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Civil Services Supplementary Esti- Mates, 1921–22

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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Class Ii

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £330,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including Grants in Aid and other Expenses connected with Oversea Settlement."

Resolution agreed to.

Ways And Means

Resolution [ 7th November] reported,

"That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922, the sum of £15,919,100 be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom."

Resolution agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolution by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Hilton Young.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No 2) Bill

"to apply a sum out of the Consolidated Fund to the service for the year ending on the thirty-first day of March, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, and to appropriate the further Supplies granted in this Session of Parliament," presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 235.]

International Labour Conference, Genoa

I beg to move,

"That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the International Labour Conference, held at Genoa in June and July, 1920."
It will be remembered that the Draft Conventions and Recommendations of the Washington International Labour Conference were discussed by the House on 27th May and 1st July. Under Article 405 of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, it is laid down that Draft Conventions
"shall be brought before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation or other action."
The learned Attorney-General gave his opinion as to the interpretation to be put upon those words, in the course of the Debate on 27th May. Briefly, it was to the effect that what ratified a Convention in this country was the authority of the Crown, though, added the learned Attorney-General:
"Where the Convention is of a certain kind, if, for example, it cannot be given effect to, without the expenditure of money or the passing of a Bill, then the ratification does not take place until Parliamentary sanction has first been asked and obtained." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May. 1921; col. 492; Vol. 142.]
In the present circumstances, as in the Debate on 1st July, I desire, leaving the question of procedure on one side, to direct attention, quite shortly, having regard to the hour, to the Government's policy with respect to the Conventions and Recommendations of Genoa and to ask its approval. To that end, the Resolution which I am moving is drafted on lines exactly parallel to the Resolution which the House adopted with regard to Washington. It was agreed by the Commission which framed the Labour section of the Peace Treaty at Paris that the special questions concerning the minimum conditions to be accorded to seamen—and it is with those workers that I am here dealing exclusively—should be dealt with at a special meeting of the International Labour Conference devoted exclusively to the affairs, as I say, of seamen. That Conference was convened and met at Genoa on the 15th June, 1920, when 27 States were represented. The British official representatives were my hon. Friend and colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Sir Montague Barlow) and Mr. Hipwood, of the Board of Trade; the British employers' delegate was Sir Alfred Booth; and the workers' delegate was my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. J. Havelock Wilson). The Conference closed on the 10th July, 1920. The Peace Treaty lays it down that the Conventions and Recommendations of all the International Labour Conferences should be brought before the competent authority within a period of 12 months, or in exceptional circumstances 18 months. The House wished to have the opportunity of considering the Government's policy, so we are making this Motion to-day, because 18 months from 10th July, 1920, would have elapsed if we had left it over till next Session.

This Genoa Conference agreed to three draft Conventions and four Recommendations, which have been printed in Command Paper 1,174. No agreement was reached on the difficult question of the limitation of the hours of work of seamen. My Resolution does not touch that. I am, not here dealing with it; it is not here raised. There is no Convention, and there is no recommendation about it.

What was the attitude taken by the Government representatives on the point of the hours of employment of seamen? That is the burning question.

If my hon. and gallant Friend will do me the honour of reading the Resolution, he will see that I am dealing with the Conventions and Recommendations, as I am bound to do under the terms of the Resolution. As regards the three Conventions, we propose to accept them all. The first draft Convention deals with the establishment of a minimum age for the admission of children to employment at sea. With certain exceptions, the Convention takes the minimum age of 14 years. The Convention is covered by the Women, Young Persons, and Children Employment Act, 1920, and it was formally ratified by us on the 5th July last. The second draft Convention provides for the payment of unemployment indemnities to seamen in cases of loss or foundering of their ship. The proposal is that indemnities shall be paid, for the days during which the seaman remains in fact unemployed, at the same rate as the wages payable under his contract, but that the total indemnity to any one seaman may be limited to two months' wages. The Government are prepared to accept that Convention, but they think it better to postpone formal ratification until it has been carried into effect by an Amendment of the existing legislation. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 provides:

