§ Further considered in Committee. [Progress, 11th February.]
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE. 1.—(Increased Expenditure due to Cost
of Improved Labour Conditions to be treated
as a Valid Justification of Increased
§ Where on a complaint with respect to any increase (within the maximum) of any rate or charge under Section 1 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894, the railway company proves to the satisfaction of the Railway and Canal Commissioners:—
- (a) that there has been a rise in the cost of working the railway resulting from improvements made by the company since the nineteenth day of August nineteen hundred and eleven in the conditions of employment of their staff; and
- (b) that the whole of the particular increase of rate or charge of which complaint is made is part of an increase made for the purpose of meeting the said rise in the cost of working; and
- (c)that the increase of rates or charges made for the purpose of meeting the
1052 rise in the cost of working is not, in the whole, greater than is reasonably required for the purpose; and
- (d)that the proportion of the increase of rates or charges allocated to the particular traffic with respect to which the complaint is made is not unreasonable, the Commissioners shall treat the increase of rate or charge as justified.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), after the word "that," to insert the words "after making due allowance for any benefit derived by the company from any improvement or economy effected in the working of the railway, or in dealing with the traffic thereon."
There has been a criticism of every Amendment except one which has so far been moved to this Bill, to the effect that if it were carried it would constitute a violation of the undertaking which the Government entered into in August, 1911, with the railway companies after the great railway strike. So far from this Amendment being in any sense a violation of that undertaking, the Bill will, if it is not accepted, have the effect not merely of going beyond the undertaking, but of upsetting and repealing the existing law as laid down by the Railway and Canal Commission. There is no question as to what is the law to-day, for there are plenty of authorities to confirm this statement, and there are absolutely none, so far as I can ascertain, on the other side. It is incumbent upon the Commissioners when considering whether an increase of rate or charge upon goods consigned over the railway is justifiable to take into account as a set off any economies which the railway company have been able to effect, and which have proved an increased source of revenue. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why under this Bill when an increase is made in consequence of an improvement in the conditions of labour on the railways these economies should not constitute a set off in favour of the trader as they have done in the past. The law on the subject is summed up in a judgment delivered in the case of Smith and Forest against the London and North Western Railway Company, and the essence of the judgment is contained in these words:—If it is shown, after all the elements of cost and economy have been taken into consideration, that the necessary cost per ton carriage will, under uniform conditions, be increased without any compensating circum- 1053 stances, then it is primâ facie reasonable to increase the rate by the same sum.The judgment later on goes on to say:—The Commissioners are not precluded from having regard to any circumstances, including economies effected by the company, which may tend to justify an increase of rate or prove it unreasonable.That is the ruling on the subject, and it has never been in any sense overruled, nor, so far as I can ascertain, has there been any case decided by the Railway and Canal Commission or by any higher Court that would tend to modify the judgment in this ease. What are these economies which we ask to be taken into account in judging whether an increase of rate or charge is justifiable or not? In the first place, the companies are effecting economies by using much larger locomotives and wagons, and being thereby able to carry at one time much larger quantities of produce, particularly mineral produce; and they are also using longer trains. There is, in addition to that, this process of transhipment, which, although it means considerable delay to the unfortunate consignee or consignor, as the case may be, enables them to separate out their produce at particular centres for the purpose of distributing it according to their own convenience as to time in the directions desired. Then the companies have to a greater extent, as we all know, running powers over each other's system; and there is a tendency for a greater development of amalgamation of the railways by what are nowadays euphemistically called "working agreements," but which, in effect, are only another name for amalgamation, and are intended to blind the public, and particularly the trading public, to the nature of the transaction. It is only fair the trader should, as in the past, have some credit on his side of the account in respect of the reduction in the cost of various raw materials. I think he ought to be credited also with the reduction which has taken place, and which is almost certain to continue to take place, in the amount of labour employed on the railway.
It is all very well to say railway servants must receive additional remuneration. No one is more anxious to see them receive it than myself, but it would probably result in an acceleration of the pace at which labour employed on the railways is being reduced. That should be taken into account as one of the economies by which railway companies will derive additional revenue. I do not want to go into various other minor details where railway companies are able to effect economy, but I do ask the right hon. Gentleman whether 1054 it is seriously intended to go beyond the agreement between the Government and the railway companies, and to say that traders generally and particularly the poorer traders—I speak especially for the farmers and small holders—shall in future be deprived of the most valuable claim they have yet been able to put forward when they have faced all the expenses and trouble of making an application to the Railway and Canal Commission, namely, that, if railway companies have to face increased charges, there shall also be taken into account on the other side of the balance-sheet their additional revenue consequent upon economies they have effected, they are effecting at the present time, and which they will, I think, effect at a greater rate in the future with the realisation—our English railway companies have been very slow in realising it—of the immense improvements in the working of railways and the great economies which can be effected by the adoption of modern scientific knowledge and modern scientific methods.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
The hon. Member said that, if I did not accept his Amendment, the Bill would go beyond the undertaking of the Government. I do not agree with that view. On the contrary, I think, if the hon. Member's proposal were accepted, the undertaking of the Government would not be complete. He desires that, as at present, where there is an increase in rate various matters shall be taken into account by the Railway and Canal Commission. I would draw his attention to Sub-sections (c) and (d), and generally to the Clause as a whole. As regards the reasonableness of an increase, the Railway and Canal Commission will deal with it in a similar way as they deal with an increase under the existing law. They have complete discretion when they are considering any increase in rate and they will be able to deal with any matter germane to that interest. They will be entitled, therefore, under the Bill when considering the reasonableness of the rate to take into account such matters as they think relevant. They have wide and elastic powers at present with reference to the matters they may consider relevant, and we do not interfere with them. The hon. Member desires quite another thing. He wishes definitely to say there are certain circumstances they must take into account. He therefore proposes very seri- 1055 ously to fetter their discretion. I do not think that would be advisable. If their discretion were fettered in that way, it certainly would not put them in dealing with an increase due to conditions of labour in the same position as they are in with regard to an increase due to any other cause. I think the hon. Member ought to remember also it is a very well-known matter in connection with Statutes that if you specify certain things which ought to be taken into consideration, other matters not so specified are thought to be excluded from consideration. His words and other Amendments on the Paper show the difficulty of putting into a Statute points which the Commission are specifically directed to take into account. There are all sorts and conditions of Amendments on the Paper. The Clause would have to be half-a-yard long to include them all, and even then many important and material matters might be omitted, and by omission might cease to be efficacious.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Do I understand it is not intended by this Bill to fetter the existing discretion of the Commissioners in taking into account such economies?
§ Mr. BUXTON
The words I used were that, as regards the "unreasonableness," which is the word in question under Subsections (c) and (d) of any increase, it shall be dealt with by the Railway and Canal Commissioners in a similar way they now deal with increases under the existing law. They will have complete discretion to take into account the various circumstances they consider germane to the reasonableness or otherwise of a proposed increase. I want to leave them in dealing with this increase with the elasticity of power they have at present. I do not think it would be fair from the point of view of the Bill to fetter their discretion, and I really think from the point of view of the hon. Member it would be inexpedient to do so. I hope what I have said may somewhat satisfy him as to the interpretation he has put upon the Bill and will show him that the position of the Commissioners with regard to this matter is that they will have full and complete discretion to take into account the various circumstances they consider germane to the question of the increase and among those circumstances will be many of the matters to which the hon. Member has referred.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I support the Amendment. I should like to ask the President 1056 of the Board of Trade whether, if it were shown that an increase had taken place in the cost of wages and other conditions of labour and that, as a set off against that, there had been sonic considerable economies effected in other directions, the Commissioners could refuse to allow the railway company to raise its rate? That seems to me to be the whole point. It is all very well to say that they can take it into account, but this Bill is to give them power to raise rates if they increase wages, and therefore it seems to me it would have the effect of giving no offset on account of economies. There is another reason why these improvements should be taken into account. It is a well-known fact to anyone who has any connection with railways in recent years that large economies have been effected by amalgamations and working agreements, by speeding up of trains and heavier engines, by longer trains, and in many other ways. These economies, in addition to saving labour, also increased the burden upon labour, and therefore it seems to me to be right that they should have other effects and that rather than an increase in the total of wages there would be a reduction of the hours of labour, as a consequence of such speeding up. We have had during the last few years great economies which have resulted in large additions to the revenue of railway companies which have meant also increased burdens on the men and have also reduced the number of men employed. I believe that in the last four years not less than 12,000 men are employed upon the railways which are carrying an immensely additional burden of traffic. Therefore this matter ought to be taken into account when the Railway and Canal Commissioners come to fix their rates.
§ Mr. PARKES
I think this is a very important point and it does not seem to me to be one which has been exactly explained by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Buxton). The question is whether this Bill is based upon the principle that it limits the Commissioners to the question of wages only as regards any increase in the rates. If it limits the question to wages only, then I must say it limits the discretion of the Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment would limit the discretion of the Commissioners. I think the Bill does that. But what this Amendment would do would be to increase the area of the points which the Commissioners would take into consideration in saying whether or not there should be an 1057 increase of rates. That does not limit the discretion of the Commissioners and the whole point and a most important point is whether in their discretion a positive increase in wages only shall be taken into account in summing up the whole case upon the necessity of an increase of rates at the present time. I think they ought to take the whole question into consideration. It is quite possible that you may have a large increase of wages and at the same time great economy in other parts of the administration of the railway. It may be that owing to economies in administration and improvements in machinery, the net cost may be less than it was before. What we want to do is that the public shall be allowed to benefit by these economies, and that it should be recognised that there may be an increase of wages with no addition to the net cost of working. It may be possible under this Bill that the railway companies would be mounting up dividends in consequence of increased economy in administration, and at the same time the net increase in the cost of labour would not be large. In other words, the economies would be greater than the cost of labour. If that be so, I am bound to say the public ought to benefit.
If this Bill does not allow the scope of the Commissioners to go above and beyond the question of wages, there ought to be a Bill brought in which does allow the whole matter to be taken into consideration. This important question affects the workman in two or three points, first, in the cost of his provisions and also in the cost of his employment. If you have these increased charges from time to time the tendency will be to throw men out of employment. I am speaking on behalf of the great manufacturing centres in this country, which will be affected more than any other class of the community by reason of their distance from the ports and any increase of wages or any increase of the charges of the railway companies would be looked upon with the greatest concern and almost with despair by the people who have to pay the increase. I certainly think this is an important Amendment. I believe that for the considerations mentioned by the Mover and by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that these matters should all be taken into account. I do not believe that the public will have justice done to them if we are to base these increases of rates mainly or solely on the wages' question.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
There is one view which arises on this Amendment and has been already dealt with, and I will only touch upon it briefly, whether it be possible to take into account the process which has been going on among The railway companies for a period of years. There has been a combination of economies effected by the railway companies, and these economies are certain to continue. Part of them consists of dispensing with competitive services, and thereby reducing the labour bills, not necessarily by the discharge of men. Obviously in a country of increasing population, while it may not be necessary to discharge men, it may not be necessary to engage as many men as would otherwise be engaged if the economies had not been effected. That process was in operation when the Government entered into this pledge. I was called out of the House and did not hear the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I want to be quite sure whether or not he covered that point. If this Amendment is not put into the Bill, will the railway companies be allowed to evade a proper set-off to economies simply because they have given an increase of wages. The next point is the economy, which, I think, most authorities are now agreed arises out of an increase in labour cost. We had on the Second Reading of this Bill a most interesting speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he seemed to ignore this point. He compared railway companies with private firms. He said, "Here is a private trader faced with the necessity for an increase of wages. He has his remedy, and he passes on the increase of wages to the general public." That supposes that the trader is always able to pass on to the public the increase of wages, but I venture to suggest that whilst he may do so at first, he is not able in the long run always to pass on to the public an increase in wages. I do not hesitate in saying that if I believed in that doctrine I should not have supported the National Insurance Act. It is true in many cases that the manufacturer or the trader is able immediately to pass on the whole or part of the increase of wages. But what happens eventually?
In the first place, the efficiency of the worker must be increased by the increase of wages up to a certain point, which I do not believe has yet been reached in this country, the maximum increase possible in the efficiency of the worker. An increase of wages must give the producer better value for the wages paid. There- 1059 fore the increase in wages is not an increase in the labour cost. Not only is the labourer more efficient by reason of an increase of wages, but the producer himself is rendered more efficient by an increase of wages. An increase of wages is forced upon him by circumstances, and he immediately looks round to see from what sources of efficiency he can draw to compensate him for having to pay those increased wages. Anybody who knows the history of the Manchester cotton trade knows that the trade unions of Manchester, whilst forcing upon the cotton manufacturers higher wages, at the same time forced upon them an efficiency which has helped to put the cotton trade of this country into the proud possession which it occupies to-day. An increase in wages is not an increase in labour cost. I want to make quite sure that these points are covered by the law as it stands or by the present Bill, and especially that they will be taken into account by the Railway and Canal Commissioners on complaint being made in connection with this particular Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman can give me an assurance, then the Amendment is unnecessary, as also are other Amendments Which I have put down with the same object. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make quite clear how the matter will stand in regard to these very important points.
