HC Deb 02 May 1919 vol 115 cc519-36

Order for the Second Reading read.


I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill deals with the production and manufacture of iron and steel, the casting of iron and steel, the getting of chalk and limestone from quarries, cement and lime works and dock labourers. This is not the first time that this Bill has been introduced. We are asking that the Bill should be on the same lines as checkweighing in connection with coal mines. Checkweighing was first brought into operation in coal mines in 1860, and since then various Amendments have been made to the Act. The question of checkweighing in various industries goes back a great number of years. In 1893 the steel and iron trade first brought it to official notice. In 1894a Committee of Inquiry was appointed by the Home Office, and Mr. Asquith, who was then Home Secretary, met a deputation from the different societies. Again, in 1896, Sir Matthew White Ridley met a deputation, and in 1897 another deputation went to the Home Office from the Trades Union Congress, headed by the secretary, who at that time was Mr. Hodge. In 1898 a deputation from the iron and steel trades met the Home Secretary and the demands put forward were: (1) that weighing should be made compulsory; (2) that particulars of the weights should be posted up where, the men could see them; (3) that facilities should be granted to workmen elected by their fellows to check the weights; and (4) that it should be made an offence to use moulds or vessels bearing an incorrectly stamped capacity. These things have been carried out for a number of years. The iron and steel people have been constantly boring with a view to getting this Bill passed into an Act, but they were never able to succeed. On 4th May, 1907, a Report was made by a Departmental Committee on checkweighing in the iron and steel trades—that is to say, on the question of granting to the workmen the right to have the weights of their output, upon which their wages were calculated, checked by their own independent representative. We find from the Reports of the Committees that the heads of the Department suggested that these men should have the right to an Act whereby they could appoint their own men to supervise their business. A Bill was again produced in 1914 by the then Home Secretary (Mr. McKenna), but it got no further than Second Reading. Ever since then the workmen have been doing all in their power to try to get this Bill through, but they have not succeeded up to the present time. We contend that the time has arrived when the Bill should be made into an Act, and we hope that hon. Members will see to it that the Second Reading is passed. The Bill refers to tinplate workers, limestone quarry workers and also to dock labourers. We find that the dock labourers introduced this question so far back as 1908, when a Departmental Committee was appointed by Mr. H. J. Gladstone. After examining twenty-three witnesses, nineteen coming from the men's side and only four from the employers, it was suggested by the Departmental Committee that the time had arrived when these workmen should have the right to appoint their own checkweighmen, so as to get an accurate test of the weight and measurement of their work. Some of my hon. Friends in the House gave evidence before these Departmental Committees, and, no doubt, will have something to say with reference to the evidence which was given I trust that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading.


I have the greatest possible pleasure in seconding the Motion, so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for the Wentworth Division (Mr. Hirst). It is a long time since the workmen first asked for this elementary right, and the time has come when there should be no further delay on the part of Parliament in granting the men the right of having a checkweigher in the various industries where they are paid upon the weight that is produced by their labour. I speak as one with some knowledge of checkweighing, because I was deputy-weighman for six years, and I have been a checkweigher for the last twenty-five years. During the whole of my experience I have never known, with but one exception, the question of the weighing of the material in the industry with which I was connected causing the slightest friction. The employers on their part selected a man in whom they placed every confidence to see that a just weight was recorded—this is in the mining industry—and allowed the workmen the right, which has been conceded since 1860, to select one in whom they had confidence that they would make a just and accurate record of the weight. With the one exception I have mentioned, I have never known a manager of the quarries to interfere with those two men in the performance of the duties appertaining to their office. That one exception was where a tare was being altered. The manager himself was not present. He was represented by other officials connected with the mine. When the tare was altered—it was in favour of the men to the extent of a few pounds—the manager ordered the weighman to divert the tare back to the old weight. I mention that to show that, at least during my thirty years of experience, in no instance has it been a cause of dissension between employer and workman. On the occasion of this difficulty we desired to summon the manager for causing the tare to be altered, but we found that we ought to have summoned the man who altered the tare and not the manager who gave the order for it to be altered. That is an anomaly which might well be removed.