"Where the services of a seaman terminate before the date contemplated in the agreement by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship…he shall be entitled to wages up to the time of such termination, but not for any longer period."
I understand from my right hon. Friend the President of the. Board of Trade that he proposes to introduce a Merchant Shipping Bill when the pressure of Parliamentary business permits, and such a Bill would, amongst other things, bring our legislation into line with the second Convention. The third and last Draft Convention provides for the establishment of employment facilities either by representative associations of shipowners and seamen jointly, or, in the absence of such joint action, by the State itself. Shipowners and seamen are at present working,together in this matter in this country, and they have established joint employment facilities in a number of ports, the expenses being conjointly borne by employers' and workmen's associations. But the system is not yet so fully developed as to provide complete compliance with this Convention. It will be agreed, I think, in all parts of the House, that if a system arranged by the industry itself can be so far extended so as to cover the whole ground, that is infinitely the best way of proceeding. The Government proposal, therefore, is to accept this Convention, but to postpone formal ratification, and, in the meantime, watch the development of the existing voluntary system. Therefore, with regard to the three Conventions, this is the position. One has already been ratified; and two others we are prepared to accept, although formal ratification, for the reasons I have stated, is postponed.

I come to the four Recommendations, which I will put as briefly as I possibly Can. The first of the Recommendations proposes the limitation of hours of work in the fishing industry. The Recommendation is so drawn as to allow considerable latitude, but, even so, any sincere attempt to carry it into practice is open to many objections. Perhaps I may read it:
"In view of the declaration in the Treaties of Peace that all industrial communities should endeavour to adopt, so far as their special circumstances will permit, 'an eight-hours' day or a 48 hours' week as the standard to be aimed at where it has not already been obtained,' the International Labour Conference recommends that each member of the International Labour Organisation enact legislation limiting in this direction the hours of work of all workers employed in the fishing industry, with such special provisions as may be necessary to meet the conditions peculiar to the fishing industry in each country; and that in framing such legislation each Government consult with the organisations of employers and the organisations of workers concerned."
That is the Recommendation. Amongst the difficulties involved in this proposal, there is the fact that the suggested reduction of hours would mean an increase of staff, for which, I am advised, room cannot be found in most of our fishing craft, many of which are partly owned, of course, by the men themselves. Further, the hours of work in these vessels are necessarily governed by weather conditions, by the distances of the fishing grounds from the port, and by the fact, amongst other things, that fish is a perishable commodity. We have felt, therefore, in these circumstances that we cannot carry out the Recommendation in any real and satisfactory sense, and therefore the fair and honest course to pursue is not to accept it.

The second of the four recommendations concerns the limitation of hours of work in inland navigation. This particular industry is one for which it is extremely difficult to prescribe conditions at the present time because the circumstances are far from normal. We propose, therefore, to postpone the consideration of the question as proposed in this second recommendation until the return of more settled conditions. The third recommendation of the four deals with the establishment of national seamen's codes. It suggests that each member of the National Labour Organisation should "undertake the embodiment in a seamen's code of all its laws and regulations relating to seamen in their activities as such." Effect will require to be given to this recommendation by the passing of legislation consolidating the Merchant Shipping Acts. The Government propose to accept this, the third recommendation, but intend to defer the necessary legislative action until the pressure of other urgent Parliamentary work decreases.

The fourth and last of the recommendations concerns the establishment of schemes of unemployment insurance for seamen. Effect to that has already been given in the Unemployed.Insurance Act, and, therefore, we propose to inform the Secretary-General of the League of Nations that we are prepared to accept it. In regard, therefore, to the four recommendations, we propose to accept two, though deferring legislative action in one case. We reject one. We propose to defer consideration about the other until a more appropriate time. I am sorry to have been so long, but it was quite impossible to be otherwise. Taking the Conventions and the Recommendations together, I submit that the policy of the Government makes a real endeavour to fall in with the decisions arrived at at Genoa, and on the details of that policy as I have endeavoured to describe them, I venture to commend this Resolution to the support of the House.