§ Sir A. MOND
I rise to mention a rather technical point which arises on the Amendment. The real discussion is on what is meant by "a rise in the cost of working" in paragraph (a). The President of the Board of Trade, on the Second Reading, said, "What the Bill provides for is the net cost of any burden upon the railway companies at the end of the year." What is meant by those words "net cost"? If the cost of working the railways is more than the entire cost in the previous year, can the set-off which the railway companies may make in other directions by economies be established before any increase of wages can he justified? Whether that is so or not, I am in doubt. Does "a rise in the cost of working" mean "less economies" and therefore that they must be deducted? Does it mean a total "rise in the cost working" of the railways or only a rise where it can be proved that. labour conditions are involved? Suppose the gross cost of working is actually less than it was owing to economies in electrification or in other 1060 directions, but the labour bill is higher than it was the year before, will the words "rise in the cost of working" mean that these economies are to be ignored? I ant afraid I could not follow the President of the Board of Trade in his explanation that this point arises under paragraph (c). He said that the discretion of the Railway Commissioners to take all these considerations into account will not be interfered with, but so far as I read paragraph (c) it seems to give the Commissioners only discretion with regard to a rise in the cost of working, and to see that the actual amount to be charged is not more than will cover the cost of working. That is not the point raised by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. Under paragraph (c) the Railway Commissioners are not intended to inquire whether or not any economies have or have not been made as a set-off. It seems to me that all they are intended to inquire into under that paragraph is the rise in cost all round. It would be of value to traders to have a little further explanation from the Board of Trade on this important point. I cannot see how the Amendment or the idea underlying it can be said to go outside the pledge given by the Government, or beyond the words used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade on the Second Reading. It cannot be intended that if a railway company saved—1,000,000 a year in economies or through amalgamation, and its labour Bill went up by £500,000, that it should be entitled to increase its rates to the traders, although being £500,000 better off. That could never be contended by the railway companies or the Government. What was obviously intended was that if the increase in cost to the railway companies was £500,000 owing to the increase in the cost of labour, the £500,000 could be recovered. I believe that is the way that the rise in the cost of working under paragraph (a) was intended to be read, and that there must be a net increase of the cost of working due to labour. What the Bill provides for is not the cost but the rise.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
It is very desirable that the Amendment should be accepted. I fail to see that it would interfere with the object the Government had in view in framing the Bill. We all recognise that the object of the Government is to fulfil a promise to prevent the railway companies suffering loss through increased wages, which were deemed last year on 1061 all hands to be desirable. In so far as the Bill accomplishes that object, we all heartily support it. On the other hand, we have to see that no machinery is set up whereby the traders will be unduly charged or penalised. We could not fail to see from the discussion yesterday that there is a feeling on both sides of the Committee in favour of better remuneration for some classes of railway employés, whether it be by a minimum wage or through the means of Conciliation Boards. The Government take the latter view, but anyhow I think it is clear that there will have to be an increase of wages. For that increase of wages I think there will be an increase of efficiency and despatch, and that indirectly the railway companies will increase their revenues. The Bill would go beyond the object we have in view if it is made the means whereby the railway companies should increase their revenues. We all stand to support the railway corn-panics in not suffering loss through their concessions during the settlement of last year. We appreciate their action, and we appreciate the services rendered by the railway companies generally in promoting the trade of the country. I believe in creased remuneration to the employés on the railway systems means increased efficiency and despatch. We owe much to the railway employés at present; they are always ready to serve the public, but we know that well-paid labour is the most economical. Under this measure there will be better conditions for the railway employés, resulting in increased revenue for the companies, and we have to ask the Government to safeguard traders from any imposition of increased charges which would mean an increased profit to the companies beyond the extent to which they are called upon to make any improvement in the condition of their employés. The incorporation of this Amendment will be a reasonable safeguard which the users of the railways have a right to expect, and I hope the Government will see their way to accept it. We hold that in considering the justice of the demands of the railway companies that economies should be considered and also the improvement of management, and that they should not be increased at the expense of additional charges on the public.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I desire to ask my right hon. Friend one definite question. I am advised that as the Bill is drafted it would be possible for there to be an actual reduction in the cost of working the 1062 traffic to the railway company, and yet for the rates to be increased. I am sure that is not the intention of the President of the Board of Trade; but if the Bill as drafted would permit such a thing, some limiting words are needed. I am afraid that, unless some limiting words are put in, the Bill is going to give the companies greater powers than the Board of Trade desire at the present time.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
The President of the Board made two points, with the first of which I thoroughly agree, namely, that the insertion of any limitation in a Bill is dangerous, as tending in the direction of excluding the consideration of other limitations which are desired. What we are anxious for is that this particular limitation and all other reasonable limitations may be equally considered by the Commissioners. We want to be. perfectly sure that under this Bill the Commissioners shall have full liberty of consideration, so that the net increased cost in regard to wages may be the deciding factor. We have heard what was said by the President of the Board of Trade, but this Bill, if passed, will not be construed by that speech, but according to its wording. For satisfaction on so vital a matter as this we want something more than we have had already, that is an absolutely authoritative statement whether under paragraphs (c) and (d) these other considerations may he regarded by the Commissioners, or that we may have a promise from the Government that on Report we shall have the Bill so altered as to meet the objections of my hon. Friends and myself.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I desire to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether we are to understand that the Committee are in this position; that whatever Amendments are moved the President of the Board is under any honourable understanding or agreement with the railway companies to accept no substantial alteration. That is a general rumour in the House. Whether or not it is true I do not know. I should like to have an assurance as to whether the right hon. Getnleman is in a position to accept Amendments beyond those he has himself put down on the Paper. With reference to this Amendment I ask him to consider the desirability of accepting it. I cannot conceive that any railway company or board of directors can take exception to it. It has been pointed 1063 out by traders that under this Bill the cost of working the traffic may actually decrease, and yet the rates still be raised. Another question, equally important, in view of the constant amalgamations and working arrangements between railway companies, is that these working arrangements are to the detriment of the trader as a rule. Is the trader to get no advantage whatever out of all these economies? We understood from the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade, that the railway companies were to be able to recoup themselves only for the increased cost through the payment of labour. This Bill does not carry that out. It is a very important fact that large companies get facilities for reduced rates from railway companies. I have taken cases to the Railway Committee myself on the point. If any benefit which is being derived in that respect has to be taken into consideration, we might just as well say that the country is to have no advantage whatever of any scientific invention which may bring about economies and better management and effect a lowering of the actual cost of railway working. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give sympathetic consideration to the Amendment. I am not hostile to the Bill; I dislike it very much; but the Government having given a pledge, I feel bound to support them. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept these words, I hope he will accept other words which will carry out what is the feeling on all sides of the House.
§ Mr. PETO
I entirely agree with the hon. Baronet that this question of the set-off in economy against increase in the cost of working, due possibly to improvement in the conditions of railway work, is the most important question in the whole Bill. It is of vital moment to know whether this really is and can be taken into consideration by the Railway and Canal Commissioners in case of any complaint in future in cases brought specifically under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman relies upon paragraphs (c) and (d), which, in my opinion, are altogether too vague to meet this case at all, and he read into them practically the continuance of the existing law as it is administered by the Railway and Canal Commissioners. I do not think, having regard to the title of this Bill, which is that it. is "in respect of an increase of rates and charges made for the 1064 purpose of meeting the rise in the cost of working the railways due to improved labour conditions," that there can be any doubt that it does limit the discretion of the Court, and that it is open to very great doubt as to whether economy can be taken as a set-off against the increased cost due to improvements in labour conditions. Some time ago I was one of a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman, and this very question was gone into at considerable length. I am surprised that the hon. Baronet. (Sir A. Mond) seems to have forgotten how completely it was gone into. The right hon. Gentleman then, and I gather his opinion remains unchanged, stated that he considered under the wording of the Bill that the onus would be on the railway companies to show that there was a net addition to their expenditure. Even limiting it there, when we quoted the case of improvements in locomotives as a mere example of a whole class of economy which has no direct relation to improvements in the conditions of labour, the President was perfectly clear that, as it would be impossible to prove any direct relation, they would have no bearing upon the matter at all.
Therefore, unless he has changed his opinion as to the real meaning of the Bill, there is no doubt that questions of economy due to amalgamation, due to the march of science, due to improvements in handling traffic, or to improved traction, or anything of that kind, will not be reckoned at all. Therefore it is not a question of doubt, it is a question of certainty, that with the future development of railway companies, what will happen if you do not put in this Amend-meat, or the later one in a wider form, which I think is better, there will be enormous economies and reductions in the working cost of railways due to outside questions, which have no direct relation to labour, and that the smallest increase or improvement in the condition of labour will be treated as a reason for increasing rates in spite of vast economies made in other directions. But limiting it, as the right hon. Gentleman did, to the question of those economies which have an absolutely direct relation to improvements in labour conditions and to the more efficient labour that has been referred to, I do not see anywhere in the Bill even that that is provided for. There is not even anything to show that it is to be a net rise in the cost, and the right hon. Gentleman at the deputation to which I have 1065 referred, used the word "net." Even that word is not put in the Bill, and if it were put in the Bill I still think it would not be clearly sufficiently definite to make it clear that there is not a completely new departure in the Bill in the case of the railway company, which has to justify the rise in rates which is objected to by the trader. On the Second Reading of the Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave what I consider practically a pledge that some such Amendment as this should be put in if we could make a case for it. He was disputing the question that the cost of labour had been taken into consideration in cases tried before the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and he went on to say:—The hon. Member for Swansea says there are five cases in which wages have been taken into account. If he has any experience of litigation, he must know that there are other cases on the other side.The hon. Member dissented, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he must not dissent, and went on:—At any rate, unless there was a doubt about it, why on earth should or the Board of Trade, or the Government, or the railway companies, desire this power? If the power already exists, what possible hardship will it be to the trade to have an Act of Parliament which simply declares what my hon. Friend says is the law of the land?That is our contention. This Bill does not declare what is the existing law, and will continue to be the law by any means. Then he goes on to say this very important thing:—There is no intention to introduce any new element. If my hon. Friend says that element is already established by law, we only want it to be clearly set out in the Statute.No one can say that the question of taking into consideration the set-off of economy is clearly set out in this Bill. It is the general principle of the Court to take into consideration all relevant facts pro or con, and then sum the whole thing up and say whether the case has been justified on account of a net increase in the cost owing to certain factors, and among the factors they have taken into consideration in many cases is this very question of an increase in wages. I entirely agree that in all cases it can by no means be proved that it is an advantage, even to the companies themselves, to have low wages. There are enormous economies which can, and which will some day be effected by the railway companies, the incentive to adopt which is the direct result of paying higher wages to their men.
I am as certain as I am here that some of these great economies, particularly in the handling at the goods termini of the 1066 railway, will not be put into force in this country until a considerable time after they have been adopted in America, because men in this country engaged in shunting—goods porters and so forth—are paid about 4d. an hour, whereas in the United States, the same men could not be got under a quarter of a dollar an hour. There is a direct incentive to put into operation a system which is already completely worked out, and which will effect gigantic economies, not only in the total labour bill, but undoubtedly in releasing a very large number of men who are unprofitably employed in hazardous and unpleasant employment in this country now for more profitable employment, which will be to their advantage and to the advantage of the trade of the country. I consider that the whole principle of this Bill, if we do not introduce this question of economy as a set-off, is thoroughly vicious. It will tend to perpetuate the extravagant use of hand labour in this country, because the railway companies will always be able to say, "It does not cost us any more. We can put it on to the traders. It is true we may have to pay a minute fraction an hour more, but because we employ 1,000 men where we need not employ any at all, we are not forced to consider the question because it will not mean any net diminution of the profits of the railway company."
I want to refer to another matter in this connection, and that is, as to what extent in the past few years the railway companies have really got any case as to a net increase in cost. In some cases where there has been a net increase in cost, at any rate it cannot be alleged that they have had less traffic to handle, I find that the receipts per goods mile in 1901 were only 73d., whereas in 1910 they were 95d. The minerals carried in 1901 were only 416,000,000 tons, as against 515,000,000 tons last year. All these things are going in their direction, and it seems to me to be a monstrous thing that we should pass this Bill through, which will enable the railway companies to free their hands of all considerations of increased trade, and to throw a burden upon trade which would result in diminishing the volume of the trade of the company every time they gave the smallest concession to the labour they employ. Therefore, far from thinking of advising my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, I certainly should not consent to such a course, because I regard it as an absolutely vital principle. The President of the Board of Trade told us when 1067 we met him, that it was the intention of the Bill, as regards the direct relation between economy and extra cost, to recognise that, and leave it as part of the consideration that the Court would have to decide, and therefore it cannot be contrary to the interests of the wage earner, the trader, or the real interests of the railway companies themselves, to have it clearly set out in the Bill, as proposed by this Amendment, that it must be the net increase due to the improved conditions of labour, after taking into consideration every economy, and that only in this way can the charge for the net increase be passed on to the trader. If we adopted any other principle, we should be adopting a principle which would tend to diminish the traffic and the trade of the country, and which would injure the railway companies themselves in the long run. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will be able to assure the Committee not only that the principle is in the Bill, but that he will offer no further objection to the words of the Amendment being put in.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I am afraid I can only repeat what I have said before. I am anxious in this Sub-section to avoid limiting the discretion of the Commissioners, and what I feel chiefly in regard to the Amendment is that it would very largely diminish that discretion. If these particular words were put in, they would be read with the Act of 1894. Under that Act the Commissioners have full discretion in considering the reasonableness of an increase of rates to take into account any circumstances which they consider relevant to that matter. Nothing whatever precludes them from taking into account the various matters to which reference has been made by previous speakers. I wish to leave them that discretion, and under the Bill as drafted I am informed by my advisers that this discretion is left to the Commissioners. Indeed, that is the common-sense reading of what the Bill proposes. I think this particular Amendment. would be more relevant to paragraphs (c) or (d) than to paragraph (a). Paragraph (a) deals solely with the increase due to labour conditions, while paragraphs (c) and (d) deal with other matters. I wish to leave to the Commissioners the same discretion which they have in dealing with any other increase of rate to take into account the 1068 various circumstances that may arise when considering whether the increase is reasonable. To put into the Act of Parliament certain words which are mandatory on them to take into account certain circumstances would largely limit their discretion in taking into account other circumstances. I think the interests of those concerned are better served by leaving the Bill as it stands with full discretion to the Commissioners than to put in words which would make certain conditions mandatory, and therefore do exactly the contrary of what hon. Members desire. My position about the Bill is this: I feel bound, speaking on behalf of the Government, to carry the Bill through intact. In a few minutes on another Amendment I will make a statement on one or two Amendments to which, after negotiation with the railway companies, I have received their consent.
§ Mr. BUXTON
As regards the principle of the Bill, I feel bound to resist Amendments which are against the principle. That. is the whole position with regard to myself. I hope that will be satisfactory to the Committee. The suggestion which has been made is natural and attractive, and I am very glad that we have had an opportunity of discussing it, but I believe from the point of view of the trader, and also from the point of view expressed by various speakers, that to put in these words would be more likely to be injurious than otherwise.
§ Mr. BARNES
I think, if I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman has missed one point, which is this: The Bill provides that the railway companies, following an increase in wages, shall make a charge. It provides that the trader shall only have an opportunity of complaining against that charge. I think that is a point which has not been considered by the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. BARNES
The point is that the Bill provides that a charge is to be made by the railway company in the event of that company increasing their labour cost. Therefore it is only after the charge has 1069 actually been made that the trader has an opportunity under this Bill of making a complaint. My point is this: I think there will have been prior to that date an absence of any stimulus on the part of the railway companies to make improvements or any increased efficiency in the working of the railways, and therefore, it is too late when the trader makes a complaint to have any advantage of the increased efficiency on the railways as a set-off against increased labour cost. I say that there must be in ordinary cases a saving to the railway companies in the event of the company improving the conditions of the men. There has been absolutely no answer made yet to the statement of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire (Mr. Chiozza Money), which is borne out in all industries where increased wages have been given or the hours of labour have been reduced. In the cotton trade, the engineering trade, and others that might be mentioned, these changes are invariably accompanied by increased efficiency on the part of the workers concerned. A railway company might not increase the wages of the men, but they might reduce the hours of labour under the provisions of this Bill. Take an extreme case—they might have a number of men working twelve hours a day, and they might reduce the number of hours to eight. The men might get the same wages for eight hours as for twelve. The railway companies would be under the necessity of employing some other men, but they would not employ other men in proportion to the reduction of the hours. There would be an immense increase of efficiency on the part of the men working eight hours, hour for hour, as compared with their efficiency when working twelve hours. There is nothing in this Bill to provide that a railway company shall only make a charge strictly proportionate to the increased cost. I think that is a point well worthy of consideration by the President of the Board of Trade.
For my part, if the Amendment is put to a Division, I shall feel bound to vote for it. It has been assumed all through—the statement was made on the Second Reading of the Bill by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it was also made by the hon. Member for Bolton and taken as a matter for granted—that any increase of wages should be passed on by the employer. Nothing of the sort takes place. it occurred to me as I listened to the hon. Member for Wilts that there is an industry 1070 with which he has been associated, contract work, in which a job is sometimes undertaken that will last five years. In the event of the contractor having to pay an increased wage to his men during those five years—and it very often occurs—he gets no increased price in his contract.
