HC Deb 07 July 1897 vol 50 cc1318-30

A council, which shall be styled the "General Council of Plumbers' Education and Registration," hereinafter referred to as "the General Council," shall be established, as hereinafter provided.

The General Council shall consist of the following members (that is to say):

(1.) Representing England and Wales, exclusive of the administrative county of London— Eight master plumbers, builders, ironmongers, sanitary engineers, or other persons carrying on any trade or business employing plumbers, eight operative plumbers, and eight persons being members of the council of a borough or other urban or rural council within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1894, or medical officers of health, or inspectors of nuisances.

(2.) Representing Scotland— Two master plumbers, two operative plumbers, and two persons being members of a local authority within the meaning of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1867, or any Acts amending the same, or medical officers or sanitary inspectors of such local authority.

(3.) Representing Ireland— Two master plumbers, two operative plumbers, and two persons being members of a local authority within the meaning of the Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878, or medical officers of health or sanitary inspectors; elected by the vote of the majority of such persons as may be entitled to be present and voting at meetings to be held in the cities and towns enumerated in Schedule A of this Act, such meetings to be held before the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, and subsequently every five years, and to be convened by the Company by a notice in the form set out in the schedule to be published in newspapers circulating in the respective cities, towns, and districts which are to be represented: Provided always, that not more than two persons resident in the same district shall be eligible for election under this sub-section.

(4.) Representing the Administrative County of London— Two master plumbers elected by the London Branch of the National Association of Master Plumbers of Great Britain and Ireland, two operative plumbers elected by the United Operative Plumbers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, two persons elected by the Company, and two persons elected by the London County Council to represent the "Technical Education Board," and the "Public Health Committee" thereof respectively.

(5.) The president or other elected member of the National Association of Master Plumbers of Great Britain and Ireland.

(6.) The president or other elected member of the United Operative Plumbers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland.

(7.) The president or other elected member of the Operative Plumbers' Association of Scotland.

(8.) And such number of persons not exceeding twenty as may be elected by the above enumerated members of the General Council from the nominees of the bodies named in Schedule B. of this Act, or other bodies having kindred objects.

MR. J. BRIGG (York, W.R., Keighley) moved in the first paragraph after the word "established," to insert the words "in each county and borough council area in England, Wales, and Scotland." His object was to give to the local authorities, who knew the needs and wants of the localities, the power to carry out the Act. He believed this Amendment would simplify very largely the whole scope and object of the Bill. That object was to secure good work, and that it should be done by plumbers who had a certain qualification. He did not wish to elaborate. His object was to have a general council in each county and borough area.

MR. T. P. WHITTAKER (York, W.R., Spen Valley)

said that the Minister who had charge of the Bill ought to be obliged to Members on that side of the House who were trying to put this imperfect Bill into shape. With the Amendments the Bill would be quite another scheme. He thought the hon. Member in charge of the Bill ought to be obliged to any one who took the trouble to attempt to draft a scheme to get out of the difficulty in which he was placed. As to this particular Amendment he was free to confess that he did not think it was much of an improvement. He was not in favour of electing a general council for each county, for he thought it would produce a good deal of variety in practice. If there was to be registration and examination there ought to be uniformity.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted." The House divided:— Ayes, 70; Noes, 166.—(Division List, No. 278.)

MR. COURTENAY WARNER moved to leave out all after the word "establishment" to the end of the clause, in order to insert the words "under rules to be made by the Local Government Board."


submitted, as a point of order, that this Amendment was divided on last Wednesday.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said that as a matter of fact that was not so. The Amendment he moved was as to the date, though he mentioned his intention of moving an Amendment of this sort. ["Hear, hear!"]


, continuing, said that, this matter was only mentioned incidentally in Debate. There was no division upon it. His object was to render it possible to pass the Bill in the time at the disposal of its supporters. The clause before the House and the schedules were far too complicated to admit of their being discussed with any adequacy in what remained of that sitting. A whole page of the Bill was devoted to the subject of the constitution of the Council, and there was in addition a long schedule setting out the various bodies which were to be entitled to nominate candidates for election as members of the general council. Some of these bodies had no claim in his opinion to nominate representatives. He observed that in the schedule there was no mention of the county of Oxford, which would therefore be unrepresented on the Council. Another curious arrangement was that the representatives of Wiltshire would have to go to Bristol, whose connection with Wiltshire was neither close nor obvious. Details of this kind must be thoroughly discussed if the clause was not withdrawn. The only practical course open to the supporters of the Bill was to agree to delegate some of the authority of that House to the Local Government Board, and to empower that Department to frame rules for the constitution of the Plumbers' Council. The Board's experience in connection with Parish Council and District Council elections qualified it to deal with this matter.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

