Skip to main content

Orders Of The Day

Volume 360: debated on Thursday 9 May 1940

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Government Of India Act, 1935 (Adaptation Of Acts Of Parliament (Amendment) Order)

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [1st May]:

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, in pursuance of the provisions of Section 309 of the Government of India Act, 1935, praying that the Government of India (Adaptation of Acts of Parliament) (Amendment) Order, 1940, be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament."

Question again proposed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved,

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, in pursuance of the provisions of Section 309 of the Government of India Act, 1935, praying that the Government of India (Adaptation of Acts of Parliament) (Amendment) Order, 1940, be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament."

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.

Factory Administration

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Captain Margesson.]

1.16 p.m.

I hope the House will forgive me for introducing for Debate so late in the day the subject of factory administration relating to those millions of people employed in the tens of thousands of factories of our country. We are all interested in the progress of the war, what is happening in Norway and other fields of battle, and incidentally in the quarrels that seem to emerge within the Tory party from time to time. One thing is certain, however, that this House of Commons cannot afford to forget the welfare of the industrial population of our country. I propose, therefore, to say a few words on certain issues connected with the Factory Department of the Home Office. The Government have set up a body to inquire into the health and welfare of our factory population, and I can do no better than commence the few remarks that I have to make by referring to the very excellent report of the Industrial Health Research Board of the Medical Research Council. This report commences by saying:

"During the war of 1914–18 the increase in the output of munitions became of primary importance. To this end hours of labour for men were increased, 70 to 90 hours a week being common and over 90 hours a week not infrequent. The assumption was that if one unit of work could be done in one hour then six could be done in six, 12 in 12, and so on. A simple calculation would give the output per week, per month and per year. The actual results were found to belie this assumption, for output did not increase proportionately to time and effort expended."
If people forget everything else that I say, I should like through this House to appeal to employers of labour to remember that long hours of labour and speeding up in factories do not necessarily increase production. Indeed, whatever views may be held upon the war effort one thing is certain; whatever our men may do in Narvik, Trondheim and elsewhere no national effort can be conducted successfully unless proper regard is, had for the welfare of those who are employed in the factories and workshops at home. Therefore, we are dealing this afternoon with what I will call one of the main problems of the home front. Unfortunately, we are always in a quandary that we have not before us the annual report of the factory inspectorate of the previous year. It is a report that is always delayed—I can quite understand it—and what we must do to-day, therefore, is to deal with the information that is available.

One of the first points I want to put to the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Debate is this: We are very anxious to know whether the factory inspectorate is not only doing its work—as it always does—but whether, with the increased number of persons employed in factories, the inspectorate is adequate in number. That is very important because I am assured from experience of this problem that unless we have a live inspectorate the legislation that we put on the Statute Book to safeguard the interests of the workers in itself will be of little avail. It is common knowledge to every Member of Parliament that merely to pass a piece of legislation is of no use in itself; unless there is an organisation or power to enforce the law it is of no avail whatsoever. If I had time and if it were pertinent to this Debate, I could give the case of the Shops Acts. The provisions of the Shops Acts are implemented by local inspectorates; and if it were the appropriate occasion, I would have something to say about the law providing a maximum number of hours per week for young persons in shops. I am not quite satisfied that the law in that respect is being implemented in every shop throughout the country.

Let me quote once again from the very excellent report to which I have already referred. This is what it says:
"One of the lessons learned in the last war was that excessive hours of work do not ultimately pay, even when considered solely on the basis of output and apart from the effects on the health of the workers."
I would say in passing that, as hon. Gentlemen know, I am a secretary of a small trade union approved society. It is amazing how few people take note of the importance of what I call vital statistics. Let me explain. The sickness experience of the people of our country for the first quarter of 1940 was 20 per cent. higher than any figure recorded in history. I know that the severe winter weather probably accounts for most of that, but I am not so sure that speeding up in industry does not account for it in part. For instance, in the distributive trades, it is quite common for 10 persons to be employed in a shop. One or two are drafted into the Army or Navy, leaving the remainder to do the same amount of work as the 10 used to perform; and this practice is not uncommon in clerical occupations as well.

I would like to find out, therefore, whether there is not something else which may have affected the health of our population during the first quarter of 1940. We have the blackout to begin with. I am very pleased that the Home Office has issued a very excellent pamphlet on this problem covering the effects of the blackout on factory workers. Indeed, the blackout has provided one or two very humorous illustrations of what can happen. Some factory workers came tome some time ago and put it thus: The owner blacked out all windows so that no light from the factory could be seen by enemy aircraft. But, strange to say, by blacking out the windows to prevent the enemy seeing the light, they blocked the ventilation of the factory at the same time. Not only did they black out the factory windows during the night but they blacked out the sunlight during the day at the same time. The large employer of course is always better on the average than the small one. It is the little bakeries and small places where tailoring work is done which do not very often conform to the requirements of the Factory Acts. I trust, therefore, that in addition to issuing this excellent pamphlet the inspectorate will see that these small employers carry out the suggestions contained in it.

There is another point which I do not remember having raised before. We speak much more eloquently, by the way, when we repeat ourselves. If we say it often enough, it may penetrate into the mind of the Minister in charge. I should like to know what happens in factories in this matter. Our education code provides that no child although 14 years of age shall be allowed to leave until the end of the school term. This is what happens, to my personal knowledge, particularly in Scotland in the distributive trades. I cannot tell whether it occurs in factories. A child is often allowed on compassionate grounds to leave school and start work before the end of the school term as stipulated by the local authority. Remember- ing the demands especially from some unscrupulous employers for young persons to be employed, especially in agriculture, I wonder whether that sort of thing applies to factories and whether the age of every child is scrutinised by the certifying factory surgeon. I was astonished the other day to find that the Westmorland Education Committee had decided that they were willing to wink at the absence from school of children of all ages provided they were working on farms. It will hardly be worth while winning a war if we allow that sort of thing to happen.

Here is another illustration of what can happen during war—I hardly think it could happen in peace-time. A number of women living at Blackpool working at a great munition factory near Chorley. The Home Office has issued a document giving a complete list of orders issued to employers allowing women and young persons to work overtime and allowing them to work two and three shifts and at nights as well. These women in Blackpool had to get up at four o'clock in the morning, and although they worked well within legal limits they could not ordinarily return home until ten o'clock at night. Their hours of labour, of course, did not account for all that, but transport facilities were not available to meet their requirements. All that has now been attended to. But has the Home Office any liaison at all with the transport Ministry to see that that sort of thing shall not happen again?

Is the Home Office pressing not only for the establishment of safety committees in factories but for the appointment of welfare advisers? Pressure ought to be brought upon employers to meet the sort of case I raised a moment or two ago. Women are flocking into industry more than ever because men have been conscripted. Luxury trades are naturally declining in importance, and women employed in them are now drifting into the heavier industries. I should imagine that the factory inspectorate will have all that in mind when thinking out problems about industrial accidents.

It is very interesting just now to note the conditions under which people live in Germany. I have come across a translation of an article in German showing the number of industrial accidents in Germany. It is interesting to find out what happens under Fascism to factory employés. While we in this country only record accidents occurring inside factories, in Germany they include those arising between the worker's home and work; consequently the comparison is not fair. Incidentally, the probability of being injured in an industrial accident is 57 per cent. higher for an inexperienced worker than for a skilled worker, and authority tells me that that is true throughout the world. To show the deterioration in Germany, the number of industrial accidents, including those on the way to and from work, rose from 491,000 to 1,338,000—that is, by 172 per cent.—from 1932 to 1938, although the number of employed persons insured against industrial accidents increased by only 73 per cent. This point is important by way of comparison with our own country. It tells us also that 8,000 workers were fatally injured in industry in 1937 and 1938 in Germany. As far as I know, this is not an anti-Nazi article; it simply gives the facts of the situation as the writer knew them at the time. One of the reasons for the increase in the number of accidents is stated to be due to fatigue and speeding-up. We know, of course, that in all the totalitarian States there is always a shock brigade. I want therefore to have a proper perspective of this problem in this country. I return again to this admirable report of the Medical Research Council where it makes it clear that you do not increase production by increasing the number of hours of work or speeding up the worker in any way. What you do is to increase the rate of sickness and in some cases reduce the production at the same time.

I should like now to ask the hon. Gentleman what has happened to the Orders issued since the publication of this interim report on that subject. It would be very interesting information, I am sure. The total number of factories covered by orders then issued was 2,914. I should like, if possible, to find out the number of workers covered by those orders. It does not convey anything at all when we are told that 2,914 factories were covered unless we know how many persons were employed. I would ask whether the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the reduced hours of labour laid down in the Factory Act, 1937, are actually being implemented. I have come to the conclusion, after some experience, that, however keen the factory inspector, or any other official, may be, there is no saving the working people from long hours of labour merely by law. If they would have the benefits of the law—although the inspector does his work excellently—trade unionism is ultimately the deciding factor. People should be told that.

