§ Order for consideration, as amended (by the Standing Committee), read,
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months." He took this somewhat unusual course because the Measure had obtained a Second Reading somewhat unexpectedly. That the Bill had not been carefully drafted was shown by the fact that the hon. Member in charge of it had himself put down 20 Amendments upon the Paper on the present stage. Objection to the Measure had been taken by the National Association for Promoting Technical Education, by the City and Guilds of London Institute, by the Association of Organizing Secretaries and Directors, by the Association of Technical Institutes, by the London Polytechnic Council, by the committees and principals of London Polytechnic Institutes, by 814 the County Councils Association, and by the technical education committees of 32 county councils and county boroughs. The objects of the Bill were, he thought, desirable to a large extent, but the Measure contained many objectionable features. In the first place it did not prohibit the practising of unqualified plumbers. It further proposed to take the control of the training and examining machinery out of the hands of the bodies that were now efficiently supervising it, and to place it exclusively, as regarded the whole of the United Kingdom, in the hands of the Master and Wardens of the Plumbers' Company. This was an extraordinary proposal in face of the fact that since 1881 the City and Guilds of London Institute had examined more than 10,000 candidates for registration, and that when the Government of the day placed a large sum of money in the hands of the county councils for the purpose of carrying into effect a system of technical education, the City and Guilds of London Institute were called in to aid the county councils in establishing the necessary machinery. Why should these bodies who had done such good work be superseded by the Plumbers' Company, who were a new body altogether in connection with this subject? The Plumbers' Company had already a right under their charter to supervise the training and examination of plumbers within three miles of the City, but that was no reason why that power should be extended over the whole of the United Kingdom, to the exclusion of those possessed by other bodies. The Bill proposed to create a National Council for the United Kingdom, of 24 members—12 for England, and six each for Scotland and Ireland—who were to be elected at 24 centres. Was it to be supposed that the constituents would be got together in sufficient numbers at the electoral meetings, and was it reasonable that the Returning Officer, who was to be the chairman of each meeting, and whose decision was to be final upon all questions relating to the elections, should he the Master of the Plumbers' Company. There was no provision in the Bill for obtaining the necessary funds for defraying the expenses of the machinery by means of fees, neither was provision made for a curriculum of education or training. or for the mode of 815 examination. In these circumstances he failed to see the utility of the Measure, and he therefore proposed that the consideration of the Bill should be deferred for three months in the hope that before it was reintroduced the different technical bodies would have an opportunity of meeting and consulting with the Plumbers' Company, and of agreeing on a really workable Measure. On these grounds he begged to move that the Bill be considered that day three months. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
thought that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had no right to complain that the Bill had passed a Second Beading, seeing that it had been approved by the House in 1892. The training and examination of plumbers was absolutely necessary for the security of public health. It was not desired by the Bill to prevent unqualified persons from carrying on the business of plumbing, but merely to let the public know who had passed through an adequate training and examination. With regard to the attack his hon. Friend had made on the Plumbers' Company, it was not the Plumbers' Company who had instituted this movement of their own accord. They were asked to do so by the great Congress of Hygiene which met in London in 1884, and he would refer his hon. Friend to a still more recent date, 1891, when there was a special meeting of the Seventh International Congress on Hygiene, held to consider the subject of the registration of plumbers in relation to the public health; and, on the motion of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, seconded by the Chairman of the Health Committee of Glasgow, and supported by the Mayor of Manchester and the medical officers of Dublin, a resolution was passed, requesting the Plumbers' Company to take action with a view to legislation of the kind now proposed. It would be seen that the Plumbers' Company was asked to deal with this subject. They were looked upon as the most competent body to deal with it. If his hon. Friend would look at the evidence given before the Select Committee, he would see that there was no monopoly at all contemplated by the Bill. He remembered the evidence given 816 to that effect. The question of monopoly was always cropping up, and it had to be met. His hon. Friend should look at the evidence. He remembered the answer to Question 56:—Q.—Do you consider that if registration were granted to the plumbers it would create a monopoly?A.—No, certainly not; because the public would not be under any greater compulsion to employ registered plumbers than they are at present. Virtually, the registered system only provides a means for enabling the public to employ plumbers who have given evidence of their qualification, and who are subject to the rules of the registering body.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
said he was coming to that. His hon. Friend was honourably connected, as he knew, with the City and Guilds of London Institute; and he inferred that his chief object was, if not to substitute the. City and Guilds of London Institute for the Plumbers' Company throughout the Bill, at all events to give it a prominent place. Now, he was credibly informed that the examinations of the City and Guilds Institute could not be accepted for registration purposes for the following, amongst other reasons. In the first place, the examinations had been proved to be worthless as tests of even moderate efficiency, as was shown by particulars of typical cases to which he should allude presently. The examinations were carried out by a person or persons appointed by the Institute, but in whose appointment the body of plumbers had no voice, and in whom, therefore, they had no confidence. In the second place, in the examinations by the Institute the test of workmanship was optional, with the result that of the number of persons examined at the last examination by the Institute—his hon. Friend had boasted of the number passed at those examinations—only 10 per cent. passed the practical test, as shown by the report of the Institute itself. The result was to cause the workmen themselves to discredit the examinations and to destroy their confidence in the effect and value of the instruction given by public bodies. Here were two or three cases in point, names being omitted for obvious reasons. An operative plumber, who had passed the Institute's examination, first class in the 817 honours grade, and had been awarded by the Institute their silver medal and the Company's prize of £3, failed to pass the Company's examination in practical work, and his work in the theoretical examination was very inferior. Three operative plumbers, who had passed the Institute's examination, first class in the honours grade, passed the Company's examination in practical work, but their work in the theoretical examination was very inferior. An operative plumber who had passed the Institute's examination first class in the honours grade, failed to pass the Company's examination in practical work, and his theoretical work was very inferior. He could give other illustrations.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
said it was a Report of the Plumbers' Company upon their examinations. The Plumbers' Company dealt practically as well as theoretically with plumbing. They had started systems of education and examination throughout the country; and if his hon. Friend wished to know what the opinion of the work of the Plumbers' Company was in Lancashire, he would refer him to a Report of Mr. J. A. Bennion, M.A., Director of Technical Instruction in the County Palatine of Lancaster; and what he said on page 11 was this alluding to the Plumbers' Company's work with which his hon. Friend seemed to find so much fault:—The Company's regulations have the merit of providing that no certificate is issued except to those passing the practical test of workmanship, as well as that of knowledge in theoretical subjects. The importance of this condition can hardly be exaggerated, for the certificates which are issued to the students in technical classes on the result of theoretical examinations conducted in other centres are discredited by the workmen, who have coined the expressive term for the holders of such certificates—"paper plumbers.So that the workmen themselves did not consider they were efficient plumbers unless they had passed the Plumbers' Company's examinations. His hon. Friend found fault with what he called the machinery of the Bill. The machinery of the Bill already existed; what they wanted to do was to legalise the existing machinery. He pointed to the schedule of examination centres in which the Bill 818 was to be worked. These centres already existed, and if there should be any omission, surely that omission could be supplied by an Amendment on the part of his hon. Friend, and personally, if the hon. Gentleman suggested any real Amendment of the Bill, he should be very happy to accept it. As to the question of expenses, if his hon. Friend thought no proper provision had been made for the expenses of working the Bill, he could move to amend the fees. He had said something about the cost of the Bill. He held in his hand a Resolution authorising the cost of this legislation to be defrayed by the Plumbers' Company. It seemed to him that the Company had acted in a most considerate way. They were asked by the Congresses of 1884 and 1891 to take tip and deal with this difficult subject. They had done so, and were paying for it out of their own funds; and it seemed to him very selfish that they should be attacked in this way by the representative of the City and Guilds of London. Institute. If any reasonable and proper attempts to amend the Bill were made, he for one should be only too willing to accepts them.