During this long period these trades, by repeated deputations, have been approaching Parliament for what is an elementary right of the workmen to see that their material is weighed properly. It is merely a matter of equity and justice and one which the employers ought to be the first to welcome, because it is as much in their interest as in that of the workmen. It strikes me, as a new Member, that this long delay must, as it has done, always leave with the workman the idea that Parliamentary methods are slow and cumbersome and that they have to resort to other methods which are not either in the interests of the employer, the workman or the country generally. We are hoping to-day that this long period of delay will have come to an end and that the Government will expedite matters. I have gone very carefully into the evidence which was given before the Departmental Committee, and the strange thing to me—and that again makes me wonder why there has been so long a delay—was in respect to the iron and steel trades, which are rather complicated in their method of gauging the weight. In that evidence, of the fifty-one witnesses called on behalf of the various trade organisations, forty-seven expressed their desire to have an equal right to appoint checkweighers and to subscribe to their payment. It appeared to me that the employers themselves admitted the right of the men and raised no insuperable objection to it. They could see that it was only equitable and just that the men should have the same rights of ascertaining the weight as the employers had. Officials of the trade organisation repeatedly stated that they had weekly complaints in respect of that industry as to the men being dissatisfied with the system that at present obtained. I believe also, especially in respect to the tinplate trade, by the force of their combination and by the solidarity of the men in the trade unions they have in at least three large works, by mutual arrangement with the employers, already, set up checkweighers and done the very thing we are asking Parliament to legalise.

In respect of dock labourers, a very curious thing occurred. No fewer than a thousand owners of docks, wharves and quays were written to and asked if they had any objection to the principle of introducing checkweighing. Replies were received from 156, of whom only ten raised any objection. The ten were invited to attend the Committee, but only one attended to give evidence against the principle of legalising checkweighers. In that industry also we had the some complaints by trade, union officials about the weight the men were receiving, with the result that severel strikes had occurred. At least, I remember my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton), in giving evidence, cited a strike that occurred at Belfast, I believe in 1907—a stoppage of industry because workmen wanted the right to check, either by weight or measure, what they depended upon for their weekly subsistence. I do not think there is a a single employer in this House who will say this principle is not right and just. They may raise certain difficulties which may occur in various industries in weighing, but I am positive that no fair-minded employer or owner will ever object to the principle of the thing. The principle itself is one that we admit in every phase of our social life. We have our inspectors of weights and measures to see that a fair and just weight is given as between the seller and the buyer, and if a man is found whose scales are unjust he is punished, because, if we get less weight than we pay for, we hunger. By the same rule we have the inspectors who see that our food is not adulterated, because, if we get adulterated food, we die. So the principle goes on. During the War one of the strong things brought about by legislation was that if a seller gave more than the measure, he was summoned. I sat on a bench of magistrates, and the proprietor of an off-licence who had given above the legal pint of beer was brought before us Probably that did not occur often, but on this occasion it had occurred, and I remember that this man was brought into Court, and summoned for giving the long pull. The long pull was not very long, because I remember seeing on the desk in the Court what was called a measure, and it would not have slaked the thirst of a sparrow if it had drunk it. In solemn consultation afterwards we warned this man that he must never let it occur again, and so far as I can recollect we let him off on payment of costs. I mention this in order to point out that it is part of the English law that there should be a true weight and a just measure, and why for all this long period this should have been withheld from these trades, it is difficult to conceive. On hearing that the principle may be accepted by the Government, I think it is unwise to delay the House by any lengthy remarks.

We have in this Bill the opportunity of saying that in future a man shall have the right to see that the weight of his work is correct and just, and by providing that opportunity we can allay the spirit of distrust and suspicion that exists amongst the men, which ultimately results in the bitter conviction that something is wrong by withholding from them the right of testing these weights. We can alloy that feeling and arouse between the workmen and employers in these industries, a feeling of satisfaction and concord, and a feeling that a man is getting his just reward for his labour. Not only that, but this continued delay brings to the workman the idea that he must never trust to legislation to alter the wrongs from which be feels he is suffering, and it makes him resort to the weapon of the strike. It makes him feel that his only safety in bringing about these necessary reforms is in the solidarity of his trade union, and that only in the collective effort of his organisation can he secure reform. I think we ought to do what, in my opinion, is the right of Parliament to do, and what the working classes of this country have the right to expect Parliament to do, and that is to set up machinery so that wherever men are paid by weight or measure they shall have the same right as the employer to the ascertainment of weight or measure.

