HC Deb 07 August 1899 vol 76 cc40-51

Lords Amendments considered.

Lords Amendment, in page 5, line 11, "Leave out sub-heads (d) and (e)," the first Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland.)


I move that the House do disagree.


That is not necessary. The hon. Member can vote against the motion to agree.


The two sub-heads which have been eliminated by the Upper Chamber relate to the representation on the Board of the chambers of commerce of the three principal cities of Ireland, as well as the trades councils of the same places—Belfast, Dublin, and Cork. Why, in the formation of this Board, is the commercial and industrial life of these communities to have no representation whatever? The grievance is felt very acutely in Belfast, the chamber of commerce there having passed a resolution protesting most strongly against the action of the Upper House. I see that the provincial committees are to consist mainly of agricultural representatives, and why should they have such a preponderating influence on a board which is to be devoted to the advancement of technical instruction? I am afraid that in this matter the Peers are following their old policy of denying the right of popular representation, and I shall accordingly press my opposition to this to a Division.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I have been asked by hon. Members who are unavoidably absent to join with the hon. Member in his protest against the action of the House of Lords. I feel we have some right to complain in this case, because when the Bill was first introduced it provided for the representation of chambers of commerce, and the Grand Committee, after very full consideration, decided that the trades councils should also be represented. These bodies deserve encouragement. They play a very important part in public life, and the new Board is exactly the body which would get considerable assistance from these representatives. These trades councils represent the education which will be useful to the artisan classes, and to exclude from this Board representatives of the working-classes in Ireland, who are primarily interested, seems to me to be depriving the Board of the representative character which it is desirable that it should have. As to the chambers of commerce, I need not argue the question, because, fortunately, I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the Bill as it was introduced in its original shape. These chambers of commerce represent another factor of Irish life, which it is most desirable also should be represented on these Boards—viz., the commercial life of Ireland. I understand from my hon. friend, the Member for West Limerick, that Belfast, which is a very important industrial city, has already protested strongly against the action of the House of Lords, and I must express my disappointment that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen his way to move his disagreement to the Amendment of the Lords, and to restore these two most necessary and desirable additions.


As the hon. Member who has just spoken has referred to what passed in Grand Committee, I propose briefly to refer to the circumstances. Originally the Bill contained a provision giving representation on the Board of Technical Instruction to the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, and when the Bill was before the Grand Committee, the hon. Member for South Mayo moved to add to the Board of Technical Instruction six more members of the trades councils of the six large boroughs of Ireland. That Amendment was so far modified as to be confined to the three large boroughs of Dublin, Cork, and Belfast. In that form the Amendment was carried by a majority of one vote against the strong opposition of the Government. When the Report stage was reached in the House I did not move that what had been done by the Grand Committee should be disturbed by the House; I abstained from doing so, because the question of whether the Bill was to pass or not was very largely one of time, and I was therefore unwilling to initiate a Debate which might have lasted a considerable period. The hon. Member who has just spoken, and the hon. Member who preceded him, have not mentioned one very great objection which I feel to the alteration made by the Committee. The total number of the Board of Technical Instruction in the Bill as drafted by myself was twenty-four. I felt that twenty-four was a much larger number than I should like the Board to consist of. The Board of Agriculture I made to consist of twelve members. I think twelve is much better than twenty-four. But I found the difficulty in regard to the Board of Technical Instruction was to secure that all the interests should be adequately represented with a less number of members than twenty-four. It was on that ground, and on that ground alone, that I was reluctantly compelled to make the Board as large as I did. But I have the strongest possible objection to making the Board larger by three members. I do not think that twenty-seven would be a convenient number, nor do I think it would tend to the prompt and satisfactory despatch of business. But I have a further objection to the proposal that the trades councils should send direct representatives to the Board—not that I object to the presence of the representatives of the working-classes, but, without increasing the number of the Board, we might reasonably expect, as the county councils in the county boroughs are to elect eleven representatives out of the twenty-four, and as those bodies are elected by the people, that some would be representatives of the artisan class. It is to the county council that we should look to put them there. It does not appear to me reasonable that we should give artisans, as such, direct representation on this Board. I must say that, even if I did not think thus, I am not satisfied that I should be able to regard the trades councils as perfectly satisfactory bodies. The trades councils, in the first place, have no legal status, and have never received, as far as I am aware, any legal recognition. They have their business, which is the protection of the workers. They represent the workers in contra- distinction to the employers, and that was so strongly felt in the Grand Committee that one of the arguments which seemed to have most weight with the Committee was that the Government were giving representation to the employers by allowing chambers of commerce to send representatives to the Board. If that were the case it was fairly argued that the workers should have representatives also. I am not prepared to admit that that argument was perfectly sound. I do not think that the chambers of commerce should be taken to be representative of the employers as opposed to the workers. I think the House will readily see that if federation is to be represented on the Board it would be absurd. The chambers of commerce themselves have now been cut out, and whatever argument there was on the side of the trades councils now disappears. I do not deny that I witnessed the disappearance of the chambers of commerce from the Bill with a certain amount of regret. The trades councils have never taken any keen interest in the Bill; but the chambers of commerce had taken a deep interest in it from the beginning.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. Several resolutions were passed by the trades councils.


