HC Deb 26 July 1900 vol 86 cc1322-3
MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W. E., Elland)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has yet approached the directors of the Great Eastern Railway Company and the representatives of the railway men, with a view to inducing them to accept arbitration under the terms of the Conciliation Act, 1896; and if not, whether he will hasten to do so, in view of the imminent danger of great public inconvenience arising from the cessation of traffic on one of the chief lines in the country.

The following questions on the same subject also appeared on the Paper:—

MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that a dispute has arisen between the directors and a section of the workmen on the Great Eastern Railway, and that a number of the men propose to hand in their strike notices early in August; and whether he can intervene, so as to avert an open conflict; and if so, under what conditions would he be prepared to act.


To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the industrial crisis on the Great Eastern Railway; whether either the directors or the workmen have applied for the intercession of the Board of Trade; and whether he has any possible ground of intervention to avert the inconvenience to the public and the dislocation of trade which must arise from the refusal of the directors to treat with the representatives whom the workpeople have selected.


There are several questions on this subject. The matter has, of course, been receiving my careful attention, but perhaps the best way of informing the House as to the present position of affairs will be to read a letter which I have addressed to Mr. Bell. The letter is as follows— Board of Trade, Whitehall Gardens, S. W., July 26, 1900. Sir,—Mr. Ritchie desires me to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 24th inst., and to say that reading your letter together with that of the chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, which has appeared in the press, it seems to him that any difference there may be between the position taken up by Lord Claud Hamilton and yourself on behalf of the railway servants does not warrant anything in the nature of a strike, such as Mr. Ritchie sees is in contemplation, and which would be attended with the greatest inconvenience to the travelling public, especially at this period of the year. He therefore desires me to say that the first condition of any advice he may offer in connection with the dispute is that any idea of a cessation of work by the railway servants at present should be abandoned. With regard to the question in dispute, Mr. Ritchie observes that it is not what concessions, if any, should be made to the railway servants by the company, but how an interview between the directors of the company and their employees for the discussion of the points at issue can be secured. The chairman of the Great Eastern Railway has, Mr. Ritchie notices, expressed on behalf of himself and his colleagues their willingness to receive deputations of their employees in grades, though not collectively. Mr. Ritchie is of opinion that this is a reasonable condition to impose. It is obvious that a much more effective and useful discussion of alleged grievances can thus be secured. It also appears to Mr. Ritchie that such deputations should consist of persons freely elected by the employees, regardless of whether they belong to the Amalgamated Society or not, and that any meeting at which the delegates are elected should be a meeting summoned in such a way as not to give to it the character of having been called together under the auspices of any section of the employees. If the course indicated by Mr. Ritchie is adopted he cannot doubt, having regard to the declarations made by Lord Claud Hamilton, that the directors of the Great Eastern Railway will readily consent to receive and to discuss the points at issue with the delegates duly elected in the manner suggested. I may say that I have had an interview with Mr. Bell, and I have good reason to hope that the suggestions I make will be favourably received.