulate the Government's delegate on the statement that he made during the Debate on that recommendation, when he assured the Conference that the immediate aim of His Majesty's Government would be to ensure, so far as was within their power, the implementation of that recommendation in dependent countries.
Europe rightly predominated at the Conference because European problems will be the most vital and urgent of all in 829 the post-war years. It is probably upon the handling of the European problem that the future of the International Labour Organisation and of our entire civilisation may depend. Asia will have its tremendous problems and so will South America. Problems in our own country will be severe and urgent. Nevertheless, the statement submitted by the delegation of the occupied countries to the International Conference at Philadelphia emphasised sufficiently clearly that all those are almost incidental to the completely new problems that will be presented by the European situation. Theirs will not be a problem of transferring from a war economy to a peace economy but a problem of building up a new civilisation on barren ground, with entirely new systems of communication which have been completely destroyed and in most cases of building up social conditions, industries, distribution and everything else, just at a time when millions upon millions of their men are being released from forced labour in Germany, concentration camps and prison camps, or are coming back from the Army to find jobs where there is not even a factory to work in. Our problems will never even touch those.
Therefore, it is necessary that the I.L.O. should turn its first attention to that situation, and the effectiveness of any steps that may be taken by the I.L.O. will depend inevitably ultimately upon individual Governments. I would therefore close by making an urgent appeal to the Government to give the lead that has been called for by other speakers in this Debate; by the workers in Europe; and by the world in general, irrespective of the selfish pleadings of our narrow-minded people who talk of charity beginning at home and generally meaning in their own pockets—beginning and ending at home. Let the Government give a lead that will be worthy of our country to-day. It is a fact that the whole of Europe will be looking to us as the only country that can give that lead. If our Government are prepared to give that lead they can be assured not only of the unanimous support of the workers of this country, in the tremendous organisations represented by Members on these benches, but of the support of the whole of the organised workers' movements that will spring up in Europe immediately the war is over.
§ Mr. Woods (Finsbury)
I am among those who appreciate very much the services given by the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with this matter. I listened not only with interested appreciation to his report of the Philadelphia Conference, but I was impressed with his sincerity, which I knew, and his enthusiasm. The task which he has laid before us, as confronting the International Labour Office, is so staggering in its magnitude and its complications that it will need all the enthusiasm and sincerity that can be put into it, to make it a success in the circumstances which will present themselves at the end of this colossal war.
My hon. Friend who has just spoken wisely elaborated the extensions and ramifications of the work, if it is to be successfully handled. I thoroughly endorse his appeal that this country should give a lead. We have a very fine record, in spite of minor failures, and it warrants a certain amount of faith throughout the world in our credentials. For that reason, I was very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary was not jockeyed into assenting to ideals, without seeing ways and means of realising them. Like other hon. Members, I noticed reports in the Press during the proceedings of the Conference. In some organs, our representative came in for a certain amount of criticism. I felt at the time that one would have to await a full report before coming to a decision The full report that we have had confirms this impression of those of us who still retain our faith, in spite of adverse criticism. It would be a tragedy if the I.L.O. became just a propaganda platform, and were exploited for party purposes and vested interests, making pretences which were only pretensions.
The real task confronting not only the Government of this country but Governments throughout the world, cannot be solved in isolation. The one centre where they can come together to be dealt with is the I.L.O. The fact that the organisation has survived, is the greatest tribute to its vitality. If this country maintains its allegiance to these ideals, and realises that there is no such thing as isolation in the modern world, I believe that, difficult and complicated as the tasks may be, the I.L.O. is the one hope of a peaceful and satisfactory solution, especially as the problem has now been extended beyond a mere mathematical calculation 831 of hours and wages to the implications of wages and standards of living. There is one aspect of it which appeals to me particularly. As the organisation has developed, it has not appreciated to the full the part in its problems that is to be played by co-operation. The co-operative movement in this country and other countries has had, on a local and domestic scale, very largely the problems which are the basis of the problems confronting the I.L.O., namely a reconciliation of the interests of the consumer, on the one hand, and of the producer, on the other, and the problem of adjusting those claims to the advantage of both. I think the experience that we have had should be of very considerable service.
The extension of the co-operative movement throughout the world is now taking place at a very rapid rate, not only in this country and other European countries unaffected by Fascism, but also in the Far East. China's experiment in the co-operative movement has, perhaps, done more than any other single thing to help her to endure the nightmare of Japanese occupation. There are organisations growing up which have intimate experience of correlating producer and consumer interests. We fall, therefore, between two stools. It is important for us to be associated directly with the employing interests by the I.L.0. While there is a sub-committee of the I.L.O. dealing with co-operative problems, I feel that there should be fuller recognition of the movement as an employing organisation, and experience gained in the various countries of solving the problem because, fundamentally, the ideal of the co-operative movement is to raise the standard of living. It is the same objective as that postulated for the I.L.O., and it will be appreciated by the House, irrespective of our attitude or ideals, that the experience gained will be of inestimable value on an international basis, for the general solution of these problems.
I hope that the Minister, or those responsible for the policy of our contribution to the I.L.O., will bear this in mind, so that the experience gained can be applied and made of value to the whole world. I sincerely hope that, in spite of the criticisms, justified or unjustified, of those who have spoken, and in spite of the difficulties and handicaps, 832 that we shall maintain this as one of the major responsibilities, not only of our own people, but throughout the Colonies and the world, because it is impossible for us in the modern world to maintain a high standard of living in any one country, while conditions are allowed to deteriorate in other parts of the world, or even to be maintained at the present low level.
§ Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)
The International Labour Organisation can be looked upon as an instrument of international co-operation either in a critical or praisworthy vein very much according to one's point of view. A good case may be made out in either direction. It is true that criticism, on the whole, is criticism on points of details, and that praise is on the major, general, broad activities of the Organisation. But it is a fact that there is a dichotomy, a difference, between the ambitious character of the resolutions which are passed and the ambiguous legislation which sometimes follows the ratification of Conventions. If one bears in mind the fact that of all the various Conventions which have been ratified by all the various countries, Spain stands at the head of the list and has ratified more Conventions than any other country, and that Chile is second, and if one contrasts that fact with the assumption that merely passing these resolutions improves conditions, there is definitely a point of view to be put to indicate that there is a big gulf between the mere passing of resolutions and their implementation by effective legislative action.