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said nobody would depreciate the long-continued labours of the hon. Member for Salford on behalf, nor the excellence of the ultimate object at which it aimed—namely, the promotion of the public health. But grave considerations, educational and otherwise, were raised by the form in which the Bill came before the House; and he doubted whether it was possible in the limited time available this Session to produce a Measure that would satisfactorily attain the object aimed at. He had been asked by the County Council Committee and by some of the great technical institutes which gave instruction in plumbing and the allied sciences, to enter the strongest possible protest against the Bill in its present form, and to ask the promoters of the Bill and the Government, who had taken it under their patronage, to consider carefully whether large concessions ought not to be made to those who for many years had shown a very practical and substantial interest in the improvement of the plumbing industry. The object of the Bill was two-fold—to improve plumbing, and to give the public 819 protection against incompetent plumbers. As to the second object, the second subsection of Clause 13 raised grave apprehensions that the Bill would do more harm than good. It was proposed to put on the register every employer of plumbers in connection with the businesses of builders, ironmongers, sanitary engineers, or other like occupations who were engaged in the business prior to the 1st of March, 1892. It was a pretty large order that all these gentlemen were to be put on the register without any test examination whatever. ["Hear, hear!"] He ventured to ask whether a register which began in that way was likely to be any protection whatever to the public? Was it not far more likely to mislead the public when every person who came into any one of these wide categories was to be entitled to advertise himself as a plumber registered under the Act? Surely, considering that no penalties were placed on the practice of plumbing by unregistered persons, it would be perfectly possible, and far more consistent with the objects the promoters of the Bill had at heart, to have left off ally of these persons who could not satisfy the Council by a proper examination that they were really efficient and proper plumbers. With regard to the second, and perhaps the more important object of the Bill, namely, the improvement of the plumbing industry, he desired to say that why he objected to the Bill in its present form was that it practically ignored those authorities—with the exception of the Plumbers' Company—who had spent money and trouble for years past in improving the plumbing business. He should have thought that if the Plumbers' Company were really desirous to pass a great Measure for improving the plumbing industry, the first step they would have taken would have been to have consulted with those authorities who were holding plumbing classes all over the country. He spoke in this matter for the county authorities, and he had a list in his hand which might, perhaps, give some new information to the House. He found that at the present moment there were in England alone 15 County Councils and 36 county boroughs who were holding plumbing classes in various parts of the country, and there were a considerable number of such classes in 820 Ireland and Scotland. The figures of the students educated every year by these local authorities had increased from 1,550 in 1892 to 3,488 in 1897. These authorities, almost without exception, utilised the examinations of the City of London Guilds. He was in no way connected with that institution, whose examinations were thorough and complete, although this was disputed by his hon. Friend.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
would read to the House a few words from a letter sent to him by the Hon. Secretary to the Technical Institute of England and Scotland, an association which included nearly all the very large institutions which had been set up for the furtherance of technical education. This gentleman said the reason the members of his body wished to have the words relating to the examinations struck out of the Bill, was because they did not wish to see the Plumbers' Company made the statutory examining body. Most of them thought the examination of the City of London Guilds Institute in plumbers' work was much better than would be examination by the Plumbers' Company, who had no uniform standard. The directors and organising secretaries of technical education bodies as a whole had agreed to certain resolutions, proposing large modifications in the examining provisions of the Bill. Therefore the House could not take the views of Mr. Bennion (which had been quoted by his hon. Friend) as at all representing the expert opinion on the subject of these examinations. He might mention that the County of Surrey had in the last few years spent nearly £1,100 on plumbers' classes. He should like to know what the figures were of the Plumbers' Company as to the amount of money they had spent during the last few years, and the work they had done in this direction.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
interposed the observation that all the information was before the Select Committee in 1892.
said the House wanted more recent information. The circumstances had greatly altered since 1892. In that year none of the county boroughs scarcely were at work, but now they had all been at work for years. It was, therefore, no good to tell the House 821 that this Measure was approved by a Select Committee in 1892, on the information then at their disposal, when all the circumstances had changed, and when local authorities had a far stronger claim to be consulted on this point and to be adequately represented on this Council than they had five years ago. He thought they should be able to show that if this Council was ever elected, it would be formed of a body which was not very fitted for educational purposes at all events, though it might possibly represent the views of the Plumbers' Company and a limited number of the trade. But this was really a broad question. This was the first proposal that had ever been seriously made to register the members of a trade as distinguished from the members of a profession, and that House ought to see that in establishing what might he a great guild, controlling a trade and in close connection with a City Company, such a Measure as this was based on sound and satisfactory lines which might be made applicable to other trades if need be. The House, in setting up a new authority to control the plumbing industry, and to say who were to be admitted as registered plumbers in the future, ought to see that the great educational institutions and authorities that had spent so much time and trouble on education were properly represented on that body, and unless wide concessions were promised on these points, on which some of them felt strongly, they would be under the necessity of voting for the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ *THE SECRETABY To THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BORD (Mr. T. W. RUSSELL,) Tyrone, S.