§ Mr. BARNES
If he gets any extras, that is a good argument for this Amendment. As a rule, increased wages or reduced hours means increased personal efficiency. Where it does not mean increased personal efficiency on the part of the men it means a stimulus to the employer to bring in some improved method. Therefore it is not true to say that the ordinary employer of labour can pass it on to his customers. This Bill makes a provision that a railway company can pass it on to its customers, and in that way it is going to encourage a continuation of the slovenliness that now characterises our railway system.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The speech of the hon. Member and those who preceded him satisfy me that in arriving at their decision the Commissioners will have to consider other things than the things mentioned in the Sub-sections (a), (b), (c), and (d) of Clause 1. They will have to consider all the circumstances of the case at the time the complaint is made to them. The President of the Board of Trade seemed to accept that view because he told us that the discretion given to the Commissioners under the Act of 1894 was in no way interfered with by this Bill, and in coming to a conclusion they would have to take into consideration a number of other circumstances besides those mentioned in the Sub-clauses of the Bill. If that is so, it is an answer to the speeches which have been made. But I do not feel convinced that as the Bill stands that discretion has been preserved. It might be argued that the conditions in a, b, c, and d are the only things that they have to consider. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will give an assurance that between this and the Report stage he will consider with his advisers whether the discretion of the Commissioners would be limited by the form of the Bill to the consideration of the four subjects mentioned, and, if so, whether it would not be advisable to put in another subhead somewhat to this effect, "and having regard to all the circumstances, whether the company's 1071 increase in rates and charges would be reasonable."
§ Colonel GREIG
I desire to make a suggestion for carrying out what seems to be the general view of those who have taken part in the discussion. I agree with what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member opposite as to the construction of this Clause. It is quite clear that under Section 1 of the 1894 Act the Railway and Canal Commissioners could take into consideration all the circumstances of the case. That being so, the insertion of these proposed words, and especially in the earliier portion of this Clause under Sub-section (a), would have a limiting effect when the Court came to construe the Act, because it would mean that those practically were the only considerations to be taken into account. I find in a well-known book on railway rates, that dealing with the raising of rates, a well-known author says:—In saying that proof of a reasonableness of the amount of a rate is proof of the reasonableness of increasing a lower rate to such an amount, it is not intended to negative the view that reasonableness is intended to be read as meaning reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.What I think would meet the exigiences of the case is that the President of the Board of Trade should in Sub-section (c) of Clause accept this Amendment, which I shall be prepared to move if necessary, that after the words, "in the whole," the words, "having regard to all the circumstances." be inserted. So that it would read "(c) that the increase of rates or charges made for the purpose of meeting the rise in the cost of working is not in the whole having regard to all the circumstances greater than is reasonably required for that purpose." You would bring in then all the circumstances of the case, not only any improvement or economy effected in the working, but any other circumstances which the Court or the Railway Commissioners, if it had been heard under the old Act, would have taken into consideration.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
It is all very well to keep referring back to the parent Act and the emphasis laid on particular points in this Act. The fact is that by passing this Act and singling out from among all the circumstances of the case one particular element in the cost of working traffic, namely, wages, you instinctively compel the Railway Commissioners to single out that one item for consideration, and when the President of the 1072 Board of Trade says that the Railway Commissioners will continue to consider all complaints made to them on the general and reasonable grounds on which they consider them at present, I can only say that that is all altered by the emphasis upon the wages question. The President of the Board of Trade himself admitted that by singling out one particular item you made that item mandatory upon them and obscured all other elements of the question, because he complained that if the specific words were added, the words in the Amendment here, "after making due allowance for any benefit derived by the company from any improvement or economy affected in the working of the railway or in dealing with the traffic thereof," though those words ought to be taken into consideration, and though he believed they would be if this Act passed, yet the very fact of putting them into an Act of Parliament would lay too much emphasis on it and tie the hands of the Railway Commissioners in a way which they are not tied at present. if you single out any particular item, the Railway Commissioners have got to consider whether wages or economies, you thereby obscure all the other elements that go to make up the cost of carrying the traffic in order to make up the minds of the Railway Commissioners when they decide whether the rate should be increased or not.
I am confident that anyone who looks through this Clause will agree with me when I say that the President of the Board of Trade must be at present in error in thinking that. this Amendment is already embodied in paragraphs (c) and (d) of the Clause. What we ask for in this Amendment is that economies, whether from amalgamation or inventions, or the increased efficiency of labour employed at higher charges, should be taken into account by the Railway Commissioners in deciding whether the rate is reasonable or not Paragraph (c) refers specifically to the increased rates or charges to meet the rise in the cost of working. Obviously the paragraph is to guard against the danger that a rise in freight rates charged by the railway company should bring any more than the increased cost of the wages bill. That is the danger which the paragraph is to guard against. Paragraph (d) is "that the proportion of increased rates or wages allocated to particular traffic with respect to which the complaint is made is not unreasonable." In these two paragraphs 1073 the drafters of the Bill intended to guard against the increased cost of working passenger traffic being put off on the increased cost of working the goods traffic; or, again, the increased cost of working one part of the line being put on to increase the rates on another part of the railway. They are two specific dangers against which paragraphs (c) and (d) are intended to guard against, but they do not guard against those dangers against which we seek protection. When we come to the actual wording of the Amendment, I ant bound to say that I see certain difficulties, and it is possible that it might be more happily worded.
The whole principle of the Bill is shown up in this way: Suppose the words proposed were adopted, and suppose the railway company were told that if they effected any economy out of the increase in wages that would not be a justification for raising the freight rate—if you were t o tell any railway company, or, say, any business man, that if he managed his business well and made economies he would not be able to increase his charges, or that if he did not effect economies in the management of his business, then he would be allowed to have the advantage of increasing his charges, you would be putting a premium on inefficiency. Therefore, it is very difficult to insert those Amendments in the Bill, but that is not the fault of the Amendment, it is the fault of the Bill itself. If you proceed on lines which are radically unsound you must expect to come up against difficulties like this. On the whole, and in the long run, I think it would be well to adopt this Amendment even if it has this effect. If you pass this Amendment I think it will act as a time limit to the operation of the Bill. As the years go on there will be new inventions and economies in the natural progress of science, which will save cost in working the railway. The Railway Commissioners in ten, twenty, or thirty years will come to the conclusion that there have been other economies in railway working which will decide any increase in general charges, and therefore they will ultimately cease to regard the plea of the railway company that a particular rate is so raised by reason of the increase of the Wages Bill.
On the whole, this, or a similar Amendment, should be put into the Bill, and besides the wages element, the Railway Commissioners will be enabled to give due consideration to other elements of cost. I think also that in this Bill you are 1074 changing the principles on which the Railway Commissioners work—I mean that the Railway Commissioners at the present time when they come to consider the cost of working a big railway, do not consider the whole of its working, but consider the cost of the particular section on which the rate has been increased. They look at it from the point of view of a particular piece of line. In this Bill you have changed that system, and they are to consider the economy of a great railway like the Great Western, in determining what is reasonable, or is not reasonable, so far as one particular branch of the line is concerned. It is almost impossible for any Railway Commission or Court of Justice to determine what is the reasonable cost in connection with the varying rates and varying conditions and circumstances over a great railway system.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
The words of the Amendment would have the effect, in my view, of limiting the discretion which is vested in the Court. It is very undesirable to use limiting words. As every lawyer knows, they have the effect of somewhat confining the discretion vested in the Court, which otherwise would take into account all the elements and circumstances of the case in deciding whether a particular increase was reasonable or not. Therefore I think it would be objectionable to insert these words. Undoubtedly the object of the Bill, as I now read it, is that the Commissioners should take into account all the various circumstances in order to determine whether or not a particular increase is needed. They are entitled to do it, and not only entitled to do it, but they ought to do it. In the whole Bill you cannot pick out a few particular words in regard to the point; you have got to take into account the law as it stands. The law as it stands is that where they arrive at the cost of working a railway resulting from the conditions of employment of the staff, they have got to determine first of all whether there is a rise in price, they have got to determine whether it is due to the improved conditions of the employés, and they have to take into consideration whether for the increased pay the com- 1075 pany get a greater efficiency and therefore have not got a rise in cost.
The Commissioners in these matters have always had to consider all the circumstances in order to determine whether or not the proposed increase of rate is reasonable. The word "reasonable" always mean what is reasonable in the circumstances. My hon. Friend has suggested that a form of words well worthy of consideration later, when we will have an opportunity to hear an argument upon them. Some such words might be inserted, if they are necessary, in order to give effect to what I say is the meaning of the Bill, and the present Amendment or some other form of words might be inserted on the Report stage in order to show this, that the Bill is intended to operate to the extent only of saying that the Commissioners shall take into account all the circumstances of the case when they are dealing with the proposed increase of rate. That is what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has said during the discussion today was the intention of the Bill, and I agree with him that that is the effect of the Bill as it stands. Nevertheless, in order to meet the views of hon. Members who may think it might be better to put in some such words, we shall see whether either the words proposed, or other words, can usefully be introduced so that there will be no doubt about the matter.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
If that is the understanding of the Government and of the railway companies it does not appear to me that there is any occasion for the Bill at all. I must confess, having had experience of a Departmental Committee, that neither the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade nor the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General is correctly reflecting the railway minds of this House. I remember a question arose as to whether railway companies intended to allow traders or their employés to share in the economies effected as the result of amalgamations and of new processes, and on every occasion the representatives of the railway companies denied that either of those sections had any claim on those economies thus effected. It is certainly a new reading of the 1894 Act to me to understand that the Railway and Canal Commission take into consideration all the circumstances when they are deciding as to whether an increased rate is justifiable or 1076 not. For my own part I recognise, with the Attorney-General, the undesirability of inserting words of the nature of this Amendment, because such insertion always has a limiting effect. At the same time I entirely agree with the spirit and purpose of this Amendment, and if the right hon. Gentleman can at a subsequent stage meet us on this point, as I understand he is willing to do, that will remove a great deal of my objection. I never understood that under the 1894 Act the Railway and Canal Commission did take into consideration all the results of the new economies which are being effected as the result of amalgamation, and I am certain traders throughout the country will be glad to have this brought to their notice. I think those who have promoted this Amendment, have fully justified themselves in this discussion, and I am hopeful that the words ultimately submitted will carry out fully the purposes of this Amendment.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
May I ask the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Colonel Greig) to repeat the words he proposed to-day?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
We must wait until this Amendment is disposed of and until the other Amendment is proposed.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
On this Amendment being withdrawn if the words proposed are not acceptable would it be competent for the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) to move his Amendment?
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
The answer to that point will come when we reach the actual lines where the Amendment comes in, but first let us dispose of the Amendment on the Paper, and the best course would be to withdraw it and leave the Committee free to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
In view of the proposals that have been made from the Government Bench, and which, I understand, will largely have the effect of meeting our views in somewhat different language, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1077
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
rose to propose in paragraph (a), after the word "a" ["a rise"], to insert the word "net."
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The principle of the hon. Member's Amendment is covered by the discussion we have already had, and I intended to call on him to move his subsequent Amendment.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I think this is rather a different point. I submit that the insertion of this word "net" refers to the net rise in the cost of working due to changes in the conditions of the men. What we have been considering is the question of economies effected through amalgamation, or as the result of inventions. I mean by this proposed Amendment to deal simply with the question of the net rise in the conditions of the men. You may have a case where the wages of one grade of men are increased, and men of a lower grade are introduced, and pushed up to do the work at a lower rate than was paid to the previous grade. I do think that is a different point. Where the Railway Commissioners are only to consider those cases where wages are increased and hours shortened, I propose they should also take into account other cases which may exist where wages are decreased or hours lengthened.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am obliged to the hon. Member for putting his point but in my judgment the whole principle of the point is substantially covered in the discussion we have already had, and I therefore call on him to move the next Amendment.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I beg to move in paragraph (a), after the word "working" ["cost of working"] to insert the words, "any particular section, branch, or commercial part of."
I desire to raise the question as to whether the existing practice of the Railway Commissioners was not simply to consider a particular piece of railway and the grounds which made it reasonable or unreasonable that the freight rates for that particular piece of railway should be raised. As this Bill stands, suppose the South-Western gave a rise in pay to the men in the goods yard at Nine Elms, that rise in pay would be good ground for an increase in the freight rate between Barnstaple and Plymouth. I understand that that is not the ease now, and if they wanted to increase the carriage, say, of potatoes from Princetown to Plymouth, 1078 they would have to show that the cost of carrying goods over that particular section had increased and that wages had risen there. They would have to show that owing to various local conditions the cost had gone up over that short section. As I understand, when this Bill is passed, they will be in a very different position. They will be able to plead an increase of wages on any part of the system as a good excuse for increasing freight rates at some very distant part. In the first place, this is unfair to the smaller railway companies. Take a company such as the Cambrian or the Furness. It is true that they are able to raise their freight rates on account of a local increase in wages, but the conditions of competition may be such that it is not desirable for them to do so, because if they increased the rate they would lose the freight. But the London and North-Western Railway Company would be able to select a different part of their system where those conditions did not obtain. They would be able to raise their rates far away from the Cumberland and Westmoreland area on account of an increase of wages on the Cumberland and Westmoreland line; whereas the Furness Railway, since it operates only in Cumberland and Westmoreland, could not raise their rates in Cumberland and Westmoreland, and would not be able to recoup themselves in a far distant part of the country for that local increase. It seems to me that by this system you penalise the company which cannot widely distribute its losses, or place the increase of freight rates where that increase can be made.
My second point is, that unless you tie down the railway companies, as they are tied at present, to proving their case in respect to the particular branch or section or point to point which is being considered, you make it far more difficult for the trader making a complaint to prove his complaint before the Railway Commissioners. If a man makes a complaint about some special increase in the freight rates, say, of pottery from Stoke-on-Trent to London, he has something to definite to work at; he can find out where the costs have gone up over that particular section, and thus make out his case before the Railway Commissioners. But directly you put him in the position of having to prove that there has not been, on some part of the North-Western Railway, an improvement in the conditions of the workmen for which he may have to pay, you put him in an impossible position, as he cannot prove any- 1079 thing of the sort. Without this Amendment the Bill will do away altogether with the possibility of any trader making complaints about rates, and you will throw the whole question of rates upon the Railway Commissioners themselves, who at the present time have no machinery whatever for objecting to rates unless complaint is made to them. It will be found absolutely necessary to provide the Railway Commissioners with some machinery, so that independently of any complaint and without being moved thereto by any particular person they may revise rates and demand to have put before them every increase in rates which the railway companies may make. At present, probably, only one in a hundred of such increases is brought before the Railway Commissioners. Complaints are rare, and rates are raised without their being brought before the Railway Commissioners at all.