I think the Government have this time, at any rate, taken the action they were honourably bound to do under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. That Treaty definitely laid down certain principles and provided for certain conferences. It also insisted that where at these conferences conventions were arrived at, those conventions should be submitted to the competent authority. Nobody in the British Delegation at Washington dreamt that any attempt would ever be made to bring the Crown into the matter of these conventions. At Washington the Government Delegates themselves, on instructions from the Home Government, definitely voted in favour of one Convention, which up to the present this Government has definitely refused to put before the house of Commons. In my opinion, that is a grave breach of the terms of the Peace Treaty and of an honourable understanding arrived at. The bringing of the Crown into a matter of this kind cannot result in any lustre being added to the Crown, and it is only using the Crown as an excuse to shelter the Government who wanted to break an honourable agreement. On this occasion the conventions have been dealt with strictly in accordance with the terms of the Peace Treaty. I reserve my opinion as to the advisability or otherwise of declining to accept the recommendation with regard to the fishing industry. I do not know a great deal about it, and as I never speak upon any subject that I do not understand, I will leave the matter there.

With regard to the other recommendations which are to be held in abeyance I prefer not to speak. We shall offer from these Benches no objection to the Resolution, and we definitely and heartily welcome the acceptance by the Government of the guiding principle which never ought to have been departed from, that once our name is fixed to a Treaty and a definite understanding arrived at and promises made, they ought to be kept. For the Government never to put their proposals before the House, in spite of the terms of the Peace Treaty, would be a gross breach of public confidence which I am glad to see in this case has not been repeated.

As far as I can understand the matter, the Government practically are going to do nothing, fore which I am very glad. I have read this precious document, and the only thing I agree with is Article 18, which says:

"The French and English texts of this Convention shall both be authentic."
There is a communication from the Secretary-General of the League of Nations all about draft conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Conference. I do not know what that means. What appears to have happened at this Conference is that two Government officials, a representative of employers and a trade unionist representative have gone over to this Conference, and what right have these individuals to go to a foreign country and bind this House? Apparently these gentlemen agree that in the fishing industry nobody should work more than 48 hours. I am glad that that recommendation is not going to be accepted, but there are other things which are going to be accepted. Why should this sort of thing go on? Why should four men go over to Genoa and enter into an agreement that nobody is to work more than 48 hours a week in any trade or business? If I am correctly informed, some such proposal as that was made, and I am not at all sure it was not made by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman does not contradict me, and therefore the House sees what this is coming to and what might happen under it. This very policy is being carried out by a Government desirous of bringing in a socialistic Measure, and impelled by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are the real Government of the day. They appoint two people, an Under-Secretary and a Cabinet official, who are told how to vote and what to do, with a trade unionist—we heard a little time ago what one trade unionist thought of another trade unionist—and one person supposed to be representing Labour, who may possibly be offered a peerage if he does not make himself unpleasant at the Convention. The right hon. Gentleman will get up, and in a speech of 20 minutes' duration, will tell us all sorts of things, and how it is necessary to ratify this Convention. A Bill will be introduced, and we shall be told that if we do not pass it we shall be breaking some Clause in the Treaty. This has nothing to do with the Treaty of Versailles, and probably nine out of ten hon. Members do not know what was in it. We were told we must take it or leave it, and at that time we were bound to open our mouths and swallow' the pill that was given us.

I should like to make this protest. If ever another Bill is brought in, do not let the Government say to me, "We have made an arrangement with somebody in Genoa, or with the International Labour Conference," or with anything else. If it is a good Bill, and suitable for the United Kingdom, including Ireland, I will support it, but if it is a bad Bill I shall certainly oppose it. I hope to goodness the Government will not attempt to pass it, because of some patched up conference by people who were told what to do in some foreign town, in a foreign country.