desired to state at once what the views of the Government were upon this question. The House would do well to remember that this was not a Government Bill, but that of a private Member, which received a Second Reading without any intervention on the part of the Government at all. ["Hear, hear!"] The Debate came on at half-past 11 o'clock at night, and the only way in which the Government interposed was that after the principle of the Bill had been affirmed by the Second Reading, they supported a Motion referring it to a Standing Committee. The Bill went to such Committee, of which it was quite true that he was a member, and he considered it his duty, as representing the 822 Local Government Board—the public health department of the country—to do what he could to make the Measure as workmanlike as possible. But in doing that he by no means took any responsibility for the Bill, which was one the House must deal with from its own standpoint and On its own responsibility. ["Hear, hear!"] The proposal made had been described by his hon. Friend as unusual. He himself thought it was not only unusual, but that it was, perhaps, a little unreasonable. ["Hear, hear!"] What was the brief history of this question? This Bill had been before the House for something like six or seven years. In 1892 it was read a Second time and sent to a Select Committee. That Select Committee took evidence and reported the Bill to the House. In 1893 the Bill was again introduced, read a Second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Trade, that Committee, he understood, refusing to proceed further with it because the Local Government Board was not represented upon it. Then the Bill was introduced this Session, Read a Second time, and sent to the Standing Committee on Trade, by whom it was largely amended, he admitted, at the instance of the Local Government Board. Neither in 1892, 1893, nor in 1897 had any local authority, guild, or institute demanded representation. The rejection of the Bill had beat moved because claims had not been fairly considered which had never been made. The Motion was not only unusual, but unreasonable. The Government approved of the principle of the Bill, thinking that in the interests of public health there should be registration of plumbers. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill practically placed the entire control of the, examinations, and everything connected with the Bill, in the hands not so much of the Plumbers' Company as of the General Council, which consisted of eight master plumbers eight operative plumbers, and eight representatives of urban or rural district councils. Urban and rural district councils and councils of boroughs had been mentioned in the Bill, and not the county councils, because to the former was intrusted the carrying out of the law relating to public health. The great distinction between 823 the examinations of the Plumbers' Company and those of the guilds and institutes was that the latter, as far as practical workmanship was concerned, were purely optional, but those of the Plumbers Company were absolutely compulsory. The Lancashire County Council were so much impressed by this fact that they conducted their examinations under the Plumbers' Company's rules, because the Company's examinations were not only theoretical but practical. He admitted that in the clauses of the Bill there was room for improvement as regarded the machinery of the Bill. The Government would keep an open mind with respect to the Amendments on the Paper, but he asked the House not to prevent their consideration by rejecting the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. T. P. WHITTAKER (York, W.R., Spen Valley)
objected to the Bill, owing to the source from which it sprang and the purposes at which it aimed. The object of the promoters of the Bill was not the improvement of public health, but to secure a monopoly for a trade and privileges and powers for a City Company. The latter were taking advantage of the feeling about plumbers to get traders and workpeople generally into their hands. The masters and workmen were willing to assent to an arrangement of the kind, because examinations and fees would tend to keep men out of the trade. The plumbing trade had suffered severely in recent years, because of the tendency of large firms to undertake the plumbing with the gas fitting, decorating, drains, and the electric light. Plumbers did not readily embrace other trades, and so other trades were embracing theirs, which was being gradually squeezed out as a separate trade. This was why the plumbers were supporting this Bill. Mr. Anderton, President of the United Operative Plumbers' Association of Great Britain, in his evidence before the Standing Committee, admitted his desire to have plumbers' work taken out of all general building contracts and made separate. He thought that a man who was a plumber pure and simple would give more time and attention to his business than a general builder or contractor could give to the plumbing. The general builder he added, should not capture profits that 824 would come to the plumber alone. Mr. Anderton's evidence showed that a monopoly for his trade was alone what they were aiming at, and not the improvement of the public health. In the Bills of 1892, 1894, and 1893, two-thirds of the men to be elected were plumbers, and they were to select a number of others who would always be in a minority. It was the little men who did the work badly, but plumbing work done by the large firms was well done. The little men, however, wanted to secure the trade for themselves. The result of registration, he ventured to say, would be that they wouldn't secure better work. The great difficulty in the trade was not a want of knowledge, but a want of conscience; it was not a want of skill, but a want of honesty. ["Hear, hear!"] No system of registration such as suggested in this Bill would provide for honesty or conscience. The Bill would do nothing in the direction of securing competent workmen. The employer of plumbers might be a competent man and get registered under the Bill, but there were no requirements that the men he employed should be competent men; there was no requirement that he should employ a registered plumber. There was no guarantee that they would get a competent workman. The whole thing was a delusion, and it would do great harm, for it would create a false security. There was no guarantee that a man would be tested in any way, or that he had passed the slightest examination. Large firms of decorators could not be registered, but some of these firms employed the most competent workmen, yet these men were to be working for masters who could not be registered as plumbers under this Bill. Then it was said that jerry builders take plumbing work and give it to some Jack-of-all-trades. That was true, but this. Bill did not stop it. They had no, more guarantee under the Bill than they had now that the work would be satisfactorily done. This Bill did not make registration compulsory. It was optional now. In the sanitary works were drains. Plumbers did not put in drains. There was no provision for the drains, which ought to be examined by sanitary inspectors, and that was done now. Then he objected to registration being placed in the hands of a City Company. As indicating the 825 modes of these City Companies in pro-looting their own interest he mentioned that this Plumbers Company invited Members of that House to dine with them last night. It was not creditable to that House that that should be done, but indicated the methods of these City Companies.