I noticed, from the witnesses who appeared before the Committee, that one very great fear was expressed repeatedly by the employers that the employment of check-weighers, particularly in the mixing of the different things that go to make up iron and steel, trade secrets would be given away. The fear was that the check-weigher might give away some of the trade secrets. Personally, I think the check-weigher takes as much interest in the firm as the employer or the workman. With regard to the pit with which I was connected that when it was doing well I always had a feeling of jubilation, and when we had a small output it always depressed me, and I am sure it depressed me to the same extent as it did the employer or the workman. As employers fear that the check-weighers might give some of their trade secrets away, there is a Clause in the Bill which, provides that if he does he is liable to six months imprisonment with or without hard labour. There are other words in the Bill which may be improved in Committee which say, "Or any other information." That seems a rather wide term and it may be construed very widely, but I am sure that in Committee the words would be put more definitely as to what is meant. I hope Parliament will accept this Bill, so that the workmen can feel assured that in Parliament these matters that require adjustment, and that can be better adjusted by Parliamentary action than by the collective effort I have described is going to be brought about speedily.


I desire to support this Bill. The strongest possible argument has been advanced by the speaker who has just sat down. He said that we do not want to cause friction. He might have gone further and told the House that in the industry with which he is connected, the mining industry, no influence has been more effective in removing friction, and bringing about confidence than the employment of check-weighmen, I do not want to anticipate what is going to be said by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), but I feel sure that he can tell the House that in the docks and wharves of this country, not only on odd occasions, but week by week, stoppages take place because men are distrustful of not getting the right measure for their work. Strong endeavours have been made during the past few months, and those endeavours are being continued, to try to create mutual confidence between employer and employed. Whatever the machinery may be that is set up for the purpose of cementing this, it will be entirely unavailing if that confidence is not thorough, and if on the workmen's side you have a belief that he is either being robbed or may be robbed in the output of his work. The only possible way of getting absolute confidence is to see to it that there is some measure which will ensure to the workman, whatever his output is, that he will get full value for his work. That, I think, is the most important thing this Bill can do. It is of no value setting up industrial councils if you have between the workmen and the employer a constant cause of friction, and no influence can be used more powerfully to remove that friction than the principle embodied in this Bill.

There is a large number of places where perhaps men are employed in getting minerals, in numbers of from twenty up to 100, where they lack that spirit of confidence which the check-weighman gives. He is always there at the pit-head. His job may be a light one, but it is a very important one. While there is no provision in this Bill regarding the payment of check-weighmen we are to-day in the very unfortunate position of having throughout the country very large numbers of men who are short of an arm, a leg, or an eye. They are not fit for the ordinary tasks that will be imposed upon them in the industrial world. But if men are required for light jobs of this kind I regret to say that there will be too many men able to fill them. I hope that this Bill will not only be accepted by the Government, but, so vital is it to the smooth working of our industrial system, that every endeavour will be made by the Government to carry it into law as speedily as possible. Some time ago I remember being involved in a dispute in a case in which a small body of men, about 120, were employed. I am quite certain, could we have got to the bottom of these men's trouble, not only had they cause for complaint, but there were gross violations of the Truck Act going on in this particular industry. The men were being robbed not only on the output of their labour, but they were compelled to buy goods from the firm likewise, and were being robbed in that process. So long as these things continue you cannot have a smooth working of our industrial system. Every effort should be used to get the nation to pull together as strongly, industrially and socially within the next five years as it did during the past five years with regard to the War. And with this object every proposal that tends to remove distrust and create confidence ought to be accepted by this House. For that reason I have much pleasure in accepting this Bill.


In supporting this Bill I represent the steel and tinplate trade. During my official experience in my society for the last twenty years this question of check-weighing has caused more discontent and dissatisfaction among our members than any other question that I know of. I will give one or two illustrations, which I am sure will convince the representative of the Government that it is necessary that this Bill should become law. This Bill is exactly similar, Clause for Clause and word for word, to the Bill introduced by Mr. McKenna in 1914. The Bill was dropped on that occasion by the Government because of the pressure of business. Then the War broke out. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) and myself have kept our members quiet for the last five years without troubling the Government in so far as this Bill is concerned. You did not have a more patriotic and loyal body of workmen in the whole country during the period of the War than the members of my society. We had not a single strike from Scotland down to South Wales during that period. It was not that the men had no reason for it, because they had sufficient reason, even so far as this Bill is concerned, owing to the changes in the arrangements in the works with regard to moulds and so on for the making of steel, as compared with the pre-war arrangements.

