§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. WARDLE
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
I move this Amendment not because of any desire to prevent private Bills or Railway Bills from going through this House up to a Committee. Both my colleagues and I would be only too delighted to give Railway Bills a speedy passage through this House to a Committee, if it were not for the fact that this is our only opportunity for calling attention to the action of the companies when they do not do what we think they ought to do. The Great Northern Railway Company, who is the promoter of this Bill, has in the past promoted Bills dealing with a superannuation fund to which its staff have to pay, and it is because of the powers granted by Parliament that it has been enabled to establish funds which we think it has used 295 to its own advantage, and not to the advantage of the staff in the proper way. The chief reason for asking the House to decline to pass this Bill is that the Great Northern Railway Company has acted in a most arbitrary and unsatisfactory way towards those members of its staff who belong to this particular superannuation fund. The company has not treated the Board of Trade and this House with the respect which it ought to have shown, and, in my opinion, therefore this Bill ought not to have a Second Reading. As a preliminary point, I would like to mention that the company has persistently refused to the members of the staff who are members of this superannuation fund what I think are certain elementary rights. It has declined to receive from them at any time with regard to the management and control of this fund a deputation to put the views of the staff before it, and, therefore, I think that even in that matter the company has acted in the most arbitrary way towards the staff who belong to the fund. During the whole agitation, which has been going on for some years, it has persistently and consistently refused even to meet a deputation to put the views of the staff before it, and when the boast is made, as it always is made—and I am glad to say that it is sometimes carried out—that the board-rooms of the railway companies are always open to deputations of the staff, we can point in this instance to deputation after deputation asking for an interview and being denied that interview. Therefore, I think that we are justified in saying that from the very beginning the most elementary right of the staff, the right to put their views before the company, has been denied.
The House will appreciate that changes of great moment have taken place in this fund, and changes are being proposed now, and yet in all these changes the men who have paid into the fund regularly and are contributing to the fund are not even recognised as having any voice whatever, either by deputation or otherwise, in saying that the fund should be controlled. The House will appreciate that when questions between the staff and the company are dealt with in this manner it is no wonder that feelings of exasperation and resentment grow up in the minds of free men in this country who believe that they have a right to have a say in matters of 296 this kind. I am not surprised at the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) who, I believe, is thoroughly consistent in this matter, and has no belief whatever in democratic management and control; but certainly I am surprised that a great railway, such as that with which he has to do, has the temerity to come to this House for a Bill, when it treats its employés in the fashion in which these men have been treated. The superannuation fund of the Great Northern Railway Company is built up of contributions subscribed by the company and by the men themselves. That is the general arrangement in all funds of this character. But the Great Northern funds is peculiar in this, that the members of the fund, the men who subscribe to it, have never been allowed from the very inception of the fund to take any part whatever in its management. There is no annual meeting, and no election of a committee in which the members can have any say, and there has never been a chance for the men in any way to place before the company any views they might have with regard to the management of this fund.
In the case of the London and Northwestern, the London and South-Western, the Midland, the Caledonian, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, the North-Eastern, the North British, the Glasgow and South-Western, the Great Central, the Great Western, and the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway Companies, and the Railway Clearing House, a general meeting is held every year for the discussion of the accounts and general affairs of the fund, and the members also elect their own representatives to the respective committees of management with, save in the case of the Great Western, in each case a number equal to that of the representatives appointed by the company, and in the case of the Midland Railway the men have an even larger proportion. In the case of most of the funds which I have named, the benefits are far higher than they are in the case of the Great Northern Company, and therefore it is not on account of the benefits of the fund that the company can be said to be entitled to take up any exceptional attitude. Moreover, in several of these cases the company subscribes more money than the members towards the provision of the benefits, and I am pleased to say that the operation of these democratic arrangements with regard to the annual meeting, and the election of contributors' committee men is attended with results satisfactory to both sides. 297 I would like to say here that if the hon. Member for Durham were in the House, I should ask him to substantiate what I am about to state with regard to the Midland fund, when I point out that the Midland Company came to this House with a Bill, which passed through without any challenge, to increase their subscription from 2½ per cent. to 4 per cent., and that there should be six elected members, from the staff, and only three directors on the committee of that fund; and I would challenge the hon. Member for Durham, if he were here, to state whether that arrangement has not worked perfectly satisfactorily, and without ever having created any friction. It is this attempt to bar out the men from any control even over their own contributions which has created the friction to which I have already alluded. The Great Northern Railway Company have rigidly excluded from their superannuation fund anything in the nature of democratic control, and it is an amazing thing, in this twentieth century, that we should have come to the House of Commons to bring what, I admit, is pressure of a kind which I do not like to bring, and which ought not to be necessary in the House of Commons in this twentieth century.
This is a matter which ought to have been granted without any plea of the kind I am now putting forward. The Great Northern fund has over 12,000 members. About half of them belong to the clerical staff, and half of them to the outdoor grades, and men of the engineering and store departments. So far as the members of the clerical staff are concerned, they are obliged to join the fund as a condition of their employment, and the contributions are compulsorily deducted from their salaries. The other members may join voluntarily, but both sets of members are equally keen on the right to have a voice in the control and management of the fund. But their appeal for this eminently reasonable concession has always been resisted by the existing committee of management, consisting of seven directors and six of the chief officials. It is quite conceivable that the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), when he comes to speak on behalf of the company, will put forward the plea that the six officials who are at present on the committee of the fund, along with the seven directors, being members of the fund, do represent the staff. I do not know whether he will put forward that view or 298 not, but, if he does, I should like to answer him in advance. I do not think that anybody who knows anything about the railway business of this country will contend that six of the chief officials of the company can possibly represent the views of the majority of the members of the staff. In the year 1908 an incident occurred in connection with another railway superannuation fund which illustrates the difficulty there is in this regard. In that case a deputation from the rank and file, if they may be so described, waited upon four of the company's officers, who had seats upon the management committee of the fund, and they urged them to support a petition for certain improvements which the staff had submitted to the general manager. The superintendent of the line gave a reply to the deputation in the following terms:—I want yon to clearly understand that you are asking the members of this management committee to give yon their support to your petition; but I would remind you that as officers of the company we occupy a very peculiar position, because whatever our own views may be, I do not think we can go so far as to state to you what our attitude will be when the subject comes before the directors. When the general manager gets the petition the course he will no doubt adopt will be to place it before the committee of the superannuation fund; after that we shall have no alternative but to refer it to the directors, and when it gets as far as that, I do not think we can tell you what attitude we shall have to take up, as there may be policy involved.That utterance gives a clear and reliable indication of the disposition of the higher officials, and certainly justifies the claims of the staff to have their own directly elected representatives. I make no reflection whatever in any shape or form upon the officials of the company as officials or as men of humane disposition, but I do say that, occupying the position they do, between the company on the one hand and the staff on the other, it is impossible for them to put forward impartially and fairly the views of the staff unless the staff have an opportunity of having elected representatives. While it may be perfectly true that the members of the present committee are genuinely anxious and humane in their desire to serve