§ *MR. WHITTAKER
described the Bill as ludicrous, and as to the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. T. W. Russell) that a previous Bill was dropped because a representative of the Local Government Board was not in attendance, there was no indication of that in the Resolution passed. The Resolution was that the Bill was a bad one. The Bill this year was no better. It was still unworkable, and as to the general council, it would simply transfer the powers given to it to the Company. The method of election of this General Council had been the great problem to the promoters of the Bill. The first scheme was thrown overboard, and a new one was devised by the Select Committee, but it was so unsatisfactory that the Grand Committee knocked it on the head completely, and the Local Government Board prepared the present scheme which was extremely complicated and absolutely unworkable. One illustration would show the absurdity of the scheme. Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, and Westmoreland were to form one area, and the people of those four counties, who were to elect representatives on the General Council, were to meet for the purpose at Newcastle-on-Tyne. Every member of every borough, urban, and rural council, every sanitary inspector, and every medical officer, every working plumber, and every employer of plumbers in those four counties were to constitute the meeting. Did anyone believe that all those people would be got to meet at Newcastle-on-Tyne to elect representatives on the General Council which is to manage the negotiations of plumbers? Why this scheme was one of the most ludicrous things that had ever been laid before Parliament. There were 2,000 of those borough, urban, amid rural councils in the country in England 826 and Wales alone, and the members of those bodies were to be summoned to meet with the forty or fifty thousand plumbers of the country to elect a few individuals on the General Council. Then the process of election when those be dies were brought together was most absurd. The members selected in each area must be residents in that area. Twenty-four members were to be selected. Eight were to be employers of plumbers, not more than two were to come from one area, and the people of each area were only to vote for residents in that area. Therefore if the most competent plumber in the country resided in a small area, and he got the vote of every man in that area, it would be impossible for him to get on the General Council, because the people in other areas could not vote for him. The whole thing was an absurdity from first to last. If it were important for the health of the country that plumbers should be registered, let the Local Government Board take up the matter and bring in a Bill, and not leave it to a wretched City Company. No arrangement was made in the Bill, as it was originally presented to the House, for time re-election of the Council. It was left to the Council to make its own rules, bye-laws, regulations for reelection. That was a nice method of starting a scheme which was supposed to involve the principle of popular representation—to leave the thing entirely in the hands of a City Company. Then this City Company wanted to take charge of the course of education of the plumbers. There was nothing to prevent the Company from excluding teachers who were trained in any of the other technical schools of the country, such as the technical schools of the County Councils. Indeed, the Company had already acted in that way.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
pointed out that the Plumbers' Company had, at the suggestion of county councils, held their examinations in live centres.
§ *MR. WHITTAKER
contended that the registration of plumbers should not be in the hands of a City Company; and, even if it should, this was a clumsy and impossible Measure. It should be withdrawn and introduced next Session, with the City Company wiped out of it, 827 and a body thoroughly representative of technical education formed for the purposes of the Bill. This was the first occasion on which the House was asked to provide registration for an ordinary trade. It would be looked upon as a precedent in the future, and it was therefore worth while to see that the first Measure was a reasonable, sensible, and workable one.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said he had a better opinion of human nature than the hon. Member who had just sat down, and he was sorry the hon. Member had introduced a jarring personal note into the discussion of a question of reform. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew something of the Plumbers' Company, and he asserted that they were an honourable and high-minded body, who from the very beginning of their history had been spending their money generously on the sanitary education of plumbers, and whose work had received the highest approval of the sanitary authorities of the country. It had been said that there were no practical men amongst them. On the contrary, the Plumbers' Company was a hundred strong, and contained the very best representatives of practical plumbing throughout the country. Education and registration might not give a guarantee that work would be well done, but they gave a presumption. Education would increase the sense of responsibility, and registration would improve the status. He hoped that the House would be allowed to get to the discussion of the practical part of the Bill.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
said that the hon. Member for the Spen Valley was in error in supposing that the Plumbers' Company would benefit by the Bill. They would not benefit to the extent of one penny. There was an Amendment on the Paper to meet that point.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
said that the Grand Committee had evidently given but perfunctory attention to the Bill, which ought to be recommitted. For instance, it was provided that the meetings for electing members of the General Council were to be held every five years; but later on it was provided that the General Council was only to exist for three years.
§ MR. GEDGE
said that it showed how carelessly the Bill had been examined by the Grand Committee. In Clause 3 there were three sub-sections, referring respectively to England, Scotland, and Ireland. Then came some words which, by the way they were limited, must refer to the three sub-sections; and yet they concluded thus:—Provided always that not more than two persons resident in the same district shall be eligible for election under this sub-section.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
said that there was an Amendment on the Paper to meet that point also. [Laughter.]
§ MR. GEDGE
said that a large number of Amendments would have to be made. The machinery for electing the general council was very cumbrous. And then the 47 elected members were to have the power of electing 20 more from the nominees of 63 bodies, "and other bodies having kindred objects." Was it conceivable that these bodies would take the trouble to nominate persons who might or might not be chosen? The Bill was unworkable and badly drawn, and would benefit nobody but the lawyers. He must oppose it.
§ MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
said that one of the strong arguments in favour of the Bill was that it was supported by the practical plumbers of Great Britain and Ireland. On that ground no labour Member would be found to oppose it. Resolutions in favour of the Bill had been passed by the plumbers all over the United Kingdom. He knew nothing about the City Companies, but he knew that the Bill on its merits deserved the support of the House.
§ MR. EDWARD BOND (Nottingham, E.)
