I move: "That the Bill do now pass."
Financial Motions. - Apprenticeship Bill, 1930.—Fifth Stage.
I do not want to delay the House at this stage, but I think it right to express complete dissatisfaction with the attitude of the Minister for Industry and Commerce towards this Bill. When the Bill was in Committee, very great pressure was put on the Minister from various sides of the House to amend Section 2 so as to give him power to apply the Bill to all trades whether or not application was made by these trades to have it applied. The general feeling of the Dáil appeared to be that that compulsory power should rest with the Minister. He has, however, made it clear that he has no intention of availing of it, although he has in response to various requests amended the Bill. It is my view that the Bill, if applied in the manner in which the Minister for Industry and Commerce has indicated, will be practically useless, that in fact the Bill will only operate in respect of such trades as do not require it.
In particular, I would like to express dissatisfaction with the attitude of the Minister in relation to the question of premiums. The general view of the Dáil as expressed in the course of the Committee Stage was that the premium system in respect of apprenticeship was undesirable, and that even though it might not be possible to abolish it completely at the present time, it should be modified and restricted. In response to that general view the Minister for Industry and Commerce brought forward an amendment on the Report Stage designed to restrict the premium arrangements in respect of trades that were designated. A certain flaw in that amendment was pointed out by Deputy Moore. He showed that there was a certain interregnum in respect of which confusion might arise, and the Minister took advantage of that flaw to vote against his own amendment and to get his Party to vote against it, with the result that the position in respect of premiums has been left unchanged. I think that although no advantage will be secured by refusing to pass the Bill now, we can only do so in the knowledge that it is not likely to be effective, and that the Minister has only introduced it here because he considered it his duty to do so following the report of the Committee on Technical Education, without any intention of making their recommendations effective.
I have to support the views expressed by Deputy Lemass. I want to draw attention to the new section in the Bill, Section 23, in regard to which the marginal note is "Interference with premiums." There is nothing in the section in regard to premiums any more than in any other section. That is the marginal note which also appeared on the amendment paper, in regard to some of the amendments, but I did not draw attention to it at the time. I think it will be seen that it has no reference to the section. I wish to say, as I said briefly on the occasion of the Committee Stage, that I believe this amendment will have the effect of making the Bill inoperative. It is looked on with very great suspicion by those whose co-operation is necessary to make the Bill a success. Since this section was before the House I have learned that very many of the trade unions regard this as something which will interfere very seriously with their possible activities. Whether that is so or not, the effect of it will be undoubtedly that the unions will be very suspicious and, in my opinion, there is very great danger that they will simply have nothing to do with the Bill at all. They may be liable to be hauled before the courts, convicted and fined a sum not exceeding £20, if they engage in, what they regard in any case, as legitimate union activities. I therefore throw out that warning to the Minister and I sincerely hope, before the Bill is finally completed and passed into law, that he will reconsider his attitude in regard to the acceptance of Section 23. I pay special attention to that because I do happen to know that while the unions are anxious to do what they can to work the Bill and make it operative, the insertion of this section, almost at the last moment, and the manner in which it was inserted, have, I believe, removed any hope from their minds that it is going to be in any way beneficial. I would urge the Minister very strongly to reconsider the position with regard to that particular section.
Personally I am not very enthusiastic about this Bill. I would have much preferred if we had a Bill on quite different lines, as I pointed out on Second Reading. In view of what Deputy O'Connell has stated about Section 23, I would like to point out to him that Section 23 only operates after a decision has been arrived at by the Apprentices Committee. On that Committee are representatives of the trades and representatives of the employers, and the object of this particular clause is that when that Committee, so composed, has come to a decision, no outside body should interfere with that decision. If we do not get a regulation of that kind, how is the Bill, imperfect as it is, to operate? In other words, as I pointed out on the last occasion when the Bill was before the House, if the Apprentices Committee gave a certain instruction to an employer to carry out a certain regulation perhaps the Union official would come along and say: "Well, if you carry out the instruction of that Committee it is contrary to the regulations of our Union and we will have to consider the position and possibly deal with it."
What is the employer to do in those circumstances? Which authority is he to follow—the authority of the Committee on which there are representatives of the Trade Unions, or the authority of the Trade Unions on the other hand? This would make it clear to any employer, should such circumstances arise, which authority he was to follow. I think the Deputy, in what he said on this particular section, visualises quite a different state of affairs to what would arise under the Bill. He forgets that this instruction is given by an authority composed of representatives of both sides. It is not, in any sense, a decision arrived at by the employers' organisation, nor, on the other hand, by the trade unions. It is a decision arrived at by a joint body, and they have authority for dealing with this problem of apprentices. We ought to give to that decision the authority that is necessary to carry it out. That is all this does.
I must endorse what our leader, Deputy O'Connell, has said in this connection with regard to Section 23. As one of the supporters of this Bill since it was initiated I feel that Sections 22 and 23 are unacceptable. Although it is said that the trade unions are rather conservative I have always held that every trade and craft in this country should be opened to the poor man's son as well as the rich man's son. I have always felt it was wrong to make trades and crafts closed boroughs, but I am amenable to reason, and when we find that many of those trades and crafts might if not made closed boroughs, eventuate in certain employers demanding and receiving premiums from boys who had no connection with the particular trade, through percentage or otherwise, I feel the Bill is imperfect in that respect. I would prefer to see some section introduced which would make it possible by arrangement with the trade union—and I feel the trade unions would be agreeable in this—to provide that a certain percentage of vacancies in the various designated trades should be kept open for boys who had given evidence of their fitness for these particular crafts or trades. In my view the premium system is a scandal and has been abused very much in this country. I know cases where boys were apprenticed and parents or guardians paid fees of anything from £40 to £100 and these boys got nothing whatever in exchange. They were not taught a decent trade, profession or craft. I personally would like to see this whole system of premiums abolished, and though it may be an inherent fault in some of the trades unions that they will not permit others to enter their crafts I feel a greater abuse is that of extracting premiums from parents and guardians of boys entering certain crafts. I was rather astonished to hear Deputy Moore defending the premium system some time ago.
That is entirely wrong, as Deputy O'Connell knows I said if the question of premiums was before the House I would probably be on the side of the abolitionist.
I am very glad to hear what Deputy Moore has said and I am very sorry if I misinterpreted the Deputy. I would ask if it is not too late that we should try and find some common agreement with regard to Sections 22 and 23. I feel that the Bill would be more acceptable if accommodation could be found with regard to these two sections. I do not know whether it would be possible under the Standing Orders to refer this back so that something might be done to reach accommodation between the views represented by Deputy Good and the suggestion made by Deputy O'Connell. I do not know if that could be done, but I think a way out should be found.
I think that any consideration which should be given to the amendment could only be given, having regard to the stage that has been now reached, in the Seanad.
Question: That the Bill do now pass, put and agreed to.