the staff properly, when it comes to the case of an invalided member, a man who is going to the managing committee for sympathetic treatment, he can never put his case to the officials as he would do if he were putting it before a member whom he had helped to elect to the position, and to whom he could give all the facts in a manner different from what he would adopt were he communicating them to the chief officials. The men, on whose behalf I am speaking, on several occasions have 299 pressed their claim on the committee for this representation. The Board of Trade appointed a Departmental Committee in 1908. I had the honour to be a representative of this House upon that Committee. The business of the Committee was to inquire into the constitution, rules, administration, and financial position of all the superannuation funds of railway companies. A great deal of evidence was taken from the members of the Great Northern fund, showing their dissatisfaction with the system of management. For some reason or other—and I cannot understand to this day why—the Great Northern Railway Company did not give any evidence before that Committee; they did not meet the evidence which the men themselves put forward; they preferred simply to put in certain documents. One of the documents brought before the Committee was the petition signed by 3,800 members of this fund, asking:—That such alterations shall be made in the rules as will permit of the election to the managing committee of the fund of contributors' committee men as shall be equal to the proportion of the managing committee appointed by the directors, and that the method of election of such contributors' committee men shall be by nomination from the ballot of the ordinary contributing members of the fund.I want to say quite frankly that I would not refer to this Committee if it consisted merely of men who, like myself, might be supposed to represent the views of the staff or the democratic rank and file, if you like to put it in that way. The Committee to which I refer was formed of actuaries, of experts, of Government officials, and of one general manager of one of the railway companies, and it was a unanimous Report which they presented. They said this:—It has been represented to us that the present arrangements do not always provide sufficient opportunity for the members to have their views represented upon the management committee of the fund. While we are not in a position to lay down precisely what would be the best mode of election of electors to serve on the committee, we think that, even where the benefits are guaranteed by the company, it is of advantage to have a provision for election of representatives Such a power tends to remove any feeling of suspicion as to the management of the fund, and also to promote that confidence amongst the staff which, for the interests of all concerned, it is desirable to secure. It should be recognised that, whether the funds are guaranteed or not, there are many details of administration in which the members are deeply interested. Where there is an election of members representatives, it appears most satisfactory that such election should be taken by means of voting papers issued to the whole of the contributing members.The report goes on to indicate that in the event of the two sides being unable to come, to a decision by reason of equality 300 of votes the subject of issue should be referred to arbitration, which clearly indicated the view of the committee that there ought to be equal representation. Viscount Buxton, the then President of the Board of Trade, sent the Report to each company, but the Great Northern disregarded its recommendations. When the matter was raised later by correspondence and question in this House showing how dilatory the methods have been, I was informed so far back as 26th July, 1912, that the Board of Trade were informed by letter from the company that the directors had decided to amend the representatives on the committee of the superannuation fund, and had referred the matter to their solicitor to consider and report as to what amendments to the scheme might be necessary to give effect to their decision. That is close on two years ago, and time went on and apparently nothing was done, and subsequent inquiries met with no satisfaction. In April of last year I raised the matter in this House on a previous Bill of the company. Some discussion then arose, and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City gave the House to understand that the matter had been somewhat overlooked, but that it really was going to have some attention, and that arrangements were being made to give effect to desirable reforms. In view of that assurance I and those associated with me withdrew our opposition to the Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but it is well to have this clear. I have not looked up what I said, but my impression is that I said I would report what took place.
§ Mr. WARDLE
The hon. Baronet's recollection is not quite right. I looked it up. He said that as chairman of the superannuation committee he would go back to the committee and report what had taken place in the House, including the promise which had been given on behalf of the company to the Board of Trade, and that he would see about carrying it out. That is the recollection I have of what the hon. Baronet said. What I am now complaining of is that we are now almost in July, 1914, and the matter is still unsettled. It has taken myself and the men agitating for this reform up till to-day to get to the position in which we are—a position which I am going to show the House is an entirely unsatisfactory 301 one. I want to ask the House to say that the company have not carried out their duty in this matter, and have not fulfilled the obligations which they ought to have fulfilled. What have they done? I am going to attempt to show that what they have done is inadequate, and that the way in which that has been done is the worst possible way in which it could be done if they want to give satisfaction to the staff. The members of the superannuation fund in March last appointed a deputation to discuss their grievances with the company and to ascertain when facilities were going to be arranged for the election of their committee men. They were denied that interview and asked again and again, but were still denied. On 7th April the general manager issued a circular to all the members of the fund conveying the impression that if they persisted in their demand for equal representation on the committee it would be detrimental to their interests. I have got here a copy of the circular and of the voting paper. That voting paper was appended to the general manager's circular. The men were called upon to vote for one or two proposals. They had no say in the questions put to them and which were considered profoundly unsatisfactory. The first proposal was that they should only elect three representatives out of a committee of fifteen, whilst the second was to start a new fund upon which equal representation would be allowed on the understanding that the company ceased to subscribe on behalf of such members as joined the new fund the additional contribution they were now subscribing to the old fund. I submit that any circular in connection with the affairs of the fund ought to have been issued by the secretary of the fund and not by the general manager of the company.
The fact that the voting papers were issued by the general manager, and that every voting paper was key-numbered, and that every member had to sign his name, and that the counting of the votes and the subsequent proceedings were all in the hands of the company's officers, show that this was not a fair method of taking the vote, and it was no way whatever of getting the opinions of the staff. The men had no opportunity as to drawing up of the ballot paper, and there was nobody present to see the votes properly counted. The whole matter was conducted in a way which could only exasperate men living in a free country, and who were desirous of 302 having proper treatment. Official influence was brought to bear on all parts of the line to persuade the men to vote in favour of the company's proposal to elect three out of fifteen. It may be that that will be denied, but we have evidence, and if this were a Court could prove that that official influence was used. In spite of all these facts, after the long delay, the scheme produced was so unsatisfactory that the company could only get 4,700 votes in favour of their scheme, leaving 7,672 who were not in favour of their proposal, and amongst those there were 3,217 who were bold enough to spoil their voting papers deliberately by endorsing them with remarks that no new fund was needed and that equal representation on the existing fund and an annual general meeting were required. We have this state of things, that the company get 4,775 votes and the men, who desire equal representation, with no influence at all, and with no pressure and a free opportunity of carrying out their will, decide that they were against the company's proposals as they were put to the men. I think under these circumstances it must be admitted that that is a most profoundly unsatisfactory method of carrying on business. I want to come to what I suppose will be considered the crux of the whole question. What is the plea of the company? Why do they not give equal representation? Why is it that after, all these years, during which the men have been paying £25,000 a year without having a single word to say in the management of the fund, they do not grant what is asked for? These are the excuses put forward. The company say, "The men pay 2½ per cent., and their total contributions come to £25,000 a year. We pay £25,000, and in addition we make a further contribution of £24,000 in order to make the fund solvent. Because we pay that extra £24,000, because we are taxed, if you like to put it in that way, at a higher rate than the men, therefore we should have a larger representation, and have the control of the fund." That is the company's contention. I believe I have stated it quite fairly and frankly. Surely the hon. Member is not going to put that forward tonight, when, during the whole time that the fund has been in operation the men have not had a single representative upon its management.