This Bill is to protect the honest employer as well as the workmen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton comes more into touch with employers in other parts of the country. But so far as South Wales is concerned, taken generally, the employers in this trade are the best and most honest body of employers I have ever met. But even in South Wales we have got our dishonest employers, and we want to protect the honest employers against the dishonest ones. Some of these employers have asked, "Why do you want check-weighing? Cannot you trust the employer?" My reply is that in every steel works and tinplate works and in every dock the employer appoints a check-weighman himself to see that the workman is not overpaid. We simply ask now that this check-weighman be put on to see that the employer does not underpay his workmen. We are simply asking for what the employer already has in so far as the steel and tinplate trades are concerned. The right hon. Member for Gorton and myself were in a certain district, and the men complained that they were being underpaid in so far as steel ingots were concerned. Of course, we had the privilege of weighing the ingots. We did weigh them. The small ingot weighed 15 cwt. 2 qrs. The large ingot weighed 19 cwt. The employer was there himself, and he saw the weights on the weighbridge. We put in our claim, asking the employer to pay the correct weight that had been ascertained on the weighbridge. He, said "The employer on the other side of the road only pays on 14 cwt. 2 qrs. for the same mould. Therefore, until you get that employer to come up to my standard I am not prepared to pay for the 15 cwt. 2 qrs." The Member for Gorton and myself discussed the matter. There was only one method of procedure, and that was to bring the men out on strike. We do not want these barbarous strikes if employers can settle these matters for us. But in this case we had to threaten to hand in notices before we could get this employer to pay the men on the ascertained weight, because there was a difference between the method in the works on the other side of the road and the method in the works where the weight had been ascertained.

These ingots are rolled into tinplate bars for the purpose of manufacturing tinplate. The weight to be ascertained was 19 cwt. 2 qrs. The steel employer sells the tin-plate bar by weight, and you have to work the tinplate bars out at a certain weight per foot. It is 16 lbs. per foot. The men who produce the tinplate bar can easily calculate the weight of that bar simply by taking a number of feet and multiplying it by the 16 lbs. per foot. The employer was getting paid for 21 cwt. for that bar after it had been manu- factured, although the workman was only paid for 19 cwt. 2 qrs. the pit weight that was produced. I think these two illustrations ought to convince the Government that these men are simply asking for justice and fair play. We trust that the Government will give this Bill a Second Reading, and also afford facilities to pass it into law, if only for the time we have waited since 1914, and thereby show that they are prepared to do something in return for the patriotic and loyal way in which these men supported the Government during the prosecution of the War.


I will endeavour not to detain the House at any great length on this subject, but I do want the House to understand how it applies to and affects the labourers at the docks in a most peculiar and distinct manner as compared with other trades. I had not only the opportunity of giving evidence before the Departmental Committee, but I happened to be a member of that Departmental Committee, which was set up by Mr. Gladstone, now Lord Gladstone. The evidence we produced there was of such a character that even the employers themselves on that Departmental Committee agreed to the principle of check-weighing. The only objection raised was that the principle should be extended beyond the workmen in the interests of the employers to iron ore which was shipped from foreign countries. I will give the House two cases which will show the horrible demoralising effects of the present system upon the men who are working by piece. We are asked, and I hope the response will be generous, to increase production and output. I subscribe to that policy most heartily, but if the men who are asked to increase output and production, are refused the legal right to make inquiry as to whether they are getting legal wages or not, how can you expect men in that position to be encouraged to increase output and production. I will give a case which the Under-Secretary can find in the evidence of the Departmental Committee, and which happened in Aberdeen. When we went to Aberdeen, where the men were unorganised in 1893, the conditions there were of a most horrible and demoralising character. Not only were the men deprived of their legitimate tonnage, but their money for the stated amount of tonnage by the employer, whose word they had to accept or else get the sack, was handed over to one man to pay the gang in a public-house. The result was that not only was there a deduction from the tonnage in the first instance, but there was a further deduction by the man who had the money in his hand, and who told the men in the public-house what he thought was the tonnage. Therefore, there were two deductions, and, of course, there was the slate in the public-house, and at the end of the week, when the payments were made, the slate had something to say to the tonnage as well as the other influences. The first thing we had to do was to break up the public-house business. We inserted a rule in the by-laws, that any member found collecting his wages in a public-house would be fined heavily, and expelled from the union, and we soon smashed that combination. By surreptitious means we discovered, through the Custom House, that one gang of men had been deprived of £114 in a given period, and we took action against the man concerned and recovered that £114. That evidence was given at the Departmental Committee. I think we received it because the man was afraid to face the music, for the Court had really no jurisdiction.