By the Bill as drafted it may ultimately become necessary for every variation of rates, up or down, to be brought before the Railway Commissioners and approved by them before it is allowed to come into operation. Possibly good may come out of evil in the long run. At present I beg the Committee to consider whether it would not be advisable to insert these modifying words. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) by his speech on the Second Reading convinced me that some such words as these ought to go in. Their insertion would not in the slightest degree vitiate the pledge given by the Prime Minister. It would be of the utmost value to the Committee if we could have read out the exact words of that pledge, so that we who consider ourselves bound by it might know exactly to what we are tied. The insertion of these words would preserve the existing condition of affairs so far as the relations between the railway companies and the Railway Commissioners are concerned, and they would not destroy the Prime Minister's pledge. But if the Bill is passed without these words, the Committee will be going far beyond that pledge, and giving the railway companies absolute power over the freight rates charged to traders all over the country.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I endeavoured to explain on the Second Reading the object of the Bill as it stands. The main object is to enable an increase of rates to be made although it cannot be shown definitely I and absolutely that that particular in- 1080 crease of cost is due to the handling of particular traffic; but the general increase in wages and conditions has in some way or other to be allocated to the various branches of traffic. It cannot be allocated absolutely and entirely to a particular branch of traffic, and the Commissioners have sometimes allowed an increase of rates where such an allocation has not been made, while sometimes they have refused to do so. It is to clear up the doubt which exists that this Bill has been introduced, and that is the sole reason for the Bill. The Amendment of my hon. Friend would destroy the whole operation of the measure in that respect, and make it necessary that where an increase of wages or an improvement of conditions was made, that increase should be spread generally throughout all ranks. That is not a workable proposition. Therefore the only alternative is to allocate, as no doubt the Commissioners will do so far as they can. Under paragraph (d) the allocation shall not be an unreasonable one. That no doubt will also be taken into account by the Railway Commissioners. Short of that, it is not possible to allocate a definite amount to a definite branch of the traffic. I am afraid, therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment, as the Bill would not work if this Amendment was carried.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I am glad to hear the President of the Board of Trade say that he cannot accept this Amendment. I am quite sure he is perfectly right in his contention that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to allocate the increased rate to a particular district with reference to particular increases of wages which had been given in that district. Not only does my hon. Friend in this Amendment propose that the rate should only be increased in a particular district, but later he has an Amendment which would say that the increase in wages must be in that particular district where the increase in the rate occurs. That would be obviously utterly against the interests of the employ—s of the railway, especially if everywhere they felt that an increase in wages was due.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I did not understand that that was the object of the Bill. I thought that the object of the Bill was to allow wages to be taken into account when the Railway Commissioners were consulted at the present time, owing to a particular increase. It seems to me that we have had an absolutely new theory sprung upon us. Not only are wages to be taken into account, but conditions are to be considered generally, and not only wage conditions, but every other condition has to be considered, as in the case of the whole of the North-Western system.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I was dealing solely with wages and conditions. I said that the general rise and improvement in wages and conditions will be taken into account, but that you cannot allocate. There are two alternatives to meet that. I said that that matter would come as to its reasonableness or unreasonableness under paragraph (d).
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I am still not quite clear. Perhaps we may have this point cleared up. Suppose the railway is divided in two equal parts, and that on one part no increase in freight rates is possible. Suppose in the other part it was possible to increase the freight rates without losing so much trade that the company would suffer. Are we to understand that if this Bill pass an increase of wages, which Is due to the whole of the railway system, may be charged entirely against that part of the system where the freight rates can be increased, and that a half, or it may be one-fourth, or one-tenth, of the railway system over which the freight rates can be increased has got to pay for the whole increase in wages for the rest of the system?
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Paragraph (d) does not refer to that point. Take the paragraph. It says:—
"That the proportion of the increase of rates or charges allocated to the particular traffic with respect to which the complaint is made is not unreasonable."
As I understand, the President of the Board of Trade has stated that this allocation of the whole increase to some particular branch of trade is what the Bill intended to do, and, therefore, may be reasonable.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Then, in that case, if the railway company cannot do it, how is it going to recoup itself for the increased wages bill? Either the railway company cannot recoup itself, or it must recoup itself unreasonably.
§ Mr. BUXTON
That is not in the Bill. The conundrum that my hon. Friend has put to me is that the railway company may raise their rates in certain parts, and that therefore they would not raise them in other parts, and that the Commissioners will then have to consider whether under paragraph (d) that is reasonable; and, secondly, whether wages have been reasonably increased. Under certain circumstances the company would not be allowed to raise the rates at all.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Supposing, because of the increased wages of the men, the company increase their rates 10 per cent. taken all over the railway. Would the right hon. Gentleman, if he were one of the Railway Commissioners, say that an increase of 12 per cent. in freight rates in one particular branch of the railway was unreasonable, or reasonable. The whole question is, is it 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. that that part of the railway system has to bear?
§ Mr. BUXTON
Under paragraph (b) the Commissioners will have to take into account all the circumstances, and then consider whether the particular charge would be reasonable.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
It seems to me that the question that the House has to decide is one of the most important in the Bill, and that is whether the traders of the country are to have freight rates put up 10 per cent. or 20 per cent.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), after the word "railway" ["the cost of working the railway"], to insert the words "excluding the cost of carrying passengers."
Perhaps I may be allowed to make a statement in respect of this. The Amendment is in consequence of various propositions that were brought to my attention 1083 on the Second Reading Debate. I gave these the fullest possible consideration to see how far it was possible to meet them, keeping in view the principle of the Bill. There were some of these matters of interest to traders. They appeared to me not to go contrary to the principle of the Bill, and therefore I hoped some concession might be given by the railway companies. I communicated with the representatives of the railway companies, and I am glad to say that they met me in a very reasonable spirit. The result of the negotiations with them is that I have on the Paper three Amendments. The first is this one I am now moving. It will make it quite clear that between goods and passengers the passengers will be taken out of the provisions of the Bill. It was represented on Second Reading and also by deputation that the additional cost of increased wages and the conditions of labour of those men engaged or partly engaged in the business of carrying passengers, would be considerable, and that the balance will be thrown upon the goods traffic. In other words, the increase in passenger rates will be thrown upon the goods traffic. That was a serious proposition, and it seemed to me it was one that might possibly be met, and I am glad to say that the companies have agreed to the proposition I put before them, and the result is that any question of balance of cost due to increased rates of wages of the men engaged in or carrying passengers, will not be put as an additional burden on the goods traffic, and will be taken out of the Bill altogether.
If the Committee will allow me to deal with the three points together, although it may be a little out of order I think it is the better course. The second point is one put to me in the Debate, and at various times by deputations as to what the word "staff" means. It was suggested that that might include increased salaries and wages to managers, supervising staff, and others, whereas the House desired the additional powers given in the Bill to railway companies should be confined to the labour and clerical staff. I have put down words to that effect, making quite clear what is meant. The third point also is very important from the point of view of the trader. In my own ill-fated No. 1 Bill there was a Clause enabling the Commissioners under certain conditions to reopen and to reconsider the time at which the increased rate 1084 should be reopened and reconsidered at a subsequent date. It appeared to me not an unreasonable proposition that there should be opportunities for reconsideration. The railway companies accepted my view, and I have an Amendment down which will give an opportunity for reconsidering and revising these various increased rates, by which the Commissioners will be enabled, circumstances having altered, to take into account these altered circumstances and therefore to modify in some cases and possibly to reduce the rates altogether.
These three points I think are material points in which the interests of those who represent the traders in this House are recognised. The railway companies in this matter have endeavoured to meet the views put before them, and I am glad also to think those representing the traders have met me in a conciliatory spirit. The first Amendment is the one which I have now moved. My hon. Friend behind me has a verbal Amendment which he is about to move. It was represented to me that the mere words "the cost of carrying passengers" might not include ticket collectors, booking clerks and others, and I am prepared to accept my hon. Friend's word making it quite clear that the whole of the additional cost of the improved conditions of the men engaged in carrying passengers would be excluded from the Bill, and therefore the cost of them could in no sense possibly fall upon the goods traffic.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "carrying" ["the cost of carrying passengers"], to insert the words "and dealing with." This is purely a verbal Amendment.
Question, "That the words 'and dealing with' be inserted in the proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the words "and dealing with" will cover hotels or not?
§ Mr. BUXTON
Yes, including them, and docks and harbours. Hotels would come out; I think they would not be included in the Bill at all. Docks also would go out in so far as they are not in communication with terminal stations. Where they are subsidiary enterprises they would not come under the terms of the Act.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I want to call attention to one very important thing, as I am alarmed at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. This is a Bill to give railway companies power to throw the cost on to the traders provided that the working conditions of the men have been improved. That would apply whether the improvement was in wages, in hours, or in any other conditions that would throw cost upon the companies. Now the right hon. Gentleman says, "Yes, but with regard to the passenger departments we cut them out altogether." What does that mean? It means that one part of the railway men are cut out of consideration under this Bill. I venture to say that if you take the locomotive men engaged in passenger work, the guards, and the passenger shunters, and the staffs at the stations out of the Bill, you have one-half of the railway men of the country engaged in dealing with the traffic taken out of consideration altogether, though the companies have power already to raise the charge for passenger fares, contract tickets, excursion tickets, week-end tickets, and so on, to recoup them, as it were. What is the use of that? It is Quite right, if this Bill is to go through, that the increase in the charges made since 1911 should be taken into account by the Railway and Canal Commission if they are considering the complaint of the traders against a rise in rates. Why should you specifically say that the cost of working for this particular class of traffic shall not be considered? This is really a serious matter. You will consider everything else but the cost in connection with the passenger traffic. Why not reverse the order and say that you will take into account the increased cost of tickets, either ordinary, excursion, contract, week-end, or other kinds? As a rule you generally take one grade covering the whole line in ratio the traffic, and you cannot segregate one lot from another if we are to have satisfactory conditions of improvement. It would be much better if the right hon. Gentleman would reverse the order and say that this shall be taken into account instead of that class of men being excluded.
§ Sir A. MOND
This Bill does not fix the rate of wages for railway men. May I point out that the Act of 1894 deals exclusively with goods traffic, and has nothing to do with passenger traffic. If these words had not been in, and if anybody had tried to introduce passenger traffic, he 1086 would have been ruled out of order on the ground that they had no jurisdiction. This Amendment only makes the present law applicable to the modification of it under this Bill. It is an extraordinary thing that we are so often told that railway companies cannot separate these costs, but I know that when they have appeared before the Railway and Canal Commissioners they show an extraordinary facility in regard to separating the costs in some things, and there is not so much difficulty as people imagine. Objection has been taken to this proposal that it affects in some way the interests of the workman, but, at any rate, it does not interfere with them getting any improvements of any kind either in their conditions of labour or their wages, and it merely brings this Bill into line with the practice of the Railway and Canal Commissioners.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I should like to know what is the exact meaning of the Amendment to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Swansea. The expression he desires to see incorporated is rather an unusual one. He speaks of railway servants dealing with passengers. If this were an Amendment relating to a Suffragist disturbance I could understand the meaning of the term, or if it were confined to a porter or a guard employed to remove a person travelling under the seat without a ticket, but I should like to ask whether they regard this expression in conjunction with their own Amendment as including the whole of the costs incidental to passenger traffic. If not, we ought to have some such expression as will cover the whole of the cost of working passenger traffic. I think that is what the hon. Member desires by his Amendment. I should like to support what the hon. Gentleman has said with regard to the meaning and intention of this Bill. Surely it is limited to Section 1 of the Act of 1894, and if this Amendment had not been proposed by the Government and if the Commissioners had endeavoured to take passenger traffic into account it would be acting outside the title of this Bill which clearly confines it to goods traffic as affected by Section 1 of the Act of 1894. If my interpretation of the Commissioners' duty is an accurate one as to what will happen under this Bill there might be an improvement effected by the railway company in the conditions of those who are working their 1087 passenger traffic, and the whole cost of it might be thrown upon the traders.
That is so manifestly unfair on the face of it that I am sure this Amendment must be accepted by all fair-minded persons. If the right hon. Gentleman has studied the case law as laid down by the Railway and Canal Commissioners, he would have found under that law at the present time the Commissioners have to look to the particular branch of traffic or branch of the railway service in which the improvement has occurred and impose the additional charges upon that class of traffic and that only. The leading case on this point is that of Black and Sons against the Caledonian Railway Company, and the judge laid down that in order to justify an increase of rates it is not sufficient to prove that the costs of working the traffic as a whole has increased, but it must be proved that there has been an increase in the cost of working a particular service or branch of traffic. I should like to remind hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that they still have operating in their favour the decisions already given by the Railway and Canal Commissioners in connection with passenger traffic, that it is possible for them to make an increased charge in respect of passenger traffic if there has been an improvement in the conditions of those who have been working that traffic. That is the law, and nothing this Bill says can affect that Position. Why is it that these other matters arc not taken into account besides the passenger traffic?
We have been told that if an improvement occurs in the condition of labour at the ports or docks controlled by the railway companies it will not be possible, except in connection with terminal traffic, to throw the additional charge upon the consignors of goods along the inland railways. I do not know what are the powers of this Bill apart from the decision I have referred to. I do not know what there is in the general law to ensure that safeguard to the traders. I understand that hotels will be cut out as a result of this Amendment, and that point ought to be made perfectly clear. I cannot see that the Amendment as amended would cover hotels. There are other matters about which I should like to have some information. How about the steamboats which are worked by various railway companies across the English Channel or the St. George's Channel, or other steamboats? If 1088 an improvement is made in the condition of the workers upon those steamboats, will an increased charge be thrown upon the consignors of goods? There are some railway companies which actually construct railway vehicles or locomotives where the improved conditions in those construction works will be taken into account as a reason for increasing the charges thrown upon goods traffic. I believe there are cases where railway companies actually construct locomotives or wagons and sell them to other companies. There is certainly one case, if not more. Surely, in a case like that, there is no legitimate excuse for throwing upon the traders the increased cost of improving the conditions of service of the men employed in those construction works, because another company gets the benefit of the product, possibly at less than cost price. I hope the Government will be able to reassure us on these matters. I cordially welcome this Amendment as, at any rate, an instalment of what is due to the trader under this Bill, and as what was the existing law prior to its introduction.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Of all the Amendments which have been moved on behalf of the trader, this, to my mind, is the most stupid. I put down an Instruction originally, asking that railway companies should separate their accounts, and time after time I have seen the President of the Board of Trade and have endeavoured to persuade him to put into this Bill some machinery by which traders could ascertain what was the cost to a railway company of any service performed by that company. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) says there have been only twenty-four cases taken before the Railway and Canal Commissioners altogether. I have taken two of them, so I ought to have some experience of the difficulties of proving a case before the Commissioners. When a trader meets the Commissioners he is faced with the difficulty of proving what is the cost of carrying any particular traffic. Under this Bill the onus is very rightly placed on the railway company to justify any particular rate. When a trader goes to the Court and seeks relief from the burden of any particular rate, no one can say, unless you have a distinct statutory provision compelling the railway companies to separate their accounts, what is the actual cost of the service performed by the railway company. Unless this separation of accounts takes place, the Amendment 1089 is a perfectly futile one. Unless they make this radical alteration in their system of keeping accounts, how are you going to show what is the cost of any particular service performed by them. You have all the different grades of men, engineers, signalmen, platelayers, and so on, engaged in different classes of work, and if this House places on the railway companies no obligation to separate their accounts, how is a trader to prove whether charges imposed by a railway company are satisfactory or not? He has no earthly chance of proving it. It is perfectly true the railway companies have produced before certain Departmental Committees series of papers showing what is the cost of particular services, but those particulars have never been printed in any Parliamentary paper, and the companies have always concealed what is the actual cost of any particular service which they perform.