Further, the reason why the company have to pay this additional £24,000 is because they have had the management 303 of the fund in their own hands up to this time. It is their policy which has created the deficit. It is their management which has made the extra contribution necessary. They had many years ago, in consequence of an actuarial investigation, to admit that there was in the fund a deficit of over £800,000. That deficit was due not to the management of elected representatives of the men, but to the management by the company's officials and the company's directors. And why? Because of the policy which they pursued. These superannuation funds have undoubtedly been very convenient for the companies. I do not say that the staffs have not benefited; I do not say that it is not a good thing for the men to have pensions; but I do say that if anybody has benefited it has been the companies. Look at the policy which the Great Northern Company pursued. First of all, they took in anybody at any age. Anybody who knows anything about pension funds knows the result of a policy of that kind when you come to an actuarial investigation. Although the fund says that the men must retire compulsorily at sixty-five years of age, and may retire voluntarily at sixty, the company sent many men on the fund at the age of sixty, in order to pension them off and get rid of them for their own purposes—not because the men were done up and desired to retire. It was that policy, and several other facts of that kind, that led to the deficit which caused the company to have to make this alteration in the fund. As a matter of fact, most of the companies have found, when the funds have been going for some years, that their optimism with regard to their solvency has been misplaced, and they have to come to the help of the funds, and either guarantee them or pay extra subscriptions. Surely it is not going to be argued because of that fact that it is fair to deny to the men an equal representation on the management.
We have a precedent with regard to this matter, not only in many of the funds to which I have referred, but also in the National Insurance Act. Under that Act sick funds connected with private industrial undertakings were provided for. An opportunity was allowed for shop clubs to exist, but it was laid down as a condition that, no matter how much the company or the employer might pay towards the shop club or sick fund, they could on no account have more than one-fourth of the repre- 304 sentation on the committee of management. When we have a precedent of that kind, and when we are asking, as in this case, only for an equal share in the administration, and for an annual general, meeting, surely the House of Commons is not going to say that the men who have contributed all these years without any representation shall be offered a meagre one-fifth of the representation now. Nor have the men any control over the auditors, or actuaries. If I were to criticise, as I could do on the notes before me, the policy of the management of this fund for many years past, I could prove in detail that it is due entirely to the way in which the company have managed the fund that the deficit which causes the extra contribution to be necessary has arisen. Therefore the company have no right to use that extra contribution as an argument against giving this representation. I realise that in moving the rejection of a Bill of this character on grounds of this kind it may be said that we are indirectly attempting to impose conditions upon the Great Northern Company through pressure in the House of Commons. I ask the House of Commons, What are the men to do? Do you want them to strike? It is not an imaginary grievance. It is a grievance that has rankled in the minds of these men for years. I have not created it. I have not asked the men to manufacture this grievance. It was there long before I became a Member of this House, and the men have asked me to bring it forward. I would say to the hon. Baronet and his company that in this matter they are far behind the times, and that, if they are not careful, they will create upon their system a sense of dissatisfaction which certainly, if this House will not remedy their grievances, will lead the men into courses which I, for one, should deplore, and which all those who desire to see amicable relationships with the men would be very sorry to bring about. I venture to say that the time of the House of Commons is not wasted if it puts an end to a grievance which rankles in the breast of a large number of the men employed by this company.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think the House will admit that the case has been very thoroughly and reasonably put by my hon. Friend. I do not intend to do more than summarise the position in this important case—because it is an important case, as will be realized 305 when it is remembered that over 12,500 men are involved. In view of the whole situation, it is no wonder that there exists the intense dissatisfaction which is to-day expressed and displayed by the men with even the latest proposals put forward by the company. Just consider the meagre representation! At the last moment their offer is one-fifth of the representation of the committee of management. I wonder what the hon. Baronet or his co-directors would say if the working men took up a similar position in regard to them? He would say that it was a most outrageous and unreasonable position for any body of men—and I should agree with him! Consider the guarantee of the £24,000 to the fund. What has happened in the past, as my hon. Friend pointed out, is due entirely to the company's own wilful error in overspending the fund, and placing the committee in a position of insolvency. We come to the latest stage of the matter. The men ask that a deputation chosen by the men shall have an opportunity of expressing the views of the men before a representative of the company, or before the directors of the company, and the general manager refuses it. In offering that representation the company take a course which must be admitted to be monstrously unfair. They use their official influence to secure a vote from 12,447 men—under pressure—yet they only receive votes to the number of 4,475. That at least should have convinced them that they were not getting the views of the men accurately.
It must be admitted on the part of the company, I think, if they will but carefully look over the matter, that there is a great deal that they ought to do in order to win the confidence of the men, instead of giving them the very severe rebuffs that they have done from time to time when they wanted to take a share in the management of what is rightly and properly their own concern. It is a most regrettable feature that even when they came to a decision in this matter that they appear to hold the men entirely at arm's length, and say, "We will listen to nothing you have to say; we are going to take our own course; we have managed the funds entirely ourselves hitherto, and whether you are compulsory members of the fund, or voluntary, we will manage it for you, and you have no right to question it." I think any impartial person, either inside or outside this 306 House, would fairly support the views which have been set up by the men—that is equal representation by the contributing members of the funds, and also that the election of such representatives should be by ballot, and not taken under official pressure and official control. Look at the other companies that my hon. Friend has named. We have not even had the advantage as representatives of sharing the authority that might be attached to an annual meeting to hearing the accounts read out, and also taking a fair share in the deliberations of the concern. It is also, I think everybody will admit, a very reasonable proposition that the men have made: that the rules of the fund should be altered, and that they should give to the contributing members the right to select one auditor every year, and the opportunity of electing one of the actuaries at every quinquennial valuation. If other railway companies can do these things in a reasonable spirit, and arrange an amicable management of an important fund like this, of which my hon. Friend said rightly that the company got the most interest out of it, why should not the Great Northern? After all, it ought always to be remembered that whatever interest the company put into the fund, they at least count it as against the men in one way or another as part of what they have earned. If for no other, or from any equitable point of view that might be advanced, here at least is a strong reason for the men putting forward their scheme. The company reserve to themselves in a large number of cases the right to deduct the money of the men, and to create the fund, a fund, of course, of which we approve, and which we desire to make preparation for our old age; but whatever we put into that fund the company always calculate that that is part of what the men have earned as servants of the company. I sincerely trust that this House will take advantage of this opportunity, which is one of the few accorded of approaching a matter like this, and the only way we can come into close touch with the company and deal with them. I sincerely trust that this House will seriously consider whether it is right that a company which treat its servants in this manner should be allowed to have the further powers that they seek.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I do not make any complaint of the manner in which the hon. Member who proposed this Motion nor the hon. Member who seconded it put their case before the 307 House. The case has nothing whatever to do with any of the provisions of the Bill, and if the hon. Member will excuse me for one moment I would like to reply to the only objection I heard urged to any of the provisions of the Bill before I deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for Stockport. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Mansfield Division asked me about minerals, and whether there was not something in the Bill which was objected to by the Coalowners Association. I told him, I did not think there was, but that at the moment I could not answer that question, and that I should like to know what it was exactly he objected to. He told me that there had been some decision in the House of Lords in regard to the distance on either side of the banks of a railway as to the mineral rights, and as to whether the company had to pay compensation to the mineral owners or else work the minerals themselves. I made inquiries from the solicitor to the company and he informs me that Clause 44 deals with that point and that the Coalowners Association are satisfied. I do not see the hon. Baronet in the House just now, and I think, therefore, it is possible that he may have found out that his objection does not hold good.