wished to hear the views of the secretary to the Local Government Board on this suggestion. Under the complicated scheme provided in the Bill, simplicity and uniformity of registration could not be hoped for. The Local Government Board was well qualified by its past experience to frame rules for the formation of the proposed general council, and the sanitary education of our plumbers was surely a matter in which the Board ought to take a special interest. The schedule connected with this clause was contradictory, and in some points ridiculous, and it was patent that no scheme of registration attempted to be carried out under the conditions laid down in the schedule, would be practicable. The officials of the Board had damned this Bill with faint praise, and the Secretary to the Board apparently did not know what attitude to take up. But in matters concerning the public health, the Local Government Board was the paramount authority under Parliament, and, therefore, he appealed to the hon. Member for South Tyrone either to accept on behalf of the Board the responsibility of drawing up the regulations contemplated by the mover of the Amendment, or to explain to the House why such responsibility could not be assumed. If the heads of the Local Government Board objected to incur the expense that would be entailed by the appointment of the additional officials who would be required in order that this Bill might be worked efficiently, he would ask them what right they had to expect voluntary associations to incur that expense. In his opinion they had no right to relegate to voluntary associations, composed possibly of interested persons, duties which ought to be performed by the State through its paid and disinterested officials.


said that he was at a disadvantage in discussing this Amendment, because he had not seen its precise terms. The hon. Member who had moved it said that the same question was raised last Wednesday.


explained that he handed in the Amendment last Wednesday, but that by some accident it had not been printed. The subject was referred to in the discussion.


repeated that he was at some disadvantage in consequence of the non-appearance of the Amendment on the Paper. As a matter of fact, however, the same proposal that was now made was made in the Standing Committee, and was so unpopular that a Division was not even taken, the hon. Member who was responsible for the Amendment withdrawing it. The hon. Members who had spoken to-day proposed to lay a very serious duty upon the Local Government Board, a Department which was overburdened with work already. The provision in the Bill in regard to the appointment of the general council had been carefully considered by the Local Government Board, and they were of opinion that the schedule was adequate for the purpose. Considering the work the Local Government Board had to do, he must decline on behalf of the Board to undertake the proposed responsibility.


said he was glad the Government had adopted the position announced by his hon. Friend. He had been greatly surprised when he heard the Amendment proposed, as it was a proposal to give the Local Government Board power to constitute the authority, a proposal which he believed would be entirely without precedent.


said the power was not to constitute the authority but to make the rules for the constitution of the authority.


said that was exactly the point, the authority was constituted by the rules. Parliament had never given such powers hitherto to any Department of the State, and he believed such a proposition was most dangerous in itself, and was really fatal to the scheme.


said he would, with the permission of the House, read Section 14 of Schedule C, which was:— The Local Government Board may make any additional rules which may appear to them to be necessary for the purpose of giving effect to the objects of this Schedule, and such rules shall have the same force as if they were included in this schedule.

MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)

said as he was the author of an Amendment which had been referred to, he would say that he had proposed, not that the Local Government Board should establish machinery for the election of a body, but should in the first instance nominate the body, and should put its elaborate machinery into place. It had appeared to him that it should have its beginning in some recognised authority. But the difficulty had been to a great extent met by the substitution of the new Schedule.

SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)

said he could not understand a Government complaining that too much work was put upon one of its Departments; if a Measure like this was necessary for the well-being of the community he thought the Government ought to take it in hand. But he considered that plumbers had no more right to be examined than bricklayers or any other class. [" Hear, hear! "] It ought to be the duty of the Local Government Board to see that architects, surveyors, engineers, and foremen of building works were properly qualified as well as plumbers. The plumber, after all, carried out his work under the instructions of the architect and of the foreman of the works. How were the men to suffer who did not carry out the work properly? The right body to form the regulations, if such a Bill was necessary, was the Local Government Board, and, therefore, he should support the Amendment.

*SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)

said the question was whether they were to drop the latter part of the Bill and place the matter entirely with the Local Government Board. He understood that the main ground why the Local Government Board refused this duty was in consequence of the character of the duty. Surely it was for the House to say what should be done, and then doubtless it would be carried out adequately by the officials of the Local Government Board. No doubt there were cases in which they must leave matters of rule to different Departments of the Government, but he thought these ought to be confined as far as possible to matters of detail and not of principle. He thought his hon. Friend was perfectly right in declining to undertake these duties. It was the business of the Local Government Board to adminster the law; but legislation was the duty of this House. They would be abdicating their function if they accepted this Amendment.

MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)

thought it was of the greatest importance that the examinations should be of a uniform character. If the work were handed over to the Local Government Board the public would be certain that the examination were real and thorough in every respect.

MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)

did not think the Local Government Board had the practical and theoretic knowledge of plumbing necessary to conduct the examinations.


said that in the schedule of the Bill there was a provision that the Local Government Board might make any additional rules or regulations they thought necessary; and the system by which the elected body was to carry out the Bill was so defective that ultimately the Local Government Board would have to undertake the work proposed to be thrown on them by the Amendment, whether the Amendment were carried or not.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said his experience of the Local Government Board was that it was very much undermanned and very much overworked, and that the administration of matters ten times more important than anything concerned with this Bill was being delayed throughout the whole length and breadth of the land owing to the incapability of the Local Government Board to grapple with the various questions brought before it. On that ground, therefore, he could not vote for the Amendment. The House was anxious to throw everything on the Local Government Board, and then when the Board did their best they were attacked for what they were doing. When the Parish Councils Act was passing through the House he opposed the placing of the arrangement and control of the elections in the hands of the Local Government Board and urged that a scheme for the purpose should be settled by the House itself. But the House insisted on placing the work on the shoulders of the Local Government Board, with the result that ever since 1894 the action of the Board in the matter has been subjected to criticism. He would therefore ask the House to pause before it placed any additional work on the Local Government Board.

*SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

said he had for many years the greatest sympathy for the Local Government Board, for it was a very much over-worked Department. When they remembered the amount of work that was thrown on the Local Government Board by the legislation of the last 12 years, and then reflected that during those 12 years not a single clerk had been added to the Department, it was impossible not to sympathise with the protest of the Secretary to the Board. The hon. Gentleman objected to the Amendment because it would add to the labours of the Local Government Board. But the hon. Gentleman pointed out in entire contradiction to himself, that the Local Government Board was to be endowed with those very powers to make rules and regulations by a paragraph in the schedule; and any one that had any experience in those matters must know that the preparation of those rules would entail as much labour on the Department as if they had accepted the Amendment that made a clean job of it at the beginning.

Question put, "That the words from the word 'established,' to the word 'say,' in line 15, inclusive, stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: —Ayes, 199; Noes, 99.—(Division List, No. 279.)

MR. WHITTAKER moved, to leave out from Sub-section (1) to the end of the clause, and to insert— (1) One representative nominated before the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, by each of the bodies enumerated in Schedule B. (2) Ten employers of plumbers, six of whom shall be carrying on business in England, two in Scotland, and two in Ireland, and ten operative plumbers, six of whom shall be working in England, two in Scotland, and two in Ireland. Provided that—

  1. (a) Schedule B may, by the General Council and with the consent of the Local Government Board, be revised in the year one thousand nine hundred and three, and subsequently every five years, by leaving out the names of bodies and adding others, as may seem to the General Council and 1327 the Local Government Board to be expedient;
  2. (b) The first representatives of employers of plumbers and of operative plumbers shall be selected at a meeting to be convened by the Company before the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, and consisting of those master plumbers and operative plumbers who have previously been registered by the Company, and at subsequent quinquennial elections the said representatives shall be selected by and from such employers of plumbers and operative plumbers respectively as have been, at the time of the selection, duly registered under the provisions of this Act."