Some countries have legislation of a very flexible kind. I am using the word "flexible" as a polite word, because in this country when we pass laws we see that those laws are carried out. May I give an example? Years ago we had many discussions in connection with the Washington Convention—the hours of labour Convention. I remember some details concerning one or two European countries that ratified that Convention. We in this country did not. We were blamed. But one of those countries that did, in fact, ratify the Convention described hours of work as "effective hours of work," that is to say, they took off any time which was taken in getting to work and, additionally, they took off from the hours of work such hours as, in the opinion of the employer, were considered to be wasted. Moreover, any 833 hours of work which were lost by sickness or other causes were allowed to be made up; further, they had legislation which allowed overtime and imposed rates of overtime somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 per cent. The point I am making is that the mere ratification does not necessarily give that higher standard of living which is the aim of all of us on both sides of the House, and I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that it is very desirable that there should be very effective preparations on these matters, which are essentially technical and necessitate very great consideration, not only of the law, but of the habits and standards of life of other countries and peoples.
The resolution about income security and medical care has, I understand, been referred back by the British representative. It seems to me that that action is one which we should support, not because we do not want the maximum amount of income security, but because we want to see that we are moving ahead in step, though perhaps with Great Britain a little in front. There should be a general, wholehearted movement throughout the world for higher standards. To talk about economic and financial policy in the absence of Russia seems to me to indicate a certain degree of non-reality. Those are, of course, criticisms of detail, which I think ought to be put.
On the whole, the broad purpose of the I.L.O. is one which we support. Its purpose is to advance the international charter of human rights through general agreement to various Conventions, and I wholeheartedly approve that and support it. I have not been able to see very much about what happened at the Philadelphia Conference other than what has appeared in the public Press. I understand there is agreement on the aims and purposes of the I.L.O., and that those aims and purposes set a new and very high target. It is desirable that that should be done, but it is also desirable that we should appreciate it is a target and not something which can be seized or obtained by the passing of a resolution. A generation that has known two wars has learned two things; first, the curse of unemployment, and, secondly, the influence of the State in the provision of employment. In the interval between the two wars we have learned that economic prosperity is indivisible and that it is 834 impossible to have a prosperous country in a starving world. These lessons have shown the importance of an organisation of this character. We do well to support the International Labour Organisation. Social justice and international security go hand in hand.
The constitution of the I.L.O. which, as is well known, is representative of the employers, the employed and the Governments, is admirably suited to the purpose in view, that of impressing on public opinion throughout the world the necessity for these higher standards. Through this kind of organisation these problems can be faced and dealt with without the clash of party politics. Therefore, in my judgment, although it is right that these two aspects of the activities of the I.L.O. should be put, the major benefits, of course, far outweigh the minor disadvantages. The Organisation will have very great responsibilities in the future. These have been mentioned by many speakers. They will have to move forward from the field of mere labour protection proper into the rather more difficult field of economic policy. The history of the British Government in these matters has been a very good one. They have taken a very great part, not only in the inception, but in support of, the I.L.O. I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the part he himself played in the matter, and on the excellent speech he has made to-day giving us the details. There are three resolutions and two recommendations. I understand they are to come before us in the future. In the meantime I am sure that we, in all parts of the House, will continue as we have done in the past, in supporting the I.L.O. in the hope that in due time the weight may be lifted from the shoulders of all men and that all men may have an equal chance.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I am sure that in the coalfields of Lancashire and Yorkshire and in the various industries in Northumberland and Durham and throughout the industrial North there will be satisfaction drawn from the facts presented to the House by the Parliamentary Secretary, because those folk have for years believed in the principles he enunciated to the House today. In the arguments he has used some contrasting evidence was presented. There can be no doubt that the grim realities of working class life have at least 835 been witnessed by those folk, and they are themselves a testimony to the need for social change. I am certain that when the Minister comes to reply to this Debate he will portray to us the Government's intention to place in proper perspective the Conference at Philadelphia and the Government policy of to-day in relation to the Atlantic Charter, because I believe that, looking back, we can see that many of the troubles in our coalfields and in the industrial North are due to the absence of regulations, codes of understanding or conventions such as have been outlined by the Parliamentary Secretary.
We feel, somehow, that when we talk about Indian and Japanese and Chinese competition we are not thinking in terms of such social change as that the Chinaman must change his chop-sticks for knives and forks. We are not arguing that way at all, but we do not for a moment think there will be any real social change so far as the Chinaman is concerned if we leave him in the same desperate position as that in which he found himself in the inter-war years. I believe, for example, that in Lancashire, when we were competing between 1926 and 1933 with the Silesian and Polish miner it was a devil-take-the-hindmost cut-throat competition on the part of countries like Silesia and Poland which dragged us down, and we have the indelible evidence in the Lancashire coalfield that our wages were being determined by that devil-take-the-hindmost cut-throat competition. We saw the cost of production of coal reduced from round about 16s. per ton in one pit in the Wigan coalfield which I know well to 6s. 7d. a ton from the pit point to the pit-head, but our standard of life was accordingly reduced week by week, month by month, year by year. In the Westhoughton Division also, our mills closed down. In our very towns and villages, where the mills were closed down, we were selling garments, odds and ends of cotton piece goods, but garments in particular, children's underwear, at is. or is. 3d. a piece when we knew full well that in our Lancashire factories it would have cost 3s. or 4s. to produce the same article. We are resolute and determined that that kind of condition shall not endure after the war.
We do not want to lay down, as it were, through the I.L.O. what kind of 836 housing conditions or social standards shall exist, but we do believe there can be no peace in the world, no good will or understanding in the world, if one set of workers in one country in a particular, or the same, industry are to be used or bargained against the other, as it were, to cut down the cost of living simply because employers determine or will that it shall be so. I remember that a friend of mine went out to India some years ago. His job was to organise an enormous wireless service in India similar to the B.B.C. I saw him three years later and asked him why he had left the job and come back. He said, "The only reason I came back was that whilst it was easy to organise a wireless service in India, there was no one in India who had a wireless set, except a few British families." The real meaning of this Debate to-day is that the proposals mentioned actually refer to homesteads, social comforts and happiness for those people, the raising of standards, the provision of all those things which really make life tolerable.
