For the purposes of this Act, the expression "trade dispute" means any dispute or difference between employers or workmen, or between workmen and workmen connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms of the employment or with the conditions of labour of any person.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. YOUNG
I beg to move, to leave out the words "or difference" ["any dispute or difference between"].
This is the first of a series of Amendments, all more or less related to each other. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman appears to have met us on the second of the Amendments. What I rise for is to secure from the Minister of Labour the meaning of the words "or difference," and an explanation of the Clause as a whole. It seems to me that these words give far too wide a definition to a trade dispute, especially in relation to employers and employed or in relation to "workmen and workmen." As far as the workmen and workmen are concerned, we are undertaking a very perilous procedure. You may get the men to assent to appearance before the Industrial Court, or to allow the question to be discussed at a Court of Inquiry, but immediately you commence to interfere in what appears to be trade union, business between workmen and workmen, then you are getting into a very different position. I want the right hon. Gentleman to leave these differences to the men themselves; they will find the best method of squaring the difficulty "What the right hon. Gentleman has to do is to satisfy himself that the machinery he is setting up will clear away disputes between employers and employed, and in that way he will accomplish a good deal. I am almost certain that some employers will resent this interference in a difference between them and their workmen. When is the Minister going to intervene? The difference may be of a very petty character. We do not 426 desire to see the Minister on each and every occasion, if he so thinks fit, interfering on the differences. We have no guarantee that successors to the right hon. Gentleman will exercise the same discretion as he exercises. His successors may give the widest possible interpretation to the words "or differences," and by doing so undo the good work which the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to carry through, Under the Trade Union Act we were safeguarded from any interference in relation to our domestic matters, and I trust that nothing is now going to be done that will in any way limit that safeguard. At the same time I confess that on certain questions, such as demarcation, employers of labour have to put up with a great deal. But there again you are introducing a third party. I say most decidedly that in matters of that kind it is dangerous to introduce a third party like the employer. The workmen generally, both sides, are in the right, that is to say you have to make arrangements between the two parties. Those who discuss these demarcation questions have usually arrived at a solution to their satisfaction. In demarcation questions in which I have taken part I have, found that the attitude of the firm or of the manager or even the attitude of the foreman was held suspect in relation to one or the other, and, therefore, it was always better to go by an arrangement between the two parties. We trust that in relation to demarcation questions the position which will be taken up will be, "you are both right or wrong, fight it out for yourselves." I want to draw attention to these words "or difference" in relation to employment or non-employment. What had the Minister in his mind in using those words? They cannot refer to discharges or cases of victimisation, because those will become a dispute and are amply covered by the closing words of the Clause. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by these words to refer to the question of trade unionism versus no trade unionism? If he does, he is adding danger to danger, and is probably going to turn what is a purely parochial or local matter into a national question and dispute, and we all know that national disputes are more or less national disasters, at least that is my opinion. From that point of view the Minister will make a great mistake if he seeks to interfere in. any way with that which we regard as a purely trade union matter to be settled between the trade unions. Although an 427 employer on demarcation questions has to suffer, and sometimes unjustly because we do not rapidly come to a decision, yet at the same time he is far better out of the question altogether. I urge the Minister not only to remove these two words but to accept the subsequent Amendments.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I appreciate very much what my hon. Friend has said in regard to the use of the words "or difference." I entirely agree with him that it would be most unfortunate if interference were to take place between employers and workmen upon any trivial topic which would not assume the dimensions of real serious trouble. I entirely agree with that sentiment, and I hope that any Minister who occupies my place will take the same view. On the other hand, there are occasions when the difference between the parties does assume an aspect which requires clearing up. For example, you might have a discussion between an employer and the workmen as to whether a man really came within the class of operatives who were asking for a prescribed rate. That point has been raised on many occasions in the Interim Courts of Arbitration. You might call that if you like a dispute, but, on the other hand, it would be more accurately described as a difference which must be cleared up if you are to avoid a dispute. Accordingly, the word "difference" was put in the Bill for that purpose. In addition to that, the phrase itself has certainly got the sanction of previous use. For example, I find in the Conciliation Act, to which there has been so much reference in our Debates, the following words, "where a difference exists or is apprehended." Then the Board of Trade is empowered to take steps towards conciliation and for the appointment of an arbitrator. So that there the Board of Trade was to have its functions brought into operation, not merely when a dispute arose but whenever a difference was either apprehended or in existence. As well as that, I find in the Minimum Rates of Wages Act, 1918, the words "any difference" are also used. Therefore, while I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's view, and appreciate the attitude for which he argues, I honestly think it would be somewhat unsafe to leave the word "difference" out, because you might find people, and you always find some people willing to put impediments in your 428 way, who would be prone to argue that you had not got to the stage of a dispute, and that accordingly no action should be taken. I think under those circumstances, with all the good will in the world, I must from the legal point of view, and in order to keep the Bill watertight, keep the words in. The other points are substantive and quite distinguishable from the first, and I think it would be well to take them one at a time.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment made: Leave out the word "or" ["employers or workmen"], and insert instead thereof the word "and."—[Mr. Wardle.]
