HC Deb 08 June 1898 vol 58 cc981-3

Motion made, and Question proposed— That this Bill as amended be now considered.

* SIR C. DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

Those of us who had intended to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill gave way on the understanding that the Committee would make no objection to the locus standi of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in petitioning against the Bill if they did so. But that petition was withdrawn, and the Bill was passed as an unopposed Bill. It was withdrawn, I wish frankly to tell the House, because no single person employed by the Great Eastern Company would come forward and give evidence in favour of an Amendment of the Bill. Under those circumstances, the petitioners thought it impossible that they could make any effective use of the petition which they had presented. I will make this further admission to the House: that the financial proposals of the Bill were so favourable to the railway servants that one could not wonder that they had taken the course they did with regard to it. On the other hand, looking at the matter as a public matter, and entirely apart from the particular financial interest of the railway servants involved in the case of that particular company, the Bill is still, in spite of the Amendments introduced, open to great objection. The three main points which we in such cases always desire to secure are (1) that the servants should have the management, or a share in the management, of the funds; (2) that a servant leaving the fund should be able to take his contribution out with him, and not sacrifice it; and (3) that the Registrar of Friendly Societies, as a public officer, should be put into the Bill to watch the working of it in order to secure full publicity in the future. On neither of these heads is this Bill satisfactory. The Registrar of Friendly Societies is not put into the Bill as he was put into the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bill of last year in a somewhat similar case, and a railway servant leaving the company cannot, by the Bill, take his contributions out, but sacrifices the whole of his previous contributions to the fund. On both these heads no satisfaction at all has been given to the public case. On the first head, by the Amendments put into the Bill and those now before the House, which are consequential Amendments, a small share of representation is given to the servants in the governing body. As the Bill was introduced, no share was given to the servants. Under the circumstances, I do not propose to trouble the House with a Division at this stage, but I think it desirable that those who objected to the Bill originally should mention the circumstances under which that opposition was withdrawn.

MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)

I desire to associate myself with the expression of regret of Sir C. Dilke that the very useful precedent set in the case of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Bill of last year has not been followed in this case. I quite agree that the fact of the men refusing to give evidence before the Committee practically renders any efforts on our part useless; but I want to say, having considerable knowledge of railway men generally, and of the men of the Great Eastern Company particularly, that that reluctance to come forward should not be construed into a consent on the part of the men themselves to the principles embodied in the Bill. It has been said that there has been some concession made in the direction of giving representation to the men, but I feel sure that honourable Members who read the Bill and see the alterations must come to the conclusion that that concession for all practical purposes is useless. There are to be two delegates of the men; those delegates will be surrounded by the high officials of the company, and I venture to submit that that concession is really a disadvantage to those of us who want to see those funds put upon a proper basis, because it will give an appearance of representation where it does not really exist. Being a new Member, I do not know if I shall be in order in carrying out my idea, but I should like to divide the House on this question. I see no reason why I should not do so on public grounds, because, after all, this is a most important matter.


If the honourable Member proposes to divide upon the Bill the matter must go over to another day.


I shall oppose it.


Then it must go over till tomorrow. It would be more convenient if honourable Members would always state that at once.

Debate adjourned; to be resumed Tomorrow.