§ *(9.0.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
It is not necessary to apologise for bringing forward the great subject of the relation of capital and labour, because we know that it is of enormous importance, and one which, at this time, especially deserves the attention of the House of Commons. We have gone through considerable agitation on the question, and it is desirable that it should be discussed less from a Party point of view than with common concern for the welfare of the country. The future of this country depends upon its trade. We are a nation of traders, and on trade we must depend for prosperity, and even for the continuance of the Empire. But trade cannot prosper in the face of foreign competition unless there is harmonious co-operation between capital and labour; and in many directions the effort of each to obtain all that it can for itself is leading to strikes and difficulties. The only way in which we can retain the position we now hold is by capital, labour, and enterprise working together in the most completely harmonious manner, and it is not pretended that our trade and commerce can extend unless these functions work in unison. At present, in many cases, they are not so working; on the contrary, they appear as enemies and opposed to one another. This may have been brought about, to a certain extent, by the changes which have been going on during the past 50 years. We have, in this country, been doing our best, by education and other means, to improve all classes; we have done our best to level up —if I may say so—from the lowest stratum of society. That is a state of things at which we must all rejoice, and we may hope that this levelling up of all classes of the community, and this placing of all classes more on a par as regards their habits and their ideas, will continue. But the natural corollary of this is that all classes, from the highest to the lowest, desire to get as much as they can for their labour. All classes now have better food, better clothing, and batter housing; they all look for more comforts and luxuries, which are indeed now almost necessaries of life, and the only 1138 way in which the nation can secure a larger amount of these things is by more of them being produced. However much we may increase the wages, unless we also increase those things which wages buy, we do not improve the well-being of the people. Again, a greater production implies greater industry or greater economy in production, or, in other words, greater enterprise, a better use of capital, and the more harmonious working of capital and labour. The best results can only be obtained by capital, labour, and enterprise working in complete harmony. The question to be asked is, do labour, capital, and enterprise each receive a fair share of the earnings of the country? The claims of enterprise are often overlooked; but it is an essential part of our social progress, and it will be an evil day for this country if by any possibility a system is adopted of remunerating capital and labour and ignoring the claims of enterprise. A man who simply invests £20,000 in Consols or Colonial Bonds is not doing as much for the country as the man who embarks in commerce, and he who embarks in commerce—with all its risks—naturally expects a larger return than he who simply invests in securities. It is, therefore, essential that enterprise shall receive its fair reward. Again, I ask, does each of the three branches receive a fair share? That is a difficult and complicated question. There is one thing quite certain, and that is, that there has, during the last 40 or 50 years, been a great change in the distribution of the results of industry. Statisticians divide the community into three classes—rich, middle, and working class. From 1840 to 1877 the number of rich families is estimated to have increased from 86,000 to 222,000; the aggregate amount they hold has increased from £2,507,000,000 to £5,728,000,000, but the amount held per family has decreased from £28,800 to £25,800. The number of middle class families has increased from 780,000 to 1,824,000 families, but their holdings per family have decreased from £1,400 to £1,000. The working class have only increased from 4,300,000 families to 4,630,000 families, but their holdings have risen from £44 per family in 1840 to £86 per family in 1877. So that while the holdings of the 1139 rich and middle classes have decreased in amount, those of the working classes proper have largely increased. No doubt if the figures for the past year were available they would show a proportionate movement in the same direction. These figures are obtained from the Returns of the Legacy and Succession Duty. Again, the same fact is shown by the number who pay Income Tax on the lowest incomes, which has risen from 39,000 in 1843 to 130,000 in 1879. According to Mr. Giffen, during the same 40 years the income from capital has increased a little over 100 per cent., from £190,000,000 to £400,000,000, and the working income paying Income Tax by about 100 per cent., from £90,000,000 to £180,000,000, while the income of the working classes has increased from £235,000,000 to £620,000,000, an increase of 163 per cent. These figures show that 30 or 40 years ago capital received too large a share of the results of industry, and the tendency has been to considerably reduce the amount which capital receives, and to place the sum so deducted to the credit of labour. I now come to the question, what does capital receive at the present time? Mr. Giffen estimates the income of the country at £1,200,000,000, and the proportion received by capital at £400,000,000, or one-third. At 4 per cent. this represents an earning income of £10,000,000,000. But this is too large an amount to be considered as earning income. Mr. Giffen puts it at £8,500,000,000, yielding an income of about £550,000,000, thus producing a return to 6¼. per cent. The capital of the country is, however, probably producing a still larger amount, which, though I do not go into this large question at the present time, may be taken as something like 7 per cent. I think we must agree that capital at the present time still continues to receive too large a share of the results of industry. I say this not from the view of one side or the other, but as a matter of purely abstract reasoning. Some hon. Members dissent from that view Well, I have not much capital myself—I wish I had—but I should be extremely satisfied if what little I am likely to possess returned me a good deal less than 7 per cent. This calculation is entirely apart from the remuneration for labour and enterprise, which between 1140 them receive about £800,000,000 per annum. During the last 50 years labour, no doubt, has obtained great advances in wages, and what is of more importance, the same amount of money produces a larger quantity of the comforts of life; but have the advances been sufficient, considering the enormous increase in the country's capital? If it is true that capital docs receive too large a share; if it is true that capital does receive nearly 7 percent., then I think we may fairly say that 3 per cent. of that is an excessive amount; that 4 per cent. would be a fairer amount for it to receive, and if labour were to receive this 3 per cent. it would make a difference to its earnings of £150,000,000 a year, or 8s. a week per head—a very considerable addition to its present earnings. There is also no doubt that capital has an advantage in the amount it pays to taxation. While capital receives one-third of the national income it only pays about one-seventh or one-eighth of the national taxation, and the remainder has to be paid by two-thirds of the national income, the proportion so paid in excess being about 1s. per week per family throughout the country. And now I come to the question of the share of enterprise. Let me make this as clear as I can. We have a national income of £1,200,000,000; one-third of that is the result of capital; and £800,000,000 is the payment for labour and enterprise. Taking various statistics, it may be said that 300,000 persons—or 1 in 20—are entitled to remuneration for enterprise, and allowing each £10 a week—a very liberal estimate—this would give £150,000.000 between the 300,000 families, leaving £650,000,000 to be divided among the 6,200,000 working families proper. Working this out would leave an annual remuneration of £100 per head for simple labour alone, and that, as we know, is a much larger sum than labour actually receives. It is, therefore, clear that labour does not at the present time receive the amount it is entitled to. Taxation, we must all acknowledge, pinches most the lowest stratum of society, and unless a man be a most remarkable character—almost a John the Baptist living on locusts and wild honey—he pays a larger amount per £1 of income than a man who receives a larger wage. 1141 It may, however, be said that labour is increasing largely in wealth by the amount of its accumulated savings. There is no phase of our social existence more satisfactory than this accumulation of savings by the working classes; but, after all, the total savings only amount