I would say that we cannot afford to divorce or separate this Debate from Debates on Colonial policy. We cannot separate this Debate from those major issues which will have to be decided upon very shortly, the true effect and the true meaning of the Atlantic Charter. Therefore I welcome the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, and I would say that the man in the street who listened to him when he broadcast from Philadelphia a few weeks ago was cheered, was encouraged, by the spirit and the resolute determination which were contained in the Parliamentary Secretary's broadcast. I believe equally that so far as the Minister of Labour is concerned none would question his sincerity. None would question his knowledge of the importance of this subject. But we say to the other side, "You must be equally sincere, you must believe, not just as we do politically, but believe in the true meaning and need for social improvement such as has been outlined here to-day in this Debate, and for the real content and the real effects and the application of the Charter or conventions which were outlined at Philadelphia a few weeks ago."
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
Like most Members I have always been interested in the work, and particularly the difficulties, of the International Labour Office,. 837 but for a considerable time I have been compelled to take a somewhat pessimistic view. That has not been dissipated by the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, although he made the very best possible case out of the subject-matter at his disposal. There are very serious dangers, particularly from the point of view of Socialists, in the impressive and attractive phraseology used at these conventions of the I.L.O. Looking through some of the reports, I have felt that I must be reading some of the best Socialist literature ever issued in this country. I speak as a Socialist, and I regard the Parliamentary Secretary as a Socialist. Our danger is that, when reading these reports and considering the resolutions and the declarations of these conferences, we may cultivate the illusion that words become synonymous with deeds. I have no doubt of the passionate desire of the permanent staff of the I.L.O. to establish social justice, and to bring vastly improved conditions to the workers of the world, but I have an unhappy feeling that these declarations, couched in such impressive language, that appeals to the heart of every decent man and woman in the world, may become just the safety valves that the representatives of predatory Governments require. That has happened in the inter-war period.
Take one of the first matters referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary today. He told us in some detail about the deliberations of the committee dealing with unemployment, at the Philadelphia Convention. There were 41 Governments represented, with 22 representatives of organised labour, and 22 representatives presumably of organised capital. They agreed, somewhat vaguely, to a certain course being taken, and stated that certain objectives should be achieved. But let us be perfectly frank. What do we, as Socialists, expect in the interests of world social justice, and how on earth do we imagine that the economic conflicts which give rise to political conflicts, and worse conflicts than that, will be achieved by representatives of Governments that are based upon a predatory system and upon class distinction among their own people? I want the I.L.O. to do all the work that it dreams of doing, but I cannot remove the suspicion from my own mind that we can get nothing out of these irreconcilable elements other than high-sounding and 838 very impressive platitudes. Apart from declarations, very few concrete decisions were reached. One of the most important matters for the workers of the world is the question of hours of labour. There was no decision about that, and I do not know whether there was any discussion about the establishment, in the near future, after this war, of a uniform working day among the workers who are represented at the I.L.O. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that it was decided that international organisations of great industries should be set up, in the form of industrial organisations. The first thing we want to do is, obviously, to destroy these secret international cartels and monopolies. They form international understandings, to control production in many of the most important industries, to control prices, and largely to control conditions of labour. I do not think that there was much, if anything at all, said about that menace to international understanding.
My fear is that the I.L.O. will go the same way as the League of Nations went. I speak as one who cannot derive any pleasure from a statement of that kind. Like many hon. Members, I passionately desired that the League of Nations might be able to make a contribution so substantial that it would at least postpone these frightful conflicts until the world became saner than it has been up to now. But the League of Nations failed because no capitalist Government was prepared to give away one inch of its national sovereignty. We were all impressed by that extraordinarily fine quotation that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and I think it has been quoted again since. I have looked up that quotation, but I do not want to quote the same passage again, although it would not do us any harm, because it states the proposition that human beings, irrespective of race, creed, or sex, have the right to pursue both their material wellbeing and their spiritual development, in conditions, of freedom and dignity, and so on. I wonder what were the feelings of my hon. Friend and fellow Socialist the Parliamentary Secretary when he heard that Declaration being made—a Declaration that was accepted by no fewer than 41 nations. I have looked at the report to see whether, after carrying that Declaration unanimously, they got up immedi- 839 ately and sang the "Internationale." I do not think that is reported.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
My hon. Friend quoted from the Declaration, but he did not say that it merely shows that they have the right to pursue these things, and does not say that they have the right to catch them.
§ Mr. Davies
That is just the point. We give them the right to pursue it and we see to it that they do not get it. That is my reply. It is really, perhaps, not unhealthy in this divided House that one of our most sincere and hard-bitten Tories, apparently, accepts the construction which he has just placed upon that Declaration. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary along what lines his thoughts ran when this Declaration was read out and passed unanimously at the Philadelphia Convention. I am certain that his mind went back to the ghastly inter-war period, to the destruction of production forces in this country, causing the penury and distress of millions of our own people, by those who will control effectively the work of the I.L.O. until their power has been destroyed.
I want to pay this tribute to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. My hon. Friend's mind must have wandered off to our Colonies and particularly to India when this Declaration was made, drawing no distinction between race, sex or creed. We have on our conscience the appalling conditions of overwhelming and unspeakable poverty of 400,000,000 people for whom we are answerable in this House. Those are my feelings, misgivings and suspicions. I hope it will be taken that I, with all my colleagues on this side of the House, will join in every movement, in every struggle and in every fight in order that, ultimately, these great ideals shall materialise in the lives of the people of this world.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I want to refer particularly to a sentence uttered by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, in his opening statement to the effect that the Philadelphia Declaration was to be included in the peace terms—I have not got his exact words. That is, I think, the most significant statement that has been made up to the present time, and, if the Philadelphia Declaration is included in the peace terms, 840 that is to say, if it is mandatory, and not merely a statement of general good intentions, it will get rid of the basis for the pessimism of many hon. Members in this House, who know perfectly well that you may have good intentions, very beautifully expressed, and even end up by singing the "Internationale," but if you do not do something about them, it makes no difference at all.
