HC Deb 03 April 1917 vol 92 cc1247-9

Where the rate of wages in any branch of the building trade shall have been varied as a result of an arbitration under the Munitions Acts, then such variation shall be allowed by the employer to the contractor in the case of an increase awarded, or by the contractor to the employer should a decrease in wages be the result of such an award, whether the contract affected by the variation is for a lump sum or under schedule.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

In moving this Clause on behalf of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto), I will not trouble to read it, as it is most clear and explicit. I only hope that the Solicitor-General will give the matter favourable consideration. I have one good reason for asking, because last night, when I was pleading for the builders, and suggested as a cause for consideration the rise of wages and the heavy cost of material, the Solicitor-General asked, "Would the builders, if there were a drop in wages and prices, 'say, We are willing to take less'"? He suggested that they would not do so. This Clause states clearly and very fairly that "where the rate of wages… has been varied as a result of an arbitration…" and so on, and I would call the attention of the Solicitor-General to this, or by the contractor to the employer should a decrease in wages be the result of such an award They are putting themselves here into the proper attitude. They are asking if there is an increase that they shall have the increase; but, on the other hand, they are willing to take off something if prices go down. The hon. and learned Gentleman is in a conciliatory mood to-night, and I leave the matter with him in the hope that he will accept the Clause.


I am afraid I cannot accept this Clause. My hon. Friend has not argued his case at length, and I shall not attempt to argue at length in reply. I am bound, however, to say that this variation of contract goes far beyond anything we can accept.

Question put, and negatived.

Bill reported.


Is it competent for an hon. Member to oppose the Report stage being taken immediately after the Committee stage? If so, I intend to do so. If it is not competent, I claim the right after a Motion has been made to oppose it. That was done, I think, yesterday.


A single objection does not prevent the Report stage being taken. Of course, the House can decide not to proceed with the Report stage. It is open to an hon. Member to move that the Debate under consideration be adjourned. That will enable the House to come to a decision whether to proceed or not.


Then I beg to move, "That the consideration of the Bill, as amended, be adjourned." I do so, because to my knowledge, certain Members who have taken great interest in this Bill are absent, believing that the Report stage was not to be taken to-night. I will point to the fact that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto), the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle), the hon. Member for the College Division (Mr. Watt), and quite a number of hon. Members who have taken an active part in this Bill, have gone away, believing that they would have an opportunity again, and it was distinctly understood by those hon. Members before they went that they would have an opportunity another day. There is also this fact: this Bill was introduced in the House on 25th February, and the Committee stage was not taken till more than four weeks after the Second Reading.


If my hon. Friend will allow me, he was not present in the House when I appealed to the House to take the Report stage to-night. In the circumstances, however, I do not propose to insist on that course, and the Report stage will be taken to-morrow.


I thank the Solicitor-General very much indeed, but I was in the House when he made that statement.


Will the Bill be printed to-morrow? If it cannot be printed, might the new Clauses be printed to-night?


I understand that it will be difficult to do what my hon. Friend suggests. If it can be done it will be done.


It would be very desirable if we could get the actual Amendments before us when we come to the Report stage. I am quite sure none of us desire to hold up or delay the Bill at all, but it will be a matter of convenience if we can get it printed to-morrow.


On a point of Order. During the Committee stage of this Bill, there was an Amendment down in my name and in that of the hon. Member for Somerset. When that Amendment was reached my name was not called, but I rose, and Mr. Maclean, the Chairman of Committee—


There is no appeal. The Chairman of Committees, whoever he may be, is in charge of procedure in Committee. There is no appeal from him to the Speaker or the Deputy-Speaker.

Consideration of the Bill, as amended, adjourned.

Bill, as amended, to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 30.]