§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
, in asking leave to introduce a Bill to make better provision for the settlement of trade disputes, said, it was not necessary to say much, as the House was familiar with the reasons why a Bill of that kind was necessary. Many efforts had been made to deal with the question, and this fact of itself was sufficient to show its great urgency and the great need for endeavouring to provide some means by which arbitration could be extended. Every one knew the amount of injury done to trade, and the suffering caused to the labouring classes by these disputes. There were those who thought that a Government department should in many cases take the initiative in bringing about conciliation; others had thought that voluntary effort should be attempted; and others, again, thought that much might be done by giving power to Local Authorities. This Bill went somewhat further than the Bill introduced last year. He should state what the purport and nature of the Bill was. The first clause would provide that where any difference arose between an employer and workmen the Board of Trade might, if it thought fit, inquire into the circumstances and invite the parties to meet under some person recommended by the Board of Trade, and accepted as an impartial person. Although the Board of Trade might exercise that power now, additional 366 strength would be given by such a provision. Further, the Bill proposed to provide that a Board of Conciliation ought to exist, which did not now exist, or, if it did exist, was not adequately constituted. The Board of Trade might appoint a person to inquire into and endeavour to facilitate the work of the Board of Arbitrators. Then the Bill proceeded to give power to county or borough councils to create boards of conciliation either for the whole district or a particular trade, the boards to be constituted in such a way as the local authority should see fit. Then the Board of Trade was to be empowered to commit to any duly constituted board of conciliation—whether constituted at its own, instance or by a local authority—certain powers which it would otherwise not enjoy, including power to require the attendance of witnesses and the production of certain documents. These powers were carefully guarded. They were only to be intrusted to the particular board, and where, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, a clear case had been made out. It had been thought that these powers should be given to boards of all kinds, but this would be going a little too far. The Bill empowered the Board of Trade to keep a register of boards of conciliation and arbitration, and to record in it the constitution and proceedings of the boards; and it also directed that a report should annually be presented to Parliament of proceedings under the measure. The Government desired to draw a distinction between conciliation and arbitration. They proposed to give the utmost encouragement to the formation of boards of conciliation, and to give the parties to a dispute power to make the conciliator or conciliators the arbitrator or arbitrators if they thought fit. He hoped the House would allow the Bill to be read a first time, discussion being reserved for the Second Reading. The Bill would then be sent to a Grand Committee, where its provisions might be thoroughly examined. It was not only a non-partisan Bill, but one of those Bills in which it must be their 367 object to ascertain the wishes of employers and employed, and see that, whatever measure was passed by the House, it was received with cordiality by them, and was one which they would give effect to and which would tend to put an end to the evils which were so much deplored.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN
complained that the right hon. Gentleman had failed to deal with the crux of the question, and to give the House any idea whether these boards of conciliation would have power to make their decision final. If not the Bill would be absolutely useless. If people were inclined to arbitrate and come to an agreement, then they would agree, but unless they were willing to agree such Bills as this were worthless.
The noble Lord was speaking at Twelve o'clock, when, by the Rules of the House, the Debate stood adjourned.