I do not think, however, that it is a fair criticism to make against the statement of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to-day. I notice that he talked not only about this Declaration, but also about setting up international committees dealing with trade of international scope. That, I think, was a piece of most valuable constructive work, and I want, particularly, to refer to the question of bringing in and making mandatory in the peace terms this Philadelphia Declaration, because, of course, the I.L.O. is not the only piece of international machinery which has been recently developed and is proving so extremely valuable. It is not, by the way, if I may correct my hon. Friend, the only one which has survived the war. The International Health Organisation has also survived the war, and is an extremely valuable organisation. In addition, there have been the International Food Organisation and the International Monetary Conference. These international arrangements, which have been come to after long consideration, and which have been assented to by the representatives of the United Nations, are beginning to assume the nature of a declaration of the economic rights of man, which, if written into the peace treaties, will be of the utmost possible value for the future.
I confess that, at the present stage of the war, I cannot help my thoughts being dominated, as I think those of most of us are, by the question of what is to grow out of the armistice and what, after the period of the armistice, is to come out of the peace treaties, and how a repetition of the terrible struggle in which we are now taking our part can be prevented. It is quite clear, unless humanity can come to some arrangement at the end of this war, by which we shall secure for the world as a whole a long, protracted and, one hopes, perpetual period in which this type of war will not break out again, then, of course, our discussion on the I.L.O., on the Hot Springs International Food Organisation, or on any of the other 841 projects that are now debated, discussed, received and acclaimed by international organisations—all these things will be of little use. It is because I believe that we have the possibility and the opportunity of writing into the peace conference arrangements, when they come to be made, something that will be a statement of the rights of man, and especially of the economic rights of man, that I think that this Debate to-day may have great historic importance, because of the statement made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, that it is hoped to embody the Philadelphia Declaration in the peace terms.
That, in itself, would not be enough. It is no use merely making our enemies, when they come to sign the peace treaty, assent to a general declaration. They must be made to agree to implement it and carry it out in their social organisation; that is to say, we must have a form of freedom of trade union organisation among the nations that are now fighting us, the freedom of association and the freedom of speech, written into and guaranteed in the peace treaty. If we do that, I venture to say that we shall have done as much to provide for international security in the future, as we shall do by providing for large military forces to be held in reserve to take action, by force, if necessary. I believe that that provision is absolutely necessary, but the way to defeat Fascism—and this is what we must keep our minds on—is by creating in the Fascist countries a political organisation which will be inimical to and will defeat Fascism—free trade unions, freedom of speech, freedom of association, all guaranteed as part of the peace treaties. That will defeat the Fascist organisation. That, I think, is of tremendous value, and that is why I hope that, when the Minister replies, he will have something to say on this question of writing the Philadelphia Declaration into the peace treaty.
This is so important that I hope the Minister will devote some time to amplifying what the Parliamentary Secretary said on this point. This is no time for pessimism. We are living in a grim time, but the grim time is the opportunity for determination, for serious thinking and for constructive plans to be put forward. I believe that the really good constructive plan to put forward as far as the I.L.O. is con- 842 cerned is to see that we have this Declaration of Philadelphia written into the basis of the peace treaties so as to give in those treaties, as I have said, a statement of the economic rights of man, which will be the defeat of Fascist organisation.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
There is one thing that always interests me, particularly in a Debate of this sort, in my hon. Friends of the Labour Party. It is that they seem to live in a world which is totally unreal, a sort of Nepholococcuguia, if I may express it in that way. It is a world also in which they continue, as they have done as long as I have been acquainted with them, to forget nothing and to learn nothing. We have had one speaker after another getting up and talking about the League of Nations, not realising in the least that the history of the League of Nations is a cogent argument against any form of international agreement such as is suggested by hon. Members. Why did the League of Nations go down? Because we, alone among the subscribers to the Covenant of the League of Nations, were prepared to carry out our duties under it and did so, with the result that we had to fight the war alone, deserted by every one—the only one country which fulfilled its obligation under the Covenant and went to war over the invasion of Poland. We had our warning at the time of the Abyssinnian affair, when it was obvious that if we had imposed sanctions which meant war with Italy we should have gone out alone to fight it out ourselves. That is the reason why the League of Nations broke down and why any international agreement will break down until the nations of the world are very different from what they are at the present time.
Look carefully at this idea of an international convention on hours and conditions of labour. As an hon. Member behind me pointed out with several examples, we have had experience of that. As soon as ever an agreement is made between two countries every country begins to see what loopholes there are and how it can dodge it and how to observe the letter and not the spirit of the agreement. That has always been our experience. Let us get down to brass tacks for once. What is the one condition under which any international agreement can succeed? It is the condition that the subscribers to that agreement must really 843 genuinely wish to carry it out. That is the trouble with all international agreements and there is only one international body, which from its very inception has been perfectly successful and is successful to this day and which overrides every distinction of clime, race, and religion, and that is, curiously enough, the War Graves Commission, because it happens to be founded upon a sentiment which is common to the whole human race. Therefore, every participant in the War Graves Commission no matter what its nation and What its religion is determined to make it succeed and it does succeed. [Laughter.] It is not the least use hon. Members opposite laughing like that. If hon. Members have not sense enough to see the point they might at any rate keep quiet.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
There is no agreement in living memory which has been successful as the War Graves Commission has been, simply because it is based on a common instinct of humanity. Any international agreement must have ultimately an ethical basis of some sort or other and that is what the League of Nation's history has proved. You cannot get agreement between nations which have different ethical standards so that to one nation a thing is execrable and to another admirable. These are the lessons that we learnt from the League of Nations. First that without an ethical basis the organisation is bound to fail, and secondly that as nations are at the present time it is utterly futile to make these agreements with them because they will not be kept if it is not to the advantage of any particular nation to keep them. We have seen it again and again when we get down to practical proposals. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) talked about imposing upon Fascist States freedom of speech and freedom of association and so forth and so on. What does he propose to do in the case of Russia? Is he going to impose freedom of speech and freedom of association on Russia?
I am content with the existing conditions in Russia. They have increasing freedom, and, more than we have in this country, economic freedom.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Is it freedom to be the slaves of one master, so that if you disobey that one master, you are done for? Is it freedom not to be allowed to join any political party except one? Is the O.G.P.U. freedom, and is enforced labour freedom?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I am willing to have a debate, but, unfortunately, my opinions are not popular with the B.B.C., and I should have considerable difficulty in getting that august body to consent to it. Unless you are at least a sort of pale pink, you do not get a look in there.