I am bound to admit that the chambers of commerce have given the greatest possible assistance throughout in the preparation of the measure, and I cannot help feeling regret that they have disappeared; but at the same time, having regard to the fact that the right of the chambers of commerce to send representatives to this Board has given rise to a feeling that the workers are not to be represented as compared with the employers, and, further, that it would in a manner diminish the total number of the Board, I cannot at the present stage of affairs recommend the House to do other than agree with the House of Lords.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

I know the Trades Council of Belfast very well, and I know that the councils of both Belfast and Dublin consist of the best artisans. Furthermore, from the correspondence I have received I have no doubt whatever that the Council of Cork consists of similarly good artisans. I regret the decision arrived at by the Chief Secretary, and I also regret that he agreed with the House of Lords in striking out of the Bill the chambers of commerce. The right hon. Gentleman exhibited generally a desire to make the Bill effective, and to embrace all interests in Ireland for the benefit of Irish trade and Irish agriculture. Therefore I think his decision will cause widespread disappointment in Ireland. He seems to have been unaware of the trades councils having taken any great interest in the Bill. I would remind the House that all trades councils take an interest generally in all subjects that have for their object the uplifting of the workers, and in all parts of the country they take a keen interest in all matters of technical instruction and all other interests of an educational kind. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to complain that he did not receive deputations from the Irish trades councils, and that he did receive some from the chambers of commerce. I can explain that very well. If the Chief Secretary had received all his deputations in Dublin, some of the trades councils might have approached him. But trades councils are bodies consisting entirely of working men. In that case, could he expect them, all working men, to travel all the way from Ireland? If the Chief Secretary had stood by his Amendments it would have been a great compliment to the skilled workmen of Ireland, and a compliment which they would have highly appreciated, and it would have done much to enlist the sympathy of Irish workmen in the government of Ireland and in a scheme having for its object the welfare of the Irish people. In this country trades councils are recognised by local authorities, municipalities, institutions of all kinds, hospitals, commercial schools; and the Imperial Institute have attached men from the trades union movement as life governors of that body; and a great many public institutions in this country go direct to the trades councils for advice as to whom they shall select as representatives for various positions. I was delighted that the same theory was to be adopted with regard to Ireland. If the Chief Secretary had held to his opinions after his own arguments had been crushed by arguments against him, it would have been more satisfactory had he moved to omit the Amendment on the Report stage in this House, when we could have dealt with it at greater length. I do not suppose my hon. friend wishes to wreck this Bill, but it is a natural complaint that he is entitled to make on behalf of the organised trades of the whole of Ireland, and had he failed to make this protest he would not have been, in my humble judgment, discharging the duty which Irish working men expect him to perform on occasions of this kind.


A unanimous resolution was passed the other day by the Belfast Corporation, in favour of retaining for the chambers of commerce the position which the Government decided to give them when the Bill was before this House. I regret very much that the Chief Secretary, whose indefatigable energy and extreme fairness have been recognised on all sides, should not have stuck to the Bill, at least, so far as the representation of the chambers of commerce was concerned. Even at this eleventh hour, or a quarter to the twelfth hour, I hope the Chief Secretary will consider if it is not possible to return the Bill to the House of Lords as originally adopted by the Government, to include the representation of the chambers of commerce. For my own part, I had great pleasure in receiving a communication from the secretary to the trades council in Belfast; and a more intelligent and influential body in the matter of technical education it is impossible to find anywhere. I am sure if they had representation under this Bill they would do ample justice to the position they would occupy as distinguished representatives of trade in Belfast. I hope I am not too late in making this appeal to the Chief Secretary, especially with regard to the chambers of commerce, but if the matter is not conceded, I shall be compelled to vote to disagree with the Lords Amendments.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