This House has, in its discretion, time after time, stipulated in what form railway companies shall keep their accounts, but it has never yet gone so far as to say there shall be this separation of accounts, which it is essential we should have from the business point of view. The consideration present in the mind of every trader who goes to the Court is to prove he is being unfairly handicapped in his business, and that, the rate he is being charged is too high. What are the facts with regard to passengers? For every passenger taken out of London on the main line there is a dead weight of four tons hauled by the railway companies, and, taking trains leaving from all parts of the country, and not only from the Metropolis, the dead weight hauled per person actually carried is no less than eight tons, whilst in the case of sleeping cars it is no less than ten tons. I am interested in the mineral traffic, and for my own part I say give them a halfpenny per ton on the 400,000,000 tons of minerals and it would produce nearly—1,000,000, which would be sufficient to provide a reasonable wage for a good many men. Many of the southern railways, however, have no mineral traffic to raise money in this way. The passenger service results in very little profit, the real profit of the railway companies being obtained from the conveyance of minerals. The total traffic carried is 500,000,000 tons, of which 100,000,000 tons consist of goods traffic, and 400,000,000 tons of minerals. The railway companies therefore make a substantial profit on the conveyance of coal and minerals, and the 1090 trader cannot dispute it because we have no separation of the accounts. If we had a business man at the Board of Trade instead of the amateurs we have there, from the President, clown to the lowest grade, the first thing he would have done would have been to say this, "Here we are producing a Bill asking Parliament to grant certain increases of rates in order that the railway companies may pay their men better wages." The railway company say, "We approve of the principle," and the Government give a pledge, and because they have given that pledge I have supported them on that main issue, but, the business men of the country have said, "If you are going to charge increased rates, we want to know what is the cost Of the service that is to be given." But the railway companies say, "We are not going to separate our accounts or to tell the Board of Trade or the traders what is the particular cost of the services we render. We throw these figures at your heads." The Commissioners will take them and arrive at the cost in the best way they can, but they cannot arrive at the actual cost of any service performed by the railway companies. That is actually impossible, as I know from the experience I have had in going before the Commissioners.
Why have we not had these elementary business method from the Government in this matter? I have been in business all my life. In my engineering business I know the cost of everything I produce, big machinery and small machinery, and I say that if they would separate these accounts, we should be able to tell very approximately the cost of the services which they render. We have the Board of Trade, which in this country represents the largest commercial interest in the world, producing a Bill to us under which no trader, if he goes into Court, will be able to prove one way or the other what is the actual cost of a service, or what the justification is of any particular rate. Under this Amendment you are not going to compel the railway companies to separate their accounts. I have been pressing it upon the Board of Trade for weeks, and have told them that if they will compel the railway companies to separate their accounts, I will give them every assistance. They give us sympathy, but say, "We cannot do that." It is a slip shod sort of way to ask us to pass this Bill, which will be practically valueless unless the companies are forced to separate their accounts. They are not 1091 going to do it unless they are compelled. There is certain traffic on which a large profit is made, and they have not the slightest intention of allowing the general community or the traders to know what the cost of those services may be. The House of Commons and the Board of Trade seem to think that the railway companies are run by boards of directors. The railways of the country are run by general managers who are very able men and are able to separate their accounts. But they will take very good care that they do not give the information to the Board of Trade, and still less to the trader.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Robertson)
It seems to me that the whole of the speech of the hon. Baronet in favour of separate accounts by the railway companies works out in justification of this Amendment.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I think I can show the hon. Baronet that the effect will be in the direction of the very separation of accounts for which he asks. He has argued that the trader cannot prove in regard to a given rate what is the cost of a particular service. May I call his attention to the words of the Bill, which say that the railway company must prove to the satisfaction of the Railway and Canal Commissioners that there has been a rise in the cost of working? By this Amendment the railway company, in order that they may get the benefit of this Act, will have to prove to the satisfaction of the Commissioners that there has been a rise in the cost of working the railway, excluding the cost of carrying passengers, and resulting from improvements made by the company after a certain date. It is not for me to say whether or not the hon. Baronet is correct in stating that the railway companies have separated their accounts for their own purposes. He paid a high tribute to the ability of the railway managers. If that tribute is deserved, I should think it is quite possible that they have separated their accounts and are in a position to give the approximate cost of a particular service. But if they have not done so, the effect of this Amendment is directly in favour of forcing them to separate their accounts. They will have to satisfy the Commis 1092 sioners that a given increase in the cost of labour and in the cost of working the railways under which they claim the benefit of this Act, has arisen in the goods traffic and not in connection with the carrying of passengers.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I have two cases before the Commission at present. Will the hon. Gentleman give me this undertaking on behalf of the law officers of the Crown, that, if the Bill, becomes law, when I go before them, I may have the cost of working the traffic as between passengers and goods.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The hon. Baronet has put a question in a somewhat obscure way. I think my proposition is perfectly clear. Under this Amendment, if it is carried, any railway company claiming the benefit of the Act will have to prove that a given rise of labour cost is in respect of goods traffic. They will have to exclude the cost of carrying passengers. I do not think it will give that perfection of bookkeeping which the hon. Baronet desires, but it will go very largely in the direction for which he is asking, and I hope he will reconsider the suggestion of dividing against the Amendment. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. C. Bathurst), I am not sure whether I followed the whole of his argument. In regard to one point of policy, I may say that the title of the Bill was not such as to exclude from the purview of the Bill the cost of labour employed in attending passengers. The purpose of this Amendment is to remove the natural fears of traders that a rise in the cost of handling or carrying passenger traffic might be put upon the books. I do not think anyone in the House will desire that that should take place. As regards the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Hudson), I think I can reassure him also that the effect of the Amendment will be that passenger traffic must stand on its own feet. Any improvement in the conditions of the men who are handling passenger traffic is to be met out of that passenger traffic.
§ Mr. HUDSON
My point is this: So far as passenger traffic is concerned. Is it clear that a distinction will be made between passengers and between merchandise and minerals, and that passengers will be outside the purview of this Bill.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
As the Bill stood, that was the argument of the traders, that 1093 it was possible that a rise in the cost of working the railways which was due to improvements in the wages or other conditions of the men working the passenger traffic might be put upon the books. This Amendment saves us from that. As regards further questions of the Member for the Wilton Division I may say that steamboats are clearly outside the Bill which refers to the cost of working the railways. Making and repairing of vehicles is obviously part of the cost of working railways, but where a railway company makes vehicles and sells them to other companies, that would not be dealt with under the Bill. It is outside of the cost of working the railways.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Has not the term "railway company" been interpreted in a legal sense to mean a railway undertaking, including steamboats as well as the ordinary inland railway traffic and hotels?
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I do not think it could be so rationally interpreted in this Bill. Hotels would certainly be in connection with the handling of passengers, and they will be excluded by the exclusion of passengers. The hon. Member put a question as to why the words "and dealing with" were put in. They were put in in order that booking clerks should also be considered as part of the passenger traffic. No part of the increased cost of handling or carrying passenger traffic is put upon the rates.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Dealing with passenger traffic is one thing; dealing with passengers is another. What you say is, dealing with passenger traffic, and not passengers.
§ Mr. PETO
I desire to support the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham). I agree entirely with what he said, that by being rushed into this agreement with the railway companies the Board of Trade have, in fact, promised to do something to enable the railway companies to prove their case under circum- 1094 stances which will make it impossible for the trader to prove the contrary. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the railway companies will have to satisfy the Commissioners, and, therefore, it will be to their interest to divide their accounts, more or less in the method suggested by the Departmental Committee which considered this question and reported in 1909. There is nothing in that point whatever. That railway companies have to separate their accounts is no proof that traders will have the right to find out the contents of the accounts. There is no proof whatever they will have any inducement to produce accounts which will be open to the inspection of the trader, which will enable him to know anything about the case. I do not want the Committee to divide on this subject without realising that it is a question which has been gone into at great length by people well competent to deal with it, who have reported in a Blue Book on which no action has been taken by the Government.
§ Mr. PETO
With all respect, I am following the hon. Member for Mansfield. I only wanted to say that this very question was considered in advance by this Departmental Committee. If their Report had received attention, the Amendment of the President of the Board of Trade would have been effective from the traders point of view, but as he has ignored the Report the Amendment, whether carried or not, will be of no practical value to the trading community of this country.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
According to the Preamble of this Bill, it is drawn to amend Section 1 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894. I have referred to that Act, and find that the Section referred to refers only to traffic. I understand the Amendment of the President of the Board of Trade is proposed with a view to confining the Bill to goods traffic. I assume that the Amendment is quite in order, and I have great pleasure in supporting it.
§ Question, "That those words, as amended, be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In paragraph (o) after the word "theit" ["conditions of employment of their staff"] insert the words "labour or clerical."—[Mr. Buxton.]1095
§ In paragraph (b) after the word "increase" ["particular increase of rate"] insert the words "of rates or charges."—[Mr. Peto.]
§ In paragraph (c) after the word "the" ["purpose of meeting the rise"] insert the word "said."—[Mr. Buxton.]
§ Colonel GREIG
I beg to move after the word "whole" ["is not, in the whole"] to insert the words "having regard to the circumstances."
I handed in this Amendment in order to carry out what seems to be the general view of the House, which was agreed to more or less by the President of the Board of Trade when we were considering the first Amendment on the Paper. It was pointed out that that Amendment would limit the discretion of the Railway and Canal Commissioners. Under the provisions of Section 1 of the Act of 1894 the Commissioners are to determine whether the increase of rate complained of is, or is not, reasonable, and they can take the whole of the circumstances into consideration. It is in order to preserve that discretion and make it perfectly clear on the face of the Bill, although I believe myself that the Bill is perfectly clear, that I move this Amendment.
§ Colonel GREIG
I have no objection to this, though I think my Amendment is preferable and would cover all the circumstances.
§ Mr. BUXTON
We had a discussion on this some time ago on paragraph (a), and I think the House generally agreed that paragraphs (c) and (d) wanted some explanation in order to make it clear that the Commissioners would be able to take into account such circumstances as they considered advisable when considering the reasonableness or otherwise of the rates. The Attorney-General, in order to meet that view, suggested that the most suitable place was on paragraph (c). I do not think there is any difference of opinion between the various interests concerned.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Do I understand that my hon. Friend objects to some words making it clear what paragraph (c) and the other paragraphs mean?
§ Mr. BUXTON
I do not know that these particular words are the best way of dealing with the matter. We have had to consider the best form of wording. What I think the Committee desires is to make it clear that the circumstances which can be taken into account at present in regard to other increases of rates should be able to be taken into account, but that the Commissioners in their discretion should be able to take them into account in regard to increases under this Bill. In discussing, this matter with the representatives of the railway companies I understood that that also was the view that they held. It is only a question, therefore, of getting clearly into the Bill what all those interested agree is the position. I am not going to suggest particular words. I want to know how far the view which I have put before the Committee is generally agreed to, namely, that under the Act of 1894 the Commissioners in considering the increase of rates can take into account such circumstances as they consider relevant to the question. It was pointed out by Members on both sides that the words in the Bill did not make that clear. In my opinion that is the position, and if it is not clear it ought to be made clear. If the hon. Gentleman representing the railway companies thinks that the words as they stand make it clear I shall be very glad to hear his observations in regard to it. I thought the Bill made it clear, but the Committee generally did not think so. The words suggested do not extend the operation of the Bill, but make clear what I understand all parties were agreed to.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
The last thing that we representatives of the railway companies wish to do is to appear to claim that by giving or withholding our assent to Amendments we can decide the fate of this Bill, or that we are in a position to dictate to the House in regard to the future relations between railway companies and their traders; but we think we are entitled to say, for what it may be worth, whether we are advised or not that a particular Amendment would put us in a worse position than we were before the Bill passed; and, further, whether, in our opinion, it carries out the pledge which was given in August, 1911, by the Government to the railway companies. I regret to say that we are advised, and we think very well advised—and my own opinion agrees with the advice that is given to us 1097 —that to add any such words as are proposed here would put us in a worse position than we should be in if the Bill did not pass. We have at present accepted the Bill as it stands, and said that we believe it is a fulfilment of the pledge given by the Government. Under the Bill as it stands we believe that the Commissioners will retain any existing power they may have of taking into consideration any relevant circumstances. It must be obvious to anyone familiar with the construction of statutes that if you, on the occasion of passing a Bill for dealing with an exceptional state of affairs, put in new words which are not in the parent Act, it would be absolutely necessary to find some construction to be put on these words. We might then find ourselves faced with the necessity, after having given an advantage to labour, of making a deduction in respect of economies that may have been made years before, and which are in no way connected with the conditions of labour at all. We would, therefore, be placed in a far worse position than if the Bill had not been passed. I am perfectly aware that that is a very serious statement to make to the House. I make it, and the right hon. Gentleman must take his own course. At the present stage I am bound to tell the House that we do not think the words proposed to be inserted will place us in a better position, and that, on the contrary, they will place us in a worse position.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I am not going to dispute with the right hon. Gentleman with regard to his point as to whether these particular words should be put in at this place. What I am concerned with is that the majority of the House do not think that the words of the Bill as it now stands make the position clear, namely, that in regard to the increase under this Bill the Commissioners will be entitled to take into account such circumstances as they consider relevant to the situation. As the right hon. Gentleman has raised the point, I feel bound on my own behalf to read what is in a memorandum given to me for the purpose of negotiation with the railway companies as to the position which they thought they should take up, and which they considered right in regard to this very proposal. The memorandum contains the following:—With regard to the suggestion of the United Chambers of Commerce that the Bill should he amended by directing the Court to take into consideration, by way of setting off such matters as economies in 1098 working the railway companies would regard any such amendment as entirely inadmissible.The companies have accepted the Bill, widely departing as it does from Clause 2 of the dropped Bill, out of a desire to meet the apprehension of the traders in regard to the burden of proof placed upon them by that Clause, and have themselves accepted the entire burden of proof. To whatever extent it may be reasonable that such matters should be taken into consideration, the Commissioners have full power to do so; but an amendment of the kind suggested would close the door to any argument open to the companies under the existing law.Therefore, the whole difference of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman as representing the railway companies and myself is this: I consider that the words of the Bill make it quite clear that the Commissioners have full power to consider the reasonableness of the rate and to take into account circumstances which are relevant. On the other hand, it has been pointed out by various Members of the House that the words of the Bill do not make that clear, and many of them feel that not only is there doubt, but that words should be inserted to make it clear that the Commissioners may not feel that they are ruled out front taking these circumstances into account. All we are asking is that the position be made quite clear in the Bill. I have had an opportunity of considering it since the Amendment was moved, and I do not think that those words would come best in here. I would suggest to the Committee that we should be allowed on the Report stage, which we will take to-morrow, to take the opportunity of considering the best method of carrying out what, I understand, we are agreed on, and what the House desires, and deciding what ought to be inserted in the Bill. Having been in charge of this Bill, the very last thing I should desire would be that the Government should do anything that could be in any way held to be a breach of faith. I have endeavoured—and the representatives of the railways in this House will admit that I had considerable difficulty in the matter—to carry out to the full the absolute pledge which the Government gave. If I considered for a moment that in suggesting this Amendment, which we may have to suggest to-morrow, we were departing from that, I would resist it to the best of my capacity, but I do not consider it a breach of the undertaking given to the companies.