said that he, as a member of the London Polytechnic Council, had put down Amendments to the Bill. The body which he represented viewed with approbation the principle of registration; but they thought that the machinery of the Bill was cumbrous and almost incapable of Amendment, and that too much responsibility and power was thrown upon the Plumbers' Company. He did not wish, however, to say a word against that Company's work, which had been well and zealously done, in favour of registration. 829 He regretted that more attention had not been paid to the representations of different technical education bodies throughout the country which had done much to improve the technical education of plumbers among other workmen. Inasmuch as the Bill would be difficult satisfactorily to amend in the time at disposal, he should vote for the Amendment, in order that another Bill might be brought in, in which better means would be provided for the election and constitution of the general council.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
was going to oppose the Bill lock, stock, and barrel. He dissented entirely from the view that there was a need for the Bill to the extent represented. When the Bill was conceived 10 or 15 years ago local authorities neglected plumbing, and were somewhat indifferent to sanitation, and the plumbing trade was perhaps at its lowest ebb. But since that time there had been a revolution, he was glad to say, in domestic hygiene and sanitation, and local authorities had made considerable headway in undoing the mischievous neglect of the past. The Bill put a ring fence and a protectionist enclosure round the small master plumber, who was being knocked out by the more scientific large builder and the skilled master plumber who employed good workmen at excellent rates of wages. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not believe there was any public necessity for the Bill, or a particular demand for it, or that, given those conditions, this was the best way to bring the reform about. A man might pass the highest examination as a plumber and he might be smothered in certificates, but if economic pressure on the master and commercial incentive in the workman made both conspire to poison a customer with typhoid or sewer gas, no amount of certification or registration would prevent that undesirable end. What they had to do in the matter of plumbing was what public authorities had done in regard to everything. They had to test the work when performed, leaving complete freedom of action in carrying it out, just in the same way as the local authority did in the matter of house and other drains. There was just as strong an argument for the certification of all men who were engaged in the making of local and house drains as there was for plumbers. If they wanted to protect the 830 public against defective plumbing the certification of plumbers would not do it; what this House must do, and one day they would do, was to declare in relation to plumbing what the local authority had declared in relation to drains and sewers, and that all plumbing should be passed by the Sanitary Authority Inspector in the same way as he now passed house and other drains. That would be better than this pettifogging Bill, conceived at a feast, drafted by monopolists, and devised only in the interests of protecting the dying remnants of a trade that had too long been neglected. Eight master plumbers, or others connected with the trade, were to be associated with eight operative plumbers and eight other persons, members of borough or other local councils, officers of health or inspectors, so that upon this council the plumbing trade, masters and men, would be in an overwhelming majority as against the sanitary inspectors. When the London County Council wanted reform of the Building Act, what did it do? It did not make builders and bricklayers a tribunal together with the architect of die Council, it came to the House with proposals for the revision of the Building Acts, and for a revolution of the conditions under which houses were erected. The proposals were opposed by builders, especially by jerry-builders, while not many workmen were enthusiastically in favour of the reform. The history of every sanitary and popular reform in the construction of sewers and drains showed that improvements were brought about by influences outside the trade, by experts, by the Press, and by the force of educated public, opinion against the vested interests of masters and men in the trade, and so it would be with the plumbing trade, in whose interest this Bill was drafted. The Bill would interfere with that educational work, by which alone good plumbing could be secured. Of course he was in favour of good craftsmen being educated as well as possible, plumbers as well as others, to heighten the standard of good work mid give fair play to every man who wanted to learn a trade. All that was very well. But this Bill would go far to destroy the educational authority of many institutions which had sprung into existence in connection with 831 technical education in boroughs and counties. ["Hear, hear!"] In his own district he had gone to the Trades Unions and begged men to come into the classes, and at street corners he had urged workmen, bricklayers, plumbers, and others, in their own interest, for the improvement of their wages and condition to get as much education as they could. The effect of this education had been greater than the friends of this Bill were willing to admit. When these educational agencies were doing so well, there came in the Plumbers' Company with registration proposals. Of the Company, he would say no more than that they had done well in diverting money from feasting to educational purposes, and that to a greater extent than his hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley allowed. Educate, certainly, but why register and put labels on plumbers any more than on bricklayers or others? He was not opposed to registration and certification where the public interest demanded it and safety to life and limb made it necessary. When the Board of Trade tested a boiler it did not give a certificate to the boiler maker. When a ship was launched it was not on a. certificate held by the shipbuilder. When the ship was ready for sea, then the Board of Trade inspectors swarmed over her, and only when the completed output was examined and found to be up to the standard of efficiency, was the ship registered. If that could be done for plumbing work what the Board of Trade did for shipbuilding he would not object; but no, the quality of the certified man's work must be left uninspected, no notice would be taken of the final result of the man's labour. He could not understand this mania for registration here, and labelling there, it was a survival from a savage condition of society. The men did not want this Bill. Though he was identified with Trades Unions, and had among his constituents a large number of men connected with the building trade, he had not had a man speak to him upon this Bill in the last three or four years. It was not wanted, and it would establish conditions that would lead to espionage. He could conceive a good plumber unable to read or write, who could make a good joint and turn out good work, and could not squeeze through an examination that 99 out of a 832 hundred Parsees, who knew nothing of plumbing, would pass more readily than the same number of Englishmen who had served an apprenticeship to the trade. What would be the effect of such a Bill on the mobility of labour? It would restrict the movement of labour, which he was glad to see so free. If a man were registered in London, and had the opportunity of a job in Manchester or Liverpool, the mere fact of registration by a. local authority and a little trouble in obtaining a transfer would act as an impediment to the movement of a man to where work and wages called him. It would interfere with the mobility of labour and check the versatility of industry. He could conceive eight master plumbers and eight operative plumbers looking with disfavour on the changes taking place in the trade. Iron and steel pipes were being rapidly substituted for lead work, and some clay glass and enamelled pipes would take the place of much lead now used. Much as he would like to see plumbing carried out in England on the lines followed in the best buildings in America, the whole of the plumbing work from roof to drains being open to view and periodical inspection. The Bill would not bring that about, it would tend to increase the secrecy of the plumbing craft, placing it in the hands of men not interested in the scientific development of the trade on the lines demanded for public health and convenience. The passing of the Bill would call into existence a new school of plumbers, gentlemen who would be able to cram through the examination, and when that was passed would rest content with having got through, and would not be interested to develop their trade through the Union, the Polytechnic, or their employers. If the Bill passed, it would erect a ring fence round a trade where there was no demand for it, and if there was such a demand it ought not to be granted by placing authority in. the hands of a body of men who would be tempted to defend the interest of the trade as they conceived it, and to act contrary to the requirements of true sanitation and the public health and welfare. Because it was not wanted, because it was badly drafted, because good work could always be secured for good wages, the test of good workmanship, because it would create a class of 833 City Corporation plumbers who would object to the hard work of plumbing, but fortified with a certificate would get jobs they would be unable to get if they were subjected to practical test, because the plumbing trade would not be benefited but injured by it, he should vote against the Third Reading of the Bill.