to 400,000,000, and that total is insignificant as compared with the wages that labour is entitled to receive. Four per cent. on the total savings of the masses would only produce £16,000,000 a year, or 2 per cent. of the wage bill of the country; and, therefore, it cannot, because of those savings, be said that labour gets its proper share of the national income, nor can these savings be made a set-off against unfairness of division of the results of industry. I think, therefore, we must agree that there is something to be said for the contention that labour, as compared with capital, does not get all it is entitled to. Of course, we know that with so many persons interested in the working classes, with so many pandering to those classes with the object of getting votes, these things are becoming widely known, and are often exaggerated for class and party purposes. But what we want to get is an absolutely correct and just estimate of the relative position of labour and capital. Whether I am right or wrong in the conclusion I have drawn, that labour does not receive a fair amount, we all know that it thinks it does not receive its fair share. When trade revives there is a continual agitation for increase of wages; and I believe that the depression which often follows good years is due to the fact that trade expansion is retarded by the agitation of labour for more wages. The movements of markets are quickly made known now by means of the Press. Fifty years ago that was not so. Nowadays, if profits are seen by the condition of the markets to increase, labour at once demands a share of the increase, and threatens to strike if it does not get it. The result is an agitation, and after a certain amount of finessing between employers and employed, a strike. It is exactly similar to the positon of the governors of a steam engine. When the steam gets a little stronger the balls fly up and the steam is shut off. So, also, when trade prospers labour demands a larger and a larger 1142 share of the profits, and the agitation and uncertainty thus produced tends to shut off the steam of prosperity. We have had no end of strikes in recent times, and we find from the Returns of the Budget that a reaction has already set in that certainly these strikes have affected the country in many ways. Surely it is a most barbarous system which recognises that there is a doubt as to whether the labourer gets his full share of profit, and to allow things to go on in such a way as to bring about strikes in order to produce the results I have indicated. We know that increased prosperity leads to increased demand, and yet we take no means to secure an automatic system by which a better state of things may be introduced. I desire to press on the House this second point, that labour does really get a share of the profit, but that that share is but too often only obtained by strikes, which are a costly and suicidal policy, and which maims, if it does not kill, the goose that lays the golden eggs. I will here say a few words about strikes, but will not enter fully into the subject at this late hour. No one can doubt for a moment that strikes have increased wages in many cases, but there are enormous difficulties in getting at all the facts Mr. Bevan, whom I knew very well, took the trouble to ascertain the statistics of strikes between 1870 and 1879, and he found that during those 10 years there had been 2,352 strikes in connection with what I may practically term every conceivable trade in the United Kingdom. From the figures he obtained as the cost of those strikes, he found that 110 strikes had lasted together 577 weeks, and cost the men no less than £4,500,000. If the 2,352 strikes had cost the same rate all round the loss that would have ensued would been something enormous, not much less than £100,000,000. The statistics as to the strikes from 1880 to 1890 I have not got, but during the last two or three years strikes have been numerous. In 1888 there were 509, in three quarters of them the men gained, while in one quarter they lost. L think, if we take the strikes for the last 20 years, it will not be too much to say that the loss to the men has amounted to not less than 1143 £200,000,000. Of course, the loss to the employers from those strikes must have been also very large indeed. I would point out that even had all those strikes been successful in raising; wages, the fact remains that they could not have increased the real earnings of the people. They may have increased the money payments, but not the commodities which the people consume and which are really the wages they need. Suppose, for instance, there were a strike in the boot trade, although it might double or treble the wages, the number of boots made and used must be less, and the shoeing of the people would not be so good. The same remark applies to the agricultural labourers, if a great strike were carried out among that class, as no doubt many persons would desire, it would not increase the amount of corn grown. On the contrary, the quantity would be decreased. This being so, I ask who is it that suffers most by the loss; for although the employer must lose enormously, the greatest amount of suffering and privation must be borne by the people themselves? These being the result of strikes, namely, so large a capital loss, and so serious a reduction in the articles of comfort for the people surely almost anything which can be devised to put a stop to them ought to be tried. Many of the Trades Unionists are determined that strikes should be done away with; and when we see that they come intermittently with every advance in the progress and development of trade, surely we ought to arrange some system by which we may divide the profits of the labourer and employer in some way that would operate less disastrously to the men themselves. I therefore submit to the House my next point as to how we may bring about some better mode. Supposing it to be true that capital only gets its fair share and that labour gets a fair share also, surely it would pay the capitalists so to remunerate labour that it should become a partner in the work done and not a rival. I think it would pay to make the interests of the capitalists and the labourer identical, so that the two might work together as friends rather than as enemies. This leads me to the great question of profit-sharing. Profit-sharing is an arrangement by 1144 which, after a fixed profit is paid on capital, the balance of the profit should be divided on some arranged system in certain proportions to the wages earned. This should apply to all labour and not to that of the artizan only. If labour now gets its full share of profit, it would, under this profit-sharing system, get nothing more; but if it does not get its full share, this is a system by which the existing irregularity and unfairness would be done away with, and an automatic method substituted in its place. It is like the case of the mercury in the thermometer. If you put the mercury in the tube and allow it full expansion the column will ascend, but if you shut it in the column the result will be that before long the tube will burst. That is what happens in the case we are discussing. No doubt sliding scales in respect of wages are a step in the right direction, while arbitration has already done something; but arbitration is an unsatisfactory and clumsy arrangement, leading to dissatisfaction on both sides. I feel convinced that where we can make the motive power of strikes, which is self-interest, available for preventing strikes, strikes may be prevented, by the very fact that the labourer will, as a matter of course, receive a fair share of the profit. The danger of strikes will be done away with, and the power now employed in a false direction would be utilised in ensuring the greater prosperity of the trade of the country, and, consequently, of the working classes. But it is said that profit-sharing is the idea of enthusiasts and Utopians. It is said to have been tried and failed. I acknowledge that any alterations of the system of wages is not an easy subject. I know that in many cases these attempts have failed and have led to disappointment; but I shall also be able to show that profit-sharing has been, and is at the present time, successfully worked. Let me take the recent case of the Gas Company. Some may say that the gas strike of last winter was a clear indication that the profit-sharing system must fail. ["Hear, hear!"] I hear hon. Members cheer that observation, but I believe that 10 year's hence the gas strike will be looked back upon as a grand new departure for labour gener- 1145 ally, their their system will be better liked, and that under it labour will, to a large extent, be regulated. The gas proposal was that the labourers should receive for every penny by which they could reduce the price of gas 1 per cent. in their wages; and owing to that arrangement, gas having been reduced from 2s. 8d. to 2s. 3d., the men are to receive at once 5 per cent. on their earnings. That is, I say, a system that must ultimately tend to the great benefit of the workmen; and the fact remains that in spite of the