HC Deb 20 February 1896 vol 37 cc791-5

, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to make better provision for the settlement of Trade Disputes, said that, having regard to the fact that the Bill which was read a second time yesterday embodied many of the provisions of this Bill, and that there was a long discussion yesterday, all he need do was to explain briefly the differences between the proposals of the Government, and those of the hon. Member from Islington. He was much urged yesterday to take an early opportunity of putting before the House the proposals of the Government, so that the House might have an opportunity of seeing them, of appreciating the differences between the two Bills, and that they might be able to refer both to the Grand Committee on Trade. The main variation was that the Government Bill proposed a mode of procedure in conciliation different from that adopted in arbitration. In conciliation they did not adopt the procedure of the hon. Member's Bill by having examinations on oath with penalties for perjury. They considered that, when a matter in dispute was referred to a tribunal of conciliation, that tribunal should act, not by way of coercion, but by way of real conciliation; it should endeavour to get the parties together with the view of bringing the dispute to an end by friendly negotiation. They considered that to import into that branch or subject the pains and penalties that were in the hon. Member's Bill would not help towards conciliation, but would be a bar to it. With regard to arbitration the procedure proposed in this Bill was substantially that adopted in the Bill of the hon. Member. The Government considered that those who were placed in the position of arbitrators should have the power to call witnesses and to examine them on oath. It was not proposed in this Bill to stereotype the Constitution of Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration, as was done in the Bill of the hon. Member; it was considered that the parties to a dispute should be free to form their Boards in a manner acceptable to the two parties concerned. The hon. Member proposed that Boards should be composed of equal numbers of both parties to a dispute; but the Government considered that in many cases Boards of Conciliation might, with the consent of both parties, be formed in a somewhat different way. They thought it would be a blot upon their proposal if a Board formed in a different way from that proposed in the Bill of the hon. Member came before the Board of Trade for registration and had to be refused simply because it was not in accordance with stereotyped conditions such as those laid down in the hon. Member's Bill. It was proposed in the Government Bill that the Board of Trade, if it was appealed to by the parties, might endeavour by negotiations to put them in a position to bring the dispute to an end, having regard to the fact that it possessed information with regard to wages and labour which might influence one or the other. He knew it would be said that the Board of Trade could do that without legislation. That was undoubtedly true. But the House would see that the Board of Trade would be in a much stronger position to deal with such matters if they were empowered to do so by legislation. It could not, for instance, be charged against them—as it might under existing conditions—that they were interfering with matters in regard to which they had no power. After the Bill was read a second time it would be referred, with the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, to the Grand Committee on Trade, and he had no doubt that between the two Bills a scheme would be formed by the Committee which would be acceptable to the House.


said, that to those of them who had sat in the last Parliament it was pleasant to see that some of the vessels which had been scattered by the storm in July had reached port, equipped themselves afresh, and were about to sail on another voyage. This Bill was one of them, and he hoped it would have a pleasanter and more prosperous voyage than the last. The right hon. Gentleman had indicated the salient points in which his Bill differed from the Bill of the hon. Member for Islington; and as between the two Bills, those who sat on the Opposition Benches were disposed to agree with the Bill of the Government. They hoped, however, that the Bill of the hon. Member for Islington would be fairly considered; and that any valuable elements it contained would be made use of by the Grand Committee in framing a perfect measure.

SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)

was glad that the Government had introduced their Bill at the earliest opportunity. That which had been drafted by the London Conciliation Board and the London Chamber of Commerce had been introduced for several Sessions, and he was glad to hear that, there was not much difference between their Bill and that of the Government. The London Conciliation Board attached considerable importance to the power of taking evidence on oath in cases of arbitration, but he agreed that as regards conciliation, it was not so important. Their experience in London led them to the conclusion that it was very desirable that there should be a permanent Board. The members got to know one another, and a spirit of confidence and respect gradually grew up. He hoped, and indeed had no doubt, that the Government would take the Second Reading on an early day so that both Bills might go into Committee as soon as possible.

MR. W. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

considered that it would be well if the question of arbitration were left out of the Bill altogether, as, in his opinion, ample provision was provided by the existing law for industrial arbitration. What was wanted was more machinery for bringing the parties to a dispute before a Board of Conciliation in a sort of friendly conference. Any Bill introducing new provisions for arbitration would increase the existing difficulties. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the conciliatory frame of mind in which many of his friends found themselves on this question. During the past two years attempts had been made to set up machinery of the kind proposed by the Bill, and they were repeatedly opposed by the friends of the right hon. Gentleman, though the hon. Member for South Islington must be mentioned as an honourable exception. The Government might count on the assistance of the Opposition in rapidly carrying through such a measure as that now introduced.


agreed with the hon. Member in the importance which he attached to the conciliatory part of the Bill. It was much the most important part, and the best results might be looked for from it. But the hon. Member would agree that where conciliation had failed, and both parties were desirous of arbitration, it would be a great pity if there were no machinery by which arbitration could be secured. The hon. Member for London University was mistaken in supposing that it was proposed to set up Boards of Arbitration ad hoc. The idea was to create Boards of Conciliation throughout the country for the purpose of dealing with disputes as they might arise.

MR. H. BROADHURST (Leicester)

suggested that the President of the Board of Trade might usefully make inquiries as to the procedure adopted by the Board of Trade under his predecessor in the case of the great boot and shoe trade dispute. That was one of the most remarkable examples of assistance rendered in settling a trade dispute by a Government Department.

SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

said, that he welcomed the Bill as being in many respects superior to his own, [Cries of "No, no!"] and any help which he could render to the passing of it would be readily given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Ritchie, Secretary Sir Matthew White Ridley, and Mr. Secretary Chamberlain; presented accordingly, and read 1a; to be read 2a upon Monday next.—[Bill 98.]