I did not intend to intervene in this discussion at all, because I was perfectly satisfied with the statement of the Minister who introduced this Motion, but after the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir Banbury) I am bound to say something. One of the questions that the Labour section had to deal with was that of the hours of labour, and particularly the hours of labour on board ship. At Washington nothing was said about the hours of labour on ships, but a suggestion was made that the details of the question should be thrashed out at another Conference. That Conference was held at Genoa, and not only were four representatives from this country there, but representatives from every maritime nation. What folly it would have been on our part had we said we were not going into the Conference at all, or that we would not agree with them. We are the biggest maritime nation in the world. One of the delegates was a shipowner. We were allowed only one, and we chose, I think, very wisely one of the ablest and clearest headed men in the shipping community—the chairman of the Cunard Company, a man whose name has a house hold reputation. The representatives met at Geneva, and one of the first matters discussed was the application of the 48-hour week to seamen. No one need tell a shipowner that that is absurd. When the question came on for discussion all the nations took part in it, and it was turned down. The only thing I was in doubt about, after listening to speeches, many of which might have been dispensed with, was what was meant by the policy of the Government concerning this recommendation, It. was proposed by Sir Montague Barlow—

He was not Member for Salford at Genoa; he was Sir Montague Barlow there, and he proposed that in a particular case the 48-hour week should be applied to the officers and firemen, with a 56-hour week for the deck hands?

That really raises a point of Order. I have been considering whether on this Motion it would be open to enter into details stated, but not accepted definitely at the Conference. I have looked carefully through the Conventions and the recommendations on particular matters now before the House. I am clearly of opinion that the form of the Motion does not entitle hon. Members to discuss the matters which were not accepted. The Motion simply asks the House to approve the policy of the Government respecting the conventions and recommendations adopted. It is the policy announced to-night by the Minister as to the attitude to be taken on these conventions and recommendations, but it does not seem in any way to include any matters that may have been discussed, though not recommended by the Conference.

I believe I am right in saying that this Conference was called to carry out the findings arrived at at the Washington International Labour Conference. If we are not now to discuss why certain things that were to be ratified at Genoa arising out of the Washington Conference were not so ratified when can we do so? How can we raise the question of the Government failure to carry out their own undertakings at Washington?

I cannot answer that question. There may be other opportunities. The only thing I have to deal with is the scope of the present Resolution, which turns on the meaning of the words

"the policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted."
Clearly what the House is asked for is approval of the policy with regard to the conventions and recommendations as set forth by the Minister to-night, and therefore we are not concerned with matters that were not adopted or recommended.

11.0 P.M.

That was entirely my own view, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, and I only wanted to let the right hon. Gentleman know what the Conventions generally were and what they did. All that we are asked to do to-night is to confirm, if the House thinks fit, these Conventions which, in our folly or in our wisdom, we consider to be quite reasonable Conventions or recommendations. I quite agree that the things which were not adopted at Genoa, such as the 48-hour week, are not included in this Motion. Otherwise, I am perfectly satisfied with what was done at Genoa, and that what we are now asked to ratify was good, sensible work.

I should like to join with the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Raeburn), representing, as I do, and speaking, as I believe I can, on behalf of the shipowners in the Bristol Channel area, in accepting and endorsing the terms of the recommendations at the Conference at Genoa.

