HC Deb 15 November 1920 vol 134 cc1490-2
12. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the number of amalgamations that are taking place between soap manufacturers and tobacco manufacturers and other big firms, which will prevent healthy competition; if he is aware that it is easy for such big firms to amalgamate, but that when one or more trade unions want to amalgamate they have to take a vote of the members, 50 per cent. of the total membership have to vote, and they have to obtain 20 per cent. majority of those voting; and if he can see his way clear to get an alteration in the Trade Union Act so that trade unions can transfer their business in the same way that big commercial concerns do at the present time?


I have been asked to take this question. I am aware of the general tendency towards amalgamation both amongst manufacturers and trade unions. The Trade Union Amalgamation Act, 1917, does not, in my opinion, hamper trade unions in their desire to amalgamate. It does, however, provide safeguards which were considered by Parliament to be necessary at the time of the passing of the Act, and it would appear that no circumstances have arisen which would justify an Amendment on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Registrar-General knows of the difficulties placed in the way of trade unions amalgamating in consequence of the fact that it is very difficult to get 50 per cent. of the members to go to the branch committee rooms to record their votes; and if it is easy for big firms to amalgamate, why should not the same conditions apply to trade unions, so that they could amalgamate as easily?


If there is any instance of difficulty, and if the hon. Member brings it to my notice, I shall be glad to see if anything can be done. When he suggests that it is easier for employers' associations to amalgamate than for trade unions, he must bear in mind that shareholders in big concerns must be in a majority, and that it would not require a majority under the Act of 1917 for trade unions.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

If the Ministry of Labour take any action in this matter, will they provide for trade unions submitting themselves to the ordinary law of the land, the same as the trading organisations?


Will the hon. Gentleman see that neither great combines nor powerful trade unions are in a position in their own interests to tyrannise over the general public?