I should like to say a word with regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Stockport upon what I said when we had a similar Bill before the House last year. I think everyone in the House will admit that as far as I can I am always desirous of being straightforward with the House, and that I do not attempt to say anything which I know in my own mind I cannot carry out, and my recollection is that I expressly guarded myself against doing anything more than promising to represent to the board of directors what had taken place in the House. My hon. and learned Friend near me has kindly brought me a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that Debate and I will now read what I actually did say. I said:—With regard to this, I would point out that it hardly arises on a small omnibus Bill of this sort, which is merely to give powers to widen the railway in one or two places, and to do similar work of that description. I did not expect that this question would be raised, and although I happen to be chairman of the superannuation committee, I should not only have to ask the other members of the board before I pledged them to any course, but I should also have to ask the board of the company, who are the ultimate tribunal before whom these matters come. All I can say is that I will represent to the superannuation committee the statement which has been made by the hon. Member for Stockport.And then I went on to answer some points raised by the hon. Member for Ponte- 308 fract, and nothing further took place. I claim to have absolutely fulfilled the pledge I gave on that occasion.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I would say to the hon. Gentleman, in the words of his Leader, "Wait and see," and after he has heard what I have to say he will see that something has come of it. As I said before, I was only one, and it was quite possible the other directors might say, "We choose to make no alteration." I was careful to say I could only represent to the board what the hon. Gentleman had represented in the House.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I make no accusation against the hon. Member, and as I said, I have nothing to say against the manner in which he brought the matter forward, but it gives me an opportunity of putting our side of the case before the House, which I shall be very pleased to do. Before I deal with the points which the hon. Member for Stockport made, I should like very briefly to state to the House what are the real facts with regard to the superannuation committee. This committee was founded in 1875, and the original scheme was that 2½ per cent. should be contributed by the shareholders of the company and 2½ per cent. by the staff, and there also was a provision that there should be a quinquennial valuation by the directors. The committee was to consist of certain directors, and six officials who were to be appointed ex officio—that is to say, they were to be heads of the various departments, it being thought that it was advisable to have the heads of the various departments upon the committee of management as managers, because by having the heads of each department on that committee an opportunity would be given to men working under a particular head to represent their views to that official, and he could represent them upon the board of management. Then, as in my experience it nearly always happens, it was found at the first or second quinquennial valuation, I am not sure which, that the fund was insolvent. That is nothing new, I think, if I may venture to say for a moment, with political questions, that there is a vague suspicion that another great fund is not in such a 309 good position as it might be, but however that may be, I think it is evident that in the majority of cases it happens that whether the committee of management are too generous or the actuaries make wrong calculations—I do not say that is the case—the result is the fund becomes insolvent. The company gets some assistance in order to put that fund upon a sound basis. Further valuations were made as time went on, and it was found again that the fund was insolvent.
As far as I know I think I am correct in saying no pressure was put upon the directors to do what they did, but of their own accord at one of the half-yearly meetings they made a proposal to the shareholders that they should continue the 2½ per cent. which they had always agreed to do, and that in addition they should not contribute any fixed sum of money—the hon. Member for Stockport talked about £24,000, and he talked about 4 per cent. which the Midland gave instead of 2½ per cent.—but they said, "We will, out of our own pockets—the pockets of the shareholders—secure that whatever benefits any person, who has subscribed to the fund, thought he was going to receive, he shall receive and we will pay whatever sum is necessary to see that that man gets that benefit." I really do not know how we could go further than that. I myself thought when there was a discussion some nine or ten years ago when that resolution was passed at one of the half-yearly meetings, that we were suddenly face to face with what might be a very large sum of money to find, and I remember myself saying whatever we have pledged ourselves to do, regardless of the cost, we must carry out, and we did carry out. We did carry it out. I do not think that there is any blame attached to us in that direction, and that is really a much greater concession and a much more pecuniary burden than the Midland Railway Company has borne, because we render ourselves liable for an indefinite sum. As long as the company is in existence so long will those people who enter into the fund understand that they were to receive certain benefits; so long as the company is in existence or borrow any money so long will those persons receive the benefits which they thought they were going to receive. Of course, at the end of the quinquennial valuation we reserve for ourselves the power to put new entrants upon another basis, but they would still receive 310 everything they thought they were going to receive when they began their contribution.
On these circumstances it does not seem to be reasonable that the shareholders who have to find the money should say that the majority on the committee of management should be the directors, who are the elected representatives of the shareholders. They have to find by far the larger proportion of the money. They have to find an indefinite sum, and it only seems fair that the board should have the larger representation. Those are plain, simple facts which cannot be contradicted as to the method which up to a certain point the Great Northern Railway adopted in regard to the management of their superannuation fund. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) said that the railway company had refused to receive a deputation. Before I deal with that point I must inform the House of something which took place four or five months ago. I may say here, in answer to the hon. Gentleman, who told me that nothing had been done, that I made the representation which I had promised to do, with the result that there was a little acceleration in the legal department. I do not know whether the hon. Member has had to indulge in law suits, but, if he has, he will know that, however excellent a legal department is, it always takes a certain amount of time if it works with that great care which from time immemorial has distinguished legal departments. It must be remembered that a large amount of consideration had to be taken into account by the directors when they were asked to make a fundamental alteration in a fund which has been in existence for thirty-seven years, and I think it is only quite lately that there has been any grievance or any disturbance of the kind indicated by the hon. Member for Stockport.
The committee and the board were face to face with this problem. The superannuation committee had recommended to the board that there should be a representation, the number not given, of the men upon the committee. They had to alter the rules to admit of elected representatives, and they had to consider how many should be elected and what the constitution of the board should be. Last March, I think it was, they came to the conclusion that they would submit two proposals to the staff. One was that the staff should have equal representation upon the committee, on the understanding 311 that the fund should go back to the old position—that is to say, that the company should contribute 2½ per cent. and the men 2½ per cent., and then, the contributions being equal, the representation should be equal, but any question of further guarantee would then disappear. The other proposal was that the company should contribute 2½ per cent., the men 2½ per cent., and that the guarantee of the benefits I have already described should be continued. That proposal was put to the men on 7th April, and the result was that 4,775 voted in favour of the proposal (a) that there should be three elected representatives, the company continuing their guarantee, and 330 voting in favour of proposal (b) which was that there should be equal representation, the company paying equally with the men. I notice from a trade union circular that 3,217 endorsed their voting papers to the effect that no new fund was needed, and that equal representation on the existing fund was required, and also an annual general meeting. They would like to have an equal representation provided the funds were not distributed. The company was to pay the larger amount, while it was not to have a larger share in the representation and management of the fund. Then there comes a question of the refusal of the directors to receive a deputation. I must repeat what I said last year, that I am only one, and all I can do is to express my own opinion, and I cannot bind other people. My own opinion always has been that if any of the staff wish to see the directors they should certainly be allowed to see them. That is my own opinion, and, as far as I know, the whole of the board hold the same opinion. Of course, I can only speak for myself and not for them. I have not provided myself with the general manager's answer to that request. I believe the request was made on the 11th of June. The first letter was as follows:—I am in receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, which will have consideration.