On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ *MR. THOMAS BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
said the County of Surrey had taken an active part in technical education, and had taken an interest in the education and improvement of practical operative plumbers, and he, therefore, wished to say a few words about this Bill. The Surrey County Council had expressed a strong opinion in favour of the object of the Bill, and thought that it was a good Bill, which, however, required amendment. After listening to the speeches which had been made he had come to the conclusion that the Bill should be allowed to proceed. He admitted that there were clauses which would apparently clothe the Company with too much power, and which, it might be argued, would injure those bodies and associations which had spent a considerable amount of money in the education of the operative plumber. He hoped that when this Bill had passed, these other bodies and associations would join hands with the Plumbers' Company to the ultimate benefit of the individual plumber and of the public generally. He pointed out that the 9th Clause appeared to give very considerable power to the Company. He understood, however, that the hon. Member in charge of the Bill was not averse to accepting Amendments. He thought the country would have more confidence if the Government would see that examinations were held. He had wondered where the hon. Member for Battersea had got his instructions from, if he might venture to say so, as he had said that he had not been spoken to by any of his constituents in regard to the Bill for two years, and the hon. Member could not, therefore, be said to represent the opinion of the great army of plumbers who lived in his constituency. He would remind the hon. Member that he was a member of the London County Council, and the London County Council had not 834 criticised the Bill in a hostile manner, but had confined themselves to an Amendment of a purely formal character. Everyone had spoken in favour of the Bill except the hon. Member for Battersea, and he would point out to the hon. Member that the Bill would not alter the law in regard to inspection. The Bill would not injure the plumber, and a master would still keep a good workman in his employ even if he could not read or write. The Bill would do good, and would have the effect of providing better men. Finally, the recorded opinions of operative plumbers themselves were in favour of registration. At Liverpool, in September, 1890, and again in June, 1895, resolutions were passed by operative plumbers in favour of it. At the latter meeting, which was held by the United Operative Plumbers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, there were delegates present from West Lancashire, Cheshire, and North Wales, and there was another meeting of delegates of the same association held at Sheffield, at which also a resolution was passed in favour of the principle of the Bill. In addition to this, there had been no less than 16,000 petitioners from the British Medical Association, and 70 municipal Corporations and County Councils had petitioned in favour of the Bill. He had been told also that the Surrey County Council had on five occasions invited the Plumbers' Company to conduct the examination of plumbers.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
said that what they had to take into account in considering whether they were to support this Bill was what the attitude of the House of Commons ought to be in setting a precednt in regard to the registration of this or other trades. Many hon. Gentlemen had said that they were in favour of the principle of the Bill. It was quite possible that registration of plumbers, as well as the registration or certification of doctors and others, might be good in principle, but it was much more difficult to say anything in favour of the principle of a Bill if the method was thoroughly unsatisfactory, as he thought the method of this Bill was. Much had been made of the fact that the Bill had been, before the House of Commons on and off for five or six years; but, as had been pointed out with great force, since the 835 Bill was introduced the great county and urban authorities had been set up, which had taken great interest in technical instruction. Surely that altered the position immensely. There were now popular bodies in existence which employed examining authorities to take up work of this sort, and they were not sufficiently represented in the Bill. He should have thought that the ideal Bill would have tried to adopt some system on which they could make the local authorities almost the sole authorities for this work, with a responsible central authority. If it were the case that they could deal with this subject in a better way, and it was so, surely it was a very dangerous thing to set the precedent which this Bill would set. He had nothing to say against the Plumbers' Company, but nobody could deny that under Clause 9 the Plumbers' Company was really the principal authority under the Bill. It had never been found necessary by other Companies who wanted to take an interest in education to set themselves up as authorities for examination or registration. Surely it would be possible for the Plumbers' Company to show their interest in education, and especially in the education and instruction of plumbers, exactly in the same way as the Clothworkers', Drapers', and other Companies had done.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
With regard to that, I have an Amendment on the Paper as follows: —Provided that the General Council may, by Order, depute the right of conducting any examination or examinations to such other body or bodies as they may think fit.
§ MR. ACLAND
said that did not alter Clause 9, which made the Company the examining authority, supervised to a certain extent by an artificial central body. He was not saying a word against the Plumbers' Company, but if they were going to deal, as they would have to do in the future, with the whole question of technical education and registration of particular workmen and particular trades, he really did think that the precedent which this Bill would set would be an extremely unfortunate one. The Secretary to the Local Government Board said that during the time this Bill was before the Grand Committee, no local authority put in any demand on the subject.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I went further than that. I said that during the sitting of the Grand Committee in 1892, 1893, and 1896 no claim was made by any organised body for inclusion in the Bill.
§ MR. ACLAND
said that in 1892 the local authorities had hardly got to work. They were practically in their infancy.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
thought the right hon. Gentlemen ought to be reminded that he was one of the promoters of the Bill of 1892.
§ MR. ACLAND
said he began by saying that the position had been greatly and fundamentally changed. In his opinion the local authorities were really the bodies who ought to be put in charge of this matter. Let them employ the Plumbers' Company if they thought fit, but the question was upon whom was the main responsibility to be thrown when they came to deal with the whole question of the registration of the workmen in various trades. The local authorities both in London and many parts of the country were developing their work in connection with technical instruction, and he thought they ought to hold a position entirely different from that which they held under this Bill. That seemed to him the strongest argument against the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
could not understand why a London Company should be set up to examine and give workmen a certificate which would set them apart from others of their class. If a Government Department was set up for the purpose he could have better understood it; but he thought it was most unjust and unfair that the power of granting certificates should be placed in the hands of a private Company. The Bill seemed to him to be about as defective as any Bill could be. He objected not only to its details but also to the principle that any class of workmen should by examination by a private London Company get a sort of degree, and that those who had not passed that examination should be set down as inferior workmen. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. WILSON (Lanark, Govan)
remarked that, excepting medical men, there was no body of men who could do more for the comfort and health of homes than plumbers. He was afraid that at present there was a great deal of scamped work done by plumbers, and he felt sure 837 that after this Bill was passed every operative plumber would find that it was to his interest to comply with the test imposed and to be registered. The public, he was certain, would thank the House of Commons for passing the Bill. In the North nearly every municipality and local authority approved of this proposed legislation. As the Measure was not compulsory it would not prejudice men who might not wish to he registered.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS (Notts, Rushcliffe)
wished to say a few words as Chairman of the Grand Committee to which the Bill had been referred. What the House had heard that day was really a Second Reading Debate. He had noticed in the Committee that both the promoters and opponents of the Measure were without that guidance which a useful Second Reading Debate always afforded. The promoters of the Bill were rather at sea when Amendments were proposed in Committee, and the result was not satisfactory. That afternoon's Debate ought to have taken place before the Bill went before the Grand Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be a serious thing if the House of Commons were to place crude legislation of this kind upon the Statute-book. It could not he disputed that a certain Bill which was rushed through the House last year would cause inconvenience and have consequences which were not foreseen. That case and the present were in many ways parallel. Even if all the Amendments which appeared upon the Paper were inserted in this Measure, he doubted whether it would thereby be made satisfactory. He noticed that the promoters of the Bill themselves had put down a large number of Amendments. Of course, when a Bill came before a Grand Committee it was the duty of the Chairman to keep his mind perfectly free from bias as to the merits of a Bill, and that was always his attitude. But the Bill was now out of Grand Committee; and, therefore, speaking merely as a Member of the House, he felt at liberty to say that in the circumstances, he was inclined to think that the House would he wasting its time by proceeding further with the Measure.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
thought the House would do wisely by refusing to pass a Bill of this kind. It partook of the character of grandmotherly legislation, and would interfere with trade. He doubted greatly whether the draftsmen of the Bill knew much about the conditions of the plumbers' trade. The Measure would set a hard precedent in regard to other trades. If plumbers were to he registered why should not bricklayers, carpenters, and all kinds of workmen be treated in the same way? Was it proposed that all working plumbers should obtain certificates? If so, where were they to be examined, who was to pay their railway fares to the examination centres, and who would make good the wages foregone while the examination was proceeding? This Bill reminded him of the Midwives Registration Bill, which it was found very difficult to make workable without interfering with the wants of the community. Of course, everybody was interested in good sanitation, but in order to secure healthy homes it was not necessary to force all plumbers to obtain certificates, for there were architects, surveyors, and foremen to see that the plumber's work was properly executed. Plumbers had made great progress in the direction of efficiency in the last few years; in fact, their work had made more progress than any other kind of work, and therefore this legislation was not called for. He did not, however, object greatly to the discussion of the Bill on that occasion—one of the two Wednesdays which the Government, with a very stingy generosity, had left at the disposal of private Members—because the Debate had prevented a still more objectionable Measure which stood on the Order Paper from being brought on.