§ Lord CLAUD HAMILTON
On behalf of the railway companies, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we give him every credit for endeavouring to treat us in a perfectly fair and straightforward manner, but, as in other questions, there 1099 are two sides to this matter. The Committee recollect that this is an agreed Bill between His Majesty's Government and the railway companies. I do not mean that it is an agreed Bill which has been decided hastily between them and the Government, but that it is a Bill which has been considered over and over again by those representing the railway companies and those representing the Board of Trade. It has been in consequence of those conferences, to use a vulgar expression, "boiled down," until it has assumed its present shape. We have informed the Board of Trade in the most unequivocal manner that this is the very minimum which we can accept as being a redemption of the solemn pledge given by His Majesty's Government in August, 1911. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that the insertion of these words, "having regard to the circumstances," may be not only perfectly innocuous, but that they will tend to a better understanding of the meaning of the Clause. We have considered those words fully, not only to-night, but previously. Those words were originally, I am informed, submitted to us by the officials of the Board of Trade, and duly considered by the gentlemen who advise us in these matters. We also took the advice of counsel upon the possible meaning and interpretation of these words, and we felt that if we accepted them they would to a great extent nullify the very objects which we have in view. Therefore I am sorry to say that in no circumstances can we accept them—certainly not during the course of this Committee. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to reserve the question of their insertion until the Report stage to-morrow. Still I am bound to say, on behalf of the railway companies, that I fear we shall be unable ultimately to accept them.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I agree with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that these words had better not be inserted in this particular place. It seems to me that they would be better in the form of a proviso giving the Commissioners power to take into account relevant circumstances. Therefore we propose to consider the words and bring them up on Report, after full consideration, so as to give effect to what we understand to be the view of the Rouse. I have listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, and to the Noble Lord, and I am at, a loss to under- 1100 stand why it is that they object to some such words. I had hoped that the Noble Lord, who had the benefit of skilled advice, would have thought that these words would not nullify the Bill to a great extent.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
As I understand it, the intention of the Bill is to fairly meet the point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] The words of the Amendment certainly support what the railway companies wish, and they were proposed with a view to giving effect to it. What I should like to know from some Gentlemen speaking with any authority on behalf of the railway companies is what effect they think some such words as those proposed would have. Are the circumstances to be taken into account in determining what is reasonable? As my right hon. Friend said when he explained the Bill before, it was the intention that they should be taken into account—that is to say, the Commissioners should be entitled, in determining whether the increase of a particular rate was reasonable, to take into account the circumstances, and that they should not be strictly confined or limited. I certainly thought that what my right hon. Friend said and what he read was the general view not only of the House, but of the railway companies. They did not ask that more should be done. The companies were perfectly reasonable in the view put forward, that when they wanted to increase a particular rate they should be entitled to take into account the circumstances. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why there should be this strong opposition to the insertion of words which really make plain what appears to be the general intention of the Bill. We are anxious to introduce words which will not go beyond what is the generally accepted intention, except for what has been said by the last two speakers on behalf of the railway companies. We therefore want to consider the phraseology in order to present to the House words which will carry out what we understand is the general intention, not only of my right hon. Friend, but of the railway companies. and the Members of the House. I would like to know what is the objection.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Not being a lawyer, I cannot tell the right hon. and learned 1101 Gentleman what is intended by these particular words, introduced into a Bill of this sort, amending a Section of another Act. The words do not appear in the old Section, and they will be held by the Court to have been put in for a particular reason, and therefore the railway companies have refused the words. These words are not new; they have been the subject of discussion between the right hon. Gentleman and the railway companies, and the agreement was arrived at that these words ought not to be inserted.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The words were suggested to me and on consideration it appeared to me it ought to be made clearer what the words meant on the lines indicated. I had discussions with the railway companies and we did suggest words but the representatives of the companies declined to take them. I did not feel I was in a position to force the words upon them, but I did point out to them I thought they were required.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That is all I said that there had been discussion with the railway companies, and that the railway companies after consideration had refused to accept. Now the right hon. Gentleman has given his version that the railway companies declined, and that he refused to force it upon them.
§ Mr. HILLS
I think it would have been only fair if the Mover of this Amendment explained the real meaning of the Amendment. It is perfectly clear that the Amendment means far more than the Attorney-General said. It is agreed between all parties that the Commission is a judicial body, and they have got power to take into account all relevant considerations, and this Bill makes no change. They have got to hear the case, and all considerations which are relevant to the issue they are bound to hear and give weight to. All that this Bill says is, where a complaint is made of an increased rate it shall be a valid answer to that complaint that the increase is due entirely to improved conditions of the staff. With what object is this moved? Of course it is plain the only object is to reintroduce by a side-wind the same Amendment that was moved in an earlier part of the afternoon. Instead of the Commissioners being entitled as one of the considerations to give credit for the increased cost occasioned by increased wages, all that they would be entitled to give credit for would be the net 1102 balance after all sorts of different circumstances had been brought into account. The Bill, as it stands, is perfectly plain, and I should have thought that the Government's pledge was equally plain. The Government's pledge was:—The Government will propose to Parliament next Session legislation providing that, an increase in the cost of labour due to improvements of conditions of the staff would be a valid Justification for a reasonable increase of charges within the legal maxima if challenged under the Act of 1894.That surely means, if English means anything, if a rate is challenged it shall be an answer to that challenge that the increase is caused by increased charges due to improved conditions of the staff. It is perfectly well known this is no new matter. The hon. Gentleman on the third bench from the Government Bench moved the Amendment with a very innocent face. I do not know whether his intention was quite as innocent. It is perfectly well known that it was put forward by the chambers of commerce and was discussed at some length, and the effect of it is to reduce the Bill to a nullity, and to put the railway companies, in so far as the Railway Commissioners are concerned, in a much worse position than before. I do hope that the Members on the Labour Benches who honestly wish improved conditions will resist this Amendment, for if you carry an Amendment of this sort, in the first place, the Bill, in our judgment, would not redeem the Government's pledge, and could not be accepted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—and it would remove the inducement which this Bill proposes to give to increase the wages and improve the conditions of the staff. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman wants to carry out the pledge of the Government. I assure him that this is not the innocent Amendment that the words would suggest; it has a meaning quite different, and, if carried, would place the railway companies in a worse position than they are in at present.
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hills) would hardly have made the observations he has just delivered if he had been present during the whole Debate. He comes in at a late hour, I presume on behalf of his clients, the railway companies—
§ Colonel GREIG
I withdraw that, and I think the hon. Member might withdraw the observations he made about me.
§ Colonel GREIG
I do not agree with the fears expressed on behalf of the railway companies. We cannot amend Section 1 of the Act of 1894, because the words there are not appropriate to the words of this Bill. Under the Act of 1894, when complaint of an increased rate is made, it has to be proved that the rate or charge is "unreasonable." Under this Bill it has to be proved that the increase of rates or charges made for the purpose of meeting the rise in the cost of working is not "in the whole" greater than is reasonably required for the purpose. "In the whole" means not in the whole of the rate, but in the whole of the circumstances. That imports into this Bill the whole of the construction put by the Railway Commissioners upon Section 1 of the Act of 1894. All that we are asking is that the words should be made a little clearer. In view of the undertaking given by the Government, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We have an Amendment to the Amendment. We had better dispose of that first. Does the hon. Member for Devizes wish to withdraw the Amendment to the Amendment?
§ Mr. PETO
I cannot without calling attention to two points, one in the speech of the Noble Lord (Lord C. Hamilton), and the other in the speech of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hills). The Noble Lord said that if these words, which we contend are necessary to explain the intention of the Bill, are inserted, they will nullify the whole object we have in view. If that statement is a correct interpretation of the view of the railway companies, I ask what becomes of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Second Reading? He said there was no intention of introducing any new principle whatever by the passing of the Bill. Then the hon. Member for Durham City commenced his speech by saying that it was perfectly unnecessary to introduce these words: that it was all quite clear in the Bill. He concluded by saying that if these words were imported, the whole Bill would be reduced to a nullity. If we have to put these two statements together from the railway companies' point of view, it is perfectly impossible for me to withdraw the Amendment. If we had not had these 1104 speeches from representatives of the railway companies, I would have been pleased to leave my case, and the case of the traders whom I have tried to represent, to the careful attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General, after what the President of the Board of Trade has said.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not think there is any room for division. I have some words here, which I will read so that the House may see what we propose on Report—
"Provided that nothing in this Section shall be construed as preventing the Commissioners from taking into account any circumstances that appear to them to be relevant in determining whether an increase of rates or charges is or is not greater than is reasonably required."
These words are exactly what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade read as coming from the railway companies, and they are what the House wishes. That is simply this: that the Railway Commissioners, when determining this one question, shall take into account all relevant circumstances. I really do not understand how it can be suggested that in some way the Bill is nullified by doing the very thing which I thought the railway companies liked.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
Surely the President of the Board of Trade will remember the whole of the circumstances that surrounded the arguments over those very words. I cannot say any more than my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London—
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
You are now producing words that we hear for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we argued before him, and we,—or, rather, those skilled men who were with us—discussed and reasoned the case. If you once begin to alter this Clause we should be landed in difficulties. The President of the Board of Trade read a memorandum. I do not quite know the circumstances under which that memorandum was given to him, but I think he knows perfectly well there were various circumstances connected with it that render the whole matter extremely difficult to discuss on the floor of the House. I decline, on the part of the railway companies to associate myself with this.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the Committee that the words of the Attorney-General are not before the Committee. I understand it is suggested that they should be brought up to-morrow. Under those circumstances the hon. Member may feel that he can withdraw his Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We cannot discuss these words now. They are to be introduced at a further stage when the hon. Member will have the right to discuss them or, if he likes, to move his Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir A. MOND
I beg to move, in paragraph (d) to leave out the words "not unreasonable" ["complaint is made is not unreasonable"], and to insert instead thereof the word "reasonable."
In the previous paragraph (c) the words are "greater than is reasonably required for the purpose." I see no reason why one Sub-section should introduce the word "reasonable" and the other introduce a negative form of words "not unreasonable," except that the words "not unreasonable" are much more favourable to the railway companies than the word "reasonable." What does paragraph (d) endeavour to do? It deals with the very difficult question of the allocation of the cost of the increase of the charge to the particular traffic for which the claim is made. It was pointed out earlier by the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Markham) that it, is almost impossible now for a trader in present circumstances to go to the Railway and Canal Commissioners' Court to ascertain whether an increase of rate is reasonable or not. Under this Bill when it becomes law this difficulty will be immensely increased. I do not think traders in the country in the least understand what this Bill is going to do, and if they did we should not be discussing it now. What it is going to do is that, instead 1106 of the railway companies having to prove that any particular traffic is increasingly more costly to handle, all they have to show is that the cost has gone up and that they have made an allocation of some kind no trader can understand. When this additional burden is cast upon the trader it is surely only right that the proof that the allocation is reasonable should be made as severe as possible upon the railway company. The word "reasonable" would be more properly used than the phrase "not unreasonable." How are you going to prove that a thing is not unreasonable? It is difficult enough to prove that a thing is reasonable, but to have in this Bill a double negative is introducing unnecessary difficulties. I hope the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
This is a small matter, and it simply amounts to the difference between proving that a thing is not reasonable and proving that it is reasonable. It is a question of phraseology. I do not think the hon. Member is justified in saying that these words give the railway companies the benefit of the phrase, although it is a little better for them than using the word "reasonable." Sub-section (b) was no part of the pledge that was given, but it was accepted by the railway companies as a limitation inserted to safeguard traders. I hope the Committee will not press this point. It is rather difficult to explain what the effect is. It is just as if a man says, "I am willing to go to the theatre to-morrow night" and saying, "I am not unwilling." One phrase expresses the meaning a little more positively. I hope we shall accept the words in the form in which they stand in the Bill.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
The right hon. Gentleman admits that this is an advantage to the railway companies. I read it as a definite instruction to the Railway Commissioners to vary the discretion they have exercised in the past under Section 1 of the Act of 1894, and naturally the railway companies have to, prove in all these cases that the charge is reasonable. The effect is that as regards a part of the Commissioners' discretion they are to be satisfied that the charge is not unreasonable instead of having to be satisfied that it is reasonable. The railway companies are getting immense advantages under this Bill, and the interests of the traders are being very much over- 1107 looked and their grievances are being postponed until the Greek Kalends. I think we should insist that they should at least prove the same measure of reasonableness in the future as in the past in order to justify any additional charge levied upon the traders of the country. The traders have only the Board of Trade to look to for protection, and we ask that the discretion of the Railway Commissioners should not be whittled down in the way which is suggested in the Bill. I desire to support the Amendment, and I for one shall go into the Lobby whatever the Government may choose to say on the matter.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I certainly agree with all that has been said by the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the importance of standing by the Amendment, and I hope my hon. Friend will go to a Division in support of it. The attitude which is taken up by the Government with regard to this Bill certainly seems amazing to me. The Attorney-General suggested that because this particular Sub-section was not within the precise terms of the pledge the House ought not to vary it in any way. Why bring the Bill before the House of Commons at all if we are to be treated like that? It is perfectly clear it is much more businesslike and reasonable to have the word "reasonable" than the words "not unreasonable." I think it is very unreasonable to stand by the words in the Bill. I am perfectly certain if the House of Commons has got any sense of independence left they will, after the way in which we were met by the railway directors in the last Amendment, be very chary of giving way either to the Government or to the railway directors in this Amendment. They seemed to consider they were to be the Court before which the House of Commons was to go, and that, I suppose, would again be their attitude with regard to this Amendment if the Government were to say they would accept it. The change is a very small one, as the Attorney-General admits, but certain people who represent traders and agriculturists think it of importance, and therefore, if my hon. Friend goes to a Division, I shall certainly support him.
§ Mr. PETO
After the Debate on the last Amendment, I cannot help asking two questions. If it is such a small matter, why in the preceding paragraph did not the right hon. Gentleman say, "The rise in the cost of working is not, on the whole, 1108 greater than is not unreasonably required for the purpose." Surely if "reasonable" is a reasonable word in paragraph (c), it might be considered to be a reasonable word in paragraph (d). I would like to enforce what my hon. Frined has said with regard to the Act of 1894, Section 1, which this Bill purports to amend. The exact words in the Section are these:—If any complaint is made that a rate or charge is unreasonable, it shall lie with the company to prove that the rate or charge is unreasonable.Not that it is "not unreasonable." Therefore, if I find words which are introduced to make the purport of the Bill plain in accordance with what we are told by the Board of Trade and the Government are its real intentions, are held by certain hon. Members to nullify the whole value of the Bill, and the object they have in view, I cannot help suspecting there is some deep-laid plot in this extraordinary wording of this final paragraph. Perhaps there were negotiations of which we have heard nothing. As paragraph (a) was not exactly in the original pledge given to the Government the railway companies may have been advised that if they could whittle down the paragraph by using the words "not unreasonable," they would be able to instruct counsel who are skilled in railway law to make up some sort of a case which they could not make if the words were perfectly simple, as we want to make them. I do not doubt for one moment that the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment will press it to a Division. If he had any doubt I would desire to do so myself.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
I should like to press the Attorney-General to accept this Amendment. The fact that he indicated that the word "reasonable" would be a little tighter than if the Amendment were not carried is a distinction which is quite sufficient for me. I have had some experience of the Act of 1894. The traders know perfectly well that the increased charges resulting from that Act were greater than anything they anticipated. I am quite sure the result of this Bill will be an increase of the charges which will be much more than is warranted by the increase of wages. As there is this admitted distinction between the two forms of words, I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I do not often find myself in agreement with the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond), but on this occa- 1109 sion I must support the Amendment which he has proposed. I suggest that the effect of the words in the Bill is to reverse the onus of proof and to place it on the traders instead of the railway companies. If the word "reasonable" were inserted, the railway companies would have to show cause why the increases in the circumstances stated in paragraph (d) were reasonable. But if the question to be decided is that they are "not unreasonable" the onus of proof will be on the trader, who will have to prove that under these circumstances the rate is "unreasonable," and the railway companies will not have to prove that it is "reasonable."