As the only hon. Member on this side of the House who was present during the whole, or nearly the whole, of the Debate in the Standing Committee on this question, I wish to associate myself with the appeal which has been made to the Chief Secretary to reconsider his position. In that Debate it seemed to me that the only strong and decided objections to this proposal, at any rate in its final form, were the objections which came from the Chief Secretary himself. The right hon. Gentleman has restated, with his usual precision, those objections; but all who are acquainted with the conditions under which this scheme of education can successfully be carried out are compelled reluctantly to say that those objections are essentially academic and theoretical, and not practical. It is of vital importance to enlist the active and practical sympathy of the working classes, especially of their organisations, in the development of this class of education. It is just the type of education in regard to which their help is most needed. To have the Government acquiescing in the extremely unwise Amendment which has been adopted in another place is somewhat disheartening to friends of education on its popular and democratic side, and will have the effect of alienating the sympathies of organised labour in Ireland. The hon. Member for South Belfast is well advised in making an appeal with regard to the chambers of commerce also in this matter. The type of education contemplated in this Bill is one with regard to which both these classes may reasonably claim representation. But I rose chiefly to insist upon this fact—that, having listened very carefully to the discussion in the Grand Committee, I am bound to say the arguments were all on one side, and that after the original Amendment had been knocked into the form in which it was finally carried, there was very little to be said against it. I have also to state that I was compelled by an urgent engagement to withdraw from the Committee before the Division was taken, and it is within my knowledge that several other Members were also absent.


On both sides.


It may be there were Members on both sides, but I think the Chief Secretary would be ill-advised in insisting that all the Members who belong to his own political party would naturally have voted against the claim of labour to be represented in such a matter as this.


was understood to say that he also claimed to have listened to the discussion in the Grand Committee, and the conclusion he came to was that the proposed Board would be so large as to be unwieldy, and therefore a reduction of the number of members would be an improvement.

MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)

I regret that the Chief Secretary has not seen his way to resist this Amendment. Great hopes have been raised in Ireland by this Bill, and as this clause, as carried by the Grand Committee, was not resisted by the Government on the Report stage, I thought there was at least some attempt being made to give to Ireland similar forms and methods to those we have in England. The right hon. Gentleman cannot point to a single technical instruction committee in any great city in England upon which there are no working men.


was understood to point out that each district would have to appoint its own technical instruction committee to carry out the Act; therefore, Dublin, Cork, Belfast and every other county borough could appoint as many artisans as they thought fit to carry out the scheme.


I follow that, but the principle is the same. If the principle has proved so good in the instances I have mentioned, surely it is not unreasonable to argue that it would prove equally good in regard to the Board to be set up by this Bill in Ireland. Therefore, I am quite certain the Chief Secretary has made, and is making, a great mistake. Ireland, more than any other part of the kingdom, ought to have a thorough system of technical education, and I am quite certain that unless you get the active sympathy of the organised workers and trades unions, you will have difficulties placed in your way that you would not have if you had their co-operation on this Board. There is one trades council I know more about than any other in Ireland, and that is that of Belfast. Really, the Chief Secretary cannot have made himself acquainted with the trades councils of Ireland, or if he has, he must certainly have omitted the Belfast Trades Council. With some little knowledge of these bodies, I am able to say there is not a trades council in the entire United Kingdom that displays more intelligence than that of the City of Belfast. They own an organ of their own, and they show in many ways just those qualities which are absolutely imperative if this Technical Instruction Board is to be a success. However, the Government have, as I think, unwisely, used the Lords in this instance to undo the work of the Grand Committee; and, not for the first time, we have to regret that the lack of knowledge and sympathy in the Upper House with these great industrial movements has again resulted in a very useful measure being made less useful than it would otherwise have been.