There was another case in Grangemouth. The men who work in Grangemouth are really honest, upright, straightforward, Godfearing men, respectably housed, who were born and lived there, and some of them elders of the Kirk. A gang of those men got similar information and took action, and went to the Sheriff's Court, but the sheriff on some technical legal point, either that he had no jurisdiction or that somebody else ought to be sued, while he agreed that the men were being robbed, gave a verdict for the defendant. The defendant, who was also a member of the Kirk, and an elder of the Kirk, took advantage of the technical flaw, and actually sued those men for the costs of the case and got a verdict, and was on the very eve of selling up their houses and furniture, and throwing them on to the streets. The union, of course, had to come to their assistance, and pay the legal costs. That is a most monstrous state of things, and a most iniquitous state of things, and I have met some employers who would blush even to know that there were such employers in existence But when we are asked to trust employers, there are employers and employers, and the best trust we can get is prevention. One ounce of prevention is worth three tons of cure.


I rise to support this Bill very heartily, and I am entirely in sympathy with what has been said by hon. Members opposite. But in connection with the Bill there are one or two matters upon which, I think, there might be some amendment. When I went through the Bill of 1914, I discovered some things which I suggest the author of this Bill ought to try and remedy. In the first place, in connection with Clause 1, in Subsection (2) (c), referring to the getting of chalk or limestone from quarries, it seems to me that those who drew up the Bill have failed to understand that there are kinds of quarries which ought to come under the operation of the Bill. In the county of Aberdeen there are a very large number of granite quarries of such a size as could come into the operation of this Bill. Perhaps it may be the case that it was discovered in taking evidence by the Committee that they had a very good method there already of discovering the weight of material. The Aberdeen quarries and the whinstone quarries in Scotland are mostly employed in the making of setts, and the workmen there are very intelligent and understand exactly how many setts it takes to make a ton of the various sizes, but, notwithstanding that, there is a rule there to the effect that when a man's setts are being weighed he himself sees them put into the wagon and goes himself to the weighbridge. He sees the exact weight and takes a note of it. In these quarries also there is a large amount of road metal broken, and the method of payment is by measurement, and in measuring these bings of stone the man is present himself and sees the surveyor of the district measure the stone, and there is no difficulty in paying the exact amount as far as he is concerned. At the same time it might be the case that in some of the larger quarries they might wish to have a check-weigher, and I see no reason why they should not have the opportunity of appointing a check-weigher if they desire to have one, and I suggest that the authors of this Bill might, in Committee, insert words applying to with-stone and granite quarries as well as to chalk and limestone quarries. We have limestone quarries in Scotland, but they are very small, and I do not think the men there employed would be able to pay for a check-weigher. Some of the steel factories in Scotland are not very large, but there are steel and iron factories large enough to have check-weighers. In Section 4 of this Bill we find that we can have intermittent checkweighing in certain cases, but I think that difficulty might be got over by one of the workmen himself doing his own work, and at the same time being employed legally to cheek any material that might go across the weights. I know that some of the men themselves think such a system might be possible. In this Section 4 I think it is a mistake to say "The employer shall give to the check-weigher." I think it is a mistake to put the word "employer" in there, because the employer himself cannot possibly be on the ground while this is going on, and while you might make him responsible for the deeds of the men that he employs for the purpose, I think it would be better to alter the word to "manager" or "official in charge of the operations."