pressure put on the Gas Company, that company were successful, being supported by an overwhelming number of their men, who are now-deriving the benefit of the new system. Take another case, that of Messrs. Peto, which is a more disappointing case. They undertook to build a large asylum at a cost of some hundreds of thousands of pounds; and they said to their workpeople we will pay you the ordinary full rate of wages, but at the end of the job, whatever the profit may have been, those men who have been with us all the time and have had no strike shall receive a quarter of the whole profit. That, I say, was a most liberal proposal, and although, unfortunately, owing to the ignorance of those by whom the men were guided it led to difficulty and trouble, it is nevertheless a system by which the men, as well as the employers, would have been largely benefited, and which I think will ultimately prove to be successful. It is true Trades Unions have opposed profit-sharing, but I cannot think that this is a fatal objection to the proposal. Some people bestow unlimited praise on Trades Unions, and I do not say that Trades Unionism has not done a great deal for the men; it has taught them to combine and has helped to raise them in the position they hold, and has contributed to their general well-being. It has taught them to give up a monetary gratification in anticipation of future benefits, and has induced among them a spirit which tends to make men better and nobler. But, on the other hand, on many great questions there can be no doubt that Trades Unionisms have often proved to be seriously wrong. Trades Unions opposed the introduction of machinery in every 1146 possible way. ["No, no."] An hon. Member says "No, no," but he cannot have read the history of this country for the last 70 or 80 years without having recognised the fact that the Trades Unions did pursue that course. Trades Unions have also done their best to put men all upon one level, and I may say of Trades Unionists that they are the extreme Tories of the working people—the absolute Tories of trade and labour. The raison d'être of Trades Unions is no doubt the improvement of the condition of the working people; but when they see that the sharing of profits, although it may tend to that improvement, will have the effect of reducing their influence, it is not perhaps unreasonable that they should be found opposing what is likely to lessen their influence. But the opposition of the Trades Unions in no way affects my case or proves that profit-sharing is wrong. Indeed, it seems to me to show that profit-sharing is right, and here I will ask permission to give the House a few cases pertinent to this point. The system was begun, I believe, in France by the house of Le Claire, but I will not go into that part of the subject. I prefer to give you cases now in operation in this country. Messrs. Good all and Suddick, stationers, of Leeds, employing 300 hands, have had profit-sharing since 1868. They pay 5 per cent. on capital, and of the balance, 18 per cent. goes to the men in proportion to their wages. They say the result isRecouped by our having no trouble with our employés, and by our having very few changes.Their men work 52½ hours, as against 54 and 55 in Leeds generally Messrs. Fiddler, seed stores, Reading, employ 70 persons; had profit-sharing for seven years. After fixed amount on capital a percentage paid according to wages. They say—Found it attended with the most satisfactory results, both in a pecuniary sense and as regards the better development of the different branches of the business.Blundell, Spence & Co., Hull, employ 300 hands; colour and varnish works; profit-sharing since 1884; pay 5 per cent. on preferred shares and 6 per cent. on ordinary shares; 1147 and of the remainder, 10 per cent. is divided among men. Thomson and Son, Huddersfield, Woollen Cloth, employ 150 hands; after 5 per cent. on capital, 10 per cent. goes to reserve; 5–10ths goes to workers according to wages; and 4–10ths for promoting business, paying anyone for any improvements in manufacture. The plans tried two years—the first year a small profit, but the second year a loss of £800, £200 of which was made up by workmen, by 8d. in the £1 on wages. The company say—Improved tone of workers, showing not wages only, but feeling of justice.Co-operative Builders, Limited. The profits are added to the capital, and go to the credit of each man, according to wages, to provide for old age. The first year's wages £83 5s. 8d., and profit, 1s. 6d. in the £1 on wages, after writing off plant, and providing for reserve fund. Coventry Gas Fitting Company, Limited. A small company with but 27 hands, but have had profit-sharing for two years. After 15 per cent is paid on capital, half the balance to men, partly in cash, and partly to the Provident Fund. First year three week's wages added, and this year will be more. Darien Press, Limited, Edinburgh; employ 70 hands, had profit-sharing for four years; after 10 per cent. on capital, half to labour and half to capital. The firm write, dated April 8, 1890—We did not anticipate that its adoption would effect any sudden change in the attitude of the employés towards the firm; nor did it. But as time went on, and they saw their money interest in the business increasing, the output perceptibly improved. The saving thus effected, together with other economies, is now sufficient to meet the expenditure, so that, practically, the firm has lost nothing by the scheme, while it has gained largely from the improvement which has taken place in the whole tone and spirit of the workpeople. In proof of the self-supporting character of the scheme, I may mention that whereas before its adoption our dividend was at the rate of 16 per cent., it is now 14 per cent. The sum allocated half yearly represents an addition of 1s. 4d. per £1 on wages.These seem to me thoroughly bonâ fide cases, which it is difficult to get over, and they prove, I think, that profit-sharing is a possible system. There is some difficulty in citing as illustrations private firms, which do not usually publish balance-sheets. But there are the cases of Messrs. Bushill & Sons, Messrs. Robinson 1148 and Brothers, of West Bromwich, and Messrs. Arrow smith, of Bristol, and others whose profits are certified by a chartered accountant, and the employés accept his statement of the figures and receive their profit share of the balance. There is another experiment going on, namely, that of the New Welsh Slate Company, who employ 300 people. It is in their Articles of Association that a tenth of the amount which annually goes for dividend shall be paid to the workmen. That shows that the idea is growing, and the fact that it is growing is a substantial indication of the success of the system. Of course, there is a great number of firms who are only beginning this system in a tentative sort of way. A great number of them give a share in the profit as a bonus, or on condition that it is paid to some Friendly Society or Benevolent Fund. The motive is good; but I prefer that the workman should have the spending of his own cash, and that he should pay it into a Friendly Society if he chooses, rather than that any indirect pressure should be put upon him. Let me give one or two other instances of how this system would work where it has not yet been adopted. The Great Western Railway has a capital of £81,000,000. Of that £60,000,000 is money borrowed at a low rate of interest and bearing a fixed dividend. I propose to leave that alone. But if you take the remaining £21,000,000, upon which the success of the institution influences directly the dividend, the interest at 5 per cent. on that sum would amount to £1,050,000. The profits divided among the holders of the £21,000,000 last year was £1,742,000. The salaries and wages amounted to £2,088,000. If you adopted the system of giving a share of the profits, after paying 5 per cent., if 2 per cent. was added to them for every ½ per cent. extra demand on capital over 5 per cent. labour, wages would have 10 per cent. added to them, and the dividend on capital would be reduced from 8 to7½ per cent. The Great Western employs between 20,000 and 30,000 people, and if each employé saved the company 2d. a day, or worked 2d. per day better during the year, that would mean a saving sufficient to pay half the extra amount under the profit-sharing system. It is not un- 1149 reasonable to say that each man might easily save his employers 2d. per day, if he really had his heart and soul in his work. The late Mr. Tyrrell, Manager of the Great Western, told me that the company had saved enough in waste at the various stations to pay the first dividend. If such an economy could be effected in the saving of waste, is it not reasonable to suppose that 20,000 or 30,000 men interested in the success of the institution would be able to effect savings which would add not only to their employers', but to their own, profit? With the Great Northern the system would have a similar, though not so large, a result, and so with the Royal Mail Steam Ship Company, with Tramway Companies, and the London General Omnibus Company. The latter