I move the Second Reading of this Bill. It has been before the House for a considerable time. It is founded upon the recommendation of the Commission which was set up to deal with the question of technical education and which considered this subject incidental thereto and reported upon it. The Bill is also based largely upon the provisions of the two Acts to which that particular Commission's Report referred. It is based upon the voluntary principle. The scheme of it is this: that where an application is made by either employers or employees in a trade—I am now speaking of trades generally and for the moment leaving out trades which are affected by the Trade Board Acts—then it is within the power of the Minister to declare that trade a designated trade. Once it has been declared a designated trade, certain other things follow as a consequence. Apprenticeship districts have to be scheduled. The country is marked out into certain apprenticeship areas or districts, and for the trade in these areas or districts a committee is set up. The committee will consist, in the main, of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees, with the addition of appointed members, to a maximum of three, who will be appointed by the Minister concerned. That committee then must make certain regulations, and may make certain others.
The important section dealing with this matter is Section 8. Rules which the Apprenticeship Committee must make are: Firstly, that employment "in the designated trade for which such committee is established of any specified class of persons in any specified manner shall constitute employment by way of apprenticeship in such trade"; secondly, rules relating to the period including any probationary period of employment by way of apprenticeship in such trade; thirdly, rules in relation to the minimum rates of wages to be paid during the apprenticeship period; and, fourthly, rules in connection with the hours to be worked by the apprentices. When a trade is scheduled as a designated trade and when the country is divided for the purposes of that trade into apprenticeship areas or districts, apprenticeship committees will be established. These committees then must make rules dealing with these four points: that is, classification with regard to apprenticeship, the period of employment by way of apprenticeship, the hours to be worked and the minimum wages.
In addition, the committee may make rules on the other matters set out in sub-section (2) of Section 8— that is, rules in relation to the educational qualifications of persons entering on employment by way of apprenticeship in the designated trade; in relation to the age limits within which employment by way of apprenticeship may commence; requiring employers carrying on such trade in such districts to train and instruct apprentices employed by them in a specified manner, and rules relating to the number of persons who may be employed by way of apprenticeship in such trade in any particular premises in such district.
The rules when made will come up for confirmation. If they are confirmed, then they apply to a series of sections in the Bill, and a breach of them becomes an offence. These sections run from 8 to 21. Section 22 sets out the additional functions that the apprenticeship committee may have cast upon it. Section 25 ordains that every apprenticeship committee shall cause a register of apprentices to be kept. Section 27 provides that the employers must furnish certain specified particulars in relation either to apprentices generally, or to specified apprentices employed by them. Section 26, for the purpose of the better enforcement of this Bill when it becomes an Act, gives the right of audience at meetings of the apprenticeship committee to authorised officers. They are defined as people who may be authorised by the Minister concerned to exercise the powers conferred under the Act.
At the moment, there are certain trades which are regulated by the Trade Board Acts. Committees have been appointed under these Acts. As these Committees would have certain functions in common with the committees to be set up under this Bill we decided that where an application is made by a particular area in which a committee has been established under the Trade Board Acts, it is that committee which, in the first instance, will make application to the Minister for the designation of that trade. Thereafter that committee will be established as the apprenticeship committee for the purpose of that particular trade.
The scheme is based entirely upon the voluntary principle. A trade will not be designated unless there is an application from a trade board committee, if one be in existence, to have a particular trade designated, or, if such committee be not there already, unless employers or employees in a business make representations to the Minister to have a trade designated. When the Minister accedes to either application and proceeds to designate the trade then the rest follows. There will then be the division of territory, the appointment of the Apprenticeship Committee and the making of the rules by the Apprenticeship Committee in relation to the four matters described in sub-section (1) of Section 8. In addition to that the other matters referred to may be dealt with by the committee. Once the rules have been made and confirmed breaches of them will count as an offence. From that time on all the matters referred to in Section 8, and to which I have referred, are fixed and settled with regard to a trade in a particular area. Once these rules are put forward and confirmed rules may be made by the Apprenticeship Committee regulating the educational qualifications of persons entering on employment by way of apprenticeship in the designated trade, rules relating to the training to be given by the employers to the apprentices as long as the trade remains a designated trade, rules requiring that the employer and the employee shall remain in a particular relationship, as well as rules in regard to the age limit within which the employment may commence. There will be the further point—it will be a ticklish one—to be dealt with, and that is in regard to the number of apprentices allowed in relation to the number of actual workmen engaged. There may be some difficulty experienced in operating this rule. It may appear the rule that will be most likely to cause difficulty because it distinctly ordains that if the rule is made it has to be a rule made in relation to the number of persons employed by way of apprenticeship in a particular premises in such district.