I want hon. Members opposite to give attention to this and think about it. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. 0. Davies) protested very vehemently against the modern habit of using words without attributing any meaning to them. I submit to hon. Members opposite that what they have been saying here to-day is very largely what he repudiated so stringently, and that we are talking about things that do not exist. We are talking about the will among the various nations to carry out these international obligations, and the whole history of our times shows that they have not the least intention of doing so. When we have put our signatures to any form of international agreement at once they say "Those silly Britishers will fulfil their obligation, so how can we get out of ours?" Every other member of the League left us to apply sanctions to Italy and put us in the position of being alone among the nations of the world to fulfil our obligations. In 1939 we decided to carry out our obligation under the Covenant and not a single other nation did. They all "ratted" on us and in this particular case of hours and conditions of labour they will rat on us in exactly the same way.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I think that the Minister of Labour and his Deputy will, on the whole, be pleased with the Debate up to now. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) talked of the success of the War Graves Commission, and I hope he will not be offended if I say that a good epitaph to be carved on his own tombstone would be, "What is the use of anything? 845 Nothing." Perhaps he will forgive me if I quote a verse from the Old Book:Where there is no vision, the people perish,That is the main reason why I support the efforts of the International Labour Organisation. Perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will pardon a personal note. I wish he would lay aside his papers and talk to us in a more familiar fashion; I know he can talk to us very much better than he can read his own script. In opening the Debate to-day he did well to point out the value of the Philadelphia Conference. The document now before us is called the Philadelphia Charter. I am hoping that the fate of the Philadelphia Charter will not be the late of the Atlantic counterpart; one half of the Atlantic Charter has already gone. I think the Minister of Labour will agree with me, however, that there is no chance of success for an international organisation such as the I.L.O. unless Members of the House of Commons of all parties support it. That is what I shall try to do. I have had some experience of the I.L.O.; I happened to be the official Government Delegate to Geneva in 1924. I cannot understand the hon. Member for Mossley when he suggests that we cannot trust or do anything at all with a foreigner; that we are the only people who always do the right thing. For that is the contention. Surely, if he reads the history of this country, he will find that we have been guilty of some awful things in international affairs on occasions.
§ Mr. A. Hopkinson
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite fair. I think it is within the recollection of the House that I said we alone of all the signatories of the League of Nations carried out our obligations under the Covenant and nobody else did.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I want now to put a very pertinent question to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. He mentioned that at Philadelphia they debated regional conferences. Will the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, be good enough to say what is in the mind of the executive of the I.L.O. when they talk of regionalism? I have travelled a little, and the more I travel the bigger the world seems to become. There are five Continents, and it seems to me it would be a good thing if we regionalised the I.L.O. con- 846 tinentally. Take, for instance, the American, the European, and the Asiatic Continents. I hope I am right in assuming that the. I.L.O. is in favour of that sort of regional organisation, because I can well conceive that we might secure something like an equalisation of the level of the standard of life in the whole Continent of Europe very much more quickly than between the North and South American Republics.
May I refer again to the hon. Member for Mossley? He suggested that separate races and nations cannot live together. Would he be good enough to bear Switzerland in mind? There the French, Germans and Italians live in one country in agreement and harmony. He forgets, too, that in these islands there are Welsh, English and Scottish living together, and that is a tremendous achievement. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Irish."] And a few Irish, too.
§ Mr. A. Hopkinson
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that although he manages to find a modus vivendi for his race, our ethical standard is the same as his?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
The hon. Gentleman must not be too self-righteous; if he looks at some patches of Manchester, Liverpool and London, he will find in his own country something to criticise. I want to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr). I do not want to be too critical, but I had the idea that his argument was that the raising of the standard of life in this country must wait until conditions are raised in Japan and China to our level. Really, that is the usual tendency of the Tory minds in this House of Commons. Whenever we have a Debate upon international labour standards, they say, "Look at the labour conditions in Japan; look at China; look at India." Then they use the argument that the average working-class income in one country is £200, whilst in another country it is only £40 or £60. When I got married 42 years ago we bought a bedroom suite for nine guineas. I passed a shop recently and saw one not so good for sale at £159. It is not the income of the workman that matters; it is what he can buy with that income that counts.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. McCorquodale)
What happened to the bedroom suite?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
It is still there, of course. Let me pass on to something else. There are Members in this House by the score who are members of the British group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. That has kept itself alive too, by the way, during the period of the war, but I believe it is right to say that the most important international organisation to survive this present conflict is the I.L.O. Being Joint Secretary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union I feel sometimes that the Inter-Parliamentary Union is the most important, but when I come to my senses I must confess that the I.L.O. is paramount. Perhaps the hon. Member for Mossley will give me his attention, because I want to refer again to his speech. When he harbours the idea that we lead the world in social legislation and there is no country in the world like us, that is conceit and self-righteousness, of course. I believe I am right in saying that with all our achievements in social security, the highest standard of life that has ever been achieved in the world is in New Zealand.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If we had a Labour instead of a Coalition Government, we might have achieved the same thing here too.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
What I meant was a Labour Government, not a minority. I do not want the argument to be used that ours is the one country in the world which has achieved everything that is desirable in the way of social security. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's comparison between the standard of life here and in India and China, I would ask, What about the standard of life in the U.S.A. in comparison with the standards in Mexico, the Argentine, or Brazil? I am sure I am right in saying that the difference in the standards of life in the several countries on the one Continent of America itself are as great as the difference between the standards of the working classes in Great Britain, India and China. Therefore, supposing the Ameri- 848 can people, whose standard of life is higher than ours, by the way, as the hon. Gentleman knows, said, "We cannot go any further with our legislation to improve the standard of life in the U.S.A. until Great Britain comes up to our level." They might say that.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Of course, the Tories do, especially the hon. Member for Mossley. Therefore I am all in favour of our country achieving what we can within our own shores. Of course, I have been very proud when I have been lecturing abroad on our own social security schemes to point out what we have already been able to do, but I object to people in the House of Commons always saying that all is well with us. Let us bring the hon. Gentleman, and the Minister too, down to earth about the latest I.L.O. propositions. What relation, for instance, is there between these Philadelphia Declarations and the conditions in my own constituency? There is a population of 3,000 in one village, and not a job for anybody within that urban area; they are all working outside in connection with the war effort. There is no industry of any kind left there. There is another village with a population of 6,000 and now in the most prosperous times for 20 years, only 100 are employed in that urban area, 80 of them being women. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary knows the districts well. The same applies to other parts of my constituency too. I hope the House does not mind my speaking strongly on this matter. I do not therefore intend to join in the glowing promises of a New Jerusalem after the war. I remember the last war too well. I remember its consequences, and I defy the Government of any belligerent country in Europe to build a better world after all the destruction of life and property which has taken place, and which has not finished yet. But in spite of that, I do not wish to be a pessimist. I will say that unless you aim high you achieve nothing, and that is why I am in favour of these Philadelphia Declarations.