company pays nearly 10 per cent. We have heard a great deal about the condition of their employés. Now, if they gave their men 1 per cent. above every 5 per cent. they receive as dividend, it would be an arrangement satisfactory to all concerned. The capitalist would get 8 per cent., and 3 per cent. would be added to the wages, and that could be met by 1d. per journey extra being earned by each omnibus, an amount, I should think, it is not unreasonable to suppose, with such a stimulus, be obtained by extra energy and attention on the part of the attendants of the omnibus. Of course, under such a system, the best businesses would get the pick of the workpeople, but the unsuccessful businesses do not now have their choice of the best hands. I may fairly say that the result of this system of profit-sharing would be to induce the workman to throw life and energy into his work. I explained to a friend who was engaged in getting up a Union to advocate more wages the result of this profit-sharing system. What did he say? "Why, if that was adopted in our shop, we should then work with all our might." I venture to say if you could get that spirit to pervade working men under such a system of profit sharing, it would lead to great results, and the loss paid as extra wages would be made up ten-fold. The result of profit-sharing is one which must benefit the workmen, because it makes them more interested in the 1150 business of their employers. What I ask for this evening is an inquiry into this system which has been adopted by a large number of firms in England and other parts of Europe. I hope the House will not think it possible that I for a moment suggest that legislation can bring this about. I strongly object to any interference by legislation. The fact remains that all schemes for putting an end to strikes have failed. We see them taking place in all directions. The proposal I make does seem to suggest some possible palliation for the existing evils, if not an actual remedy. Then, let us have the facts before us—let us have them gone into by a Committee and tabulated. The State is a large employer of labour. We have agitations for a Union, and for other purposes, amongst the servants of the Post Office and the workmen in the Royal Arsenals, and in all directions we see these things growing. Surely, under these circumstances, it is reasonable that we should look into the matter and see if something cannot be done. Local Bodies are large employers of labour as well as the State; and if we can induce them to adopt this system and get it put in force in connection with some of our Government Departments, some good result may be brought about. The present position of capital and labour seems like trying to make water flow uphill; it is like trying to mix two things which will not mix, or to melt flint into glass without flux. The flux I would suggest in the case of capital and labour is the self-interest that profit-sharing would seem to supply; and if we could establish a system by which the capitalist and the labourer would have the same interest, we should secure co-operation. In our great industries, whenever we find a mechanical obstruction or difficulty in our way, we invent some improved machine to get over it; and it does seem to me that in the matter of capital and labour when we have to acknowledge that the latter has some cause to complain, we should look around in the same way for some improved method of getting over the difficulty. Labour does not get a fair share in the operations of trade. It gets a share, no doubt, but only by strife and strikes; and it seems to me 1151 that we should endeavour to establish a system whereby, through the operation of natural laws, labour should derive an increasing share of the profits which capital and labour combine to create. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that a Committee he appointed to inquire into and report on the various plans at present in operation by which labour, in addition to wages earned, shares in the profit of the enterprises in which it is engaged.—(Mr. Bartley.)
*(10.5.) SIR J. COLOMB&c.) (Tower Hamlets, Bow,
In seconding this Resolution, I desire to say that, though I am in entire sympathy with it and heartily sympathise with the main proposition of my hon. Friend, I cannot endorse all his arguments. I do not agree with him, for instance, in thinking that there are any possible means of establishing an automatic system which will regulate in all cases the differences arising between capital and labour. I do think, however, that it is very desirable, when the minds of both employers and employed are turning towards co-operation as a possible solution of these difficulties, that some means should be taken to obtain authentic information with regard to schemes of the kind that have been practically tried or are actually in operation. That, I understand, is the chief aim of the Mover of the Resolution, and I certainly think he has acted wisely, in the interests of capital and labour alike, by suggesting that such an inquiry should be made by a Committee and the result reported to the House. But I should have preferred the Resolution if it had read "by which labour, in addition to wages earned, shares directly in the profit," &c. It is a small point, but I cordially agree with the dictum of my hon. Friend when he said that the most successful firms command the best labour—which is the result of an indirect and not a direct cause. I submit that the reason the most successful firms command the best labour, is the certainty of continuous employment. I certainly think a Committee of this House a most powerful 1152 engine for collecting authentic facts. I do not in the least understand—or I would not second the Motion—my hon. Friend to do more than suggest that the House should appoint a Committee to gather information and statistics—not to go into speculative theories on this subject. There are doubtless many cases throughout the country in which the scheme of profit-sharing is being carried on quietly and unobserved, and it is of great importance that trustworthy information should be obtained and made known as to the results of the operation of the system. I may mention that, in my own constituency, there is a very interesting experiment going on at the present time. I do not mean to say that it has been long enough in existence to fall into the category of those schemes which should be examined; but I think it would be useful to other firms, who are tending in that direction, to have authentic information as to the results of schemes which have been tried with various different systems up and down the country. I do not agree with my hon. Friend—if I understood him aright—that capital is getting more than the average of profit at 7 per cent. at the present moment. I doubt if capital, plus brains and enterprise, can make cock-sure of even 5 per cent. profit. But I express that doubt with very great diffidence, and it really does not concern the argument for or against the Motion. But what I firmly believe is that labour very often fails to recognise the sacrifices that enterprise, which has built up the commercial reputation of the country, has to make, and the risks it has to run. In order that enterprise may secure the results at which it aims it must be backed by capital, and capital in turn relies upon friendly, secure, and co-operative relations with labour. I mention that, because the problem is so complex that it is not merely a question of capital and labour, but a question of the brains that lead capital and the brains that lead labour. The more information the working classes of the country can have with regard to actual practical matters concerning the operations of capital and labour the better it will be for them and capitalists also. When differences arise between them it is often because the 1153 working classes, in whose common-sense I have full confidence, have not the whole of the facts before them. When, on a rise of prices, strikes take place for an immediate increase of wages, the fact is often overlooked that perhaps bad times have gone before, and that capital has had to work on at a loss simply to keep the business going. I believe, however, that if the whole matter can be approached from a business point of view by the leaders of the working classes on the one side and the capitalists on the other, with full and authentic information before them, it may be possible to arrive at a solution which will obviate many of the difficulties that now exist. There is one thing I strongly condemn in these matters—the action of the amateur conciliator, who often steps in to meddle with things he does not understand, in order to reap political capital or personal popularity. There are Labour Representatives in this House and men throughout the country who well know the difficulties of the question, and who desire to arrive at satisfactory solutions of them if possible. It is with the view, therefore, of securing information in the best and most practical way on the experiments that have been tried in co-operation between labour and capital that I second the Motion.