As I have said, we make no apology for bringing the House of Commons back to the home front. I hope that what has been said here to-day will result in at least two things. One is that we shall not, if we can help it, allow the unscrupulous employer to take advantage of the national emergency to exploit his workpeople for his personal aggrandisement. The next thing, and the most important, is this. When the Government are extending their operations in the manufacture of munitions and the implements of war, they might do what I feel sure they realise they ought to do—that is, to have regard to the health and welfare of the people employed in those factories.

1.38 p.m.

It is understandable that this House is empty this afternoon. This Debate is somewhat of an anti-climax after the last two days. If I had to choose the Member whom I should like to see on the Front Bench opposite, I should choose, in view of an answer that was given at Question Time to-day, the hon. and gallant Member who represented the Ministry of Supply. To my absolute amazement, the hon. and gallant Member told the House that he had no knowledge of this report which is being debated to-day, the report of the Industrial Health Research Board, a sub-committee of the Medical Research Council—which, after all, is financed by the Government. There was a Question on the Order Paper, about the working conditions of women in factories doing work for the Ministry of Supply. I asked whether the recommendations of this report were recognised by the Ministry of Supply, and the hon. and gallant Member evidently had not heard of the report. I feel sure, of course, that that does not apply to the representatives of the Home Office. If the Under-Secretary has not heard of it before, he will have heard of it by the time this Debate is over.

I heard of it long ago.

Yes. This report was drawn up as a result of the experience of the last war. The recommendations in it are not frivolous: they are of great importance; and, in the light of what is happening in this war, they should be applied immediately. As a matter of fact, the acrimonious discussions here during the last two days have been due to the feeling of the House that the Government have not learnt by experience. I ask the Home Office to learn by experience so far as the conditions of the workers are concerned. If the troops are to be supplied with adequate clothing, equipment, guns, and all the other things needed to prosecute the war, it is surely absolutely essential that the industrial forces on the home front should be kept as fit as the troops, so that they may keep up the output. Apart from the humanitarian aspect, the Government should view the whole thing from the aspect that it will be in the interests of the country, in the interests of the Government themselves, for them to regard this report very seriously.

It is important to remember that by increasing hours, you do not necessarily increase output in the same proportion. I might illustrate that from the Debates which take place in this House. As the hours go on, the quality of the Debates certainly does not improve. As the atmosphere becomes more vitiated, Members become more irritable, and their brains get tired. I am informed that in the small hours of the morning speeches have been made which are quite incoherent, and Members have indulged in the most amazing mixed metaphors. We are like other workers, although I am glad to say we do a much lighter form of work than most of them do. As the hours go on, brains get tired, and, as we saw last night, the tempers even of the most experienced get a little frayed. The result of the operation of such factors can be seen in this report.

The recommendations are of an obvious character. First, avoid long hours. I want to hear what is being done about that. We still have nearly 1,000,000 unemployed, and I believe we have a huge pool of workers which has not yet been touched—I refer to the large number of women. Secondly, it is recommended that the workers' Sundays and holidays should not be interfered with. Thirdly, it is extremely important that lighting should be the best possible, and that factories should be heated properly. I have not examined every paragraph of the report, but I am surprised that it does not also deal with the question of night work. I regard the lot of the night worker as a very unhappy one. His health rapidly deteriorates. We have heard this very often from my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), when he has spoken on the subject of night baking. The night worker finds that he cannot adjust his sleeping hours, and also there is a social factor of tremendous importance. His whole family life is disrupted. I feel so strongly on the matter that I still want to be told why workers in most industries, I think, have to work at night. I have known men who have been on night work for periods of 10 years. Can that be avoided?

Another point is the incidence of accidents. In spite of many factories introducing foolproof machines, there is still a large number of accidents. In the factories where there is artificial lighting accidents increased by 26 per cent., and in factories where the hours have been increased from 10 to 12 per day there are two and a-half times more accidents. What appeals to me chiefly in this report is that they say that these accidents are in a large measure due to sickness and fatigue. The conclusion at which these eminent scientists who drew up this report arrived is that they say that the basic problem is one of health, health of mind and body, since the healthier and the more contented the individual the more energy he had available.

I want to apply myself particularly to that aspect of the report, and to ask the Under-Secretary why in these enlightened days we examine only boys and girls under 16 before they go into the factory. Why does not the State assume any responsibility for the health of boys and girls over 16, and or men and women? Is it because the National Health Insurance Act provides for that? I know a good deal about the working of the National Health Insurance Act, and I maintain that that argument cannot hold during the war. An enormous number of women who are being recruited for war work have never been insured under the National Health Insurance Act, and, therefore, thousands of people are being introduced into our factories who have never had a medical examination at all The argument, therefore, that a worker over 16 can be examined by a State doctor does not hold. It is a ridiculous anomaly of this Act for a married woman to be left outside. If a man's wife dies and he decides to employ a housekeeper, the State remains responsible for the health of the housekeeper and guarantees that she shall have health insurance benefit and certain remuneration if she falls ill, but the State does not recognise a married woman in this way.

The hon. Lady is discussing something which would involve legislation, and it is out of order on the Adjournment.

Could not I quote this as an illustration of the injustice of the health provisions in order to urge the Home Secretary that the examination which already takes place by doctors who are employed by the Home Office should also be extended to other categories?

An illustration is always permissible, provided it does not go too far.

May I ask the Under-Secretary whether he will ask the Home Secretary to consider this matter, as I believe it is not sufficiently realised that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be recruited for employment in war factories who have had no medical examination? I am not pressing for medical examination because I am a doctor, but I am quoting from a report which says that, if the accident rate is to be decreased, it is absolutely essential that the workers should be healthy. I feel that this is one of the most important steps which the Home Office should consider.

I want to say a few words about factory inspectors. I cannot say that I know of a large number of people who work in factories who have complained of bad conditions, but from time to time I do see men and women who tell me that they are working under conditions which are certainly not conducive to good health. I am sometimes told that a factory is too hot or too cold, or that there are fumes, and that there are places which should be called, if one were honest, slum factories. I know that factory inspectors are recruited from men and women, many of whom have university qualifications, but I want to know whether these inspec- tions are carried out in a thorough manner. On the Order Paper to-day there was a Question in which the attention of the Minister was drawn to the remarks of a judge who said, with respect to a fatal accident which had taken place in a factory, that although the factory inspector had called on many occasions, he had not observed that certain machinery was not properly guarded. I believe that that is an instance of a certain laxity in this administration.

Is there a sufficient number of factory inspectors, and do they pay their visits unexpectedly—that is a very important point—or is the owner of the factory warned that a visit is pending? If you are to assess the real conditions under which a man or woman works, the inspector should walk into the factory unannounced. Surely some regulation should be made so that factory inspectors could go into a factory unasked. I think that the Under-Secretary will agree that the health visitor who inspects the conditions under which a foster child is kept does not warn the foster-mother, but walks into the house and says, "Here I am, let me see the kind of conditions under which this child lives." That, surely, should be the method adopted by the factory inspectors. I also feel that the time has come when the job of the factory inspector should be not only to inspect the machinery and the building, but also to examine the human machine. I agree that the ordinary factory inspector could not do that; it should be done by a doctor who should make a medical examination of the human machine. The answer in the past has always been, "But look at the large amount of money that the State is expending upon National Health Insurance." That may be, but the National Health Insurance Scheme is not a preventive scheme; it is only a curative scheme. Workers go to the doctor only when there are actual symptoms of illness apparent. If one looks at the figures in the report, it will be found that the wastage of labour is enormous and that on the average the worker who stays away during the year on account of sickness stays away a fortnight.

May I call attention to the rather alarming aspect that the second cause of sickness among workers is gastritis? No worker goes to a doctor and says, "I have a slight pain," but when the worker becomes extremely ill he has to see a doctor, and as a result he has to have two or three weeks off when he might have been at work. If the Home Secretary were wise, he would save all these hours of labour for the State, which could be translated into goods and equipment for the Army. There should be that inspection of the human machine. If that were carried out, it would be found that all those workers suffering from this complaint would be spotted immediately, and treated, and there would be no need for enforced periods of illness and convalescence. I want to remind the Under-Secretary that during war this particular complaint increases because the predisposing cause is worry and anxiety. I believe my suggestion is practicable and that if carried out, it would mean that the number of working days wasted was considerably reduced. May I also impress on the Under-Secretary that in future not only should there be factory inspection from the angle of inspecting buildings and machines, but also of the human factor, which is tremendously important if we are to keep up our full strength and produce all the equipment which, I believe, the Army needs so badly?

1.56 p.m.