There is not much good in a committee for a particular trade declaring, even in a limited area that the number of apprentices to workmen is to be so many unless power is given to somebody to enforce the regulation and say that the number of apprentices must be divided out even over the particular individuals employed in the business. There again the circumstances of each individual business and individual tradesman will have to be taken into consideration. It is clear that in a big establishment you might employ the full proportion of apprentices allowed under the regulation. Possibly it is not so easy to ensure that the actual proportions can be kept in a very small establishment. There will have to be some discrimination allowed and that will be done by the committee.
Although it is stated that the committee "must" consist of representatives of the employers and the trade, it only says that there "may" be other members. As far as I am concerned, the intention is that the appointed members will be always present. We will give them a chance by allocating a certain number, even up to the maximum of three allowed in each case. In that we have the experience of the Trade Board Acts with which we are in touch where, undoubtedly, appointed members have exercised a considerable influence on deliberations between employer and employee. That Act deals mainly with minimum rates, but there is a special stimulus to both employer and employee to attend the meetings, and to see that the duties thrust upon them are properly carried out. We find that the Act has worked mainly through the efforts of the appointed members. They have been of considerable service, and it would be the intention to have this committee consist not merely of representative members, but also of members to be appointed. As the Bill is drafted, it leaves that position a little less secure than the position as regards actual representative members. Our intention would be to make it pretty definite that, in the ordinary way, the committee will consist of representatives as well as appointees.
It is not considered that there will be very much expense in connection with the Act. The expense is referred to mainly in Sections 34 and 35. There will be certain officials, such as a secretary, appointed to the Apprenticeship Committee, and it may be that there will be certain sums of money expended in the way of remuneration for the secretary, and also for the payment of travelling expenses. It is not expected that there will be very large expense falling on the State in connection with the Act. An attempt will be made to combine the duty of secretary with other duties, if officials can be got who are already carrying on in a part-time way.
I said that this Bill arises out of the report of the Commission. It does, strictly and accurately, but it follows the terms of reference to the Commission and the Acts referred to. During the course of the proceedings of that Commission a certain scheme was put forward which aimed rather at compulsion than the voluntary principle which is the one here. That proposition was not very much pursued, and the Commission made no recommendation with regard to it. I suggest that, as in other countries, we should start with legislation in this form. To those who think there might be some element of compulsion imported, I put this difficulty: if there be no agreement as between employer and employee in any particular trade as to the number of people that might be employed as apprentices, or as to the age and educational attainments of these people before they enter or leave the apprenticeship stage, I do not see how it would be possible to enforce a regulation which might be established by a superior authority. In the end, it will depend on the employer whether or not the scheme of apprenticeship will make good and how far it will make good. One could not possibly lay down rules of a compulsory type that this or that kind of training should be given. A good spirit is required between employer and employee, coming together and working smoothly, and compulsion would not be effective. There is the further point that unless there is a pretty general agreement between employer and employee there will not be very much hope of getting a number of people taken into establishments. On the one hand, an employer might object to having too many what are called "apprentices" forced upon him, while an organised body of employees might object to a number of people being trained as apprentices in a skilled trade where it did not seem there was any likelihood of these people being absorbed into that skilled occupation.
The aim is to have something that amounts to agreement beforehand; to have an application made showing, at any rate, evidence of a desire on the part of one or other of the two bodies concerned to have the trade designated. When that is done, the two sets will be represented, with this important addition, there will be appointed members who will in fact take the place of the public, in this close association with the representatives of the two bodies concerned, to arbitrate, as it were, between conflicting claims that may be made with regard to the whole apprenticeship business. We have decided to try this on a voluntary basis now. We are not alone. Although certain unfavourable comments were passed in South Africa, and the Act was not received with great enthusiasm at the beginning, although it was prophesied that no number of trades would be designated or apprenticeship committees established, we have had information recently that the Act has worked smoothly. In other words, the employer and the employee, or both, made application, the trade was scheduled, and the rules which were made worked fairly successfully. As well as the report of the Commission, we have the information that the scheme has worked successfully in one country.