Let me say a word or two on other aspects of this Report. I have spent most of my adult life in social insurance, and I am very pleased that proposals of an ambulance character have been put 849 forward. Some of my fellow Members may argue that if we nationalise and socialise industry we shall remove the causes of these problems and will not require an ambulance service. I have come to the conclusion, however, that it does not matter if we do nationalise the mines, railways and the land; we shall still have sickness, accidents, need for workmen's compensation, and even, perhaps, some unemployment assistance as well. Therefore, I am very keen that we shall do what we can to lay down in every country an economic foundation through which nobody shall fall. I have not noticed a word on the means test in these recommendations, and I take it that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, when speaking for the British people in Philadelphia, did not suggest a means test in connection with any recommendations that are before us.
The question that concerns me most is: What about the future machinery of the I.L.O.? What is it intended to do? Will the principal office be situated on the Continent of America? The chief office is, I understand, in Montreal now. Will there be a sub-office in Washington, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Vienna or Delhi as well? I would like to know the trend of thought within the I.L.O. itself on that point. I have been a trade union official for about 36 years and I agree with what has been said about world organisation when peace returns, although not in so many words. People imagine that wars are caused through racial, language, religion, frontier, colonies, tariffs and monetary troubles, but I am sure that the present conflict which is devastating Europe has come upon us as much because of unequal labour conditions as through any other factor. I repeat what I have said many times over that it is not enough for the statesmen of Europe to say that Hitler made this war. The real issue when statesmen come to make the peace is this: What was it that made Fascism? In spite of all the condemnation of ideologies, I say that Fascism is in a large measure the product of the poverty of millions of people in Europe. I would not put beyond possibility my own country having to face civil commotion when the war is over unless a Government here is prepared to find work which will provide a decent standard of life for our people. Having said that, I wish the I.L.O. well; 850 I trust it will live long and do good work for all the peoples of the world irrespective of nationality, colour, caste or creed.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I cannot be expected to deal with the cause of this war and the last war and peace treaties, and all these other problems arising out of a report of a meeting in Philadelphia. It would take too much time even to attempt to answer all the issues which have been raised. I was intrigued to find that the only time I ventured to smile during the course of the Debate I was rebuked by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). It reminded me of the rebuke of the comedian who comes on the stage and says, "Shut up; do not laugh at me." This theatrical kind of performance is no contribution to our intellectual development.
§ Mr. Bevin
The hon. Member tries so many of his own at other people's expense that he can never see one against himself.
I want to deal with as many points as I can, and if I may I will summarise them instead of mentioning Members by name. Several speakers put questions to me about the future organisation of the I. L.O. It is impossible for me to say what this will be, because the matter is under consideration by the Governing Body, which cannot give an answer to that question until it knows the shape that the new world organisation will take. Whatever happens, the I.L.O., as I visualise it, is bound to dovetail itself into other forms of international organisation. The nutritional body, I think, is the place in which the co-operative movement ought to find its position. It is the consumer side of international development. As that develops, so the monetary side develops. Article VII cannot function without consideration of how this side will function. It is a parallel organism alongside the maintenance of a stable international exchange. If this contributing factor is not worked out correctly, the other parts of the work will not be done correctly. I would like to give some information, but I can only say now, from the British Government's point of view, that we want to put the I.L.O. as high in the scale of world organisms as we can. 851 Personally I am opposed to independence in the I.L.O. I think it would be fatal if it were not a part of the world organism, because I am not, and I do not think the British Government are, daunted by the alleged failure of the League of Nations. After all, what was attempted? The biggest thing in the world. It is perfectly true—and let us acknowledge it—that the conscious moral force behind the League of Nations at that time did not exist, that is to say, there was not the same kind of moral force as that which supports a law carried by this House in our own country. But the fact that it did not exist, which weakened the League and produced this second war, has done more to develop the moral force which is now emerging and will ultimately lead us back to a better world organisation.
There is another contributing factor which cannot be dealt with by cynicism or an attempt to be funny. The development of communications and travel has made the world far smaller and far more dangerous to a small country, such as this country was a couple of hundred years ago. These things have caused the acceptance of responsibility. This country made a great contribution to peace for 300 years because she helped to police the world. But no one country can police the world again. No one country can ever again, even from the point of view of wealth or taxable capacity, carry such a burden. Therefore, the sheer necessity of defence and the preservation of international law and order, are bound to drive nations on. It is not a question of sentiment or of someone's predilections. It is invention, it is development. I noticed in the discussions at Philadelphia the idea that the I.L.O. should be independent and separate, with its own budget and all the rest of it. They must take rather a longer view than that, and must be prepared to fit into a greater world organism. The question has been asked where its headquarters will be. I cannot answer. I dare say there will be headquarters somewhere or other. All I can hope is that there will be a great development of devolution afterwards, in order to bring this organisation closer to the people themselves.
It was in that spirit, to which I am glad that hon. Members have called attention, that the British Government pro- 852 posed a meeting of joint committees of industries and trades and services. We have had some experience of this. In 1919, I crossed to Amsterdam and wrote the constitution of what is now the International Transport Workers Federation. It also has stood the test of time and the war. It is a very active international organisation now, and it has done a grand work for the Allied nations during the war. In drafting that constitution, instead of trying to develop it into a conglomerate mass, I tried the experiment of grouping—railwaymen, dockers, seamen and so on. Those who have been associated with any kind of organisation know that, if you can bring together people working in similar occupations they soon forget their race, and are talking their trade, and you produce a friendship which it is very difficult for war or anything else to break.