§ *(10.24.) MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N. W.)
I think the House owes a deep debt of gratitude to the hon Member for North Islington for having brought this matter before the House, because it is seldom enough that we discuss Resolutions dealing with such social questions as the relations of capital and labour. We discuss many things, such as the governors and the governed in other countries, and the cultivation of asparagus in New Zealand; but discussions such as the present do not occupy much of our time. In 'most of the interesting matters which the hon. Member has laid before the House I concur most heartily, though with the conclusion drawn I am somewhat at variance. I cannot quite agree with the hon. Gentleman as to the remedy he would wish us to adopt. Indeed, I consider it as efficacious as would be the remedy of him who would place a piece of sticking-plaster upon a cancer. The Seconder of the Resolution spoke 1154 of those amateur conciliators who often mislead working classes and stir up strife when they seek to bring conciliation. Well, although I have often intervened in these disputes between capital and labour, I thank God that I have never intervened as a conciliator. I believe it is impossible to do anything of a conciliatory nature between capital and labour as we now see them; and I confess I am somewhat disappointed at the small scope of the matter which the hon. Gentleman has brought before the House. The hon. Member might, on this Resolution, have said something about the great misery which undoubtedly exists in almost every portion of the country and in almost every trade. He might, especially as he represents a London constituency, have pointed out that so satisfactory are the relations between capital and labour in this city that only last week we had a case of death from starvation in it—a case to which I drew attention at the time by means of a question. I must dissent from much that the hon. Gentleman said when he drew a picture of the progress which he seemed to think has taken place among the working classes during the last 40 or 50 years. I do not say that no progress has taken place; but I maintain that the condition of the far greater portion of the unskilled labourers in this country is becoming more precarious and more desperate every day, as is proved by the existence of the strikes which have been referred to; and the remedy of profit-sharing would have but an infinitesimal effect on the great labour troubles which we see on every side. I would like to deal briefly with the three elements of production touched on by the hon. Member—enterprise, capital, and labour. The power that capital gives to men of enterprise to enter into commercial speculations is not called into existence, as I read political economy, by the effort of enterprise alone. It is simply the power conferred on these men by accumulated labour, which places certain funds in their hands and enables them, for their own purposes, to embark in commercial speculations. The hon. Member deplored the fact that the relations between capital and labour were getting more strained every day. I deny now, as I have denied 50 times in this 1155 House, and I am sure many hundreds of times outside this House, that the interests of capital and labour, as society is now constituted, can ever be identical. I am not prepared to say that capital and labour, rightly considered and apprehended, would of themselves be antagonistic. Capital is now, however, in so few hands as to create a capitalistic class, which class, from the very nature of its being, is bound to find itself in conflict with labour upon every occasion on which there is either a fall in prices or on which labour demands greater remuneration for its services. It seems to me a very commonsense and commonplace observation that if the capitalist wishes to increase his profits he has only one fund on which he can draw, and that fund is the wages of labour. It is only possible for a capitalist to make a fortune by refusing to give to labour the full share of that which labour itself produces. If he did so, he must for ever remain in the same position as when he started. On the other hand, when the great bulk of our working classes are practically deprived of property, when they have no right in the soil of their native land and when they are obliged to sell their labour, as the only thing in the wide world they have to dispose of, how can their interests be possibly identical with those of the capitalists to whom they sell their labour? It would be as reasonable to suppose that oil and vinegar would mix. It is, I believe, perfectly possible that the interests of capital and labour can be made identical, but not by means of the remedy which the hon. Member has laid before the House. The hon. Member hopes by the introduction of profit-sharing to be able to get rid of the necessity for strikes—a consummation which I, for one, am very anxious to see brought about—and he deplored the fact that Trade Unionism in its inception opposed the introduction of machinery. It is true that the Trade Unionists of 40 or 50 years ago did oppose the introduction of machinery, but they did so because they foresaw that large bodies of men would be thrown out of work, and that the benefit would go, not to the producer, but to the capitalist. Then the hon. Member drew the somewhat remarkable conclusion that it would benefit the working classes if, in these 1156 profit-sharing concerns which he sketched briefly, after a certain percentage of profit had been arrived at, further dividends were divided between the employers or shareholders and the labourers themselves. How is that percentage to be arrived at? Is a line to be drawn after the labourer, by his labour, has piled up a certain amount of profit for the employer, and are subsequent profits to be divided between the labourers and the manufacturers? Surely, Sir, there is no difference between the first 5 per cent., and the subsequent 10 or 15 per cent. If employers are willing, after 5 or 10 per cent. has been reached, to divide all the surplus, surely that is a tacit confession that the whole wage system as we know it at present is one to be condemned. I may be wrong, but I cannot think myself that 5 per cent. is a law of God. It seems to me that it would be as reasonable of the employers to commence from the beginning to divide all their profits as to begin after a certain limit has been reached. If the Committee asked for is merely to inquire into the relations between capital and labour, and into the working of the various schemes, and is not to recommend anything to the House all I have to ask is why, in the name of fortune, he has wasted the time of the House by this discussion? With society constituted as it is at present, it is impossible for the labouring classes to hold their own against the capitalists by any co-operative or profit-sharing schemes, or any similar quack expedients. But I believe the working classes are now finding out for themselves the remedy for the evils from which they suffer. I trust them, and I think they will solve this question. Perhaps they will solve it in its beginning without the help of the House of Commons; but that they should have the help of the House of Commons is a proposition I have always laid before them in the House. The method they are adopting in every country in the world is that of obtaining a reduction of the hours of labour. They have agreed to hold demonstrations in every country in the world on the 1st of May. Though I, for one, should be glad to welcome anything 1157 that would place the relations of capital and labour on a more satisfactory footing, and ease the misery, the horrors, and the starvation to which the working classes are subjected whenever there is a strike, I rather rely on the practical common-sense of the working classes, and the determination they have expressed to attack this question by the reduction of the hours of labour rather than by means of any scheme given to them from above on a subject which, as far as I can see, does not occupy their attention in the smallest degree.