The Debate which is taking place to-day, compared with that of yesterday, is a marvellous testimony to the flexibility of British Parliamentary institutions, and happily this is not the first occasion on which this has happened. I am sure the Under-Secretary will remember the time of the Debate on the unemployment of young persons in this House, last July, when the atmosphere was not so charged with drama as yesterday but certainly was at a time of considerable international tension. I think it is a fine thing that some few Members of us can spare an hour or two, after the dramatic Debates of the last two days, in order to discuss a problem which is, after all, of considerable importance.

I wish to say a word or two about the interim report on the operation of the Factories Act, 1937, published in March of this year. I have read that report with very great care and would like to take this opportunity of saying that it is, as so many other documents of its kind are, a first-class Civil Service document, written with great clarity and considerable conciseness. Some of us have read it with some appreciation of what is being attempted. There is, apparently, a real desire on the part of the Home Office to prevent the provisions of the 1937 Act from being flagrantly violated, and I hope that the Home Office, in that endeavour, will be vigilant enough to be completely successful in achieving its purpose.

May I make one or two general observations? First of all, a reading of the document, and especially a reading of the historical preface, cannot help but impress the reader with the fact that some improvements have been made in the matter of the employment of women and young persons within the last 25 years. Although they have been improvements which have been timid and hesitant, they have been such that no Member of the House could do other than warmly welcome them. These improvements are to be continued by the legislation which has grown out of public demand and the constantly growing power and influence of the trade-union movement. I share the view of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that the adult worker, man as well as woman, should be expected to defend himself or herself, so far as is humanly possible in the field of industry, by the use of the trade-union movement, supplemented, where imperative, by legislation.

We are discussing this afternoon in the main, however, a body of young persons incapable of that kind of self-defence and therefore imposing on the House heavier burdens of responsibility to see that they are not unfairly and unfortunately treated in the field of industry. I remember that when I read the first draft of the Factories Bill, which eventually became the 1937 Act, I was astounded, not at what the Bill prohibited in terms of juvenile employment, but what it proposed to permit and ultimately did permit. I cannot refrain this afternoon from expressing my abhorrence at the sheer intolerability, in 1940, whether there is a war or not, of industrial employment at the age of 14 years especially under the extended conditions permitted by the special regulations.

I and others commonly hate this class structure of society, with its imposition of educational limitations at 14 years of age, the undue physical strain at that age and its further imposition, in consequence, of lifelong poverty. Although the House may welcome the improvements made in this matter, in terms of legislation, if it is examined objectively, it is, after all, a diabolical balance between what the health of young people of 14 years of age will stand and how they can best be treated in order to extract the maximum amount of physical energy, such as how many hours they can be allowed to stand, whether they shall have music to accompany their jobs, if so, how much, and what shall be their breaks. You get intolerable class dictinction when a boy of 14 is forced by the poverty of his parents to enter industry when he is entirely unsuited for it, and finds himself at the age of 20 a private in the Army, and remains in the non-commissioned ranks for the rest of his time, because he has been denied educational advantgaes, while another boy can go to a secondary school and to a university until he is 20 or 21 and then leave for a career that offers no probability of lifelong poverty.

When I consider some of the types of employment on which youngsters of 14 are now being engaged, I am bound to say that I feel provoked to language that would break the bounds of Parliamentary decorum. At the bottom of page 11 of the report it says:
"There are, however, some cases where the refusal of a concession for young persons under 16 years of age would result in serious dislocation and loss of output, especially where the work of the young persons is very closely linked with that of older persons with whom they work, either as members of a team or assistants."
It goes on to speak of the various types of employment. It speaks of
"rivet heating for riveters, or rivet catching and holding-up, or 'pulling' or assisting drop-hammer smiths, or acting as moulders assistants in foundries."
Anybody who has ever seen inside a factory knows what work of that character is like, the terrible dirt and almost unbearable atmosphere. Think of youngsters of 14 years of age, not by any choice of their own but by the sheer economic compulsion of poverty, being forced into that kind of employment, even under the slightly restricted conditions of Section 71 of the Act of 1937 of a 44-hour week, which may be extended to 48 hours. On page 4 of the report it is recorded historically that in the last war factory legislation permitted boys of 14 to be employed at night, but on page 10 it is said, that "for the time being" permission for night employment at that age has not been conceded under the special regulations. I hope that the four words "for the time being" do not indicate that for any reason or fear in the mind of the Home Office they will permit night employment for young persons between 14 and 16. Night employment is bad enough for those between 16 and 18, but it would be really intolerable for it to be permitted for those between 14 and 16.

On page 8 reference is made to relaxation in the matter of hours under the extended hours provision. I want to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton, that the figures as to the number of factories are absolutely meaningless unless they are accompanied by the all-important figure of the number of young persons affected. In one part of the report it is said that relaxation in the number of hours has been made only in a few industries, in cotton and woollen textiles. I think it is altogether too diminutive a fashion in which to dismiss the matter by saying that there was an extension from 44 hours to 48 in a few industries. They may be few in number, but the all-important fact is that they are industries in which a very considerable proportion of the employés are young persons. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us, if he can, how many young persons have been affected by extensions from 44 hours to 48. As to night employment, it is permitted for young women over 18, and on page 9 of the report it is said:
"Applications for authority to employ women at night have been relatively few and confined almost entirely to factories producing armaments or engaged in processes incidental thereto; altogether 57 Orders have been made. The system authorised is usually one of the following—(a) a system of three eight-hour shifts in the 24 hours with an interval of at least half an hour for meals and rest in each turn; (b) a system of day and night shifts allowing a weekly total of working hours of about 54 for the day shift and about 50 for the night shift. Under this system intervals for meals and rest amounting to at least one hour are required to be allowed during each turn."
I have had experience of night work, and I think it is a thing which should be avoided if it is at all possible. I have never yet been able to make up my mind as to whether alternative night work is to be preferred to consistent night work. Both are very bad. Alternative night work does give opportunity for domestic comfort and enjoyment, but a three-shift system means that week after week a man has to change his habits and accustom himself to different hours for food. If a man is on a night shift from 10 o'clock till six o'clock in the morning, he gets home just as the milk carts are rattling down the cobbled street, when other members of the household have awakened and all sorts of things are happening within the four walls of what is very often a small house. The opportunity for getting sleep on the part of that night worker is very limited and restricted. I beg the Under-Secretary to see that the conditions for night employment are restricted in an almost microscopic fashion, and that the Home Office will require abundant proof of its necessity before orders of this kind are extended. I do not want to fan into flame the embers of last July on juvenile employment and the 44-hour week, but I beg the Under-Secretary to remember that those embers are alive, and that my hon. Friends will not be slow to take whatever opportunity presents itself to press upon the Home Office the necessity for such legislation as will save our young persons from the intolerabilities of the present employment whether they are of 44 or 48 hours a week, whether they are in the special industries to which I have referred or in the field of industry as a whole.

I must say one word about the most extraordinary reply which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply gave to an hon. Member this afternoon. It really is astonishing that a document of this kind, with its humane approach to this problem, has not been seen by Ministerial Departments covering a very wide field of productive employment in which many hundreds of young persons are employed and who are unaware not only of the terms of the document but that the document itself is in existence. Arising out of that amazing statement, I hope that the Under-secretary will make it the duty of the Home Office to draw the attention of Departments engaged in Government production to the existence of this document and its terms, and that they will also realise the tremendous desirability of seeing that these regulations are imposed on employers wherever they can be. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us exactly what the Government are doing in regard to the recommendations in the report.

2.15 p.m.

The House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for having initiated this important Debate, since a discussion of certain defects of the partial neglect of our factory legislation cannot but be of value to the country. I wish to raise one or two relatively smaller matters regarding the effect of over-work in certain factories and shipyards on the Tyneside. It is generally agreed that the situation there in that respect is distasteful both to employers and employés. As a result of the admitted shortage of labour, it is necessary for intolerable hours of overtime to be worked. In certain shipyards where the three-shift system is not in operation, overtime is worked from 8.30 p.m., and every week-end, until the men become too exhausted to go to the factories and workshops. This overtime is being worked in certain of our larger industries on the Tyneside. There is an urgent demand for relief from this situation, as it is causing staleness, exhaustion and a coniderable amount of sickness, which eventually result in short time by many workers.

The situation has not been met by local action. The local trade union committees have taken upon themselves the task of advertising, at their own expense, for their particular classes of labour. Appeals have been made in other quarters and to other trade union committees for labour which, as a result of the depression, was transferred elsewhere. The result has been virtually nil. Some additional organisation, which has not yet been set up, is required to deal with the position. In some cases municipal employés have responded to the appeals that have been made by stating that to return to their old employment would mean a decline in their wages and possibly a loss of superannuation. Surely, this is a case in which the Home Office should undertake some inquiry for the purpose of seeing whether it is not possible to make arrangements to ensure that skilled shipyard workers of various sorts employed elsewhere should return to their employment. In that way, the very onerous situation on the Tyneside could be met. I have been in communication with employers and employés, and they have declared that this is one of the most urgent problems to be dealt with. It seems to be a case of neglect by the Ministry of Labour or the Home Office, or by both, for clearly the matter has not had the official attention which it ought to receive. In County Durham, the great mining county of the country, certain employés are bitterly complaining that there appears to be work, but that they cannot reach it. In certain parts of the county there is great unemployment but, at the same time and in the same districts, considerable overtime is being worked in the mines. Surely, that is a situation which can be dealt with by one of the Ministries concerned. It is creating a great deal of serious discontent. I have received communications on the matter from many quarters and I have passed them on to the Durham Miners' Association for attention, but it is a matter which ought to have attention from all the Ministries, and I am sure that it could be rectified without further delay.