§ MR. J. G. HOLBURN (Lanarkshire, Mid)
was surprised at some of the statements which had been made in opposition to the Bill. He supported the Bill on the ground that it was in the public interest, and no one knew better than he did how far the public interest was at the mercy of plumbers. He did 839 not charge them with dishonesty. They did the best they could under existing conditions, but as for inspecting their work, he maintained that the inspection of plumbers' work as a whole was impossible. He agreed with the hon. Member for Battersea that sanitary plumbing had made an enormous advance in the past ten years, and he thought that the chief object of this Bill was to keep the workmen abreast of this advance by means of education. He hoped that the House would allow the Bill to proceed, and that with one or two Amendments it would make a good and workable scheme.
§ *SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
referred to the danger attending the general registration of all trades, and remarked that if this tendency of registering all trades to death was carried out to its logical conclusion, they would eventually find themselves taking steps to register rat-catchers and sweeps. It seemed to him, however, that there were exceptions to all rules, and if any trade needed to be registered it was that of plumbing. The work of the plumber was concealed, and bad work was only known by its effects. Disease was spread in our homes and generated in our cities by bad plumbing work; and therefore it was desirable that the education of the plumber should be attended to. This educational movement he believed originated with two most intelligent men, one of whom was Sir Stuart Knill, formerly Lord Mayor of London, and the other was Sir Philip Magnus. The aims and objects of these gentlemen were excellent; but whether the Bill in all its details was the best that could be devised for carrying out those aims he was not prepared to say. With regard, however, to the slight jealousy which seemed to exist as to the competition of the Registered Plumbers' Association or the Plumbers' Company, injuriously affecting our educational institutions, and coming into competition with them, he might state from an experience 840 of some years in connection with the Registered Plumbers' Association in his own constituency, that it had from the beginning worked, and was now working, most harmoniously with their educational institutions, and with the County Council and the City Council. He should hope that if the Bill passed, the spirit which had prevailed between the municipal authorities and the Plumbers' Association in his own constituency would be that which would prevail generally. It seemed to him that having regard to the public health, this trade should, in the first place, have the best possible technical education, and should work along with the existing technical institutes, combining with them some central organisation. Having regard also to the intelligent and patriotic source from which the Bill had emanated, and having confidence in the aims of its promoters, he should be prepared to support it.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGG (York, W.R., Keighley)
said he had no acquaintance with the proceedings in connection with this Bill which, took place in former years, but he called attention to the names of hon. Members on the back of the Bill. He looked in vain for the names of those whom one would expect to find possessing an interest in this industry, and he regretted to see that a number of names which would give such a Bill great weight were conspicuous by their absence. Why should plumbers be specialised in this way? They were not the only persons connected with the hygienic construction of our buildings. Why should similar efforts not be directed to the examination and classification of builders as well as plumbers, and of those engaged in laying drains and tiles in connection with buildings? He had been connected with an institution which had spent £5,000 in relaying drains found to be unsatisfactory. The real cause of the deficiency in the work of plumbers and others engaged in the construction of houses was to a large extent 841 due to the cheap system of contracting, and the cheap materials that were used. It should be remembered also that there was a large number of tramp plumbers employed by cheap contractors, and these men were exceedingly careless in their work. It was to this cause they owed the complaints which were made against particular branches of the building trade. From what he knew of institutes and guilds great credit was due to them for their service, not only to the plumbers, but to other trades. He believed they were able and willing to give instructions not only to the plumber but to the building trades, to enable those engaged in them to do their work efficiently. It was absolutely necessary that before work was covered up it should be inspected to see if it were properly done. The present form of registration was good as far as it went, and he did not think further interference with it was necessary. As one interested in building operations of a varied kind he felt that the registration provided for by the Bill was not one he should feel justified in accepting unless inspection of work before it was covered up was provided for. He should, therefore vote against the Bill.
§ *MR. ALEXANDER WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
said that death and disease were caused more often by deficiencies in the plumbing trade than in all the building trades put together; and this was the practical and pressing necessity for immediate legislation. He had listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Members for Battersea and Belfast as practical men. Their remedy for the bad condition of plumbing seemed to be inspection of finished work. It was not only in construction of houses that defects were found, but in repairs. It would be a good thing if there was a number of certificated plumbers who could be of assistance to sanitary inspectors who were quite unable under present conditions to overtake the inspection of repairs, especially in the dwellings of the 842 poorer classes. Faulty repairs were a source of great danger; a broken soil pipe might cause the death of a family. It had been said that the examination of plumbers should be undertaken by representative educational authorities and the Local Government Board. But neither of these bodies had moved in the matter at all, and immediate legislation was necessary. The Bill was an honest attempt to grapple with the subject, and he believed it would be to a certain extent successful in spite of deficiencies in the Measure. Therefore it would have his cordial support.