I look upon that as trying to meet the point of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr). You must in these international conferences get off generalities, and try to get down to the particular. Criticism has been made of the interpretation of the 48-hour week. I presided once at Geneva over an investigation, which the war interrupted, into the steel trade. What in fact was a 40-hour week in America, what was it in France, and what was it in Great Britain? I found, as the investigation went on, that there was the American system of going three months in rotation to get the 40-hour week; France was making another interpretation, and Britain was presumed to have a 48-hour week, not working on Saturday afternoons, but, in fact, our hours were very nearly the same on actual production. Immediately you get from the general to the particular, that kind of thing becomes vitally important, as I dare say it will be for the miners when they come to examine how it works out. For instance, in London I found that, while, on paper, we had a 48-hour week for busmen, their actual driving time was less than that of busmen in Paris with a 40-hour week. But that is not a thing about which we need throw mud at each other. That is a thing to investigate in conference, as you would in discussing wages and conditions in different parts of the same country. In conference you educate both sides with the result that people admit they did not understand points on which at first there was diffi- 853 culty. That brings me to a point which several Members have raised. Can you trust other nations? Do not let us be too self-righteous.
§ Mr. Bevin
I do not think we are going to build up international confidence by approaching other nations in a spirit of unctuous self-righteousness. Human beings are very much alike. [Interruption. ] Hon. Members behind me throw the Germans at me now, but their party had big business waiting to go to Germany, to settle an agreement with the Nazis, a week before Munich.
§ Mr. Petherick
Will the right hon. Gentleman first state what firm was concerned; and why should he throw that at the Conservative Party?
§ Mr. Bevin
The hon. Member provoked me. It was appointed by the Chamberlain Government—an official delegation—which was interrupted by Munich. Hon. Members threw the Germans at me. They throw the Germans at me now, but I will not pursue that point because I do not want this to develop into a party controversy. On the other hand, there is an answer from Labour and the trade unions as to the position we might have been in if another policy had been pursued.
§ Mr. Petherick
I do not wish to cause trouble, but the right hon. Gentleman is saying that he places considerable trust in other nations and that it is possible to build up some international organisation on that basis of trust. I ask him whether he would apply that to the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese.
§ Mr. Bevin
Certainly, when this war is over and they are back in the comity of nations, and have paid their price, you will have to deal with these nations somehow or other as you did before. What we want to do is to purge from Germany and Japan the treaty-breaking cliques, those who break treaties every time.
§ Mr. Bevin
I venture to suggest that we cannot ignore the existence of 80,000,000 people anywhere in the world. It will be found, as was found between the two 854 wars, that sooner or later—it may be years, it may be after a long armistice or re-education—whatever steps you take, you will have to recognise their existence. We are already dealing with the Italians at this moment. We have been forced to have the signatures of Italians since the armistice and we have recognised the new Italian Government in Rome, and yet hon. Members throw these nationalities at me when I am trying to deal with an absolute fact.
Take the case of the Foreign Secretary bringing a treaty to the House. He meets other Governments and then comes to the House, and reports, "I have made a treaty and the signatures of both countries are on it." That is a treaty in the political and diplomatic field. Do hon. Members get up and say to the Foreign Secretary, "I know that we are going to keep that treaty, but will the other people whose signatures are on it keep it?" Has that ever been done in this House? I venture to suggest that hon. Members will have to arrive at the point at which labour matters have to be treated on the same basis. They will have to rise to it. I know it is difficult, but they will have to come to it. There are going on at this moment great commercial discussions with the United Nations. One of these days, the Foreign Secretary, or the President of the Board of Trade, will report to the House what the commercial proposals are. Will anyone get up and say of this treaty in the realm of commerce, "The United States has signed, France has signed, and the United Nations have agreed to this treaty, but we cannot trust them"? Members will not do that; they will accept it on its merits. Therefore, I claim that treaties regarding labour matters will have to be accepted by this country on precisely the same footing as we have always accepted financial, commercial or diplomatic arrangements. When that is done, the I.L.O. will become an effective instrument and we shall expect observance from those whose signatories have signed the treaties.
It is said that the procedure advocated by the British Government at Philadelphia was dilatory, and that we rather stuck to our conservative past. The difficulty is this. We have to make up our minds as to the kind of procedure that the I.L.O. should adopt. If the I.L.O. tries to become a legislative body and to deal with detail to such an extent that it 855 becomes impossible to apply it by law and practice in the different countries, I think it will make a mistake. We carried through some years ago a Convention, which, I am glad to say, has now become operative in every maritime country. It was my good fortune to carry through the Convention dealing with the prevention of accidents in loading ships. It dealt with such matters as the position of the ladder from the coamings, which had to be in the same place on all ships, with handholds, gangways, and all that kind of thing. We went a little too far, and carried it into too much detail. In the result, we had to go back a third time and amend it slightly so that it could pass into the marine architecture of the world, and so thousands of accidents were prevented. I mention that as an illustration of the fact that details can be overdone.
The Government took the view that it would be better at this Conference, if the principle could be agreed to of having another conference a little later, so that when our delegates went to the second conference they could go back with definite Government instructions. It worked out all right in the end, but the difficulty is that when Government delegates are going to an international conference time is needed to work out their instructions before they sail. Work comes in so fast owing to the pressure of war that this was not possible and we do not complain about it. But that would prevent what my hon. Friend called using the I.L.O. for propaganda purposes. One does not want to carry a lot of resolutions that may sound very nice. The only thing that will make the I.L.O. effective is for each resolution to be one which can be carried out. That can be done if we do not overload the agenda and the business of the meeting. I would rather get a couple of pretty big resolutions in a session than a lot of things which will be relegated to pigeon holes. It is for that reason, and with a view to building the organisation on a more concrete basis, that we followed that procedure.
Several hon. Members raised the question of putting the Conventions into practice. In this country we are presented with a great difficulty. The European mind is one that thinks of decrees or laws in giving effect to all these things, but in the industrial field there are voluntary 856 agreements which, on the whole, are in effect as strong as laws. The I.L.O. must try to reconcile those rather different approaches to enforcement with the United States and ourselves, and what is called the European mind, operating upon different bases. I believe they can be reconciled. In the last Seamen's Conference, at which the seamen of the world asked me to be their spokesman, I tried to get over that difficulty in this way, as hon. Members will see from the records. In the plenary Session, I said that if it was found, owing to law and practice, that there would be difficulty in getting Merchant Shipping Acts amended in our Parliament, we would undertake, as an industry, to give effect to those Conventions equally with any other maritime nation in the world.