The information which has been supplied to the House this afternoon concerning the employment of women and children will be of great value to the Home Office. On the Tyneside we have the unenviable notoriety of having a tuberculosis rate which is probably the highest in the country. Although, since the last war, there has been a substantial decline in the incidence of this disease, nevertheless the North-East Coast remains well above the average for the rest of the country. This matter ought to receive the constant attention of the Ministry of Health. When Questions are put to the Minister about this, his response is that action is being taken in the provision of additional hospitals, and so on; but it is to means of prevention that attention ought more particularly to be directed. The high rate of the disease is alleged to be due to the low nutritional standards on the North-East Coast and also to overtime worked by women and girls in the relatively few factories there. It is, however, interesting to notice with regard to this disease that the figures show that 50 per cent. of the cases of tuberculosis in children under one year of age result from infection. Therefore, if adults are infected, it is not possible, even under relatively healthy conditions, to prevent the disease from spreading to babies and young children. It is a serious fact that during the last three years there has been an average of no fewer than 50,000 new cases of tuberculosis in the country.

Probably our municipal authorities are dealing with this matter as well as they can, but it requires a much greater effort from the central authority, particularly in the matter of nutrition, which would not necessitate additional legislation. There has been a request to local authorities to increase, at their own charge, the amount of cheap milk available to various sections of the community, but there is a revolt against the municipal authorities having to bear the additional cost of many thousands of pounds for the purpose of raising the standard of life among the industrial workers. If the Government are serious, as unquestionably they are, in their efforts to preserve intact the home front, from the point of view of the standards of the workers, in order that our munitions production and export trade may be kept at the highest level, that aspect of expenditure by the central authorities must be carefully examined. I am sorry that more Members could not be present at this Debate. The smallness of the attendance may seem to indicate a lack of interest in the subject, but I should point out that, unfortunately, the Debate had to be arranged at very short notice, and many hon. Members found it impossible to be present in the House this afternoon. This subject is of such vital importance and the revelations which have been made regarding it are so disquieting, that I hope an opportunity will be found, if possible on the initiative of the Government, for a further Debate upon it.

2.26 p.m.

I think it must be the calm after the storm, rather than the calm before the storm, which the House is experiencing this afternoon. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said that the welfare of our industrial population was one of the first essentials in time of war and with that statement I fully agree. Our industrial effort may be decisive one way or the other. The war has brought its problems to the industrial division of the Home Office and to the factory inspectorate, as to other Government Departments. I am glad, therefore, that the House should have this opportunity of showing its in- terest in this part of Home Office administration and that I should have the opportunity of giving some account to the House of what we have done since the outbreak of war. Like the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) I regret that the Debate has had to be held at such short notice and although the hon. Member for Westhoughton has as usual been good enough to inform me in advance of some of the questions which he intended to raise, I am unable, because of the shortness of notice, to give the full answers to all his questions and all of the statistical information for which hon. Members opposite have asked.

I begin by stating briefly what is the field of Home Office responsibility in this matter. The speeches of the hon. Member for Consett and of the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) rather indicated that in their view we bore a heavier responsibility over a wider field than is actually the case. The field of Home Office responsibility may be described briefly as having regard to welfare in the factories, and the hours of work of women and young persons. Reference has been made to the admirable report of the Industrial Health Research Board and I was surprised to hear from hon. Members opposite that my colleague at the Ministry of Supply appeared to be unaware of the existence of this document. I cannot of course answer for my hon. and gallant Friend; it may be that he did not fully understand the Supplementary Question which was put to him. But I can assure hon. Members opposite that this document is well known in the Ministry of Supply.

As far as industrial welfare is concerned, there are many aspects for which the Home Office has a specific responsibility, because of the duty which is on the Department to enforce the provision of the Factories Acts. Those Acts are designed not only to protect the workers, men and women, against special risks of industrial accidents or industrial disease, but also to secure proper working conditions in the factories. They contain special provisions relating to cleanliness, heating, ventilation, lighting, washing facilities, accommodation for workers, protective clothing and first aid. Beyond the statutory responsibilities of the Home Office, it has become established practice in recent years for the Home Office and the factory inspectorate to supplement the enforcement of the actual statutory obligations by issuing pamphlets giving advice to employers, and by delivering lectures with a view to securing a wider adoption of safety, health and welfare arrangements than the minimum standards required by law.

As regards operations or processes which may involve specific danger to health, it is the constant duty of the Factories Department to assist in devising measures to counteract such dangers. New risks from time to time arise as a result of the introduction of new machines or new processes and it is the duty of the Factories Department to mobilise specialist knowledge for the purpose of devising protective measures. As a recent example—one among many—I may quote the development of what are known as radio-active processes. Special safeguards for work of this kind have been devised with the assistance of the medical and engineering officers in the Factories Department. In this field of welfare work special difficulties to which the hon. Member referred were encountered on the outbreak of the war, particularly as regards the ventilation and lighting in factories. The hon. Member referred in very generous terms to the pamphlet prepared in the Home Office on the subject of ventilation in factories under black-out conditions. That pamphlet has been widely distributed and we are convinced that it has produced good results. As regards lighting, a special study is being made of the subject by the Factory Lighting Committee which includes outside experts as well as representatives of employers and workpeople under the chairmanship of an ex-Chief Inspector of Factories, Sir Duncan Wilson. This committee had issued one report before the outbreak of war and has been asked since the war, to accelerate its activities. Meantime, special instructions have been given to factory inspectors to assist them in giving further advice to factory occupiers and in carrying on a vigorous campaign to improve lighting.

In reviewing some of the other welfare activities of the factory inspectors, I can assure the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham that the activities of the factory inspectorate are very much wider than her speech seemed to indicate. They cover an enormous field of welfare activity, both imposed on factory occu- piers by Statute, and also encouraged beyond the minimum statutory obligations. She addressed herself, in particular, to the question of medical arrangements and the medical examinations of persons entering factories. I agree with her that there is no statutory power at present to enforce medical examination for entrants into factories and industries over the age of 16 years. The question is one which would involve legislation, and therefore I should be out of Order in dealing with it to-day. However, I think I may claim that a good deal has been done recently as regards the employment of whole-time doctors in the larger factories, and, in particular, in the factories which have been established by the Ministry of Supply. Furthermore, since the war there has been a considerable addition to part-time medical supervision in factories of moderate size.

When the Minister speaks of doctors fully employed in certain factories, does that mean that they are employed by the owners of the factories?

Yes, that is very often the case, especially where particularly dangerous processes are involved.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton mentioned the question of the welfare of workers outside factories. In this regard we have no statutory responsibility, but we do take a great interest in such questions as the housing of the workers, and the transport of the workers to and from their work. Where special extensions of hours are being asked for it is always the practice of the Home Office to ask for information on these points. The hon. Member mentioned the case of the factory near Chorley, in Lancashire, and Questions have been put in the House in regard to the inadequate transport facilities from Blackpool, I think, and elsewhere. This is a matter which the Home Office took up with the other Government Departments concerned—the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Transport—and I have assured myself that a very substantial improvement of transport has recently come into operation.

I turn for the moment to the question of hours of work, which is dealt with in the report made by the Home Office to this House some time ago in respect of the first five months of the war, and also in the pamphlet issued by the Industrial Health Research Board. I would draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that the pamphlet of the Industrial Health Research Board, although it emphasises and endorses the general policy set out in the report of the Home Office which came out at an earlier date, at the same time covers a wider field. It covers the hours of work of men as well as those of women and children.

I would like to say that the experience of the Home Office fully supports the observations in regard to hours of work which are made in this document, and which have been quoted this afternoon by the hon. Member for Westhoughton. It is difficult to condense into a few sentences the gist of the report which we made to Parliament a few months ago, but I think that the general policy embodied in the report is contained in the last sentences of it, in which it is stated:
"It is, however, the policy of the Government, while authorising where necessary hours which would not be permissible in peace time, not to authorise hours which are found in the light of experience and scientific investigation to be detrimental to health or to efficient production."
On the outbreak of war the Home Office had some exceedingly difficult questions to deal with in regard to hours of work. On the one hand, there was the urgent necessity of producing certain classes of goods in greatly increased quantities for our national war effort, while, on the other hand, there were the interests of the workpeople to be considered. There were difficulties of securing additional labour at short notice and the difficulties of travelling and so forth in the blackout. I think that the reception given to this report by the House shows that on the whole we have held the balance fairly between the interests of the workers and the demands of the Supply Departments and of Government contractors of all kinds for greater latitude in order to speed up output.

The hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) asked a number of questions and made a number of comments on that report. As far as I could follow him, he objected very strongly to the adoption of a three-shift system. Generally speaking, our policy at the Home Office since the war started has been to encourage employers to adopt a shift system rather than to permit long hours of overtime for women and young persons. We believe on the whole that it is better to have two, or possibly three, shifts of workers, than to have one shift working very much extended hours. As between a two-shift system, that is, a night shift and a day shift, and a three-shift system, on the whole the preference of the workers has been for the two-shift system. Hon. Members will see that the adoption of a three-shift system with changes of shifts every eight hours involved, in the winter months, two-thirds of all the workers employed travelling during hours of darkness. With the two-shift system half of the workers change over their work during daylight hours, even in the depth of winter. As the days have grown longer, both shifts on a two-shift system have been able to get to and from their work during the hours of daylight.

The third feature in the policy that we have pursued as regards hours of work since the war is this. There has been general agreement among the parties whom we have consulted in regard to this matter that we must safeguard to the fullest possible extent the hours of the very young workers. If the hon. Member will refer to the report, he will see that we have done our best to prevent additional hours being worked by very young persons. For instance, in no case have we permitted employment by night of girls under 18 or of boys under 16. With regard to the employment of young persons under 16, it is satisfactory to see on the top of page 12 of the report that whereas we have granted up to 5th February 439 orders enabling the hours for young persons under 16 to exceed the 44 hours fixed by Statute, in 312 cases those orders were not renewed. The number of orders in operation at the end of the period was much smaller than the total number of orders granted.

We can get no idea of the magnitude of the orders unless we have the figures of the number of workers.

The question of the numbers involved is one of great difficulty because the number of persons employed at any one moment at a factory varies. We know at the Home Office at any one moment how many orders we have granted in respect of extension of hours, but the number of workpeople is constantly fluctuating and figures which would not be misleading could only be got by a special census in a particular week involving inquiries at all the factories concerned. For example, an order to authorise additional overtime may be made for three months, but it would not necessarily be the case that all workpeople covered by the order would in fact be employed for the extra overtime. Some might be so employed for only a few weeks. Again, in the case of an order authorising shift working, the staff of the factory would usually be expanding and it would not be possible without specific inquiry at the factory to say how many women were employed in the shift at any particular time. The circumstances are so fluctuating, the orders are made for short periods, the orders lapse from time to time, and the amount of use that is made of the orders by employers varies so much, that it is difficult to get any figures giving even a general picture of the number of young persons or women covered by the orders. There are something like 240,000 factory premises covered by the Factory Acts and the number of factories involved by the orders are very small in relation to the total number of premises. I agree that the number of factories gives no accurate indication of the number of workers covered by the order.

We have been pressing this point on the Home Office for some time, and it would assist us if we could get the number of workers involved when an order is applied for.

I will look into that question and see whether it is possible to get some statistics which will give a picture of the extent of this question as regards the number of workers affected.

May I pass to the specific questions put to me by the hon. Member for Westhoughton? He asked when the annual report of the Chief Inspector would be available. It is usually issued in July, and I do not see how it will be possible this year under war conditions to produce it any earlier than usual; but I hope it will be possible to produce it at the ordinary time. He and the hon. Lady also asked whether the factory inspectorate is being kept up to strength. It has, in fact, been increased since the outbreak of war, for the obvious reason that additional supervision is necessary. Hon. Members will realise that it is difficult in these times to train additional staff at more than a certain pace. If we take on large numbers of untrained staff who have to be taught their jobs, it is much more difficult for the skilled and specialised people who have been trained to carry out their work properly. The hon. Member then asked whether unscrupulous employers were engaging young persons in industry before the school-leaving age. That is a matter primarily for the education authorities. They are responsible for keeping the children at school up to the school age. We have no evidence in the Home Office that that practice is not being followed. In view of the importance of this question and the greater demand for child labour which there would be during the war, we issued in February a circular to local authorities in which we said:
"The Secretary of State thinks it desirable to remind local education authorities for elementary education of the provisions of Part II of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, relating to the employment of school children. While it is necessary that in the present emergency labour shall be available for all work of national importance, it is equally essential to maintain a high standard of physical and mental fitness among growing boys and girls and to ensure that no proposals should be entertained for their employment in such a way as would be likely adversely to affect their education or their health."
The circular concluded:
"The Secretary of State believes that there is a growing opinion among education authorities that children who are regularly employed out of school hours are not likely to get the fullest benefit from their education, and for this reason he is sure that … they will guard carefully against the risk of excessive employment both in country districts and in towns."
That shows we are alive at the Home Office to the importance of this question of the employment of young children and although under the Education Acts and the Young Persons Act of 1933 it is for the local authorities to take the matter up, we have drawn the importance of this matter to their attention.

I have touched on welfare supervision and also replied to the hon. Gentleman's point with regard to the transport of workers at Chorley. The hon. Member asked also whether I could give some additional figures in regard to accidents since the war. The full statistics are still being compiled for the annual report, but the figures we have show that on the outbreak of war there was a sharp increase in the rate of fatal accidents. There is not the slightest doubt that that was in great part, perhaps almost entirely, due to black-out conditions, with, for example, men going on to roofs and putting up black-out devices of all kinds. The fatal accident rate has since then steadied down to very little above the normal. I can send the hon. Member some actual statistics, but I will not waste the time of the House by quoting them in detail now. He also asked to what extent we had continued granting Orders for extensions of hours under the Factory Acts and under the Defence Regulations since our report was presented to Parliament, which covered our action up to 27th January last. As he said up to 27th January the number of Orders granted was 2,914. On 6th April that figure had increased by something like 600 to 3,503, but hon. Members will observe that whereas in the first five months of war we granted nearly 3,000 Orders, which is at the rate of something like 600 a month, in the next 2½ months we granted only an additional 600 Orders. The number of Orders granted has slowed down considerably in recent months, and in point of fact the number of factories which on 6th April were covered by Orders which were still alive, that is, which had not been terminated by effluxion of time, was 2,616. As regards prosecutions and the enforcement of the Factory Acts, here again the figures are in process of analysis, but so far as we can say at the present time the number of prosecutions corresponds very closely to the number in recent years.

I think I have now answered most of the detailed questions raised in the Debate. In conclusion. I would say that we welcome the interest of the House of Commons in this subject. We at the Home Office believe that publicity is the solvent of many potential causes of industrial friction and unrest. We are not complacent or self-satisfied, but I think I can claim that the Factory Department has done its best to cope quickly with problems as they arise and to make its contribution to the attainment of our maximum industrial effort. That can only be achieved, as hon. Members opposite are all agreed, if we safeguard to the full the health and welfare of our industrial population. We have received, and are glad to acknowledge, the co-operation of Service Departments and of the organisations of both employers and workpeople. We welcome all constructive criticism from whatever quarter it may come, in discharging the responsibilities which are placed upon us.

Will the hon. Gentleman look into the question of the additional labour required in Tyneside factories and shipyards?

I certainly will; or if I find, as I rather suspect, that it is a point more for the Ministry of Labour than for the Home Office, I will see that attention is drawn to it.

Russia

British Subject's Claim

2.59 p.m.

I ask the indulgence of the House with reference to the case of Mr. Joseph Martin, of Brighton. This may seem a small matter to bring up on a day like this but it is not a small matter for Mr. Martin, who is blind now and has been otherwise ill for 17 years. I have raised his case by means of Questions put in this House—and there have been other Questions which I have endeavoured to put but which have not been allowed—at intervals extending over a period of 10 months or more, and I have been advised by hon. Friends on both sides of the House that, having failed in that direction, my best plan is to submit the case for the consideration of the House on the Adjournment, This is entirely a non-party question, and I shall not make a speech. I just want to make a chronological epitome of what has taken place during the past 17 years, and I shall not take 17 minutes over it.

In 1917 Mr. Martin was a teacher in Moscow. After the Revolution in 1917 he was restrained from leaving the country and was kept in Russia, but after two years he was sent for and was informed by the Cheka that there was nothing against him and that he could apply within a few days to the Russian Foreign Office for his British passport, which would enable him to go home. That followed negotiations between the British Government and the Soviet Government. He was told by Litvinov that he would have to be detained in Russia to carry out anti-British propaganda, and he was given certain documents which he had to translate. Those documents when translated appeared to be incitements to anti-British revolutions throughout the British Empire, and in India particularly to start with. This he refused to do, and in consequence he was thrown into prison without being charged with any offence and without any trial. He was treated with the utmost brutality, he was starved, beaten and thrown into a cell full of verminous people. In his so-called bedchamber he was flung on to the floor and bound. All his clothing except his shirt was taken from him, and he had to lie on this verminous floor along with verminous people. He was refused all medical attention when he caught typhus. After five months, owing to the intervention of the British Government, he was repatriated, and then he became blind as a result of his privations.