§ Mr. GRETTON
They would have to prove nothing at all. They will merely have to show that the trader has not made out his case. The trader would have to prove it was unreasonable, but if you follow the previous Acts, the railway companies would have to prove that increased rates were reasonable. The traders have great difficulty in those matters which are highly technical. I think that railway companies should not be relieved from the ordinary obligation or from the onus of proof that their charges are reasonable.
§ importance to be attached to phraseology. The hon. Gentleman who spoke as representing the railway companies would on no account accept words differing from the phrase in the Act of 1894. He said that if in any way you varied the phraseology of the Act, the Act of 1894, it was a dangerous thing from the point of view of the companies. In that case they stood by the phraseology of the Act of 1894 in their own interest. The Attorney-General tried to propitiate them by saying it made very little difference. If they were not propitiated on that case, I think we have an equal right to be sceptical as to the assurances we have received on this Amendment, and I hope my hon. Friend will persist in his Amendment. In the Act of 1894 the word used in relation to rates and charges is "reasonable." The Railway and Canal Commissioners have been interpreting that word. If this Bill is passed they will find a new word, and will argue that the intention of Parliament is to import a new meaning with the new phrase, a meaning which is to be given in the interest of the railway companies. In these circumstances the Commissioners will be well advised to adhere to the word which has a well established meaning in the practice of the Railway and Canal Commissioners.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 159; Noes, 93.1111
|Division No. 601.]||AYES.||[11.7 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Dawes, James Arthur||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Henry, Sir Charles S.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Denelan, Captain A.||Hills, J. W.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Doris, William||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Duffy, William J.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Barran, Sir J. (Hawick Burghs)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Jessel, Captain H. M.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Farrell, James Patrick||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Ffrench, Peter||Joyce, Michael|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Keating, Mathew|
|Brady, P. J.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Kerry, Earl of|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Glanville, H. J.||Kilbride, Denis|
|Butcher, J. G.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||King, J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Clough, William||Hackett, J.||Lundon, Thomas|
|Clyde, James Avon||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||McGhee, Richard|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Crumley, Patrick||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Davies, E. William (Eifion)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Stanier, Beville|
|Meagher, Michael||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Pryce-Jones, Col. E. (Montgom'y B'ghs)||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Molloy, Michael||Radford, G. H.||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Mooney, John J.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Morgan, George Hay||Reddy, Michael||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Morison, Hector||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Muldoon, John||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Munro, Robert||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Nolan, Joseph||Rendall, Athelstan||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Richardson. Albion (Peckham)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Watt, Henry A.|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Robinson, Sidney||Webb, H.|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Roch, Walter F.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|O'Dowd, John||Roe, Sir Thomas||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Rose, Sir Charles Day||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|O'Malley, William||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Sanders. Robert A.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Scanlan, Thomas||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|O'Shee, James John||Seely, Col. R. Hon. J. E. B.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|O'Sullivan, Timothy||Sheehy, David|
|Parry, Thomas H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Adamson, William||Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Baird, J. L.||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Hancock, John George||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Harvey. T. E. (Leeds, West)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Barnes, George N.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Pringle. William M. R.|
|Barrie, Hugh T.||Hickman, Colonel T. E.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Higham, John Sharp||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hinds, John||Rowlands, James|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hodge, John||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Bird, Alfred||Hogee, James Myles||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool. W. Derby)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothlan)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Brace, William||Hudson, Walter||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hughes. Spencer Leigh||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hunter. Sir Charles Rodk.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bryce, John Annan||John, Edward Thomas||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sutherland. J. E.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Sutton. John E.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cassel, Felix||Jewett, Frederick William||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Wadsworth, J.|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Clynes, J. R.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Wardle, George J.|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Morrell, Philip||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Needham, Christopher T.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Newdegate, F. A.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||O'Grady, James||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Outhwaite, R. L.||Winfrey, Richard|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Outhwaite, R. L.||Winfrey, Richard|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Goldstone. Frank||Parkes. Ebenezer||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A. Mond and Mr. Peto.|
|Gretton, John||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
§ Mr. HIGHAM
I beg to move, after paragraph (d), to insert the following paragraph:—
"(e) that the increase of rates or charges, or the particular increase of rate or charge, does not amount to an undue preference under section two of The Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1854, and section twenty-seven of The Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888."
Under the law as it at present stands a trader can appear before the Commissioners and object to a railway company giving an undue preference. Our advisers say that when this Act comes into force 1112 and a rate is advanced by a railway company upon a trader because of improved conditions of labour that trader will be estopped from raising the plea of undue preference, and that the Commissioners will give the answer immediately, "We have nothing to do with undue preference. under this Act. The question for us is 'Have the company proved that the-increase of the rate is due to improving the conditions of labour?' If so, then the increase is fair." In that way the trader would be estopped from pleading that an undue preference was being given.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It appears to me that this point is already met by the Acts re- 1113 ferred to in the Amendment and also by what we have already passed dealing with the words "reasonable" or "not reasonable." I would like to hear legal opinion on that point.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not think my hon. Friend need be under any apprehension on the point. The present law is quite untouched by this Bill in regard to that point. The question of undue preference will be dealt with by the Commissioners in the same way as at present.
§ Mr. PETO
had given notice to move, after paragraph (d), to insert the following paragraph:—
"(e) that every rate which has been increased under section one of this Act which includes conveyance and station terminals has been shown in the book of rates kept by a company under section fourteen of The Regulation of Railways Act, 1873, as a station to station rate, and that there has been included in the matters shown in the said book of rates a statement setting out the separate amounts charged for the station accommodation provided, and for each of the several services performed by the company as part of the increased rate."
§ The CHAIRMAN
We have already dealt with this at an earlier period in another form. The Amendment is clearly outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. MORRELL
What about my Amendment in Sub-section (d), after the word "unreasonable" to insert the words
"(e) that when any improvement has been made in the conditions of employment of the higher grades of their staff a corresponding improvement has also been made in the conditions of employment of the lower grades"?
§ Mr. MORRELL
This is quite a different point—that the men with the worst conditions of employment shall receive an improvement whenever there is an improvement in the higher grades.
§ Mr. MORRELL
If the Amendment providing for a minimum wage was in order, surely this would be in order?
§ The CHAIRMAN
No. This is bringing in a consideration which is entirely outside the purview of the Bill.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
This does not suggest that we should enact that whenever a railway company raise the scale of pay of higher employés it should raise the scale of the lowest paid employés. It merely says that they shall not get the benefits of this Act unless they do act in that way. It does seem to me that if it was in order to Debate the Question whether those railway companies paying less than £1 a week should get the benefit of this Act it is not out of order to discuss this Amendment here.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The purpose of the Bill as it stands is to provide that a rise in the wages of the labour and clerical staff shall be a justification in certain cases for increased rates or charges. This Amendment proposes a wholly irrelevant condition. With reference to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea to leave out "shall" and insert "may"—
§ Mr. BUXTON
I beg to move to add, at the end of the Clause, the following words:—
"Where it appears to the Commissioners that the increase of the rate or charge of which complaint is made should for the time being be treated as justified in pursuance of this Act, but that an opportunity should be given after a limited time for reconsidering the increase, they may in making an Order declaring the increase to be justified add to their Order a provision that the question may after a period to be fixed by the Commissioners be reopened in accordance with the conditions (if any) made by the Order.
"Where any such Order is made a complaint may be made as to the increase of the rate or charge under The Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894, in accordance with the Order of the Commissioners, notwithstanding that the matter 1115 has already been determined by the Commissioners."
The purpose of this Amendment is to enable the Commissioners to reconsider, if they think fit, the rate they have fixed in view of altered conditions.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move in the proposed Amendment, after the word "question" ["the question may after a period"] to leave out the word "may" and to insert instead thereof the word "shall."
We have just passed an Amendment providing, as far as the Commissioners are concerned, that the Bill shall be permissive, but I propose that the Commissioners "shall" in certain circumstances treat such an increase as justified. Therefore they would have no discretion whatever as to what they could do under certain circumstances. I think it absolutely essential that there should be power beyond what is proposed to be put into the Bill by the Amendment, to consider whether the whole circumstances are altered in regard to the particular increase of rates. It is right, in this Bill, in effect to tell the Railway Commissioners that they shall do what I venture to say is certainly desired—and the principle is admitted—namely, that an increase in the rates should be perfectly justifiable, or, as I prefer to say, "is found to be justified," in the words of the Bill, and ought to be reopened, say, in the year 1913—I say must be reopened—so as to give all the parties to the action—for that is what it means—the opportunity to justify a particular increase in the rates and charges, if the circumstances are entirely altered.
If the Commissioners think the circumstances are likely to alter as to the particular rates and charges in two, three, or five years, or whatever they may decide in their discretion, then the case shall be reopened and they shall have an opportunity of showing that the whole of the circumstances have altered. I really think the word "may" overrides the whole value of the Amendment, which I am glad to say the right hon. Gentleman has seen fit to propose. We do not want to admit that the circumstances of to-day, even under the present railway management, are going to be the circumstances of all time. We believe that, with the words to be introduced on the Report stage, and when the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament there will be such changes in the railway management of this country as to 1116 absolutely ensure that the conditions of to-day, both with regard to the payment of labour and the cost of transit of the goods of traders, will be entirely altered by a not very distant date. Therefore, I say, to have any value, the Amendment should direct that the Commissioners shall if the circumstances are likely to alter, direct that the case be reheard after a reasonable period. That change of circumstance I believe to be absolutely certain, and it should be the invariable rule for the Court where they think there is good reason to suppose, which I believe will be in every case; that they "shall" direct a rehearing.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The hon. Gentleman says the Amendment is absolutely valueless without the word "shall," but I would point out that the Clause he had on the Paper, and on which this is more or less founded, contained the word "may," as this does. The matter must be left to the discretion of the Commissioners.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I suggest that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman has not disposed of the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. It is only proper to consider this matter when we are introducing new rights and giving the companies special privileges. It is true they are only rights which other classes of industries have. I admit that when the wages in the collieries were low that the colliery proprietors when they raised them made millions of money out of the matter. These companies are in a slightly different position. but at the same time there is not the slightest doubt we are giving them privileges by this Bill which they never had before, and that is of meeting the claims of the trader directly if they can show that the increase in labour conditions justifies the company in making the extra charges. That is a decided change in the circumstances under which the companies could meet the traders' complaints against rates levied on their goods. Suppose a great slump in trade occurred and the railway companies in the course of a few months reduced wages by 10 per cent.
I know the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Colonel Lockwood) would not reduce them if he had his way, but he does not control the railway companies. Some of his fellow railway directors sitting behind him are animated by quite different motives. This Amendment might be a protection to workmen. If a railway company knew that a verdict justifying an increase of rates could be immediately 1117 reversed if the company reduced the wages, that would be a strong point in favour of the Bill. The matter should not be optional. When the Commissioners have given a verdict on the ground that wages had been increased, that verdict ought to be almost automatically reversed if the wages are reduced. This is one of the most, important Amendments yet moved, and if the hon. Member for Devizes goes to a Division I will "tell" with him, even though we get nobody to vote with us.
§ Mr. THEODORE TAYLOR
I think the Committee ought to take note that there are two "may's" in the Amendment. If the hon. Member had proposed that the first "may" should be altered to "shall" I could have understood the object of the railway directors; but the alteration of the second "may" does not compel the Commissioners to reopen the question. Surely the proper meaning to be attached to the Amendment is that the Commissioners "may" make an Order that the question "shall" be considered. Therefore I cannot see the slightest objection to allowing the Commissioners to have the option. There arc other considerations besides that of wages. Suppose by a reversal of the ordinary history of the case the price of fuel was to go down very much. Is that to be no consideration? Are the traders in this country to be saddled for ever with the cost of fuel, and the cost of running, based on the present cost?
§ Mr. DENMAN
As the Clause stands, the Commissioners are empowered to make an Order declaring that the question
§ "may" be reopened. The proposal is that the Commissioners "shall" reopen the matter five years hence if desired, but as a trader I should object to have my figures subjected to this vexatious Order.
§ Mr. HIGHAM
It is the trader who is, the aggrieved party, and not the company. I would point out they would have to come to the Commissioners for the revision. The "shall" would mean that he would have to come whether he wanted it or not.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
As a matter of fact, in order to have the case reopened it would not be necessary for the trader to go before the Commissioners. It would only be necessary for the Commissioners to reconsider the evidence given before—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—by the traders themselves. The Commissioners have the power to call evidence. The Amendment only means that they "may" make an Order at the end of five years, say, to reconsider the case. I maintain, in spite of the interruption of hon. Members who ought to be in bed—
§ Question put, "That the word 'may' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 189; Noes, 51.1119
|Division No. 602.]||AYES.||[11.45 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Chaloner, Col. R. G, W.||Gibbs, G. A.|
|Agar Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Chancellor, H. G.||Gilmour Captain John|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Clancy John Joseph||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Clough, William||Glanville, H. J.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Clyde, J. Avon||Greene, W. R.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Griffith. Ellis Jones|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Cotton, William Francis||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Courthope, George Loyd||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hackett, J.|
|Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Crumley, Patrick||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Cullinan, John||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale),|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Boland, John Pius||Dawes, J. A.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Brady, P. J.||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)|
|Brunner, J. F. L.||Doris, William||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Doughty, Sir George||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Duffy, William J.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Butcher, John George||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Hayward, Evan|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Cassel, Felix||Farrell, James Patrick||Higham, John Sharp|
|Cawley, H. T, (Heywood)||Ffrench, Peter||Hills, John Waller|
|Hogge, James Myles||Mooney, John J.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Morgan, George Hay||Rowlands, James|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Morison, Hector||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Muldoon, John||Rutherford Watson (L'pool., W. Derby)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Munro, R.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|John, Edward Thomas||Newdegate, F. A.||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nolan, Joseph||Sheehy, David|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Stanier, Beville|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Doherty, Philip||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Keating Matthew||O'Dowd, John||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Kerry, Earl of||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Malley, William||Tennant, Harold John|
|King, J.||O'Neill. Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Shee, James John||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Parry. Thomas H.||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Wardle, George J.|
|Locker-Lampoon, O. (Ramsey)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Lockwood, Rt.Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|London, T.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Lynch, A. A.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Webb, H.|
|M'Ghee, Richard||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||White, Major G, D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Pringle, William M. R.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Radford, G. H.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Reddy, M.||Wiles, Thomas|
|M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Winfrey, Richard|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Wortley, Rt, Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Meagher, Michael||Rendall, Athelstan||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Millar, James Duncan||Roberts, Charles H, (Lincoln)|
|Molloy, Michael||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Robinson, Sidney||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Adamson, William||Gill, A. H.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Baird, J. L.||Goldstone, Frank||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Gretton, John||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Guinness, Hon. W.E, (Bury S.Edmunds)||Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Barnes, George N,||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Barrie, H. T.||Hancock John George||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Bathurst, C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Bird, A.||Hodge, John||Sutton, John E.|
|Bowerman, C, W.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Brace, William||Jowett, Frederick William||Wadsworth, J.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Morrell, Philip||Ward, John (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Needham, Christopher Thomas||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||O'Grady, James|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Parker, James (Halifax)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Pointer, Joseph||Peto and Mr. Wedgwood.|
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle)—to insert a new Sub-section (e)—is outside the scope of the Bill. The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Hudson) providing that "This Act shall not apply to Ireland" should come either as an addition to Clause 2, or else should be proposed as a new Clause.
