HC Deb 18 November 1919 vol 121 cc459-61

(1) For the purpose of the settlement of trade disputes in manner provided by this Act there shall be a standing Industrial Court, consisting of persons to be appointed by the Minister of Labour (in this Act referred to as "the Minister"), of whom some shall be independent persons, some shall be persons representing employers, and some shall be persons representing workmen.

(3) For the purpose of dealing with any matter which may be referred to it, the Court shall be constituted of such of the members of the Court as the President may, after consultation with the Court, direct.

I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words "and in addition one or more women."

On Monday night a Motion was made in somewhat similar terms by my hon. Friend who sits behind me (Mr. A. Shaw), and I undertook to consider the matter carefully before the Report stage. He, however, went to a Division on the matter, and, as I understand Parliamentary procedure, that would absolve me from keeping that pledge. But it was a genuine offer on my part, although my hon. Friend seemed to think if was a dishonest one, or in some way one that he could not rely on. At any rate, I cannot explain to myself in any other way why he took the action he did take. Nevertheless, it makes no difference to the action I am taking now, and I accordingly propose that those words be there inserted.


I desire to say that I am sure the House and the country are very grateful to my right hon. Friend for taking that course. Those of us who were concerned in the Debate two days ago had never any of us the slightest, doubt of his sympathy with the cause which we were then defending. The doubt, if he will allow me to explain, which was in our minds arose from the fact that we gathered from his observations that the most he could do on the Report stage would be to place women in the Courts in a purely advisory capacity as assessors. The point of our going into the Lobby was that we desired that women should be full members of the Court, with the prestige of full membership, and that they should be in close and constant touch with the whole development of the wages situation. I think that is an important point in the eyes of every person who has had experience of the complicated nature of wages questions, and of the manner in which one question reacts on another. I desire personally to thank my right hon. Friend for his action, and to repeat that, in anything which happened, not one of us ever had a shadow of doubt of his own personal sympathy with the cause of just remuneration for women.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the words "after consultation with the Court."

The circumstances under which I make this proposal are these. As this Subsection was originally drawn, the constitution of the Court was left to the action of the Minister. It was represented to me by an hon. Member that there was too much power in the hands of the Minister, and that the Court seemed to be to far too great an extent the mere creature of the Minister. I recognised and appreciated the force of that comment, and, in order that the Court might have complete independence and might be free from any reflection of that kind, I accepted an Amendment to the effect that the Court should be constituted of such of the members of the Court as the President might, after consultation with the Court, direct. On thinking the matter over and discussing it with my advisers, we came to the conclusion that the words "after consultation with the Court" would be a source of very great embarrassment and difficulty, for the reason that this Court will no doubt sit, as the Interim Court of Arbitration has frequently sat, in different divisions in different parts of the country. In the regulation of business from day to day it would clearly be quite impossible for the President to have the opportunity of consulting all the members of his Court, when some were in different parts of the country, and accordingly I venture to recommend to the House that the words "after consultation with the Court" be omitted. Then the constitution of the Court will be decided by the President, who, I think, in practically all Courts with which I have any acquaintance, is the person who really is responsible for the constitution of any Court or of its different divisions.

Amendment agreed to.

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