§ *(10.37.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I cannot help regretting that this discussion has taken the form of a general discussion of the various schemes supposed to be beneficial to the working man, and have not been directed with greater particularity to the Motion before the House. That Motion has hardly been alluded to by the mover himself, and has not been referred to at all by the Seconder or by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The Motion states that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into certain matters; but it does not seem to have occurred to those who have spoken that as far back as 1886 it was resolved that means should be taken for conducting such an inquiry as is now suggested, and the result was the organisation under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division, of the Labour Statistical Department. Lord Stanley, of Preston, and the present President of the Board of Trade have assisted in extending that Department from small beginnings, but, unfortunately, the House has not placed at the disposal of that Department the funds required for making full inquiries. In fact, less money is voted for that Department than is granted in a State like Massachusetts for a similar office. Many of the difficulties that arise between employers and employed could be prevented if accurate means of information were given to both classes, and therefore I regret that the Department has not 1158 been able to extend its inquiries, and to issue fuller and more frequent Reports. I would suggest that it is not necessary to appoint any Committee to deal with this subject. All that is necessary is to give Mr. Giffen and Mr. Burnett, and those who act with them, the means of collecting all the information that is required. I do not believe it to be the case that the relations between capital and labour in this country are more strained to-day than they were 50 years ago. The Mover and Seconder of the Resolution spoke of the fair share of profit, capital, and labour ought to have respectively, and the last speaker spoke of the full share labour ought to have, but not one of them has explained what those shares ought to be or how they are to be fixed. I know that those who attempt to define in this matter will at once find themselves in considerable difficulties: but if hon. Members are afraid of difficulties they ought not to raise these questions or they may lay themselves open to the charge of pandering to the working classes without endeavouring really to help them. I do not know what view the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Graham) takes of the full share of labour; but if he meant anything—and I will do him the justice of saying I do not think he did—his words meant the full value added to raw material by labour.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH
Quite so; and, therefore, there is no reason for interrupting me. Well, that is a phrase which can only be uttered by men who are utterly ignorant of the whole conditions of the working classes and utterly hopeless as teachers of the people. If labour takes all, who will risk skill and capital in manufacture? I never heard any more regettable phrase than that used by the hon. Member when he said that in the many cases of disputes between workers and employers in which he has interfered he has never once interfered as a conciliator. My life has been longer than that of the hon. Member, and I suppose, to my shame, I must say that I have never mixed in 1159 labour strifes except in the character of conciliator, and I have known more than one class of men in this country who have been, trying to organise and some who, misled by phrases such as the hon. Member has used to-night, suffered by not following the advice of those Trades Union Loaders to whom they formerly looked for guidance. I speak on this independently. I have never attended a Congress of Trade Unions, and I doubt whether they would accept my counsel. But men who act with the hon. Member himself have interfered in labour disputes they do not understand, in industries with which they have no connection, and have led poor and hungry men to hope for redemption where redemption cannot come, and to waste the money of Trades Unions saved for good and useful purposes in maintaining a hopeless struggle. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. C. GRAHAM
I rise to a point of order. I have no wish to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think I am bound on account of the cheer which came from the opposite Benches to vindicate John Burns and Tom Mann, the two men against whom I consider the accusations of the hon. Gentleman are levelled.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH
I am afraid points of order like questions of labour are beyond the immediate comprehension of the hon. Member. I did not refer to any particular men, except as being associated with the hon. Member himself. All I can say is, I am sorry when I find men addressing labourers in great meetings and telling them they can rely on violence for the redress of their wrongs. It is because I believe that the condition of the working classes in this country is enormously improved, because I believe it to be susceptible of greater improvement, because I believe in the efforts of Trades Unions, and because I believe that co-operative production and schemes of profit-sharing understood by the working men and practised by them voluntarily, may help them even 1160 in their worse misery, that I regret that we should be told that any scheme which will in any sort of fashion bring food where food is not is like putting sticking plaster on a cancer. When you irritate, when you agitate in the sense of hostility and not of conciliation, you put caustic to the cancer and make the sore intolerable. I said I would put before the House what I conceive to be the share of labour. I say that, first of all, labour must be paid a wage, because it has not the means of existing otherwise. Labour is entitled to get, first of all, for the wage earner life, and in life I include shortest hours possible with profitable enterprise, leisure, opportunities for thrift, means of providing for old age, and a fair average standard of comfort. That standard of comfort varies considerably. You cannot compare the condition of the Belgian or the Austrian coal miner; you cannot compare the condition of the textile workers in the countries of Europe where textile workers prevail with the condition of our labourers without taking into account the general surroundings. I agree that labour which labours for itself, in addition to labouring for another, is better labour, that is, more productive labour, and that it would be wise if there could be encouragement in every field of labour for some addition to the mere subsistence of life—wage—which I claim labour is first of all entitled to. I believe the more labour shares in this the better for labour, I think that schemes for co-operative production, as well as co-operative distribution, might be put before the labouring classes of this country as enterprises in which they might well engage. The hon. Member cites the cases of the big Cities of London and Liverpool, where there are very many unskilled labourers with casual employment: and he puts the condition of things there as if it were a fair example of the condition of things affecting the working classes in the country generally. It is nothing of the kind. The hon. Member reproached the Government and the Liberal Members, and the Irish Nationalist Members, because he says they have not done anything to prevent the starvation of the men whose cause he is supposed to espouse. What has the hon. Member done? Made men 1161 strike in industries by which they formerly lived.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH
Made strikes amongst men who live by casual employment—a shocking kind of employment at the best—because the certainty of wage-coming, if the wage be low, is better than an uncertain wage. Men who, not belonging to the particular industry, go amongst it fomenting strikes are the men who are responsible for the condition of starvation that ensues upon the strikes, and they have no right to reproach us in this House, who disagree with their action. As far as I understand Trades Unions, they have never in any case pretended to teach that strikes are what they desire. Strikes in trade are as war between nations. I am one of those who hope for peace by-and-bye—it is a long way off—and peace amongst peoples will never come when men without acquaintance with the working classes strive in moments of some political agitation—with good motives I hope, with honest hearts I believe, but with wild heads—to scatter flame instead of comfort. Strikes are bad. Why are they bad? Because the labour which is lost through them can never be recovered. If there is some gain in point of wage, the gainers by the strike, like the surviving soldiers after a battle, are called upon to "witness the maimed and wounded, the empty cupboards, the great misery, and the famished homes" as part of the consequences. I am not speaking against strikes as far as the right of the men to cancel his labour contract is concerned, but a better way for men to secure their ends, whenever it is possible, would be to apply in industry 1162 their capital which exists in savings banks, and other forms, which is thus likely to increase year by year. At present they cannot do this, because it is seldom they have one man they can trust to go in and conduct the enterprise for them more than for himself. I have great confidence, looking to the short time Trades Unions have been legal in this country, as to what they can do. I do not believe that Trades Unions are any more perfect than this House; but they are about as perfect in relation to the class they have to represent. This House is not as bad as the hon. Member calls it when he is away from it. It is not as good as it should be, but it may be made better if hon. Gentlemen will help to prevent the irritation of the sore. Now, I am not against this Committee. The more men inquire the better; but if the Committee is not to report in favour of something, there is not much use in its sitting. The machinery is already in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade. If the right hon. Gentleman is given a little more money he can make better and more exhaustive inquiries than a Committee can. It is extremely difficult to inquire into working men's organisations, before such a Committee as is proposed by the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley), but it may be well done by Mr. Burnett, who represents the majority of the organised artisans of this country. All his Reports are Reports which employers, as well as employed, may look at with gratification. The only fault I have to find with them is that they are not full enough, or sufficiently frequent. But there are other gentlemen in the Department at the disposal of the President of the Board of Trade, and from all the sources at his command the right hon. Gentleman could get all the information that is wanted. You cannot get it by means of a Select Committee alone. A considerable amount of money might be well spent in putting that information before the public. But I fear that when the hon. Member talked of "establishing" these things he meant more than mere reporting.