§ Mr. YOUNG
I beg to move to leave [out the words "'or workmen" 'and to insert instead thereof the words "and employés."
I move this Amendment in order to secure that it shall not only include manual workers but staff workers. It seems to me that a subsequent Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman covers the point.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Yes, my Amendment to be added at the end of the Clause covers the point and includes the class of people whom the hon. Member desires to bring within the Bill.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. YOUNG
I beg to move, to leave out the words "or between workmen and workmen."
We decidedly object to having a Government Department interfering between us as trade unions in our own trade union or as belonging to different trade unions. We will not tolerate it under any circumstances, and any attempt to do so will only prejudice this Bill in its working, and if you once create a prejudice against this measure in any of these important materials you are likely to find that the good produced under this measure will become discredited. Consequently, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should satisfy himself with what good he can do between employer and workmen without interfering with the trade unions.
§ Sir R. HORNE
In using these words I went to a source which I am certain will be appreciated by the benches opposite. The origin of the definition really was the Trades Disputes Act of 1906, where it is defined as "any dispute between em- 429 ployers and workmen or between workmen and workmen." Accordingly I felt myself upon a very solid foundation when I selected this method of defining the words "trade dispute" There is also, a very practical point, apart from the sanctity of the origin of the phrase, in its application. I had some experience of trade disputes during the War. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that there were far more disputes between workmen and workmen over demarcation questions than between employers and workmen. So far as the machinery for settling those differences was concerned, I could find none, but those questions came up to me repeatedly and my aid was frequently invoked to bring about a settlement between the various parties in such disputes. For example, there were certain Destroyers hold up for a considerable time during important weeks of the War because of a dispute going on between shipwrights and fitters as to which of them was to perform a particular operation in connection with a bomb thrower on the deck of a ship. I was appealed to by both parties as to my view upon that question. I think it is certainly necessary we should not exclude the possibility of the Ministry of Labour being asked to take some action in such cases. I am perfectly certain no one will wish voluntarily to intervene in such a dispute because one is only apt to get one's fingers burnt. At the same time, I think it would be a great pity if you did not allow the Ministry to be in a position to give whatever aid they could in cases in which they might be of some assistance. Accordingly I venture to ask my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment upon this point.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. YOUNG
I beg to move, to leave out the words "employment or non-employment or the."
I desire to get an expression of opinion from the right hon. Gentleman as to whether these words mean a dispute as to union or non-union. I can quite understand the position that he may think that on demarcation questions he can render very useful service. I have no reason to doubt that he was called in with great acceptance to both parties during the War, but in this matter you come to a more dangerous question. Who is going to call him in? The employers cannot call you in in this matter. Therefore I 430 want to know if you are going to intervene on the question of the employment of union or non-union men.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I readily respond to the request of my hon. Friend, and I agree it is a point of substance. I am very glad to have the opportunity of answering questions on these points, and perhaps the best answer I can give in this instance is by giving an illustration of my work in the last week. One of the Members of this House came to me with a notice that had been published by certain employers saying that they were not prepared to take on men, I am paraphrasing the words, who were members of particular unions. I was asked to intervene in that dispute, and the particular works had been shut for some days. I quite frankly say I have no sympathy with that kind of man, and I took means to have an officer of my Department brought into touch at once with the employers in question. The result has been, or, at any rate, if it is not the result of my intervention it has followed, and I think it is partly the result of my intervention, that notice has been withdrawn and, as I understand, the men are now going back to work. I think in that case the Ministry performed a very useful service, and I do not want to be prevented from performing similar service if the opportunity should arise. Personally, I should be sorry if these words were dropped out of the Bill. I realise the point which my hon. Friend made, but I do think on such occasions the Minister of Labour might be able to exercise a genial and amiable influence on a situation which would otherwise give rise to dispute. I find again, on a reference to the Trades Disputes Act, that it deals in terms with that very phrase. One of the occasions of a trade dispute is where it is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment and the conditions of labour. Accordingly, I venture, with all respect to my hon. Friend's opinion, to adhere to the use of this phrase.
§ Mr. RENWICK
In these cases of difference between one class of workmen and another, the hon. Member said that the line of demarcation was not a point in which the employers can intervene.
§ Amendment negatived.431
Amendment made: At the end of the Clause, add the words
The expression 'workman,' means any person who had entered into or works under a contract with an employer whether the contract be by way of manual labour, clerical work, or otherwise, be expressed or implied, oral or in writing, and whether it be a contract of service or of apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour."—[Sir R. Horne]
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON: At the end of the Clause, add the words
Provided that a, trade dispute shall be deemed to exist or to be apprehended if any justice of the peace complains to the Minister about the hours of employment or conditions of labour of any person, and that such justice of the peace shall be deemed to be one of the parties to such dispute.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This Amendment, I am afraid, goes beyond the scope of the Bill. We have not yet made a magistrate a promoter of trade disputes.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.