In September, 1922, His Majesty's Government took up his case with the Soviet Government with a view to securing him compensation, and this was renewed on 2nd May, 1923. This is a very vital date, because at that time there were only three cases of personal cruelty which had been brought up before the Soviet Government. The other 206 cases, to which I will refer later, had not then been discussed. The two other cases were those of Mr. Davison, who had been shot, compensation being paid to his widow, and Mrs. Stan Harding, a journalist, who had been imprisoned for four months. Those cases were taken up by means of an ultimatum, to the Soviet Government, and the Soviet Government were told that unless compensation was given in these two cases, His Majesty's Government would not sign the trade agreement with Russia. Mr. Martin's claim is that his case had been considered with these other two cases and everything settled in regard to those two cases. Compensation for £10,000 was given to Mrs. Davison and for £3,000 to Mrs. Stan Harding. But, through the omission of His Majesty's then Government, and Lord Curzon in particular, to include Mr. Martin's case, he was left with nothing. I am not blaming the present Government, except that they have not remedied the grievance. Successive Governments and Ministers have been dilly-dallying with this case of Mr. Martin's for 17 years and holding him off with the hope that some day he may get something when a suitable occasion arises. A suitable occasion means carrying on negotiations again with Russia. It must be well known to members of the Government that in these times there is about as much chance of getting anything out of Russia as there is of a cat jumping over the moon. Mr. Martin claims that, as the Government were guilty of neglect in not forwarding his claim, they should compensate him for all the sufferings that he has had to endure for 17 years. He is unable to follow any occupation. One reason why they cannot put his case forward is that they say it must take its turn with 260 other cases. Those cases had not arisen in 1923, and they are not cases of personal injury.

It is useless to make comparisons with the other two cases, but Mrs. Stan Harding and Mrs. Davison were charged with being spies. Mr. Martin was not charged with anything. He was not even tried. He was thrown into prison and was denied any serious consideration of his case. The Minister in charge and the Prime Minister both referred to Mr. Martin's as a very sad case, but they have not done anything to make it less sad. If he had taken on anti-British propaganda work, he would, like Lord Haw-Haw, probably have been drawing a big salary, but because he was a loyal British subject and refused to preach or to write against his country, he is left to his fate. He is 65 years old and has a wife, and he wants compensation in order to leave something for her. I appeal to Members in all parts of the House to support my request to the Government to grant him compensation, or, if they think they can ever get any money out of Russia, to make a grant on account of the compensation which he will get. Mrs. Stan Harding was given £3,000 and Mrs. Davison £10,000. I am not authorised to make a bargain, but why not split the difference between the two figures? It is a very small amount for all the suffering he has had to put up with. He has had typhus and other complaints and always has to walk about with somebody with him. I ask the Government not to give the usual reply that on the next opportunity that arises they will forward his claim. I would seriously ask my right hon. Friend whether he cannot do something. I know I have worried him a lot from time to time, though I do not apologise, and he has been very thoroughly into the matter. It does not rest with him, but he can surely use his influence with the Government to make some grant to this man before it is too late

3.8 p.m.

One thing that I am quite sure of is the earnestness with which my hon. Friend has presented the case of Mr. Martin and the care with which he has considered his constituent's interest. I can inform the House that no week passes without some communication from my hon. Friend on the subject, and, if they study the Official Report for the past few months, they will find that the Government have consistently returned the same answer since the early days to which he has referred. It does not mean that the Government under-estimate the importance of the case or the suffering of Mr. Martin. If my sympathy, again expressed, is of any value, I should like to say that we are fully sympathetic with the very severe time through which Mr. Martin passed in his experiences in the Soviet Union and the suffering of mind that he must have been through since. When we examine the facts of the case, we can, I think, accept the hon. Member's statement as correct. The hon. Member has outlined the chronology of this matter. He has alluded to the intervention of His Majesty's Government to secure the release of Mr. Martin, and to the fact that his case was submitted by our representative to the Soviet authorities. It was submitted then without success. The hon. Member points out that in 1923 this case was not submitted by Lord Curzon together with two others. That is also correct. I am sorry that it was not submitted, but the reason was that it was not likely to be successful.

The hon. Member asks the Government to do their best to re-submit the case, and, if possible, to obtain some grant or compensation for Mr. Martin. Our difficulty is that the case was not submitted at the date in question, under a decision taken by the then Secretary of State, Lord Curzon, in his discretion. We are faced with the fact also that there are some 260other claims against the Soviet Union. I have informed the hon. Member, in one of the many letters that I have written to him, that we have racked our brains for possible ways of securing satisfaction for Mr. Martin. It is not possible to imagine simply that, by a submission of the case, compensation will be immediately forth- coming for Mr. Martin. If that were the case, the Government would immediately take action, but their conduct must be guided by two considerations: first, whether such a step would be likely to be successful, and, secondly, whether they can now treat this case differently from the many other cases which are outstanding. The conclusion that I have imparted so frequently to the hon. Member is that we are unable to take action, first, in view of the results that would be likely to be achieved, and, secondly, because we cannot differentiate this case from the many others outstanding against the Soviet Union.

As I have pointed out so many times, there is no analogy between this case and the 260 other cases. The other cases are trade claims, against which there are counter-claims amounting to millions of pounds. It is confusing the issue to bring them in.

We have gone carefully into the matter, and, while there may be no exact analogy between this case and the other cases, it is our opinion that we cannot differentiate. This does not mean that, if a suitable opportunity offers, we should not resubmit the case, which was unsuccessfully submitted in 1922. I will undertake that if any suitable opportunity occurs for obtaining redress, the Government will not dismiss it; but I do not want, in view of the suffering which Mr. Martin has gone through, to raise any false hopes. I do not think it would be right for the House, or, indeed, for the hon. Gentleman himself, who has gone to the very limit in trying to help his friend, to raise any false hopes that satisfaction can be obtained. If any suitable opportunity arises, this case will be dealt with, but, short of that, I can say no more. I think it would be very wrong, at this late date, to think that we can obtain the satisfaction that the hon. Member so ardently desires. If an occasion arose when we saw that satisfaction could be achieved on this and the other outstanding cases, he may be sure that the Government would not lose the opportunity.

Will my right hon. Friend deal with the point I mentioned of compensation from His Majesty's Government for neglecting to send in his case in previous years? Mr. Martin is not worried about his hopes of ever getting anything out of Russia. I have hardly ever seen him, but he is a constituent of mine, and I want to do what I can to get what I can out of the Government, Mr. Martin not having secured compensation as did Mrs. Stan Harding and Mrs. Davison. I appeal to His Majesty's Government to give, out of suitable funds or by other devious methods, a sum of money in compensation for what he has suffered at this time for his loyalty.

Can my hon. Friend indicate to the House what would be regarded as suitable compensation?

Mr. Martin is not worrying about himself but about his wife. I suggested on my responsibility a figure between the two figures which were secured before.

I have no authority to do that, but that would be better than nothing, anyhow.

I cannot undertake that His Majesty's Government can pay compensation to an individual, however hard his case may be, because of his claim against a foreign Government. It would raise new issues and would mean differentiating between this case and other cases outstanding, and I think I should be doing an ill service to Mr. Martin himself if I held out any hope that compensation could be obtained from His Majesty's Government. I have informed my hon. Friend of this quite categorically on several occasions, and particularly on 21st March, and I again say that this matter cannot be re-opened. I am sorry to have to be firm about this, but in the circumstances I must be so.

Conduct Of The War

3.18 p.m.

At an earlier stage of our proceedings to-day, Mr. Speaker, you indicated that you had no particular wish to have served up to you the undelivered speeches of the last few days as a kind of undigested hash.

I do not intend to convey that impression. I said that a rehash was not in order on the question then under discussion.

I am very sorry if I misunderstood you. At the same time I hope I can give you the as surance that I do not intend to do that this afternoon in any case. It is true that as the Debate proceeded on its rather intense course, I did have various things in my mind which I would have said if I had been fortunate enough to catch your eye, and it is true that the fact that I was not fortunate means that the House perhaps is being unfortunate now. I probably would not be speaking now if I had spoken then. Nevertheless, I do not want to go over the old grounds which were traversed yesterday and the day before, but I would like to give expression to some reflections which have been passing through my mind since the Debate yesterday and the Division last night. I think there has been a general feeling, which I myself have shared, that the Debate and the Division were rather shocking, and that it must have come as a terrible shock to the country and indeed to the world to have such violent differences of opinion expressed at a time like the present, when we are all of us in the very greatest peril. But I do not think that the results are altogether on the debit side of the balance sheet.