It is very gratifying that, while many nations are operating Conventions relating to hours and welfare, as we are today, some nations have applied them through their laws, while others have applied them through collective agreements. One of the processes is to have, say, a certificate by the British Government, that an agreement is being carried out in this country as effectively as if it were a law passed by Parliament; that certificate should be accepted as of equal validity with a decree. It is really a question of different methods of approach but I believe that we can find a way of reconciling them.
I have been asked about the dependent territories. Steps that have been taken during the last four years have been reported to this House. They include the sending out of trade union officials and of industrial relations officers, the stimulating of organisations in the dependent territories. I must enter a caveat, however, that trade union organisation is not manufactured from above, but must grow from the people themselves. With the best will in the world, we run the danger of creating from the top a sort of Fascist organism, with dictators, instead of letting a free organisation grow up from the bottom. Where there is a social obligation in the dependent countries you can accept the principle of trusteeship—which we do. Then, whether you are subject to pressure or not in the actual Colony, you are, from the very acceptance of the trusteeship, under the bounden duty of giving effect to these international recommendations.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that we ought to make sure that the laws in every dependent territory allow trade unions to be formed?
§ Mr. Bevin
I will look into the case of Mauritius. I have never heard that it was so, and I went into this matter very carefully four years ago, with the Secretary of State at that time, and I believed that every obstacle was removed. In accordance with the request of the I.L.O. we shall, therefore, as part of our duty and responsibility for dependent territories, go carefully into every one of these recommendations. I have no doubt that when next there is a Debate on the Colonies hon. Members will expect a report as to what we have done in this direction.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Hynd) that I appreciate very much the contribution he made to the discussion. It is a difficult job. I do not parade our ratifications, and we would not have said a word at Philadelphia about them if we had not been attacked. I am sure that my hon. Friend, however critical he may be in this House, once he was outside the three-mile limit, would find that he was a Britisher abroad.
§ Mr. Bevin
Yes, I know, but we do feel that way, when we are attacked. We have, in fact, done a lot of work that led to this Conference.
The other point about enforcement is that it is not enough to say that you have covered a matter by other legislation. If we argue that way, it puts us in a very great difficulty. Let me take the point 858 about the Maternity and Childbirth Convention. We have to deal with that as part of our social services. If we say that a woman shall not work for six weeks before and six weeks after childbirth, and she is dependent upon her work for her income, we must give her a payment for the twelve weeks so that she can stop working. I cannot reveal what will be done, but hon. Members know the Beveridge Recommendation on the matter, and that is an indication.
Can we ratify a Convention merely by passing a Bill confined to the Convention or should it be ratified as part of the social service structure? The I.L.O. should be satisfied with the fact that a matter has been dealt with in a way that meets Article 408, that is, by giving effect to the Convention. Here another great difficulty arises, in this question of application and in view of the very thoughtful contributions that have been made, this matter ought to be studied. In the case of the 48-hour week, what was the trouble? The trouble was—and it is no use discussing it—that transport could not be fitted precisely into the Convention. I went all through those negotiations, and the railwaymen's unions said, over and over again, that they would not have the 48-hour week as designed at Washington, because they could not reconcile with it, some of the very valued things that were in their agreement, and which I do not criticise.
In the precise draft of the I.L.O. Convention the Government of the day was expected to get over this difficulty and yet keep within the law. It could not be done. It broke down every time, not on the facts but in the adaptation of the other services. Therefore, the I.L.O. will have to consider allowing States a little flexibility in adapting these Conventions provided they can satisfy the Governing Body and the Committee responsible for investigation that they have, in fact, given effect to the principle laid down. These are things that have to be studied very carefully, in order not to weaken the effectiveness of a Convention, but in order to make its application work out to suit the practices of various countries without making any beneficial interpretation for one country as against another.
I have been asked about Russia. The only thing I would say about Russia is this: When we can sit down and discuss 859 all this world organisation, and this kind of development that has to come within the ambit of the new structure, I have no fear that Russia will not play her part in this field, just as she is playing her part at Bretton Woods and in other matters which are developing at the present time. Meantime there is one lesson to be learned about Russia. Do not be in too great a hurry to throw people out; it is a little difficult to get them back sometimes. It does say to the I.L.O. "You stick to industry, stick to your last so to speak, and do not become a supplemental organism of politics and diplomacy." That is very important. If there had been a little more thought and a little longer delay, the Russian situation would probably never have arisen so far as the I.L.O. is concerned. I profoundly regretted its occurrence at that time, because, after all is said and done, what was the great step the United States took to come into the international field? It was not in the League of Nations. In 1934, I think it was, President Roosevelt linked up with the International Labour Office, and one of the great links forged internationally between the United States and the rest of the countries at that time was this very International Labour Office. Equally, we may have been criticised after Manchuria, for allowing Japan to go on for so long, but I would rather take that risk than agree to turning people out. One never knows, in the whirligig of political affairs, how these things are going to change.
I would conclude by saying that I do not want to paint the lily and say that the I.L.O. has done wonderful things. What I do say is that it is the duty of this generation to hold on to every international organism which has survived this war and which goes to the future generation. We shall need them. Great will be the problems. One thing you get in the International Labour Office, which you get nowhere else, is people drawn from the workshop, the field and the factory, employers and workpeople, sitting in open and common assembly discussing international difficulties. I, somehow, feel that that may be the road towards an international Parliament in the wider field. Wherever men and women can meet, with the same problem affecting in the same way the countries from which they come, applying their energies to find 860 some solution, I think that institution is worth preserving and worth developing.
I would not say we have not had our disappointments. I would not say that I have not criticised previous Governments for not doing in this country all I thought they ought to do. I will not deny that I have sometimes been impatient, like others. When your men are surging on and you want to do something you sometimes feel the leash and the strain against you, and you cannot get on fast enough. In international commerce, in international law, in international labour or in international health—let us do nothing which will weaken these great organisms which are growing. They may become the penicillin of the peace effort and stop the gangrene from developing in our international life. Whoever has that terrible responsibility, whether it be our present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs or any other statesman, I feel, and those of us operating in other international fields feel, that it is our duty to try and evolve, organise, and develop every instrument that will help to put the crowning achievement on the result of this war, of building an organism that will bring the nations together in the end, and will give us something which will prevent a recurrence of what we have gone through in, the last five years.
§ Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, to put forthwith the Questions, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of Classes I to X of the Civil Estimates, and of the Revenue Department's Estimates, the Navy Estimates, the Army Estimates and the Air Estimates."