My hon. Friend says we had it all our own way, but before the Conference came into being we were not quite so certain that we could accept all the terms that were laid down. In fact, there were many points of difference. But when we came into the Conference at Genoa, and found that we were face to face with the competition, not only of our own people but of other countries, who were endeavouring by every means in their power to cut down our supremacy on the seas, we were brought face to face with the realities of the positior., and were compelled to look at matters from an international point of view, and to regard ourselves as responsible for the destinies of our own shipping. We went into the Conference with absolutely open minds. It is true that we were confronted with various conditions and proposals with regard to hours, wages, and terms of employment, but those things were passed over in sub-committee. With regard to the main points of the Conference, we, the general body of shipowners, agreed to accept without qualification the recommendations of the Government, because, notwithstanding the fact that it may have cost us money, and will in the future cost us money, to accept the terms which have been imposed upon us, we were doing something which might ameliorate the conditions under which the British seaman is going to engage his services on the sea, and at the same time we are not in any way lessening our own prestige. In this Conference we have heightened, to an extent which probably is not understandable in this country, the standard of service, of accommodation, and of feeding; and we have altogether altered the conditions for the seamen of the whole world and for the shipowners of the world. It is something which redounds to the credit of the. British Government that, in carrying at the general Conference certain resolutions, while we may to a certain extent have penalised ourselves, we, at any rate, have not in any way sold ourselves, but rather have brought the general standard of living up to the standard of living on British ships. What was our standard before the War? The British shipowner's complaint before the War was that he could not compete with the foreigner because the foreigner could feed his men at half the price the British shipowner could. That has been, more or less, altered. Things have been, more or less, standardised.

Another complaint my Friends above the Gangway have always made against shipowners is that they were part and parcel of a most unholy system which existed before the War and, to a certain extent, during the War, that certain people made a livelihood out of exploit- ing seamen, and we passed a resolution—not a pious resolution, but one which has been most effectively carried out—which would prevent these men carrying on business at the expense of the seamen. What is our position to-day? If I want to engage a crew I have to go to one of two people, either the Seamen's Union or the Federation. Both are working together under the Joint National Board, and we have no trouble and no discord. We have our Maritime Boards working together, and the seaman is well protected. When he gets his advance note he is not in the position he was in in the old days when, if he got a £5 advance note, he got £1 deducted for cashing it. He is getting the full benefit of his advance, simply as the result of the action taken by the Government during the last two or three years. Speaking for the shipowners in the Bristol Channel, although this must have cost us a certain amount of money—and we do not always want to lose money if we can help it—we have secured, in return for whatever loss has been imposed upon us by the action of the Government, a benefit in the way of service, a benefit in the way of protection, that is incalculable. I endorse the whole of the schemes and proposals put forward by the Government at the Genoa Conference, and I hope the House will not question the sincerity and honesty of the Government in advocating schemes and reforms of this kind which by no means can be construed as platitudes, but are real, sincere, and honest attempts to meet a very difficult situation and to deal justly and fairly with the men employed in an industry which for generations has been treated in a most ungenerous and disgraceful fashion.

I represent the third shipping port in the country, and I have had this matter thrashed out at seamen's meetings in that port. I am very sorry your ruling, Sir, prevents us from discussing the omissions of the Government and confines us entirely to their commissions. However, I have a sneaking sympathy with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury): These international conventions are held. This one seems to have been successful from the shipowners' point of view.

I hope from their point of view, too. Delegates were sent out by the Government. The House knows nothing about them. We are not consulted and do not know who represents us. No discussion takes place before the Convention sits. Then we are faced with the results and we are told we have to back up the British representatives and honour their signatures. The system is entirely wrong. I am all for these international conventions. They are the greatest hope of the future. If we want to prevent ourselves being undercut we must have international arrangements to keep up the standard of living. We ought to be invited to lay down broad lines of policy for our delegates, we ought to approve the delegates, and then we should be prepared to stand by them without question.

We do not want to tell them their business, but we ought to have a broad discussion upon the matter. We had a broad discussion on the question of the Washington Conference last Friday. Why not on this question? We might have a Committee of the House appointed to go into the matter, and then the House would have some sort of say before the conclusions are arrived at, and it would not be necessary for so many protests to be raised in different parts of the House. The present system is entirely wrong. We ought to have some voice in the selection of the delegates, and we ought to be informed what are the broad lines of policy. I am sometimes doubtful whether cur representatives know themselves what the policy is.