I think it is a very remarkable thing that, throughout the proceedings of the Debate of yesterday and the day before, whatever differences of opinion there might have been there was unity in one thing—a determination that this House and this country would carry on this war to a victorious conclusion. I do not think you could have had a Debate such as we had in any one of the dictatorship countries and the fact that this House of Commons could arise in its corporate capacity and urge, not surrender, but greater activity and decision is something that may justly strike fear into the hearts of our enemy. Still, it was a shocking thing. But I am afraid that the Debate and the Division was quite inevitable.

In my view it was inevitable, in the main, for one reason, that is that there has been in this House over number of years a too highly perfected machinery of party discipline. The reason that this Debate had to take place was that there was no other way in which Members of this House, who held genuine convictions and who had serious and genuine grounds for uneasiness, could bring them to the real attention of the Government. On other occasions when there has been criticism from these benches the whole machinery of party has got into gear, and by a variety of devices and stratagems criticism has been suppressed, those who voiced it have been denigrated and the whole thing glossed over. The lesson we have learned from the Debate is that if you sit on the safety valve of a boiler the boiler will, in the end, blow up. And that is what happened in the Debate. Regrettable though it was I think it was absolutely inevitable. But there are one of two other lessons which we can learn from the Debate. The most important of them I believe to be this: It is that there is a genuine demand and a desire from this side of the House that Members opposite should be associated in the Government of the country at this time and I think Members opposite will recognise from the course of the Debate that we have that desire, that we wish to see them taking their share in government, not because we want to dress up the window or disarm criticism but because we recognise their energy and ability and their love for their country. We wish all who love their country to combine at the present time to save their country. That is one lesson of the Debate. I believe there is another lesson we should learn. There is some talk in some of the newspapers to-day about reconstruction of the Government but I think every Member of the House knows that the thing has got beyond talk of that kind. Effective reconstruction might have been possible some months, ago, or even some weeks ago, but the opportunity was lost. I think it is quite clear that there must be a new Government and that it must be, very probably, under new leadership.

Reconstruction and the shuffling about of the furniture again simply will not do this time. I know one of the things which is in the mind of many hon. Members on an occasion like this is the question of the alternative. They say there is no alternative. That is always said on these occasions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that that belief existed even in December, 1916. There was a general opinion that there was no alternative to Mr. Asquith. Mr. Asquith, like the present Prime Minister, was a very able man. Mr. Asquith, like the present Prime Minister, had a loyal and devoted following. A number of people felt that perhaps he was not the right man to run the war, but still they felt that there was no alternative. In these days we are all accustomed to think of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs as the man who won the war, and perhaps he himself has from time to time contributed to give us that idea, but I do not think that was the case in December, 1916. My right hon. Friend had a great position in the country, but if there was unity of opinion on one point in the House of Commons it was that neither the Liberal party nor the Conservative party would conceivably serve under my right hon. Friend. That may be putting it rather strongly, but it is broadly true. I think we need not have any fear of finding an alternative now.

The events of the past few days are bound to exacerbate feelings and create anger and bitterness. I hold that we should do all we can to avoid the expression of such feelings. I have differed from the Prime Minister and opposed the Prime Minister on one line of policy, sometimes with vehemence and sometimes with bitterness. But I have never believed that those who were supporting him were actuated by any unworthy motives, I do not believe it now; and those who supported him in the Debate should not believe that those who are opposed to him have been actuated by unworthy motives. I myself have been accused of nourishing a somewhat curious unaccountable personal spite against the Prime Minister. I can assure the House that that is complete nonsense. For a variety of reasons, with which I need not bother the House, I have always had a high personal regard for the Prime Minister, but I do not think that that should cloud my opinions about public policy.

I have not been engaged in politics for very long but I have been connected with politics for the whole of my life, and one of the lessons which I had to learn first in my own home was that a public man was different from a private person, that a public man had to expect to be wounded; but he had also to expect to wound if it was in the public interest for him to do so. I believe that it has been in the public interest and in the interest of this country that we should have had yesterday's Debate. I believe that the leadership of this country since the beginning of the war, and in some respects before the war began, has been at fault. That is not because I have any dislike of the Prime Minister; that is quite absurd. I would say one thing more. I believe that the Government has not only to be reconstructed but that there has to be a new Government. This has to be done as quickly and as expeditiously as possible, and I believe that it is and will be the duty of the present Prime Minister, however difficult it may be for him and however much he may feel that he has earned a rest, to serve in that Government.

3.30 p.m.

I want to make only one or two comments in much the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law). Before the Prime Minister accepts last night's Vote as a vote of censure from this House, it would be well if he remembered that many of those who voted against him last night from his own party were professional rebels, men that you might call in the City "bears," who have gone "bear" on the European situation, and have proved right. It was made very difficult for some of us who criticised the Government, and hoped for stronger action, to vote for the Government last night, but the attacks upon the Prime Minister rose to such a degree of unfairness that many of us who were wavering finally decided to go into the Lobby and vote for the Government.

I understand there is no desire for that Debate to be re-hashed, but what has caused me to rise at this late hour is the presence of that very distinguished statesman the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I hope so much that his genius, his gaiety of heart and his indomitable spirit will be used in the future conduct of this war. If my rght hon. Friend will accept those very complimentary things, I would like now, with great diffidence and some apprehension, to ask him whether he would not consider, so great being his reputation and so great his gifts, being a little more helpful to the cause of administration and not quite so brilliantly mischievous. In his speech yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman was such a model of timing, style, irony and eloquence, that it makes those of us who are back benchers despair of ever reaching anything like his standard; and yet, as he stood up yesterday in the role of public prosecutor, in the role of Torquemada denouncing the victims before they were taken to be roasted or twisted, I wondered whether he thought at all of the part that he has played in the complicated situation of the last three or four years. I will pass over the fact that to-day Turkey is our Ally, although the right hon. Gentleman set Greece on to Turkey to destroy her. One may say that it is luck that Turkey is our Ally to-day. The First Lord of the Admiralty last night used the word "luck." I remember that when Premier Gounaris came to London, with the Turkish Army outside Smyrna, I lunched with him, and he said, "I have been trying to see Mr. Lloyd George, he will not see me, he will not say go on, and he will not say stop." Ten days later, or a fortnight later, after the attack by the Turks on the Greeks, Gournaris was taken out and shot through the head. It is not only Hitler who will see dead men's ghosts arise. Gournaris' was a very tragic story, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree.

Then we came to that moment when the Germans entered the Rhineland. That was a tragedy because if ever there was a time when we should have met firmness with firmness it was then. The whole world was poised to see what would happen, and it occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that it was an opportunity for him in his own unique way to help the national cause. He wrote an article—and I have the greatest respect for all men who write articles for newspapers—which appeared in the foreign Press of the world. In it, he said that the last war had not been caused by Germany; that it had been caused by Austria and that Austria only wanted a little scrap. In one sentence the former Prime Minister of Great Britain wiped out the guilt clause which he had invoked and insisted on at Versailles. He did not come to this House and say, "I wish to remedy the blunder of some years back." He did it with a gesture of the pen—with what Shakespeare called "the licence of ink."

Not content with that—because those who write articles for newspapers know that a writer must fill a certain space—he then wrote these words: "If a European war results from the present conversations"—that is the conversations which were taking place between the British and French General Staffs—"not a corporal's guard will come from any Dominion to help this country." We came last time in our hundreds of thousands from the Dominions, not because Britain was right or wrong but because it was the call of the blood. Do you think that, right or wrong, we would not have come again? To think that of all men, this great man—in some ways the greatest of our generation—should have repaid the effort of the Dominions with a slur like that. I was one who came last time, and my son, if he were old enough, would fight again. If England were ten times wrong they would all come again, and nobody in this House knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman. But with that vitality and persistency which made him so formidable and which still make him so formidable a statesman the right hon. Gentleman went on. There was a little trouble in Austria, and the right hon. Gentleman stood up in his place and said that it might as well be understood that if there was war over Austria, not one British soldier would go to Austria's aid.

I do not doubt the truth of that, but if we were dealing with this madman Hitler, as we were, what encouragement the right hon. Gentleman gave him at a very critical moment. He relieved Germany of the war guilt clause at a time when the German troops in the Rhineland did not know whether to stay there or retreat. He declared to Germany and the world that not a corporal's guard would come to this country's aid and that England would be left alone. I do not know how Hitler could have been more strongly encouraged. So we came to Czecho-Slovakia. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman spoke of Czecho-Slovakia with sympathy. It was, let me repeat, a speech which delighted us all by its style. But let me recall what the right hon. Gentleman did at the time. Again seizing the pen he delivered a violent attack on Dr. Benes. Poor Benes. I think the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke of him said that he had never kept his word.

