§ MR. MUNDELLA
, in moving, that the order for the Second Reading of the Bill be read and discharged, said, that at that late period of the Session, he could not hope to carry the measure, or even obtain a satisfactory discussion upon its principles. He would therefore withdraw it, in the hope that the Government, in accordance with the promise of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, endorsed by the Prime Minister, next Session would introduce a Bill dealing with the subject, seeing that the Royal Commission which had been appointed to consider the subject had not, as the Government had led the House to expect, reported in time to legislate on the question this Session. He also hoped the Home Secretary would give them an assurance that he would bring in a Suspensory Bill, dealing with that and the Master and Servant Act, for the matter was regarded with great interest by the working classes. He would conclude by moving the withdrawal of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be read and discharged."—(Mr. Mundella.)
§ MR. KINNAIRD
expressed his disappointment that no legislation had 1324 taken place on the subject. He could bear testimony to the great interest which the constituencies, particularly his own, took in the measure. He also hoped some suspensory measure on the subject would be introduced by the Government.
, who had given Notice of an Amendment on the second reading of this Bill, for its rejection, hoped it would not be supposed that there was any apathy in the House upon this subject. This was not a matter for class legislation, and no measure for the alteration of the criminal law without giving adequate protection to the workman engaged by an employer would give satisfaction. He therefore hoped no suspensory legislation on the subject would be introduced.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he could assure the House that, on his part there had been no delay in the matter. It was the very first question he had considered when the present Government was formed, and it was a subject with which he was well acquainted as Chairman of quarter sessions in a district where industry was carried on probably to as large an extent as in any other part of the Kingdom. The question had stirred very deeply the minds of those not only employed in labour, but of those employing labour, and both employers and employed were equally anxious that the question should be settled. He would remind the House, however, that they should not touch the question unless they had sufficient information at their command to enable them to come to a final settlement of it, and therefore he had advised the Government that a Royal Commission should be issued, and it was issued as mentioned in the Queen's Speech. At that time it was fully believed that the Commission would have reported in ample time to legislate on the question during the present Session. He had made inquiries, however, on the matter, and was told that that was not likely to be the case. But he was also told that there was not the least doubt that the Report would be in the hands of the Government early in the Recess, and the moment it was in their hands he would promise the House it would receive the most anxious consideration. In any case, the Report would be laid on the Table at the earliest moment next Session, and such a measure would be 1325 brought forward as they thought best fitted to meet the ends they had in view. He would add only one observation—that, while everyone wished to preserve the utmost freedom of action to those who thought it right to act together in order to raise their wages, or regulate the terms of their employment, there should be the greatest freedom for those who employed labour to act together as well as to the men. There was another class which must also be considered in the settlement—those masters who refused to join any association of masters; and there was another object quite as important as any, if not more important—namely, that absolute freedom should be given to individual workmen either to join associations, or not to join associations if they did not think it right to do so. That was the problem they had to solve, and it would receive the most anxious and immediate attention of the Government.
§ MR. DODSON
thought that there would be great disappointment throughout the country when it was found that no action would be taken in the matter that year, as it had been understood that this Session would not be lost, and that some legislation would take place. He would earnestly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence, and endeavour, if possible, that the Report should be in the hands of hon. Members before the end of the Session so that they might have the opportunity of considering it during the Recess.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he would certainly place himself in communication with the Secretary and Chairman of the Commission, and if it was possible that the Report could be in the hands of hon. Members before the end of the Session nothing would give him greater pleasure.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he had said nothing in answer to his (Mr. Mundella's) suggestion as to bringing in a suspensory law.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Order discharged; Bill withdrawn,