§ "Great Northern Railway Superannuation Fund. Dear Sir,—With further reference to your letter of the 11th instant, I must call your attention to the circular dated the 7th of April last, which gave the reasons for submitting to the members two different schemes for dealing with the Superannuation Fund, and seeing that the majority were in favour of proposal A, it really does not appear to my directors that the interview suggested by you would be of any practical advantage.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ (Signed) "C. H. DENT."
I may point out that that method is not a direct refusal to receive the deputation, and I am quite prepared to say that I will do my best to request the board to see that particular deputation, it being understood that I can do no more than make the request to the board, and that I do not in any kind of way bind myself or the board as to what their conduct will be after they have heard what the deputation have got to say, provided that they do receive the deputation. I want that to be clearly understood. The last thing I should like to do would be to attempt to get the Bill by making any statement which I could not carry out. I think it is very reasonable that the hon. Member should ask that we should see our own staff, and, as far as I am concerned, I should be perfectly willing to do so. Then the hon. Member for Stockport said:—
The company has used the powers granted them by Parliament to their own advantage.
I listened very carefully to hear how the hon. Member justified that, because that is not the opinion we hold on the board. We hold that we have spent very large sums of money because we thought that we ought to carry out our promises, and the result has been that we have been very much out of pocket by the generous way—I must say that I think it is generous—in which we have endeavoured to ensure that no man who contributed under compulsion to this fund should lose in any kind of way. I have dealt with the question of other companies. The Midland is in quite a different position, and we have got to judge different companies under different circumstances. I have endeavoured to show the facts of the case, and the reason why we have taken the attitude we have taken. The hon. Member said that official influence was brought to bear to induce men to vote for three representatives. I do not know where the hon. Member gets proof of that. He says so, and of course I must take his word for it, but I do not know of anything of that sort, but I very much doubt if any such influence has been brought to bear, for the very simple reason that if we were to have
an increased representation, I do not think anybody would deny that we should be perfectly justified in saying, "Very well, we only contribute the same as the men," and we should be in a very much better position financially if the men accepted the proposal for which only 330 voted. The hon. Member said that the deficit was owing to the company's management. I cannot admit that except in this way. The committee of management in the years gone by, relying upon the statements of the actuaries, no doubt did pay larger benefits than they ought to have done. There is no question about that, but it is what is being done every day and what has been done for many years past. I do not want to cast any blame upon the actuaries, but as a matter of fact, in nine cases out of ten, the actuaries' calculations have always proved to be wrong. They have always been too sanguine, and they are going to prove to be wrong in National Insurance. The ordinary layman has founded his administration of the fund upon what the actuaries have said, and the result has been that the fund has been insolvent. How have we met that? We have met it by paying it out of our own pockets, and I really do not think that we can do more than that.
§ The question of the dismissal of the men at sixty is a very difficult one, and it raises the whole policy of the railway company, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are by no manner of means anxious to dismiss men at sixty, provided that they are capable of carrying on the work. We have to consider what would happen if we had an accident by which a certain number of lives were lost, and it was proved that the engine driver was a man of sixty-one, who had applied to receive his pension and to be allowed to retire, and who had been told, "Oh, no, we think that you are all right to go on, and you must not retire, because you will be a burden on the fund, and thereby cause the company to spend a little money. Therefore, you must go on a little bit longer in order to make the fund solvent." What would hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have said if that had come out in Debate in this House? The company would have been held up to odium for having, for the sake of a small paltry contribution to the superannuation fund, sacrificed, not only the health of the particular engine-driver, but the lives of the public, for their own immediate advantage. I think that the hon. 314 Gentleman is wrong there. The company have by no manner of means desired to retire their servants too early. After all, what has a man got to object to receiving a pension at sixty instead of being persuaded to work on a little bit longer? It is not in the interests of the company, provided that they think the men are fit to do their work, to retire them too early, and they have never done so. I have endeavoured to deal quite honestly and straightforwardly with the hon. Member. I do not in the least make the slightest complaint of his having brought the matter forward. I have put my case before the House, and it must be for the House to decide whether or not they think the arguments brought forward by the hon. Member are sufficient to cause the rejection of an Omnibus Bill like this upon Second Reading.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
The hon. Baronet did not complain of the tone and temper of the Debate, and I think we on this side must congratulate him on the fairness with which he has endeavoured to state the case. If the Debate can be conducted on those lines, free either from temper, passion, or prejudice, the House will certainly be in a better position to judge exactly as to the merits of the case. I am glad that the hon. Baronet has not raised any objection to the right of taking exception on Second Reading to a matter that is not strictly in the Bill, because I want to assure him, and the House generally, that no one deprecates more than we on these benches the necessity of repeatedly having to draw the attention of the House to what might otherwise be a purely domestic matter. We take a view which I believe will be generally accepted in all parts of the House that when we are dealing with railway men we are dealing with those who after all are semi-public servants, and it would be much better, as indeed it would be in the interests of all, if we could, to adjust any matter on the floor of the House rather than have to resort to a strike or any means of that description. Therefore, in this matter our objection tonight is not only because we believe a great injustice has been done to the men, but that an injustice is being done to-day; but, over and above that, we state frankly and definitely that promises were made across the floor of this House and to the Board of Trade which have not been given effect to. The hon. Baronet was quite right in the quotation that he gave, and as he said 315 he expressly guarded himself against committing any of his colleagues, which he had no right to do. That is perfectly true, but it is equally true to remember that this is not the hon. Baronet's Bill. This is a Bill promoted by the Great Northern Railway Company, and if the the Great Northern Railway Company have failed to do their duty, we are dealing not with the individual attitude of the hon. Baronet but with the attitude of the Great Northern Railway Company as a whole. Therefore, I propose to show that, even if the hon. Baronet did not make any definite promise himself, the Board of Trade, on that particular night, did interpret his view as a promise on behalf of the company. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary for the Board of Trade was speaking, and at the conclusion of his speech he said:—With regard to the point put by the hon. Member for Stockport. I think he is perfectly correct in saying that the railway company did promise, and I think the hon. Baronet has forgotten it. that the staff should have representation on the superannuation management committee, and, as my recollection goes, we received from the company last year an assurance that the matter had been referred to their solicitor who is to prepare a scheme.Then the hon. Baronet intervened and said:—I believe he is doing that at present.Then the hon. Gentleman rejoined:—I trust that is the case, and, a promise having been given, I have no reason to doubt that the company will not fail to fulfil it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? I am not sure I made my position quite clear when I was speaking. The solicitor to the company has done that. He has prepared a scheme to give the men representation. A proposal has been made to give representation to duly elected representatives—an equal number elected with the number appointed by the directors under certain circumstances. That has been done.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I will deal with the merits of that particular proposal in a moment. At the present time I am confining myself to this proposition, that my hon. Friend objected to the Great Northern Railway Company's Bill fourteen months ago solely on the ground of representation of the staff on this committee. He put forward a claim then, as he has put it again this evening, that the men ought to have equal representation with the company. In the course of the Debate he expressed a wish not to 316 press the matter to a Division, so long as he was satisfied that a reasonable prospect existed of his wishes being carried into effect. The representative of the Board of Trade said that they had had certain assurances from the Great Northern Company. The hon. Baronet confirmed that, and on that understanding my hon. Friend withdrew his objection. I put it to the House that we, and the House generally, agreed to this only because we thought that a satisfactory settlement would be arrived at as a result of the Debate. I wish to emphasise what is really the main contention from our side, namely, that the men do not feel, and we share their view, that effect has honestly been given to the promise made through the Board of Trade and on the floor of the House of Commons.