He said that the general arrangements in the Bill for the election of a general council were clumsy and unsatisfactory; and as the council was to discharge the most important and responsible duties, it was highly necessary that it should be a competent and impartial body. That was not secured by the scheme of the Bill. His Amendment would obviate the necessity for huge meetings all over the country to elect representatives on the council. It seemed to him, indeed, that the scheme as set forth in the Bill would break down. There was no arrangement for paying the expenses of members of the council, and the result would be that only those persons who were directly interested, only those who had axes to grind, would attend the meetings and elect persons likeminded with themselves. Thus they would get a general council consisting almost entirely of plumbers and persons acceptable to plumbers, and they would set themselves to frame bye-laws, rules, and regulations in such a way as would create a monopoly in the trade. If they were to have a registration of plumbers let there be an efficient general council, let it represent the educational and sanitary bodies of the community as well as the working and master plumbers, and then they would have an efficient body to whom could be entrusted the registration of the trade, but the scheme of the Bill was cumbersome and unworkable.


opposed the Amendment on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. It offered no adequate machinery, whereas the constitution of the general council under the Bill was most carefully considered by the Grand Committee, who made the general council as representative as possible of plumbers, sanitary persons, and other individuals who would be effective members of it. He could not see how in any particular the proposed new general council was any improvement upon the One in the Bill.


preferred the constitution of the general council set out in the Amendment to that in the Bill. For instance, what did ironmongers know about the examination of plumbers? Besides, he did not see how those bodies were to be chosen. Who was to decide who were to be the "eight master plumbers and so on" The council was to exist for five years, and there appeared to be no provision for people dying and substituting others in their place. The Amendment itself was by no means perfect, but if he had to choose between two evils he preferred it to the plan of the Bill.


fould fault with the Bill that it contained no provision for the representation of educational experts. They wanted theory as well as practice. This was provided by the Amendment, and, therefore, he thought it offered a decided advantage, though it was not everything he would like.


hesitated to support the Amendment, because it had many of the defects and objections of the Bill itself, but, if he had to choose, he should accept the Amendment on the ground that it simplified the machinery of the Bill. He could not understand why they should introduce the practical interests of the trade to such an extent. He believed that many Members in voting for this system of registration had been mistaken, and when they proposed to put it in the hands of plumbers, ironmongers, and sanitary engineers, and others pecuniarily interested in the trade they were adopting the worst means by which an efficient and impartial registration could be brought about. He believed that if they wanted to prevent that kind of thing and the lamentable results that sprung from it, they could not do worse than place the education and the registration of plumbers in the hands of a trade who might formulate a system of registration diametrically opposed to public health and the improvement of the plumbing profession, but which incidentally might be to the advantage of the employers and operative plumbers. Let the House take an instance. They were all interested in saving the lives of colliers in a mine, in seeing that the sanitary condition of our local drains were as good as they ought to be; but fancy the Home Office submitting to the colliery owners the management of our coal mines, and removing from the Home Office the impartial, and to a certain extent the arbitrary power it possessed of determining the purity of the atmosphere in mines, the safety of the chains and the winding gear. What would be the result? Many colliers would probably submit to the lax conditions of working, because it might lead to their temporarily earning more money; and many owners would probably submit on the ground that more coal would be brought to the surface. But the House of Commons had sensibly refused to allow anything of the kind. It had set up an educated, expert, technical authority, who had laid down conditions for the working of mines in the interest of saving life and property. If the House allowed the very basis of public health, which was good workmanship, to be regulated and dominated by the conditions imposed by interested men, then less would be thought of the interests of public health, and they would probably use their form of registration to give preference to unskilled men who could squeeze through the examination, and for the protection of master plumbers who might be members of a City Company, all excellent fellows in themselves, but scarcely honest masters in seeing the best work done for their customers. The House ought not to allow a self-elected, cumbrous, and interested body to do that which only one authority ought to have the power to do. If registration of plumbers was desirable—and he thought it was not—who was the authority who should draw up the conditions of registration? It was the Medical Officer of Health in the district, in conjunction with the Sanitary Inspector. The Bill, however, ruled out the sanitary authority, and excluded the Local Government Board; it did not give the educational institutions the representation and power they ought to possess; it set up a mutual admiration society with the City Plumbers' Company as the feasting centre, and around it the House would see men ostensibly working in the interests of public health, but really preventing plumbing from making that progress which it ought to make. He supported the Amendment on the broad ground above stated, and because he objected to setting up for the so-called improvement of the trade a body of men whose only object in promoting this Bill was to create a monopoly which he believed would permanently prove to be detrimental to public health. [" Hear, hear!"]

Question, "That the words from the word 'say,' to the word 'master,' in line 18, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

And, it being half-past Five of the clock, further proceeding on consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.