With regard to the question of seamen who lose their ships through no fault of their own through the ships foundering, a draft Convention provides that the seamen are to be indemnified. I do not suppose that any hon. Member will oppose that. When a seaman is engaged on a ship which founders through no fault of his he ought to get some compensation until he gets some employment.

It is a voluntary arrangement. Why has the Government delayed in meeting these cases? The present arrangement is a voluntary one between the Shipowners' Federation and the Seamen's Union.

The Seafaring Council. Why do the Government wait to bring in a Bill next year which may be months before it gets a place on the Order Paper and is passed? How do we know that the Government will be here next Session?

I hope they will not be. The Government ought to do something this Session. I do not think it is quite good enough for the Government to ask us to pass pious resolutions approving of this draft Convention, and then to say they will bring in legislation next Session. Why cannot they do something now in this case? Are the seamen who are actually in distress through the loss, through the foundering of their ships, provided for? Are the Government certain; if not, they ought to see that these men are indemnified in the spirit and letter of the draft Convention. If we could be assured on that point, I should be delighted. In regard to the 43-hour week for the fishing trade, I agree with the Government. I have been in trawlers, and I know something of the fishing industry. How there could be a 43-hour week for the fishing trade I do not know. You might do it in regard to tile firemen and the enginemen, but that is about all. Who represented the fishermen at Genoa? Did the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Havelock Wilson)? His members belong to an entirely different union from the fishermen, most of whom do not belong to any union. There is the Skippers' Association. Did the British Government representative speak for the fishermen? How did we come to make through our representatives at Genoa a recommendation which has been immediately laughed out of court in this House? The matter is a little vague. This is an important matter, and it is not right for the right hon. Gentleman to ride off and say that this is rather unimportant matter.

I never said it was unimportant. What I did was to deal fully and entirely and with the utmost seriousness with each convention and each recommendation.

Of course I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sorry I misrepresented him. But he talked two or three times about the lad hour, and asked us to let the thing go through.

Well, he did not. On the fishermen's question I agree with the Government, but it is a peculiar thing that the recommendation should come from Genoa, where the owners were strongly represented, when it was turned down on the great liners.

I am opposed to this Motion. I am more particularly opposed to the class of legislation which this Motion foreshadows. The right hon. Gentleman says that if a system is approved by the industry itself—I suppose he means if employers and employés approve of it—it must be the best. But does it necessarily follow that, because employers and employés in an industry agree to a certain formula or certain trade terms and conditions, it must be best for the country as a whole? It may make for the prosperity of the shipowner for the time being, but it may not make for the expansion of the shipping industry as a whole, or for the general development of our trade and commerce. I suggest that it is this class of legislation, this endeavour to regulate hours of labour and conditions of employment by Act of Parliament, that is primarily responsible for a great deal of the unemployment. The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. Gould) I am sure is sincerely desirous of seeing his men contented on his steamships and his industry prosperous, but I suggest to him that, as they have brought about such a, measure of agreement voluntarily, surely that is the right line, and that we should leave our people freedom of action, and deal only with broad, general principles with Acts of Parliament, and give up the attempt to legislate for every individual in every industry and legislate separately for each industry. We must endeavour to get away from this constant nagging at each industry and this endeavour to prescribe conditions for each industry by Act of Parliament.

May I draw attention to the fact that America was not represented at this Conference, though it is to-day the second greatest maritime country in the, world. That shows the absurdity of going on with these Conventions and Conferences in the absence of America. Out of all this, all we have really got is the Second Part of Article 2 of the recommendation about the unemployment indemnity in case of loss or foundering of the ship. No doubt it is a good thing for seamen, and we are not going to object to it, but that is all we get out of this wonderful Convention. I do not think there has ever been a better illustration of Horace's dictum:

"parturient months nascetur ridicules mus."
We get a ridiculous recommendation about the fishing industry, probably voted on by nations who have no fishing industry of their own to speak of. I suggest that this is a very good illustration of some of the absurdities which have resulted from the Versailles Treaty and especially with regard to the League of Nations.