1.0 P.M.

In connection with Section 2, Sub-section (3), I find it speaks about the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Acts, 1887 to 1908, and speaks of the powers, duties, removal, and remuneration of check-weighers. I wish to point out to the hon. Members responsible for this Bill that the Clauses in the Coal Mines Regulations Acts in many cases will not and cannot apply in connection with this Bill. For instance, if you take Section 14 of the Act of 1887, Sub-section (3), we find that one part of the duty of the check-weigher is to check deductions in connection with dirt weighing. In connection with iron and steel work there can be no such thing as deductions, and I would suggest that you should have regulations drawn up for yourselves, to take in all the various things and the various operations of the different trades which will be brought under this Bill. Something was said by the Seconder of the Bill in connection with the Coal Mines Act. I can well remember that the most unfair things were done prior to check-weighers being appointed in connection with coal mines, but I want the House to understand that long before a Bill was brought into the House of Commons to make it legal to appoint a check-weigher, in many of the Scottish mines round the district to which I belong there were men appointed who were called "justice men"—men appointed to get justice—and the old term "justice men" still holds good in Scotland. "Check-weigher" is an English term, which we Scots people do not take very kindly to. There were many cases where the owner did a most unjust thing in connection with the weighing. First of all we found that the tare of the hutch was made always to suit the owner's side, and the weighing of the coal was such that there was weighing only to hundredweights which was, of course, most unjust. There were sometimes three hutches to the ton, which might be 22½ cwt., or it might be more. In any case it was utterly wrong, but to-day we have a system of checkweighing in the industry which I think is a credit to very many collieries. On the question of helping on honest employers, I think checkweighing under the Coal Mines Regulations Acts has done a great deal to foster that spirit. As a matter of fact, it is a great thing and a good thing if the men themselves put on an honest man to be a check-weigher. They do not always do it, I am sorry to say, and sometimes they put on a man who is anything but honest, and the result is that by-and-by the industry suffers very badly. I remember a case when I was a colliery manager myself, when the colliery appeared to run out and the men found that they were not able to pay the amount of a decent wage for a check-weigher, and they gave the man notice to leave. They said they were very sorry to have to do so, and they came to me, and I said: "I will tell you what I will do. We have got on very well together, and there has been no trouble while this man has been on. He is a fair-minded man, and it is a good thing for us all to have him. I will therefore make a bargain with you. I will give him a wage for doing a little work, if you will give him a certain amount to make up a decent wage." They did so, and he continued to be a check-weigher until the pit stopped. There are cases where we have managers and owners asking the men to appoint a decent check-weigher. There is one thing that makes the owners afraid of those check-weighing Acts. I speak for Scotland, and with full knowledge of what I am going to say, having been engaged in mining operations for forty years, and I want to say this, that I have discovered that in very many cases check-weighers have been the cause of a good deal of friction. By saying very many cases, I do not mean that there are many of such men, but that one man may cause a good many cases of friction. I have found cases repeatedly where some men not only undertook the work of check-weighers, but went beyond their duties and did things antagonistic to the management of the collieries. I have known of a case, for example, where a check-weigher so far forgot himself as to put up a notice, alongside the notice of the colliery manager, to compel the pit to be idle on a day the men were asked to work, because of some orders in connection with shipping. That was the cause of a good deal of friction between the manager and the men, and what the owners feel in connection with the Check-weighing Bill is this: they are afraid that the power of the union will be exercised through the check-weigher, as has been, done in a great many cases in connection with the coal mines, and I am sure, if those who are bringing forward this Bill would satisfy the owners upon that point, there would be no difficulty whatever in getting it passed.


Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what he means by the union exercising powers through the check-weighers, because I do not know of anything of the kind?