§ Mr. BARNES
I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (d) to add the following words:—
1120 "Provided that the improvements made shall be published by the Commissioners, giving the rates of wages which had been paid to the different sections of the staff and the increase which had been held to justify the increased rate or charge."
My object is to limit the discretion of the Commissioners giving relief only after they have published a list of the improvements made. It also requires the companies to give particulars in regard to the rises in wages which have been made to the different sections of the staff instead of simply making a general statement which would be held to justify the increased rate or charge. I also wish some 1121 provision to be made that the public should be informed as to the rates of wages actually paid by the railway companies. There has been a great deal of discussion on this point both in this House and outside. Two years ago on the occasion of the railway strike statements were made which were indignantly denied by the railway directors, and I think this Bill affords a convenient opportunity for getting authentic information as to what the wages of railway servants really are and have been.
Then, in the fourth place, I want in this Amendment to pillory some of the railway companies who have not been paying as good wages as other railway companies. Prior to the strike there were certain railway companies that were paying comparatively good rates of wages. I use the word "comparatively" because, as a matter of fact, none of the railway companies have paid good wages, but some of them have paid better wages than others. This Bill, as one of its incidental results, penalises those railway companies who have paid good wages as compared with those companies who have paid bad wages. It makes no difference as between one and the other. I have knowledge of some in Scotland where even now they are not paying per week to surfacemen employed in dangerous occupations. I mentioned last week that a public authority at Kirkintilloch had had put upon them the responsibility of feeding the children of railway men whose wages were so small that they could not afford to keep their own children. These railway companies who paid these miserably low wages prior to 1911 will, under this Bill, be able to relieve themselves of the burden of any increase by placing it on the shoulders of the trading public, but, if the Amendment is carried, it will impose upon the Commissioners the duty of publishing the facts and pillorying those companies.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member's speech is less in order than his Amendment. This has nothing to do with the pillorying of railway companies, and if the Amendment had been moved solely for that purpose I should have ruled it outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The Railway and Canal Commissioners are an official body, and it is a little difficult to instruct them that they shall necessarily publish certain particulars. Their judgments are given in open court. They give full ground on which they base their judgments, and they 1122 can give such particulars as they think right and proper. It would be impossible to instruct a judicial body of that sort to give certain particulars. It would not be germane, except so far as they were given in the judgment, to give them in the form suggested. We have particulars in the Return moved for by an hon. Member which would be of value in the direction which the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) desires. But this is going beyond the scope of the Bill. The reasons for the judgment which are given in open court would meet the case, and you cannot ask them for particulars which go outside of these reasons.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I think publicity in these matters is most desirable in the interests of the traders of the country and I should like to see these particulars given by the companies as well as by the Commissioners. Only very few cases come before the Commissioners. I think the public should know in every case where an increase is made what is the corresponding increase in the remuneration of the railway company which is held to justify it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Move that."] I shall be very glad to move it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is not in order to propose that. There are other Amendments of the kind, which I have already intimated are not in order. We cannot in this Bill impose a duty of that kind upon the companies.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I am sorry I cannot move it. One thing we all desire to see, in order that this Act is faithfully carried out, is the publication to the public generally of the respective increases of the remuneration of the railway companies on the one side and the traders' charges on the other. Failing the whole hog, I shall gladly agree to support this small instalment, and I shall certainly vote with the hon. Member if he goes to a Division.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I think this Amendment is entirely within the spirit and intention of this short Bill which is intended, I think to give powers to the companies to raise rates whenever, owing to increase of wages, shorter hours, less overtime or Sunday duty, or anything like that, the cost of working has been increased in that particular traffic. We want to be sure that such increases in the cost are real and not, imaginary, and that there is no holding back in order to come within a certain limit, and so secure money which they would not otherwise be entitled to receive. 1123 The Bill says it shall be an increase incurred since August, 1911. Take, for instance, an actual case. The Great Central Railway Company give their checkers a sixty-hour week and they enjoy that in 1911. The Midland Company settle new conditions in 1913 and they settle that the same class of men, checkers, shall only have a sixty-three hours' week, which is three hours longer. These are points of great value, not only to the traders but to the community generally. Some way ought to be found of tabulating the findings of the Railway and Canal Commission in all these cases, and having them published in Blue-book form, so that they can be available every year, in addition to the Return which the right hon. Gentleman said I was successful in securing from the companies. May I say, incidentally, that the Return for 1911 is not even yet to hand owing to the delay of the companies. They are very slow to give the information they ought to give. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find a way to publish the results of all the inquiries in some suitable form which will be useful in future to the traders and the rest of the community.
§ Mr. BUXTON
If that is the suggestion that is made, I will consider it very carefully. I understand it is that the various judgments should appear in a form accessible to the traders and others. I should like to consider that. That is a different thing from putting a Clause in the Statute requiring it to be done. I should like to communicate with my hon. Friend and see in what form and in what way it can best be done.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Will the right hon. Gentleman also give in the returns the reason for raising the particular rate, arid what was the altered condition in the work, the alteration of hours, the extra charge for overtime, the advance of wages, and so forth? That would all be in the judgment.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I desire to support the Amendment. The general view taken of this Bill outside the House is that it is one to enable the transportation companies to blackmail the public—
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I was going to say that I regard it myself as not so much for the purpose of enabling higher wages to be paid as to enable dividends to be increased. If these figures are published it will be some satisfaction to the public.
§ Mr. PETO
I am not satisfied with the way in which the President of the Board of Trade has met the suggestion. It is not Members of this House who are specially interested in knowing precisely the details. If they are going to be published in the form of White Papers or Blue Books they will never reach anybody outside. I understand from your ruling, Sir, that we cannot impose on the companies the duty of publishing the Return, but you have ruled that this Amendment is in order. Would not this meet the case If so I should like to move it as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment. to omit the words from "provided" to "giving" and insert "Commissioners shall cause returns to be published of the improvements." If the Commissioners can, as part of their judgment, make it an order that the terms shad be published they will be published in some public form which will give the traders the satisfaction of knowing, if they are to pay increased rates and charges, at any rate what, if any, adequate remuneration has been paid is held by the Court to justify those increased rates and charges, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman gave the mover of the Amendment any satisfaction whatever. I do not think we want any more Returns or Blue Books or White Papers. What we want is that in some public place where the rates are generally made public, in the railway station, when the rate is altered the increased rates and the improvements in the conditions should be set forth and then the trading public will know that if they are paying more they have something for their money. I should like therefore to move the Amendment as avoiding the difficulty of putting an absolute command on the railway companies.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In so far as that is any alteration of the Amendment it will certainly make it out of order.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I hope the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) will adhere to the Amendment. The proposed Amendment to it would not in any way alter the spirit and purport of the demand. The situation after all is this. In 1911 the railway workers made a demand for higher wages. That demand was admitted by the Government to be irresistible. They said to the railway companies, "In our opinion you ought to make these concessions," and the railway companies pleaded inability to make them, but they say now, "If you suggest or insist that they should be made 1125 we must have power to pass the increased liability that we arc incurring on to the trading public." As the trading public are now compelled to bear this increased cost they have a right to know how far it has been met by the railway companies, and that the increased charges placed upon them do go in the direction that the railway companies agree they should go. Furthermore, there is a great desirability of adequate statistics being placed at the disposal of Members of the House and the public generally. I have made statements sometimes in the House and in the country which have been questioned by representatives of the railway companies. If the Amendment is accepted it will afford us reliable information and will remove the possibility of the statements being questioned. The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman at any rate shows a disposition to meet us. I wonder whether he cannot go a little further. He tells us the judgments of the Commissioners are published. Surely there is no reason whatever why the evidence should not be placed at the disposal of the parties interested. We anxiously desire to have authoritative information that the workmen get the benefit of the increased rates before any further liability is placed on the traders.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
I took part in a Debate on this subject about six months ago and I pointed out what I thought were the wages which were being paid by certain railway companies in Liverpool. I was immediately contradicted in the Press by an hon. Member of this House who is a railway director. He said my figures were entirely wrong. I made an investigation then into the subjert and found that it was practically impossible for any member of the public or any employé to find out the actual wages which were being paid. Therefore, I think we are entitled to know, whenever rates are being put up, in respect of what particular increased expenses the increased rates are being charged. This is a very important matter. I do not think the House realises what paltry wages railway men have been always getting. It is in the interest of the trading community who are going to be charged more rates, and it is also in the interest of the railway companies who are really going to carry out the meaning and spirit of this Bill when it becomes an Act that we should have two sets of figures before us, as rates have been raised so much in consequence of certain other additions to expenses besides wages. 1126 If we do not pass the Amendment it will be impossible for traders to understand why rates are being raised, and it will be impossible for the men to understand why, if rates are so raised, they do not get a corresponding rise in wages. I think we ought to insist on this information being given in the interest of the workers, the traders, and the companies who intend honestly to carry out the Act.
§ Mr. WARDLE
So far as the Amendment goes it is good, but it does not go very far, and it certainly will not have the effect of obtaining the information which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Watson Rutherford) desires. I am sorry that an Amendment standing in my name later, which would have had the result of producing these particulars in a proper form, is to be ruled out of order. It seems to me that until some such information is given the railway companies themselves will always be under the suspicion that they are making a good thing out of this Bill, the men will assume that they are not getting the return the companies have received from the traders, and the traders will always be saying that the companies are not giving the wages they have got out of them. Therefore it seems to me that we do really require some statistics of an elaborate kind which will give to the public, the railway companies, the traders, and the men, the information that is absolutely necessary to satisfy them that they area having a square deal all round. That to me is the most vital part of the question with regard to information. The Amendment now before the Committee directs the Commissioners to publish certain particular cases, and I hope therefore it will be accepted as a step towards the end we all desire to reach.
§ Mr. HAMERSLEY
rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put"; but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I am entirely in accord with the view that we want as far as we can, to have information on these matters so that everyone may know how far this Act affects the various interests. I cannot give any undertaking at present as to the best method of doing that, but I can communicate with the Railway Commissioners and see how far, without putting any pressure on them, they would be prepared to give the information which we all desire. As far as the Board of Trade are 1127 concerned we shall desire to add to that information such information as we have in regard to actual results of working in pounds, shillings, and pence, of the Conciliation Boards, and in this way we may get the amount of knowledge which we all desire. But I could not possibly accept this Amendment which would give mandatory instructions to the Commissioners.
§ Mr. WARDLE
Has the right hon. Gentleman any intention of bringing in any other Bill dealing with railways? If so will he be able to include in the Bill mandatory instructions to the railway companies to give the information?
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
Has not the right hon. Gentleman's Department got all the figures? Why does he not publish the information?
§ Mr. BUXTON
We have the information of the working of the various Conciliation Boards as from time to time they give decisions, and that information we intend to publish. What I suggest to the Committee is that they should endeavour to obtain similar information which will arise after the Bill comes into force.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
We must contemplate not merely cases of freight rates being increased immediately after the increase in wages rates is granted, but that an increase in wages granted last year may be a reason for an increase in the freights of a railway company twenty years hence. It is therefore important that we should know that successive increases of freight rates have not been granted by the Commissioners on one increase in the wages rate. The judgment should state clearly what is the increase of wages rate on which they base their decision that a certain increase of freight rates should be granted. Then everyone can see when the concession to the railway company has been granted and be quite certain that it is not granted twice over at the expense of only one increase in wages. If the suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade is carried out, and the judgment of the Commissioners is amplified so as to clearly state what increase of wages has been taken into account so that it cannot be taken into account again, I think that would meet the case. I should urge my hon. Friend to a Division on this question in order to get the best possible publicity, both in the interests of the traders and workmen, and 1128 also of the public as a whole, in regard to this give-and-take business which is going on under this Bill.
§ Mr. BARNES
I quite appreciate the point of the right hon. Gentleman that he does not want to put into an Act of Parliament what gives discretion to the Commissioners. On the other hand I want information, and I am not going to withdraw the Amendment unless I have some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that in some way the information will be obtained and made public. Can the President of the Board of Trade promise some further statement to-morrow on Report, and can he undertake to tabulate the decisions, and publish them with the reasons for giving the rise of wages? If that could be done I should not go to a Division.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I cannot understand the opposition of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. As a matter of fact this Amendment simply says that the Commissioners act in the capacity of arbitrators on certain questions of increase of wages, and surely they should, in accordance with the ordinary practice of arbitrators, give their judgments and their reasons for their decisions. If that is not done the general public will want to know the reason why, and the railway companies will be constantly under suspicion. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will simply carry out the usual practice by accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I have already said that I am anxious to give any information in regard to this matter from the point of view of the railway companies, the traders, and the men. As far as I can obtain information I will certainly make it public.
Question, "That those words be there added," put, and negatived.
§ Mr. HUDSON
had on the Paper the following Amendment: After the word "working" ["rise in the cost of working"? to insert the words "providing such employés have previously enjoyed the best existing conditions known upon railways."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think this Amendment is out of order. Its effect appears to be to exclude a number of the railway companies.
§ Mr. HUDSON
What I wish to move is the Amendment standing in my name as a proviso, at the end of the Sub-section, which would then read—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps I had better put my view to the hon. Member. Then he can say what he has to say with reference to my provisional Ruling. The Amendment he proposes is, to add on to the end of the Section, the following words: "Providing such employés have previously enjoyed the best existing conditions known upon railways." That appears to me to be out of the question, for two or three reasons: It proposes a new duty upon the Railway and Canal Commissioners, at present unknown to them, of inquiring which is the best railway company, and excluding from the purview of the Bill the other companies. The Bill was read a second time on the understanding that it would deal with railway companies generally, and the Amendment would defeat that object. The Bill provides means by which the companies can raise the conditions of the men, and this proposal would limit the operation of the Bill to one or two of the best companies.
§ Mr. HUDSON
With great respect, Mr. Whitley, I think that my proposal is within the purview of the Bill. May just put one reason forward? The object of the Bill is to give a company a source from which to get the reasonable cost of making a reasonable improvement in the conditions of service, but where those reasonable improvements have been neglected and have not been given for a number of years which ought to have been given and which might justly have been given, it would be unfair for the company to take the opportunity to increase the charges in order to recoup themselves. Let me give an illustration—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will deal solely with the point of Order. What he has already said confirms my view that the very object of the Amendment is to exclude a number of the railway companies.
§ Mr. JOWETT
Will not the effect of the Amendment, in excluding from the purview of the Bill sweating railway companies be to make them into fair companies?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is an adjective which does not occur in the Bill; I cannot express an opinion upon that.
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.