Once more there was encouragement to Hitler and Hitler went on. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman was chief mourner—

I must correct what the hon. Member has said, because this is very important. The Austrians were a German people and they wanted at that time to enter into an arrangement with Germany. I thought it was a great mistake that we stopped it. But Bruening was in at that time and not Hitler. With regard to the Sudeten Germans a promise of autonomy was given by Dr. Benes to the four men who drafted the Treaty, and I was one of them. That was not redeemed, and I think there is a good deal, I will not say of justification, but of cause for trouble there. I think that if he had kept that promise Hitler would never have had the excuse for intervening, and I stand by that.

I accept everything the right hon. Gentleman has said. My only objection to the Czecho-Slovakian incident was the time chosen. At a moment when a friend of this country is in difficulties it it is not the time to investigate his mistakes, but either to stand by him or fore sake him. The speech to which I refer, which the right hon. Gentleman made, was when Hitler was in power. With his great experience of men and nations, and of public opinion and international opinion, a name such as his counts so much. The people of foreign countries do not follow our politics too closely any more than we follow the politics of theirs. But when the name of Mr. Lloyd George appears denouncing this Government at a critical moment as being poltroons—

Oh, he said much worse than that—cowards, hypocrites, slavers in the market in the business of selling small countries. The right hon. Gentleman would have been the greatest cartoonist of all times if he could have drawn what he thinks in dreams of imagery. But how often that message went out, and how can these nations distinguish, when he attacks the Govern- ment, that he is not attacking the nation. At the same time how much more he could have helped if he had confined his remarks to the House of Commons rather than to the foreign Press. I think he is too big a man to use the foreign Press to disparage the Government in power. I know he will forgive me because he is a great man. He is a man with a big heart, with enough charm to charm a sparrow off a twig. I know that I shall feel badly in some ways that I choose this moment to make this speech because I admire his spirit and respect his record so much. I wonder in the difficult days which lie ahead if, even at his age, he will consider reforming a little bit. I plead with him to go to the penitent bench, realising that he has sinned very deeply, and realising that if he changes he can help this country so much. Those of us on this side of the House want his assistance. We want that great brain and gaiety of heart, but not if he is going to rock the boat every time there is a storm.

3.44 p.m.

I really do not feel that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) needs the remonstrances which have just been addressed to him. I venture to think that he never rendered a greater service to this country than in the magnificent speech he delivered yesterday, particularly in the closing words of that speech. I think that the phrase which came out as being more important in the Debate than any other, and which will ring throughout the country as it rang through the Chamber last night, were the words of Cromwell quoted by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery): "For God's sake go." I think that is the view of the people of this country at this moment towards the Prime Minister and his Government. It is no good imagining that you can carry on under the present leadership. I understand that consultations are going on with those who supported the Government last night, to whom the promises were made that if they voted for the Government certain concessions would be made and reconstructions take place. Consultations are going on as to whether it is possible, by getting rid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Air, for the Prime Minister to be allowed to carry on with partially fresh colleagues. I venture to say that that is all perfectly useless and will not work at all. We have come to a stage now when there has been a complete parting of the ways. Let me say to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) that I hope those Privy Councillors and those young men in uniform who are supporters of the Government and voted against them last night will appreciate being called professional rebels. I think it was a very unfair and unjustifiable charge to make.

The First Lord of the Admiralty in the magnificent speech he made last night made it clear that he strongly disapproved, as we well know, of the policy of the Government up to the time when he joined it. He referred to the Prime Minister's appeal to his friends and said that the Prime Minister had friends when things were going well. I would like to know when things were ever going well under the present Prime Minister. I have never heard of any period during the time he has been in charge when we were not going from one tragedy and disaster to another. We ought to get this point clearly into the minds of Members who would like to see the Prime Minister remain in power. He cannot remain in power because, if he did, the party truce would come to an end. Things have gone too far and it would be impossible to continue it. There would be violent controversy and opposition in the House and in the country. It is clear what the country thinks, rightly or wrongly, and I hope that in the quiet consultations that will take place in the next few days the real peril in which this country would stand if it were to continue as a divided nation will be borne in mind.

With whom or with what has the hon. Gentleman entered into a truce? I had not noticed any.

Would it not be better for the hon. Member to give it its proper name? It is an electoral and not a party truce.

I agree, but Members of the Opposition and of my party have done everything we can to encourage, stimulate and support the Government in the prosecution of the war. We are only too anxious to see the war won and greater vigour devoted to it. Personal matters ought not to be allowed to enter into the question at this juncture. It seemed to me last night that the Prime Minister was putting his personal position above the interests of the country. That is the way in which it will appeal to a great many people. I want the Prime Minister to go, not because I have any personal animosity to him; I have nothing but the kindest feelings towards him as a human being, but to him as a statesman I am very hostile indeed. It is purely in the political sense and for political reasons that we want to see him go. I hope sincerely that the position in which we are at this moment in this House, and the position of parties towards each other in the country, will be realised, and that when we meet again after the Recess we shall find a new Government, if not in office at any rate well on the way to office, a National Government with representatives of all interests and all parties, not picked or selected by the party whips or anything of that kind, but composed of people put in because they are the best people for the job, and for no other reason whatsoever. I hope we shall find that we can then go forward in a great united national effort to win this war at the earliest possible moment.

3.51 p.m.

As a fellow journalist, I wish to say a word or two in answer to the very kindly and very friendly observations made about me by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). I have no reason to quarrel with the tone of his remarks, and I am hoping that he will extend to me some sympathy, because one of the difficulties when you have to write an article at a given date is, as he knows, that it is not always easy to find the necessary matter. I have had to earn my living exactly as he has, although it has not been as sumptuous a success. I only want to say that I would rather at this moment not go into particular instances, because if I did so, I should be guilty of the very deed that the hon. Member has admonished me for having done. If I were to go into all the things that have been done during the period between the signature of the Treaty of Versailles and the beginning of this war, the things I should have to point out would show that the faults were by no means all on one side, and I do not think I should be very helpful. He has provoked me to do so—very much so.

The Treaty of Versailles was not carried out by those who dictated it. A good deal of the trouble was due to that fact. We were dealing with Governments in Germany which were democratic Governments, based on a democratic franchise, with democratic statesmen, and it is because we did not carry out the undertakings we had given to those democratic Governments that Hitler came into power. There was a good deal that was done to Germany, more particularly with regard to disarmament. The solid promise that we gave, not merely in the Treaty itself, but in a document which I took part in drafting, which was signed by M. Clemenceau on our behalf, that if Germany disarmed, we should immediately follow her example, was not carried out, and there is no Government that is more responsible for that than the present National Government which came into power in 1931. They had their opportunity. America was ready, Germany was ready—it was a time when Herr Bruening was in charge—but we refused to carry out the terms after Germany had been completely disarmed. We had the certificate of the ambassadors to say that disarmament was completed, but in spite of that, we did not carry out our part.

The same thing applies to minorities. I repeatedly called attention to it. Mr. Benes, in the conference in Paris—I am sorry to have to go over this at the present moment, but I am not in the habit of failing to reply to attacks—was responsible, first of all, for giving a direct pledge to the conference that if Sudeten Germany were to become part of Czecho-slovakia—the same thing applied to the Hungarians and to the Slovakians—the same autonomy would be given to them as in the Swiss Confederation of men of different races under the same flag and forming part of the same federal constitution. It was not carried out. The last conference I attended as Prime Minister was at Genoa in 1922, three years after the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. I begged that the promises which had then been given to the minorities, to the Hungarians and to the Germans—the same thing applies to Poland and to the Ukranians—should be carried out. It was not my fault that they were not carried out.

I do not intend to apportion the blame at this particular moment, but ever since the signature of the treaty I did my very best, as Prime Minister, and I did not alter my policy in the least when I became an independent Member of the Opposition or when I was Leader of the Liberal party. Of course, as an independent Member of this House I could not bring the same pressure as I did when I was Prime Minister, but I urged the conquering powers who were then all powerful to exert their authority to compel these countries to carry out the pledges which they had given. I pointed out over and over again that if they did not do so, it would end in a great European war and that there would be trouble. My predictions, unfortunately, have turned out to be true, and when the history of the whole of these transactions comes to be written, if the hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to read it, he will rind that most of this trouble has originated in the fact that the victors in the late war did not carry out solemn pledges which they gave in a Treaty which they themselves dictated. They had the opportunity. Germany was prostrate. The creation of this terrible power in Germany, the spirit which is behind it, and what makes it so formidable at the present moment is due to the fact that we did not carry out our pledges. What is the result? Democracy has been swept away in Germany; democracy has been attacked by Germany. That spirit in Germany was created by the fact that the dominating democracies in Europe did not keep faith. We are now confronted with the most terrible answer that has ever been given to those who have broken faith and broken covenants. I do not apologise in the least for the fact that not only when I was Prime Minister but afterwards I did my very best to persuade them to carry out the pledges which they had given solemnly in writing to the world.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at One Minute before Four o'Clock, until Tuesday, 21st May, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.