In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Havelock-Wilson), I wish to correct a statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). He made reference to the fact that no one represented the fishermen.

The Seamen and Firemen's Union have a very effective leader of their organisation looking after the welfare of the fishermen in this country.

I represent a constituency which includes a very large percentage of seamen. I want, on their part, to thank the Government for their action. The hon. and gallant Member for Hull asked why legislation was not introduced immediately in order to give practical effect to the findings of this Conference? Ii the findings of the Conference are nothing but a pious resolution I am pre- pared to support the hon. and gallant Member, but I rise to ask the Minister of Labour whether it is not the fact that all the findings and recommendations of this Conference have been agreed to, both on the part of the shipowners and on behalf of the seamen? If that be so, it seems to me that the recommendations will, in effect, be acted upon, whether or not there be legislation next Session. That being the case, it seems to me that by adopting these recommendations the Government has done a good deal towards improving the conditions of service on the sea. The point taken by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. G. Balfour) is different. I am sure he would be the last to wish to see, our sailors going back to the old conditions when they served for wages of about 10s. a month—if that—and when their conditions were deplorable. Those conditions have recently been improved. I believe that the findings of this Conference will tend to improve them still more, and the recommendations should commend themselves to the House.

I am very much obliged to the House for the generous reception it has given to the policy I have put forward in respect to the Conventions and Recommendations adopted. The hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury (Lieut.-Colonel Archer-Shee) thinks that this Genoa effort was a ridiculous mouse, but the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. Gould), who does know something about things on the sea, is not of that opinion at all. I am backing his view of the value of these proceedings.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff is now concerned with the mercantile marine, and I listened with very great interest to his commendation. The hon. and gallant Member for Hull asked me two questions about the Convention dealing with unemployment in the case of the loss or foundering of a ship. I do not think he understood what that was. The proposal of the particular Convention here is that this indemnity shall be paid for the days during which the seaman remains in fact unemployed at the same rate of wages as would have been paid, and that the total indemnity in the case of one seaman may he up to two months. It reads as follows:

"Where the services of a seaman terminate before the date contemplated in the agreement by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship…he shall be entitled to wages up to the time of such termination but not for any longer period."
Here is a proposal which says that the total indemnity may be two months. As I have said, the President of the Board of Trade has accepted this Convention, but we have not ratified it. We want time and opportunity to amend our law so as to bring it into line with the Convention.

In the meantime things stand as they are. We have accepted it in principle, but we do not ratify it. We shall have to introduce a Merchant Shipping Bill and that we will undertake to do when the pressure of Parliamentary business permits.

Have the other parties to the Convention agreed to accept the recommendation?

If my hon. Friend will put down an unstarred question I will give him, so far as I have been able to get it, the attitude of the other countries—of these 27 States to which I have referred. I do not know that I have the details as to the fishing industry proposals and the limiting of hours. I do not know how this nation and that nation voted. I thank the House for having listened to me with such patience.

I would prefer if I might give an answer to that on an unstarred question. I will give the information as far as I have got it.

Question put and agreed to.


"That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the International Labour Conference, held at Genoa in June and July, 1920."

Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 To 1919


"That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1919, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, in respect of the borough of Dorchester, in the county of Dorset, which was presented on tie 19th October (H.C. 237), be approved."


"That the Special Order made by the Electricity Commissioners under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1919, and confirmed by the Minister of Transport under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, in respect of the urban district of Abersychan, in the county of Monmouth, which was presented on the 19th October (H.C. 237–1), be approved.—[Mr. Neal.]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half after Eleven o'clock.