I come now to the second point. Why have these promises not been given effect to? The hon. Baronet has asked why do the men take exception to the method in which it has been brought about? The hon. Baronet quite frankly said the company objected to the men having equal representation unless they are prepared to relieve the company of the liability they have undertaken. I think that is stating the case quite fairly. Let us examine it from the men's standpoint. They are not free agents. The Great Northern Railway Company do not say to the men, "Here is a superannuation fund ostensibly promoted for your benefit, because we believe it to be to your interest, and therefore you are free agents and can join it if you like." If that attitude were adopted, then there might be something to be said for the hon. Baronet's point, but the reverse is the case. The Great Northern Railway Company say, "Here is a fund that we have promoted, which we control, and which we demand you to contribute to, and we insist upon your joining, notwithstanding any other provision which you have made for your superannuation fund. You must forfeit all that and join our fund." I put it to the House, is not that an entirely changed situation? If any employer of labour takes the responsibility of compelling men, as this company has compelled men to join, then I say there is a moral obligation on the part of the company to fulfil to the full every responsibility that they have undertaken.
I will make another point with regard to this superannuation fund. It is not an advantage or perquisite given by the com- 317 pany. It is not an additional gift free and unfettered over and above the men's wages. It is nothing of the kind. It is to all intents and purposes deferred wages. There has never been, and the hon. Baronet knows it perfectly well, an occasion when we have had to treat with the Great Northern or any other railway company, and, having gone to arbitration, have stated our case so far as the men's wages are concerned—there has, I say, never been an occasion when the company's advocate has not immediately replied:—"We desire you, not only to take into consideration the wages as outlined by the men, but the additional advantages which we estimate at so much per week, for the superannuation and other funds that we have." If, therefore, an arbitrator is to to be asked to set a face value on these advantages, and by that means be prevented giving advances to the men, are we not justified in saying that not only have the company no right to try and take them away, but that to all intents and purposes it is a moral obligation that they must carry out. Therefore, I repeat that it is manifestly unfair, and, indeed, was taking a mean advantage of these men to say, "No, make your choice and make it in one of two ways. Have representatives if you like, but in that event forfeit all the benefits for which you have paid, and which we have promised to guarantee." I say that is neither fair nor honest, and the men were perfectly justified in resenting, as they did, the methods thus employed by the company.
The hon. Baronet puts the position quite fairly when he says that the company's view in having officials on the managing committee was because they were always accessible to the men who could state their grievances to them, and that then the officials could represent their views. I put it to the House, as I put it to any business man who knows anything of railway life, is that the actual relationship between the ordinary humble railway man and the railway official? Is it not true, indeed, have the company not the right to expect, that their official is there primarily to look after the company's side of the case? Can anything else be suggested? To suggest, as is done in this case, that the officials will be there as representatives of the men is to put up a proposition in which no one in the railway service would believe for one moment. The hon. Baronet brought forward a most ingenious argument about the engine 318 driver who might risk the lives of the travelling public. That is very farfetched indeed. I was an engine driver, and I think I would have welcomed my pension at any time, indeed, I would welcome it even now. It is not true to say that these funds were spent on engine drivers, because 80 per cent. are the clerical staff. When the leakage took place, and this fund became insolvent, it was not the engine drivers who were put on, but superintendents with pensions of £200, £300, £400, and in some cases up> to £700 or £800. I want the House to clearly understand that if the men have representation they themselves would be the first to see that no funds could go on in this matter. Therefore I come back to the original point, namely, that the demand is a demand that the men believe would be in the interests of the society itself. I go further, and say that it is too late in the day to challenge the right of anybody to representation. The very law of the land allows that right to the vilest criminal, and no man to-day in a court of law can be denied the right of representation. Why? In order that justice shall be done to him. If that is a right conceded to a criminal, surely it is a right that ought at least to be conceded to 12,000 railway employés. Whether this House agrees or not, there will, and must be, an agitation continued until this representation is conceded.
I do not want to pit one railway company against another, but I put it to any other railway company director in this House, that he has no right to support this Bill on the merits of the case we are putting up against it, because we are asking the Great Northern Company to do this evening what the company of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Colonel Lockwood), the London and North Western Railway Company, have done with success, what the Midland Railway Company have done with success, and what the Great Western Company have done with success. Whatever prejudices they may have had in the past, similar to those the Great Northern have to-day, surely their experience has not only justified the claim we make, but I venture to assert that they themselves would not like to revert to the old position. Without attempting to delay the House, I put it to the hon. Baronet that it is too late to talk about the deputation now. He read the reply of the general manager, 319 and then said that it must not be taken as a refusal. I have conducted negotiations on many occasions when I was in the service, and if I dared to repeat another letter after the reply the hon. Baronet read out, the one simple answer I should have got would have been, "I can only refer you to my previous letter of so-and-so date."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I said I would represent to the board that it would be advisable to see these gentlemen. The hon. Gentleman need not repeat any letter.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I agree, but the hon. Baronet must remember that he had previously said that what he had represented to the board had had no effect.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The hon. Baronet made it perfectly clear in the last Debate that he would then represent the matter to his colleagues on the board, and he told us that he had, and we all believe that he had, but the result of his representation was nil.