§ MR. B. PICKARD (York, W. R., Normanton)
said that opinion in labour circles in Yorkshire was in favour of the Bill. He had not heard that any Labour Member in the House had received any expression of opinion against the Bill. That was a strong reason why the Labour Members should vote for the Bill. It seemed to be argued that the promoters of the Bill had no right to promote it. If some portion of the United Kingdom had promoted the Bill it would have been all right. But whoever promoted the Bill, if it would tend to the health and happiness of the homes of the people, it deserved the support of every Member of the House. He supported the Bill first of all because of the opposition raised to it, and then because the South-West Riding County Council, of which he was a member, supported the principle of the Bill, though they had a strong desire that certain Amendments should be added. The Bill should not he rejected merely because it was badly drafted and the clauses did not meet the views of every hon. Member. The promoters of the Bill had expressed their willingness to accept any reasonable Amendment which would make the Bill better. He intended to support the Bill.
§ MR. GODDARD (Ipswich)
in opposing the Bill, said there was a considerable difference of opinion as to its necessity. If the Bill would promote the health of the people there could not be two 843 opinions as to what the House should do with it. But it was an absolute fallacy to suppose that the Bill did anything of the kind. There was no guarantee to householders that in future plumbing work would be done properly. All the Bill did was to provide that certain people should be registered as qualified plumbers, but there was no security that plumbing work should in the future be done only by certificated plumbers. If the Bill provided that no plumbing work should be done except by plumbers who were thoroughly qualified, it would be a different matter. The Bill purported to do something for the public health which in reality it did not do. Members of County Councils were supporting the Bill because they thought it would insist upon work being done in the future in a proper way. But it did not provide for its being done more efficiently than at, present. The same men would be employed who it was admitted were now doing the work inefficiently. If the Bill safeguarded the public in regard to this important branch of industry which so seriously affected the health of the people, and especially the health of those who lived in houses put up at the smallest cost, it would be well and good. But let them see that their Bill did so. The men who were most guilty were those who connived at inferior work being done, and who employed the cheapest labour. If a certificated plumber set up in business for himself it was not provided that he should only employ plumbers who were certificated. The Bill purported to do something for the public health of the country, but was a fraud altogether as regarded that, and he should vote against it.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
admitted that the Bill would not stop bad plumbing, but it would introduce into the plumbing trade a system of registration, which was a step in the direction of securing better plumbing work for the future. The real defects in such work ought to be found out by 844 the architect or surveyor, but they were not. In his own house he had had a soil pipe repaired under an architect's supervision, but finding that a smell still came from it he himself had the pipe taken to pieces and carefully inspected, when he discovered a hole in it he could put his fist through. It might be said that improved plumbing would not prevent such things occurring. It would, however, do something towards raising the standard of plumbers' work and making it all the better. He recognised that there were some flaws in the Bill, but suggested that these might be remedied by Amendments on subsequent stages, whereas the Amendment which had been moved to the Second Reading asked them to reject the Bill altogether. He urged the House to assent to the Second Reading, and to make the Bill a practicable and good Measure by the alterations they could effect on the Report stage.
§ MR. THOMAS BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)
observed that the principle of the Bill was to give a Government certificate of competency to every person who was a plumber or engaged in the plumbing trade. That was a proper principle, and if the Bill carried it out it would have his hearty support. But it did nothing of the kind, and it absolutely did not carry out a single principle it professed to deal with. He agreed that it was most important they should have competent plumbers, and if certificates were only to be given to efficient workmen it would be another matter. That, however, was not the case, for the Bill said a certificate was to be given to anybody, no matter how incompetent he might be, if he was a plumber or even engaged in plumbing work. The Bill in the shape in which it was presented was involved and complicated, it was an indigestible mass, it did not carry out its own professed objects, and it ought really to be sent back to be reconsidered by the Grand Committee on Trade. If he voted for it at all it would be on the distinct 845 understanding that its many defects were to be hereafter remedied, so that, if possible, it might be converted into a practicable Measure.
§ MR. P. A. MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
considered the Bill objectionable in its present form. He failed to see why they should register plumbers any more than bricklayers. Plumbers, it was said, must be registered for the benefit of the public health. He ventured to say with some practical knowledge of the subject that bricklayers were quite as important to public health as plumbers. Bricklayers had to lay pipe drains as a continuation of plumbers work, and if they were not efficiently laid gases would spread from the drains into the dwelling, create disease, and destroy public health. It was proposed to give a certificate to all plumbers who had been engaged in the plumbing trade prior to 1892, whether they were efficient or not. To that he strongly objected. That was casting a kind of halo of respectability over all plumbers whether competent or not, while the very fact that they possessed a certificate would induce the public to believe they were properly skilled workmen. That was altogether an unfair position in which to place men who might not be qualified, and if the Bill was to be passed it was quite clear that there should be some guarantee that the men who were certificated were thoroughly competent workmen.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, llkeston)
observed that the Bill had been before the House for some years, and he was sorry that during that period it had not developed into a better Bill than it was at the present time. Still, it had the germs of good in it, and he should be sorry to see any Amendment carried which would postpone its consideration. The argument that plumbers should not be registered because bricklayers were not had neither justice nor logic in it, and if adopted would put an end to registration in any trade whatever. He wanted 846 to begin with the registration of those trades on the efficiency of whose work the health of the people depended. Plumbers were more intimately connected with health than any other trade. If bricklayers desired registration they could have it, and if in the meantime the registration of plumbers would have the effect of saving a few lives annually in this country they should endeavour to secure its adoption. ["Hear, hear!"] It was objected that the Bill proposed to register persons who had been practising as plumbers since 1892. Anybody who had studied the history of registration would find that was the course which had always been followed; and they were hound to recognise the members of the trade or profession it was proposed to register who were practising at the time a Bill such as this passed. ["Hear, hear!"] But afterwards they would only put people on the register who had passed an examination which he hoped would go up step by step until it became more perfect, and until they had in this country a body of registered plumbers who knew their business properly, who had learnt the amount of science necessary for effective sanitary plumbing, and whose knowledge would prove invaluable in protecting public health. The object of the Bill was a good one. It sought to introduce into a very important trade the system of selection by which competent persons would do the work, and on that account he thought it ought, at all events, to receive the sanction of the House as regarded the present stage. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill was not a perfect one, and was open to amendment in many ways; but believing that if it were passed it could be made a Measure that would be of benefit to the country he should vote against the Amendment, being convinced that in so voting he should be voting in favour of a step in advance in sanitary legislation.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."847
§ The House divided: —Ayes, 200; Noes, 77.—(Division List, No. 259.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to. Bill considered.
§ Clause 2,—