HC Deb 28 June 1889 vol 337 cc997-1002

Order for Consideration, read.

MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham) moved to add to Clause 31 the words— That if any such Pension Fund be formed it shall not be made obligatory upon any person to join it, nor shall joining it be a condition of employment, nor a condition on which the rate of wages to be paid to any person shall be fixed on. The hon. Member said: It will be noted that my objection is limited to Clause 31 of this Bill, which enables the North-Eastern Railway Company, under certain circumstances, to establish a Pension Fund, and the fear the railway servants have in regard to this clause is that if such a Pension Fund is established it must, by a system of coercion—of mild coercion—on the part of the permanent officials, lead to the compulsory membership of the railway servants in this institution. Recent experience has proved that railway servants, as a rule, would much rather be left with perfect freedom of action as to what societies or institutions they may join for the purpose of securing themselves against sickness, accident, or death. Hence, the Railway Servants Society desire that an Amendment should be inserted in this clause for the purpose of safe-guarding them against any force, however mild, that may possibly be used to compel those in the employ of the railway company to join any such fund that may be established. I am aware that in another place the actual power of compulsion has been struck out of this clause. At the same time, in the opinion of those concerned, the clause, if left in its present shape, would practically give the company the power of compulsion, which the workmen desire that the company should not possess. I need not express my confidence in the directors of the North-Eastern Company so far as we know them in this House, nor in the absolute bona fides of their declaration that no force or compulsion will be used in any such undertaking; but unfortunately, if this Bill is passed without a statement to the contrary or without an addition to the clause such as I have placed upon the Paper, the work would pass out of the hands of the directors into that of the managers, foremen, and superintendents of one class or another, who might successfully evade the wishes of the directors to comply with the spirit of the clause, and might use it in a way which might be objectionable. Under the circumstances I would ask the House to agree to this Amendment, unless those in charge of the Bill have some statement to make showing the House that the fears I have expressed are entirely groundless. Unless the hon. Gentlemen who are here as the promoters of the Bill will make such a declaration as can be quoted in the future in favour of my contention for the freedom of the men in these matters I shall certainly carry the Amendment to a Division.

MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

I beg to second the Amendment, and in doing so I wish to call the attention of the House to this one fact, which I think the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) has overlooked—namely, that whatever may he at present the intention of the directors—and I am quite ready to accept any assurance they may give—we must not ignore the fact that in the Bill as originally brought into Parliament the directors took powers of the most stringent character to enforce this provision upon their workmen. The clause as originally drawn by them was to the effect that the directors should have power to determine what class of servants of the Company should be required to contribute to the fund. Although they have abandoned these powers, still we have this evidence of their primary desire to possess them. However that may be, I think, considering that we now know what was the original intention of the Company, we are perfectly justified in asking that this Amendment shall be accepted. We know also that pension funds are not popular with the workmen; and in the case of another Company where these powers were compulsory and the men were compelled to join the Society, they have recently, after five years' experience, abolished them by a vote of 12,000 to 900. That is ample evidence that these funds are not desired by the workmen themselves. I should have been glad if the whole of this clause had been struck out of the Bill, because I disapprove of it entirely, on principle; but I shall feel satisfied if the Amendment of my hon. Friend is passed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, Clause 31, page 19, line 20, after "provided," insert— That if any such pension fond be formed it shall not be made obligatory upon any person to join it, nor shall joining it be a condition of employment, nor a condition on which the rate of wages to be paid to any person shall be fixed on."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

* SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

As one of the Members in charge of the Bill, and having had a good deal to do with the clause itself, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in explanation. I desire to oppose the introduction of the words proposed in the Amendment, because I think they are not at all required. If anybody else but my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham had suggested the Amendment I should have thought that we were being rather badly treated in the matter, because the Bill is now in its last stage. Yet at this point it is proposed to introduce these words. But knowing the warm interest which my hon. Friend has always taken in these matters, I do not blame him for his action. It is perfectly true, as stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren), that when the Bill was introduced the clause was of a compulsory character. He and the hon. Member for Nottingham were good enough to call my attention to it, and I told them both frankly that I was quite certain the words had crept in from some other Act of Parliament, and that it was not the intention of the Board to make it a condition of hiring or a condition of dismissal. In framing the clause as it stands to day, we have some important precedents before us of such subscriptions. There is the precedent of the Northumberland and Durham Miners' Association, which now numbers 95,000. These men are all enrolled of their own accord, and the colliery owners contribute various sums of money to the funds of the Association. The idea of the North Eastern Board was that such a society must be necessarily voluntary on the part of the men. They knew sufficient to tell them that working men would not be drummed into provident societies; but that such organizations must come from the spontaneous action of the men themselves. The House will see at once that the clause as it stands is simply a permissive clause, allowing the Company to contribute to any pension fund for the payment of pensions and retiring allowances. It goes no further. If the words in the Amendment are inserted, think we should have some right of complaint, because if they are wanted with regard to the North Eastern Company, they are wanted in the case of every other company. All that is intended by the Amendment is, however, met by the Truck Act. Under the provisions of that Act, no employer can make it a condition of time that a man shall join a Provident Society, or become a member of a Provident Society, because that would imply that he must subscribe to that society and that would be the "manner in which part of his wages were to be spent." Therefore, I submitted to my hon. Friend and to the House, that the Truck Act perfectly meets the point If the assurances of myself and my Colleagues in this House who are on the North Eastern Board are of any service, I can inform the House that that Board has not the slightest desire to force any man into thrift or habits of economy, but if a man can be helped into them it is entirely another matter. I hope this explanation will satisfy my hon. Friends, the mover and seconder of the Amendment.


After the emphatic declaration of the hon. Baronet, which I understand is entirely acquiesced in by his colleagues in the directorate of the North Eastern Rail- way, and after his acceptation of the terms of Section 6 of the Truck Act, 1887, I do not think I should be well advised in putting the House to the trouble of a division on the subject, and I will, therefore, ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Question proposed, "That the Amendment be, by leave, withdrawn."

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I do not think that the Truck Act in the slightest degree covers the concluding words of the Amendment— Nor a condition in which the rate of wages to be paid to any person shall be fixed nor Without the insertion in the clause of the words of the Amendment, it would be perfectly competent for the Directors of the North Eastern Railway to fix their rate of wages for certain classes of their servants upon the conditions that they should join this fund. I do not say that they would, and as long as my hon. Friend (Sir J. Pease) in any way controls the affairs of the Company, I do not think they will do so. But I make these observations corning from a part of the country in which the North Eastern Company are all powerful—not because I believe the present Directors are desirous of initiating any such policy, but because I think the men who are concerned are perfectly right in taking advantage of the present occasion to have it set out on the face of the Bill that such a thing as that shall not be done. I would urge my hon. Friend to insist upon his Amendment, unless we have some better explanation and better proof afforded that by the Truck Act the Company cannot do this.


I have had the best legal opinion on the subject that could be obtained, and I have been told that the Truck Act covers every point in the hon. Member's Amendment. I object to the Amendment because, as I have already said, I object to impose restrictions upon the North Eastern Railway Company, which do not apply to other Companies. If the House thinks it desirable that no contribution should be made by the directors to these funds, I shall be quite willing to withdraw the clause altogether.

MR. JOICEY (Darham, Chester-le-Street)

I cannot agree with the state- ment which has been put before the House by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey). Whatever may be expressed by the clause in the Truck Act, I feel sure that the spirit of the clause is intended to prevent any such use being made of it as the hon. Member has suggested. I am perfectly certain that the Directors of the North Eastern Railway Company would never utilize the clause of the Truck Act in the way which the Member for Sunderland imagines. Unless the Company have a clause of this sort they would be unable to contribute as the mine owners in Northumberland and Durham contribute to the provident funds set on foot by their workpeople. When the Employers' Liability Act was passed some of the cold owners took advantage of that Act to cease the contributions they had been making to the miners' permanent relief fund, and great dissatisfaction arose in consequence throughout the counties of Durham and Northumberland. So far as I am concerned I should be only too glad to see some Bill passed by the Legislature to compel the mine owners in Northumberland and Durham to contribute their fair proportion to the workmen's fund. I certainly think it a very desirable thing to give the power to the railway company to contribute a voluntary sum to any pension fund which may be established by their workmen.

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Bill ordered to be read a third time.

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