§ Mr. THOMAS
At any rate, you expressly safeguarded the position by saying that you only spoke for yourself.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Therefore I am justified in saying that we ought to have some assurance on behalf of the company—I presume the hon. Baronet is speaking here for the company—if he is not speaking for the company it is valueless—if he is, then he ought to be in a position to speak authoritatively for them. It is not true to suggest that the letter read out was the first letter. It was the very last letter, and it was after the agitation had been created. There were several letters prior to that, and up to this stage there has been a definite refusal to receive a deputation. We do not want to press this matter to a Division if a desire is shown to be reasonable and to meet our point, but we do say, having stated the case as fairly and impartially as we can, that here is a number of men compelled to contribute to this fund, compelled to join the fund, and compelled to run out of any other provision they may have made; and we suggest, even at this stage, that the company should be prepared to give representation—if 320 like, eight to the company and seven to the men, which is surely not unreasonable! We are not even asking them to let in someone who has no interest, because these men are contributors, and it will be to these men's interest to safeguard the fund quite as much as it will be to the company's interest. I put it to the hon. Baronet that he ought to agree to some such terms as those. We will not say seven and seven. We will be fair, equitable, and, I believe, magnanimous, in asking the Great Northern Company to do what other railway companies have already done with success. If he will do that, I hope that it will not only save us from going to a Division, but that it will be the means of restoring that relationship between railway companies and their men which we want to see restored. Unfortunately there is bitterness, unfortunately there are difficulties, and unfortunately there is irritation. Some of us are genuinely anxious to remove the cause of that irritation, and to be able to say that when railway companies introduce their Bills into this House we who speak for the railway men are not only prepared not to oppose them, but are prepared to give them our blessing, as we ought to be able to do. That can only be done by the railway companies recognising that they have obligations, duties and responsibilities. They must recognise that in the twentieth century it is too late to deny common justice in the form we are asking for it for these men. If, as a result of this Debate, some such promise as I have indicated can be given by the hon. Baronet to-night, none will be better pleased than we shall be to give our whole-hearted support to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
It is my anxiety that those of us on this side of the House who are in favour of the Bill, should come to an agreement with hon. Members opposite. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) say at the start that he recognised the advisability of always meeting these men in the board room whenever they had any grievance, and as I now find that he has that idea in his head, I could only think that, as a just reward, he should be asked to join my company and leave the one he now adorns. I cannot help regretting that this question of the superannuation fund and its administration should have been brought up in the House at all. I am 321 quite sure the hon. Member (Mr. Wardle) will not think for a minute that I thought that he had not a perfect right to bring this question forward on a Railway Bill, because we have long left behind that idea that only subjects cognate to the Bill can be admitted in discussion. I am sorry that the House of Commons should be called upon, if it is called upon, to settle this question of the superannuation scheme, because I think it is so easily settled and so much better settled by the companies with their men. After all the superannuation scheme is not entirely for the benefit either of the company or of the men. We all know that. It is a scheme for our mutual comfort and well-being, in order to create a feeling of comfort amongst the men and of security in the company. But I cannot help saying that these matters are brought before the House because they are not settled at the start. If these matters, which grow so easily into big matters of discontent, were settled at the start by a few individuals, I am perfectly certain that no question of superannuation or any other railway question would be brought before the House of Commons.
The question of representation is not within my province, and I should not wish to enter into it to-night, but I would suggest that my hon. Friend and his colleagues will surely be able to settle that fairly and amicably with their men. I am sure, from my knowledge of hon. Members opposite who compose the Labour party, that their wish on an occasion of this sort, and I think on most occasions, is to settle the matter amicably, in order that those in whom they are interested may feel that their party have done their best for them in the House. What is best for the men of the Great Northern Railway? Is it the best thing that after a Debate of this sort, when all the questions have been fairly laid before the House, this Bill should be passed or that it should be rejected? I would suggest, not by way of escaping a Division—that is entirely for hon. Members opposite to settle—that after a Debate of this sort, when everything has been stated so plainly, that any railway company must take notice of it, it would be a pity to reject this Bill on the score that has been put forward. The company have heard, quite fully, exactly what the case of the men is, and I should say from my knowledge of the directors of the company, and of the directors of railway companies generally, 322 that they will be anxious to show that they have appreciated some of the remarks which have been made in the Debate, and I believe if this Bill is allowed to pass after the Debate which has taken place, the party opposite will not regret that they have allowed it to pass.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. J. M. Robertson)
The right hon. Gentleman has just said that we have long passed tie stage of demurring to a railway Bill being opposed on Second Reading on questions quite apart from its merits. It has become now, I suppose, the normal procedure of the House, but I am bound to say that in this particular case the company has brewed a good deal of its own trouble. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) quoted a speech he made in the discussion of a Bill of last year, and observed that nothing else happened, but as the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) pointed out, a little more did happen, namely, my calling to his recollection that a promise on the subject had been made a year before, and the hon. Baronet puzzled me somewhat on that occasion, after I had remarked that I supposed he had forgotten the previous promise, by saying that he believed the solicitor was at that moment preparing a scheme. The hon. Baronet had just before declared that he had not expected to hear anything on the subject.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
No, but as the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Lockwood) has just pointed out, Railway Bills are habitually discussed on matters which have nothing to do with the Bill. The hon. Baronet's experience is much longer than mine, but in mine I should have said it would be a very natural thing for the hon. Baronet to expect to be reminded of his promise of the year before. The fact is that his promise was made more than two years ago. I believe the hon. Baronet will have to grant that there has been no alacrity in fulfilling the pledge. If they were preparing a scheme fifteen months ago, even that did not mature very rapidly, and I think the hon. Baronet will have to admit as regards the speeches of my hon. Friends below the Gangway that the proposal finally made by the company was not exactly a popular one. To delay the fulfilment of a pledge for two years, 323 and then to give the men that choice between a scheme of equal representation with loss of the company's guarantee, and the continuance of the old scheme, with the company's guarantee, at the cost of having only three members elected, was not a popular proposition to put to the men. I think I am justified in saying that the company have brewed the trouble that has befallen them. It is not for me to discuss the merits of the fund. The hon. Baronet has given what I have no doubt is a perfectly fair and just explanation of the state of things in which that fund became insolvent, and had then to be guaranteed by the company, but he is aware of the fact that at least two other companies guaranteed their funds in the same way and yet find it possible to give the men equal representation. I think the propriety of some such adjustment has been suggested to the hon. Baronet by his experienced colleague. I hope the Great Northern Company will approach a little nearer to agreement with their members on this subject, especially in view of the fact that the promise was given such a long time ago, and had been so tardily fulfilled. I would only suggest to my hon. Friend below the gangway that to throw out a Bill on the Second Reading, even on the occasion of such a grievance as this, would be to inflict a rather heavy punishment, not only on the company but on the public. The public is punished in all these cases in which Bills are thrown out on the Second Reading, whether because of disputes between directors and employés or between traders and directors.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The public is not perhaps discriminating in its blame, and the general fact will remain that a setback will have been given to commercial and industrial progress, a useful Bill will have been retarded and a certain amount of employment for labour will have been prevented from coming into operation. I merely urge these as reasons why, though I think hon. Members have a real grievance against the company and have worded it in a very moderate way, hon. Members should not press the matter to a division, but should allow the Bill to go to a Second Reading in the hope that the hon. Baronet and his colleagues will come to better terms with them.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I wish the House to understand exactly what is the question now before it. As I understand the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, he understood that my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said on a previous occasion that he was going to give equal representation.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
No, I have not said that. I understood that the question of equal representation was not raised on either side.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
That was the essence of the dispute. The hon. Member opposite on the last occasion claimed equal representation. He said that equal representation ought to be given, and I think we have a right to ask him whether, in the previous statement he made on this dispute asking equal representation, he desired to have equal representation with equal control.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