§ *MR. BARTLEY
I do not think I used the word "established." If I did so it was through inadvertence.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH
I quite accept it as a slip, though it certainly occurred in the hon. Member's speech three times. I think the President of the Board of Trade has in his hands the machinery for making' such an inquiry, and a Select Committee cannot make a Continental inquiry, as the Department can, through Consular agents. I am glad that labour questions are raised for discussion in this House; but it would be a bad thing if the impression were to go forth to the country, as it has gone forth in some parts of the world, that it is possible for any rapid change in the relations between capital and labour to take place—for any improvement which could be measured by days, weeks, or months to be effected in the condition of any one class. The improvement in this country has been marvellous. The dwellings of the great mass of workers, the education and the general tone of the people, are, as compared with the time when I was a lad, something of which every inhabitant of this Kingdom may be proud. Except in regard to the agricultural population, "we are in advance of every country in Europe in respect of the standard of comfort for the workmen and the conditions of work. Trade Unions have done much; but it has only been within the last 15 or 20 years that they have had the opportunity of acting with legal means. I was astounded—or I should have been but for the speaker—to hear the doctrine enunciated that machinery has injured the workmen of this country. It has done nothing of the sort.
§ *MR. C. GRAHAM
I said that machinery, through the action of the capitalist class, had been made rather a wage-saving appliance than a labour-saving appliance.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH
That is precisely what is not true. It is incapable of proof. The hon. Member should read a Report emanating from the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade in relation to the textile industries, and see the hours worked and the wages earned now as compared with the statistics of 1164 50 years ago. The hon. Member will see that in the industries where machinery has multiplied more than in any others the number of workers has increased, the standard of comfort has increased, and the condition of misery and squalor in which the workers lived 50 years ago has quite changed. The hon. Member does not know of yesterday; but he bus no right to speak as if to-day is worse without that knowledge. Without machinery the bulk of the savings to which the hon. Member for North Islington has referred would not have existed for the working classes.
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH
I am opposed to constant interruptions. I regret that it is not possible to discuss a question of this kind with each speaker relying merely on the solidity of his argument. If it is only possible to meet here what I hope has some claim to argument by constant interruption, what is to be said of the gatherings outside Parliament for dealing with questions between employer and employed? It is the duty of those who obtain influence with the people to err, if they err at all, on the side of keeping the people peaceful instead of making them mischievous. The people hold the vote to elect Representatives, and there are men near me who represent labour, and who, against the most powerful capitalists in the world, have won what they think labour is entitled to. I agree that labour wins too little and bears too much, and the House might do much in redressing the incidence of taxation pressing now upon labour. But that is not the subject before the House; and I would submit that while there is no reason against the appointment of a Committee, there is a better and more impartial means of getting the same information now at the disposition of the Government if the House would only vote a few hundred pounds—a sum probably less than the cost of witnesses before a Committee.
§ *MR. C. GRAHAM
I ask leave to make a personal explanation; it is the first time I have done so. I will not follow the hon. Member for Northampton in his personal remarks. I was discussing principles, but the hon. 1165 Member has turned aside to discuss persons. It is, however, rather a serious allegation against a Member of the House of Commons to accuse him of having incited to violence. I have spoken at many meetings where considerable excitement has been exhibited; but I have never incited to violence, because I knew that violence would recoil on the heads of the working classes, against whom all society, as I conceive it, is a vast organised conspiracy. I have never incited to violence.
§ *MR. C. GRAHAM
I have never incited to violence, because I believe that it would do the working classes no good. But the very moment that the power was in their hands and can be effectively used without injury to themselves, I should then incite to violence.
§ *(11.10.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
I do not think the hon. Member has improved his position by his explanation. I am not going into the general question—I rise only with a view to respond to the appeal which has been addressed to me as President of the Board of Trade by the hon. Member for Northampton. I confess I am not as sanguine with regard to the advantages to be derived from profit-sharing as my hon. Friend. I think the system is open to a great many objections. Profit sharing is all very well from a philanthropic point of view; but I fail to see why, if it be attempted to be practised from a business point of view, the employed should not share the losses as well as the profits; and I do not believe that workmen generally either could or would share the loss of a bad year. If an average, including profits and losses, is to be taken over a number of years, I fear the profits to be divided would be very much less than my hon. Friend supposes. I quite admit, however, that anyone who places before us an idea from 1166 which he may hope to bring about confidence rather than distrust among employers and employed must command our sympathies. The profit-sharing of this country is not at all confined to the profit-sharing borrowed from France. There is another kind, namely, that due to co-operative production; and when the hon. Member for Northampton says that the Board of Trade might have done more in this matter, I would venture to refer him to two excellent Reports by Mr. Burnett of the proceedings of the Co-operative Congress of 1888 and 1889, where hon. Members will find a Resolution, passed after considerable debate by that Congress, affirming their great desire for the extension of the system of profit-sharing on the basis of co-operative production. What I would suggest with reference to the actual Motion before us is this—I will endeavour, with the machinery at my disposal at the Board of Trade, to collect all the information that can be collected with regard to this system of profit-sharing by co-operative production or otherwise in France and England, and to have that information embodied in a readable Report to be then laid before Parliament. I submit that that would be the first and most necessary step in the direction which my hon. Friend contemplates, for I do not suppose that he looks to enforcing the profit-sharing system by means of legislation. What he wants is to have the facts laid before the country; and when the facts are before the country it would be open to him or any other Member to propose that they should be considered by a Committee of this House. I do not suggest that the Board of Trade should sift these facts and state opinions upon them. What I would do is, as I have said, to collect the information in a readable shape; and I hope with that understanding my hon. Friend will not press the Motion to a Division.