I am speaking from the coal-mining side. It is a fact in Scotland—I cannot speak for England and Wales that all the check-weighers, as a a rule, are agents for the union. A great many of these unwise men, as I say they are, undertake to do things which are not only antagonistic to the miners themselves but to the union, and constantly cause friction. That is the ground on which a great many owners are afraid that some of these unwise men may exercise power over the union to the detriment of the employers as a whole, and if the owners could be satisfied upon this point, there would be no difficulty. At the same time, I am one who believes a great deal in common sense, and I am satisfied, if common sense be exercised on both sides—on the side of the employers as well as the employés—and if, as an hon. Gentleman said, there can be between both sides mutual confidence and mutual trust in each other, then I think it will go a great length to satisfy the demand on both sides, and bring about a period of rest, which the country very much requires at the present time. I trust the Government will take the opportunity of getting this Bill passed through as quickly as possible, and give to the people who have asked it for so many years, a thing which they very much need, and. which they ought to have had a good many years ago.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood)

I am sure the Debate to-day has been a most businesslike one, and the speakers who have taken part in it have addressed the House with moderation, and with a knowledge of what they are talking about, which is most helpful to all of us. Let me say at once, on behalf of the Home Office and the Government, that I accept the Bill, and that the Home Office will do its best to make the Bill law this Session. The Home Office had intended to introduce this identical Bill, but the fortunes of the ballot enabled the hon. Members who have introduced it to get in first. I congratulate them on their priority of position, but I can assure them we will do in the Home Office everything in our power to pass the Bill into law. The Bill itself, as one hon. Member said, is word for word, schedule for schedule, the same Bill that the Home Office has introduced into this House on previous occasions, and also the same Bill that was once introduced as a private Bill by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge), who has all his Parliamentary career taken such a keen interest in this particular subject. May I say—and this is all I say, because the House is agreed, I think, in the justice of the measure, and also it has felt that it was time it was carried into law—I am, and I know the Government is, in full accord with the desire to make this measure one of those tokens of the intention of the Ministry to cultivate the best possible feeling between employer and employed. There is no doubt about it, according to the evidence I have read, that there is a suspicion on the part of many working men that they have not been fairly paid on their piece and measurement work. This Bill will make suspicion impossible in the industries to which it refers, and in the Bill itself it is possible, when it becomes law, to apply it to any other industry not mentioned, and I hope the Bill will help to close the breach, if and where it exists, between employer and employés, and make for that good feeling and co-operation which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of those who can speak with greater authority than I can, is the essential preliminary to industrial peace, to increased production, and to the supremacy of our trade within and without the realm. I hope, therefore, the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.


May I just say how much we feel obliged to the Government for the indication which has been given of their intention to push this Bill through? I do not like looking back, it is so long since I first introduced into this House a Check-weighing Bill, and I have had, as one of the previous speakers said, a demonstration of the patience of the workpeople. Probably I have been somewhat responsible for that, because I have hated industrial war just as I have hated war between nations, and I have always advised the men to wait rather than be discouraged, although I believe in our industry we could have compelled it if we had taken the course of entering upon war. References have been made to the Committee of Inquiry, and to any Member of this House who may doubt as to the necessity of a Bill like this, or as to it being a protection to the employers, I would point out that the chairman of the Tinplate Makers' Association of South Wales, and who was a Member of this House during the 1910 Parliament or the 1911 Parliament, in his evidence said that he would welcome a check-weigher, because a week or two previously to his giving evidence they had lost 400 boxes of plates. If there had been a check-weighman there would have been such a check as would have made such an error impossible. So from that point of view, it is a protection to the employer. I beg to thank my hon. and gallant Friend for what he has said in respect to the Government's intention.


I would not have risen on this occasion but for a few words offered by my hon. Friend opposite. I do so, having had to do with checkweighing for over thirty years, and I want to say, as a result of my long experience, I have not come across a case such as my hon. Friend has mentioned. On the contrary, as my hon. Friend must well know, the check-weigher has been the instrument of making peace between employers and employés. Not only has the check-weigher in the Durham coalfield and elsewhere been called upon to see justice done, but very often, and with the consent of the union, has made peace when strikes would have occurred. I am more than thankful to the Government for accepting this Bill, but I trust that the people who will be called upon to put it into active operation will see to it that the right men are appointed. You want a man with a head on his shoulders, because time after time peace is kept by the check-weigher until things are put right. I have been told that, so far as check-weighing in the mines is concerned, if the men could not afford to pay the check-weigher it would have paid the royalty owner over and over again to keep him on. These things show at once that something must be done in justice to the men. I trust that the Government will expedite this matter and give to the other industries the same advantages as are afforded to the miners, and if that is done I feel sure that such disputes as have occurred in the past will never occur in the future.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.