Does it mean that with the claim for equality of representation the claim for equality of control is still maintained? The House must see that that is the whole difference. I do not think you will find any other case in connection with any other company in which a company, having accepted the unknown quantity of unlimited liability, has conceded the point of equal control. If any company is asked to guarantee the debts of another company, the company whose debts are guaranteed is put into the position of a subsidiary company and accepts the usual terms that the guaranteeing company is to have the ultimate voice in the control of the concern. The hon. Member for Derby proposed seven should sit on this board as against eight. The hon. Member for the City of London has—it may be slowly and in an injudicious manner for which he personally is not responsible—proposed the lesser number of three. I do submit that if hon. Members reflect on the extreme unwillingness of companies to come to this House for power to raise new capital, they may take it that these things which are asked for are really and truly necessary. The difference between the parties in this case is not such as to warrant the House in taking an extreme course on this Bill on 325 the Second Reading. This is not the last stage on which hon. Members will be able to state their case.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I am not sure of that. Besides, if the Second Reading is passed now, there will be time for subsequent negotiations. Speaking for myself and other directors of railways in this House, I am able to state that we fully concede that there ought to be representation. The objects are two. One is to give control to the guaranteeing company, and the other, which is only a degree less necessary, is to secure that the men who are contributors to this fund should have the best of all possible means of knowing what is being done in the management of the fund. That, I think, should be conceded, and for that purpose I should have said that the presence of three is enough. If the presence of three is not enough, then let that number be increased. But I must say that you will not find any analogous case of equality of representation and equality of control being given where there is unlimited liability being undertaken by one of the parties. I think there ought to be an accommodation arrived at without an extreme course being taken, and certainly no accommodation can be arrived at unless the fundamental distinction which I have pointed out to the House is borne in mind.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I think this matter might be arranged in the spirit of the remarks which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stuart-Wortley). I think we have come to the point now when the Debate might be adjourned, in order to allow further negotiations to take place. The right hon. Gentleman really went too far when he said that some representation has been conceded. It has not been conceded.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Even representation by three has not been conceded, and it would not be satisfactory to accept three. I think everybody will feel that. It is a pity that on such a small point as this, where the decision of the House could be so easily arrived at, we should lose so much time discussing the matter, and not arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. We have reached a stage in the discussion, especially after what has fallen from the hon. 326 Baronet the Member for the City of London, when it should be adjourned for further negotiations. I believe that what is wrong is that the hon. Baronet is not chairman of the railway company. The chairman of the company comes from the provinces, and does not grasp the thing with the same seriousness as the hon. Baronet would do. I think if the other directors would take his advice, the matter would be immediately adjusted. We ought not to be called upon to kill the Bill, but we should listen to the appeal made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Let us have a few more days discussion between the directors and in the hope that an adjustment of the kind suggested may be arrived at. I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not press that Motion. To-morrow will be 1st July, and we do not know how long the House is going to sit. We have taken very great pains to put the case fairly before the House, and hon. Members who are here now may not come again. If the Debate is adjourned, we should have to take up the time of the Government which is required for Supply, and I think it would be much better to go to a Division to-night on the Motion for the Second Reading.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I intervene with great diffidence, for I am not acquainted with the subject matter of the Debate. I venture to say, with great deference to the hon. Baronet, that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) has made a reasonable proposal for this reason. I heard the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, and I thought he made rather a damaging criticism of the position of the hon. Baronet. At the same time he pointed out the obvious inconvenience to the public of rejecting an important Bill of this kind. I understand that hon. Members below the Gangway do not desire to be forced to divide against the Bill and kill it on the Second Reading if an accommodation can be arrived at. The object of my right hon. Friend, I understand, is to see if an accommodation cannot be arrived at, and in that event further time would not be required for debate when the matter comes before the House again.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I had very much hoped, after the way in which the case had been presented from these benches, 327 that the hon. Baronet speaking for the Great Northern Railway Company, would have been able to agree to the suggestions which have been made. I cannot help feeling that the House in this matter is against the railway company, but—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is speaking on the Motion for Adjournment, and cannot now discuss the merits.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
But if that is impossible, I do hope, as one who desires to see the Bill passed, that the Debate will be adjourned as suggested by my right hon. Friend. I think that it would be a grievous thing to have this Bill thrown out at the present time, and I cannot help feeling, after this Debate, and after the expressions of opinion on both sides of the House in favour of a far larger representation on the fund, that if a day or two for further negotiation is permitted,
§ we shall be able to pass the Second Reading of this Bill. Therefore I cordially support the Motion for Adjournment, and I trust that it will be accepted by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The hon. Baronet, I hope, will see that it is advisable to meet this House on this point. Of course, if he desires to compel us to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, he is taking an excellent course to secure that end. He says that we are now almost in July, and that the adoption of this Motion means a few days delay. Let him remember that the men have waited for two years, and that the company may reasonably be asked to wait a few days longer.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 110.329
|Division No.142.]||AYES.||[10.20 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Esslemont, George Birnie||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Farrell, James Patrick||Lundon, Thomas|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Field, William||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Alden, Percy||Fitzgibbon, John||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Armitage, Robert||Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Gelder, Sir W. A.||Manfield, Harry|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||George Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Gill, A. H.||Meagher, Michael|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Glanville, Harold James||Middlebrook, William|
|Black, Arthur W.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Millar, James Duncan|
|Boland, John Pius||Goldstone, Frank||Molloy, Michael|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Gulland, John William||Muldoon, John|
|Brace, William||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hackett, John||Murphy, Martin J.|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hardie, J. Keir||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Clynes, John R.||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hewart, Gordon||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Higham, John Sharp||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hill-Wood, Samuel||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hodge, John||O'Dowd, John|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hogge, James Myles||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||O'Malley, William|
|Crean, Eugene||Hudson, Walter||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Crooks, William||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jardine, Sir John (Roxburgh)||O'Shee, James John|
|Cullinan, John||John, Edward Thomas||O' Sullivan, Timothy|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Jowett, Frederick William||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Dillon, John||Joyce, Michael||Pratt, J. W.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Doris, William||Kelly, Edward||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Duffy. William J.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Kilbride, Denis||Radford, George Heynes|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||King, Joseph||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Reddy, Michael|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Sheehy, David||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Sherwell, Arthur James||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Shortt, Edward||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Snowden, Philip||Wiles, Thomas|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Spear, Sir John Ward||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Robinson, Sidney||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Sutherland, John E.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Sutton, John E.||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Rowlands, James||Thorne, William (West Ham)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Rowntree, Arnold||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Mr. Lough and Mr. J. H. Thomas.|
|Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.||Wardle, George J.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Royds, Edmund|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Sandys, G. J.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Harris, Henry Percy||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Blair, Reginald||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Starkey, John R.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Boscawen. Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hills, John Waller||Stewart, Gershom|
|Boyton, James||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Swift, Rigby|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Horne, E.||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Butcher, John George||Houston, Robert Paterson||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Touche, George Alexander|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Valentia, Viscount|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Kerry, Earl of||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Webb, H.|
|Clough, William||Larmor, Sir J.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Currie, George W.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Winterton, Earl|
|Du Pre, W. Baring||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Fell, Arthur||Perkins, Walter F.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Peto, Basil Edward||Younger, Sir George|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Sir. F. Banbury and Mr. Rawlinson.|
|Gretton, John||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday next (3rd July).