§ (11.15.) MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
If the hon. Member for Islington goes to a Division I shall certainly not vote against the Motion, but I do not know that it would be 1167 worth while to vote for it. There is no doubt that all the information the hon. Member asks for he might have had in the ordinary way, by moving for a Return; but then the House would have been under the great disadvantage that it would not have heard the hon. Member's speech. I am informed that there is in France a Department for collecting information of this kind from all parts of the world, so that a communication from the Foreign Office might at once place the Board of Trade in possession of an enormous amount of information on the subject of profit-sharing. If the system is to exist at all it must rest upon a basis of sound business principles, not on principles of philanthropy. I regret that up to the present we have not heard on this question the voice of any of my Colleagues in the House who are supposed specially to re-present the great industries of the country. I could not gather from the speech of the hon. Member for North Islington whether he has any definite plan in his mind with regard to profit-sharing. The most definite part of the hon. Member's speech was his severe condemnation of trade unions. As to some of the other speeches, I might say, with my hon. Friend near me, "Thank God the average British working man is wiser than some of the would-be friends who advocate his cause." The hon. Member for North Islington gave us some extraordinary figures, supplied by Mr. Bevan, as to the cost of strikes, and the impossibility of the game adequately repaying the outlay consequent upon strikes.
§ *MR. BARTLEY
I merely stated what that Authority had laid down as the cost to the labourer—the amount of loss in wages—and I then went on to say that that loss was absolutely gone.
§ MR. BROADHURST
The hon. Gentleman should not descend to any particulars as to the basis on which Mr. Bevan framed his calculation. I have seen many calculations going to prove that strikes were altogether a mistake—a costly, a useless, and a profitless proceeding on the part of the labourer, but most of the calculations 1168 have been based upon false foundations, and, so far as we are in possession of information to the contrary, the calculations of Mr. Bevan's are of that nature. The Trades Unions have conducted great strikes, and in the past they found enemies and opponents in every class of society. The Press and the Pulpit denounced them, Parliament opposed and denounced them, and Trades Unions had no means of enforcing attention to their claims except by the extreme process of striking, or by conduct which led to lock out. I contend that the progress of peoples from the condition of slavery to that of freedom cannot be counted by pounds, shillings, and pence. What we have to bear in mind is that 50 years ago labour was comparatively degraded in character and powerless as regards its action. What is it that has secured for labour its present position? It has been the action of the Trades Unions and the exercise of the right to strike for better wages and for shorter hours. The exercise of that right has resulted in one great and everlasting gain, and in a great moral and educational and physical gain to the nation at large. Through the means of Trades Unions £8,250,000 has been spent in benevolent purposes. What does that mean? It means that by the aid of Trades Unions the working classes of the country have created an institution of self reliance unexampled in their time in any other nation in Europe. The hon. Member for North Islington said that Trades Unions opposed the introduction of machinery. Yes; the working classes who belonged to Trades Unions 70 years ago were more ignorant than the Trades Unionists of to-day are, but who were responsible for that ignorance? Was it not Parliament and the Cabinet, that were supposed to watch over the spiritual and intellectual welfare of the people? If the hon. Member will only continue his studies on the labour question, he will grow much wiser than he is tonight. He has made a great attack upon Trades Unions, about which he knows little or nothing. It is not true to say that Trades Unions opposed machinery. Here and there, in different centres and 1169 branches of industry, they may have done so. But, Sir, the House of Lords opposed machinery. The labourers of the country, therefore, were not more ignorant than the House of Lords, and there were men in the House of Commons, at that time, who did not look with favour on the great development of steam power and steam means of locomotion. It is altogether uncalled for, and unworthy, to go back 70 years ago for an illustration of this kind. We have progressed as rapidly in intelligence, I hope, as any other institution—as Parliament, the Church, the Law, or any other great collection of intellectual people in this country. The hon. Member did not give us a single instance of opposition on the part of Trades Unions to machinery, or of opposition on their part to profit-sharing.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I submit that the gas strikes had nothing at all to do with this matter; and it is not fair thus to cite the case of the gas stokers as against the general opinion of the Trades Unions of this country. The hon. Gentleman referred to the scheme put forward by Messrs. Peto; and commented on the wickedness of the Trades Unions in opposing it, but my recollection of that scheme was that it 'was ill-considered and almost unworkable, and one that no experienced Trade Unionist could, without many reservations and amendments, recommend his fellows to adopt. It is altogether unfair, then, for the hon. Member to attack Trades Unions on the ground of opposition to these schemes without giving the grounds of opposition. I think the debate can not do much harm, but neither will it do much good. The offer made by the President of the Board of Trade embodies a far more practicable scheme for obtaining sound information than could be obtained by the institution of a Select Committee, such as is proposed by the hon. Member for North Islington.
§ (11.35.) MR. BURT (Morpeth)
I do not rise with the intention of prolonging the Debate, because I believe that a great many Members are anxious to proceed with the discussion of another 1170 subject. I think, however, that this has been a valuable discussion. I, for one, have felt for long that there will be no solution to the labour problem except through some system of profit-sharing between capital and labour. I make no complaint of the references of the hon. Member to Trade Unions, except that his remarks are themselves open to some criticism; but with regard to Trade Unions generally, they have never been hostile to profit-sharing. Throughout the country they are entirely in sympathy with the principle of co-operation, and I believe that Trade Unions will heartily welcome any practical scheme of co-partnership or division of profits. I think, however, the object the hon. Member has in view would be gained by the generous manner in which the President of the Board of Trade has met the proposal, and I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not put the House to the trouble of a Division.
§ *(11.38.) MR. BARTLEY
I most candidly accept the offer made by the President of the Board of Trade. All I wish to have is information; and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that when we get that information we shall be in a much better position than we are at present. Under the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.