MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside) moved, that it be an Instruction to the Committee on the South Metropolitan Gas Bill that they have power, if they think fit, to insert the following clause:—
Subject to the regulations set forth in the first Schedule to this Act, the directors of the company may, at such times as they deem expedient, prepare a scheme for the purpose of enabling persons in the employ of the company and holding ordinary stock to elect a representative or representatives to take part with the directors in the management of the company, find may submit the scheme to a special general meeting of the company duly called with notice of the business to be considered thereat, and the meeting may adopt the scheme either without alteration or with such alterations (not being inconsistent with the said regulations) as the directors may assent to; and the scheme so adopted shall be submitted for the approval of the Board of Trade, and that Board may consider the same, and may either approve the same without alteration, or may suggest any alterations therein not being inconsistent with the said regulations; and if the directors assent to the alterations (if any) so suggested, the Board of Trade may approve the scheme as altered.
The scheme, when approved, shall he published in The London Gazette, and shall, from the date of such publication, have, during the period prescribed in the scheme, full force and effect.
He said that this proposal arose out of the Royal Commission on Labour, to the Report of which was attached an admirable Appendix by Mr. George Livesey, the chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, dealing with this subject. He (Mr. Mundella) would not move this Instruction if it imposed any obligation whatever on the gas company. It was not a new departure, because it had already been adopted with great advantage. The
Instruction was practically in Mr. Livesey's own words. On February 13, at the annual meeting of the company, Mr. Livesey explained to the shareholders that he was in favour of the clause, and that he should be glad to see it inserted in the Bill, but he was defeated by a majority of one on the board of directors. He knew it would be a satisfaction to Mr. Livesey and several of his co-directors if the clause was inserted in the Bill. If the system of profit-sharing which Mr. Livesey advocated were adopted he (Mr. Mundella) believed it would have the very best possible results when it came into operation.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. J. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
suggested that in order to make the instruction more elastic, "insert a clause" should be substituted for "insert the following clause."
§ On the amended Motion being put from the Chair,
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
said, he entirely agreed with the spirit which dictated this proposal. He thought they all felt that it might be very desirable to make some provision, even of a tentative character, for the representation of the workmen on the board of directors; and any company which took the initiative in carrying out such a scheme would deserve well of those who desired to promote good social relations between employers and employed. He was not sure whether the Instruction even now might not fetter the discretion of the Committee. He hoped care would be taken to leave the hands of the Committee free.
§ MR. BRYCE
thought the object aimed at would command approval in every part of the House. He thought there was nothing more desirable than that the principle of profit-sharing should have a fair chance. As to whether the amended Motion would give sufficient scope to the Committee, perhaps Mr. Speaker would favour them with his opinion.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said, he was not in a better position to express an opinion on the matter than any other Member of the House. He understood the object to 267 be aimed at was to give the Committee latitude, and, therefore, perhaps, the case would be met by inserting "a clause or clauses."
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
suggested that they should leave out of the Instruction all the words after "the management of the company." Then the Instruction would simply be an expression of opinion on the part of the House that the Committee might usefully adopt the principle of the proposal, leaving it to the Committee to carry out the details in whatever way it might be thought desirable. He moved an Amendment to this effect.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
agreed that the alteration would afford still greater elasticity to the consideration of the scheme, but the clause had received the assent of a number of the directors and shareholders. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment withdrawn, and Instruction agreed to.