MR. STEADMAN (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

I rise to support my hon. friend in as few words as possible. The London County Council has a Technical Education Board. The composition of that Board is twenty members elected by the Council itself, and the London Trades Council, which is in a similar position to that of the trades councils of Belfast and Dublin, has three direct representatives upon that Board. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that this proposal would make the Board too large and unwieldy, but that is not my experience of the Technical Education Board in London. We have three representatives upon that Board, and I can assure the Chief Secretary that some of the most energetic of the members of that Board are elected by the London Trades Council. We are often told that Germany is driving this country out of the markets of the world. I served my time at a trade, and I suffered from the want of technical instruction, which I was unable to get in the workshop. My experience goes to prove that if you want the British workman to maintain his position, you must give him the same technical instruction as the workmen are able to get in Germany, and then they can hold their own with any nation in the civilised world. Therefore, I consider that the direct representation of the working classes on the Technical Instruction Board now to be established for Ireland is essen- tial. I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not look upon a trades council as something bad and wicked, that is always creating strikes.


Certainly not.


I am glad to hear that denial. We are as anxious as we possibly can be that our lads shall not only be proficient, but shall be given that education which is necessary to turn out the brightest of mechanics; and the men who have had experience in the workshop, if placed upon this Board, would be able to give invaluable advice as to what class of instruction was required. I have received a telegram from the Dublin Trades Council, in which they very much regret the action taken by the House of Lords on this matter.

Several hon. MEMBERS: Read it.


The telegram reads as follows:— Parliamentary Committee—Irish Trades Congress meeting in Dublin to-day deeply regret elimination by the Lords from the Technical Instruction Board of direct workers representatives, and respectfully urge the Chief Secretary to take measures to secure the assistance of practical workers in the development of Irish technical education. I fail to see why the Irish workman in this matter should be placed in a different position, and be treated worse than the English workman. If it is right for the working classes of London to be represented on what I consider to be one of the best technical boards we have in the

whole of the country, I fail to see why the same principle should not be extended to Ireland.


It will be perfectly competent for the Board to elect representatives of the trades councils if they so desire.

MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)

I think it is highly desirable that there should be some representation of the working-classes in Ireland upon this Technical Instruction Board. The chief influence on the council will be that of the Commissioners of Education, and they are responsible for the very worst system of elementary education in all Europe. This Bill will be sure to fail to develop technical education in Ireland, because of the very bad system of elementary education which at present exists in Ireland.


Order, order! That is not the question before the House.


I was going to say that if working-men were placed on this Board they would see that elementary education was developed to such an extent as would enable it to be supplemented by technical instruction. For these reasons I very much regret the action of the House of Lords, and I hope the Irish Members will go to a Division upon this question.

Question put—

The House divided:—Ayes, 69; Noes, 47. (Division List, No. 362.)

Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm. Gray, Ernest (West Ham)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Chamberlain, J. Austen(Worc. Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A.J.(Manch'r) Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds Coghill, Douglas Harry Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Helder, Augustus
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Howard, Joseph
Beresford, Lord Charles Cranborne, Viscount Hozier, Hon. J. Henry Cecil
Bethell, Commander Cripps, Charles Alfred Kimber, Henry
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)
Bigwood, James Drage, Geoffrey Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.
Bill, Charles Drucker, A. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Blundell, Colonel Henry Field, Admiral (Eastbourne) Long, Rt. Hn Walter (L'pool.)
Brassey, Albert Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Malcolm, Ian
Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John Fisher, William Hayes Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir Herbert E.
Bullard, Sir Harry Flower, Ernest Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)
Butcher, John George Garfit, Willam Moon, Edward Robert Pacy
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbys.) Goldsworthy, Major-General Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute
Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Williams, J. Powell-(Birm.)
Nicol, Donald Ninian Savory, Sir Joseph Wrightson, Thomas
Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Sharpe, William Edward T. Wyndham, George
Purvis, Robert Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong
Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W. Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Tomlinson, W. E. Murray
Royds, Clement Molyneux Valentia, Viscount
Ashton, Thomas Gair Horniman, Frederick John Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herb. Henry Jameson, Major J. Eustace Pirie, Duncan V.
Birrel, Augustine Johnston, William (Belfast) Randell, David
Broadhurst, Henry Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Caldwell, James Kilbride, Denis Robson, William Snowdon
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland) Runciman, Walter
Carew, James Laurence Lewis, John Herbert Steadman, William Charles
Causton, Richard Knight Macaleese, Daniel Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Channing, Francis Allston M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Ure, Alexander
Dalziel, James Henry M'Ewan, William Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Dilke Rt. Hon. Sir Charles M'Leod, John Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Maddison, Fred Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J. Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe Yoxall, James Henry
Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley Molloy, Bernard Charles
Hayne. Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Austin and Mr. T. P. O'Connor.
Hazell, Walter O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.
Hogan, James Francis Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)

Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.

Remaining Amendments agreed to.