§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. Watkins (Hackney, Central)
I wish to move to defer the Second Reading for six months on the ground that this House should decline to give to the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company further powers until they demonstrate that they are using their existing powers properly. Hon. Members will 1219 have received communications both from the Railway Clerks Association, on whose behalf I am speaking, and from the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company about the difference that has arisen between us, which difference I now want to put before the House. This is a difference which we have genuinely done our best for 14 months to get rectified. We have been conciliatory, courteous and accommodating. We have done everything we could to try to clear this matter up without bringing it to the House of Commons, but the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company have adopted a very hard and unyielding attitude, an attitude, I might say, which is quite unlike the general conduct of negotiations by that company. It is more in sorrow than in anger that I bring this matter to the House because, for many years, I, myself, and friends of mine have been engaged in negotiations with the company and we have always got on very well together, which makes it all the more surprising that I should be driven to take this course. I am very sorry to have to wash this dirty railway linen in public, but the attitude of the railway companies has forced us to take this course.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman said "the attitude of the railway companies." That being so, it must be assumed that his complaint is not against one company, but against the railway companies as a whole. This is out of Order on a private railway Bill, because it affects all railway companies. That has been ruled before, and I am afraid I must stick to that Ruling quite firmly.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am sorry. It was a slip of the tongue. I am dealing only with the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company and hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will not have occasion to pull me up a second time.
§ Mr. Speaker
This Bill deals with a supply of water to Shropshire. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman's complaint is somewhat wide of that.
§ Mr. Watkins
For many years it has been customary to raise matters on the Second Reading of railway Bills. I know that I have participated in such discussions myself, and it has always been held 1220 to be in Order. I hope, therefore, that I may be allowed to make my point on this Bill. The difference between us and the company is one of recognition. Of the total staff of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company—the number is something between 150,000 and 200,000—there is one per cent., or less than one per cent., to whom the railway company is not prepared to give trade union recognition. That small section comprises the professional and technical people who are engaged in fairly large numbers, although they represent only a very small percentage of the total staff.
These men have been members of the R.C.A. for many years, some of them for 20 years or more. We always felt that we could not seek to represent them whilst they were with us in small proportions, but in recent years they have come along in larger numbers and to-day we represent a substantial majority of the "P and T people," as we call them, in the employment of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company. We desire to be recognised as the appropriate trade union for dealing with service conditions and rates of pay, and other matters of that nature. When we sought to do that, we were astounded to find that the railway company put up impossible conditions, which no decent trade union, or any other body of men, could possibly accept. The Railway Clerks Association has been recognised by the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company for 25 years. They know us to be the appropriate trade union for representing the administrative, clerical and supervisory officers and clerks in their employ. They have done business with us for 25 years, and no railwayman in an official position can level the slightest criticism at the way in which the R.C.A. has always conducted its negotiations.
Our work in the railway companies has proved of great advantage not only to our membership, but to the railway service and the community. The constitutional methods of the Association, the devotion of its members to the railway service and the community in general, and the high sense of civic responsibility among its members, which has been fostered by our organisation, are things to which I think the chief staff officer and general manager of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company will testify.
1221 I remember that a few days after war was declared, in 1939, the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company called the presidents and the general secretaries of the various trade unions into conference. At that time I was the president of the R.C.A. They told us that the nation was facing a very great strain, that we were entering a life-and-death struggle, and that the railways would be called upon to make superhuman efforts in order to save this nation from being overwhelmed. They asked—although they realised that they need not have asked—for our assistance in the terrible struggle that lay ahead. We gave them an undertaking that we would stand by them and expected them to stand by us. We pledged our members to help them to the utmost of their capacity and, from that day to this, we have lived in that spirit with the railway managements, and, throughout the length and breadth of the land, I am quite certain that the high reputation of railwaymen is unchallenged at the present time.
That is the background, Mr. Speaker, which I want to submit to you and the House. Here are two parties who have lived together for 25 years in a decent, co-operative, loyal, mutually respectful way, yet when the trade union approaches the railway management and says: "Now that we have a majority of your professional and technical people in our membership we want to negotiate service conditions applicable to them," the chief staff officer of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company and other officers, although they do not give us a blank negative, put up an impossible condition which we really cannot accept, a condition which should never have been imposed upon us. [HON. MEMBERS: "What was the condition?"]
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry to have to intervene again, but now we seem to be getting right away from this Bill and to be discussing some trade union grievance between the management and the men. That does not seem to me to be in Order on this Bill. We may state the grounds on which one objects to the Bill, but to go on and state the details of those grounds, seems to me to be wrong. If, on the other hand, a reasoned Amendment had been put down which would have brought that within Order, I should perhaps, if I had selected it, take another view. But 1222 there is no reasoned Amendment before the House except the Motion for rejection. I feel strongly that this is not a matter that ought to be raised in detail on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Watkins
My point is that the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company are asking additional powers from the House. The House from time to time has given the company very great powers. I am submitting that, as they have misused some of the powers which have already been granted, they ought not to have the additional powers that they are now seeking, and I hope you will find that in Order.
Sir Alfred Belt (St.Pancras, SouthEast)
I believe it is the case that the dispute is not only between the Railway Clerks Association and the L.M.S. but also other companies and, consequently, the L.M.S. would not be in a position to give consent without the agreement of the other companies, who could not be brought in on this occasion.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
If the L.M.S. gave way, the other companies would not be in a position to maintain their objection to the case that we seek to establish and which we base on the L.M.S.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is obvious that the matter cannot be confined to one railway and I am afraid I must rule it out of Order.
§ Mr. Mathers
My hon. Friend is definitely confining his remarks to the L.M.S. Railway Company. He has referred to objections which have been raised by the staff chief of that company. On previous occasions when matters of this kind have been in dispute between a railway company and a trade union, the position of the trade union has been upheld that, before the railway company Os further powers, it must properly use the powers it has already obtained from the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
As a matter of fact there are Rulings to the contrary by my predecessor. I have two of them here, in which they have ruled such matters definitely out of Order, if they affect more than one railway company.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am dealing with the L.M.S. Railway Company alone. It is impossible in this world to do anything 1223 with one company, without its having repercussions elsewhere, but I am not concerned about that. I am concerned about the conduct of the L.M.S. Company.
§ Sir A. Beit
It would actually require the consent of the other companies and I understood you to say, Sir, that that could not be considered now.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am still in a difficulty over the matter. It seems to me that it would be wrong to discuss this particular grievance in detail. This is not the occasion to do it. One can state that there is a grievance, and withhold these powers for that reason, but to discuss the grievance without a reasoned Amendment before the House seems out of Order.
§ Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)
I am afraid, Sir, you are raising a very serious constitutional issue, and those who are associated with me certainly cannot accept a Ruling to the effect that no one may say anything about a railway company which applies for further powers, when it has improperly used the powers it already possesses. I have been associated with this kind of work for 30 years. The latest case was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie). He raised a staff grievance. Objection was taken because there was nothing about staff questions in the Bill. Your predecessor, Sir, acknowledged that he had been mistaken in ruling against my hon. Friend and he allowed the discussion to take place and the precedent was re-established. In 1907, the question of railway superannuation funds was raised on the Caledonian Railway Bill. It was said that all the railway funds were in a very unhappy state and most of them were insolvent. They were not being actuarially valued. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who replied, agreed that the Government would institute a departmental committee to consider the position of all the funds. They did so and they issued a Report. We must retain this ancient privilege, and I beg of you, Sir, to allow my hon. Friend to continue his argument in respect of the L.M. & S. Railway Company.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (Swindon)
Is not the position as you, Sir, have said, that there is no reasoned Amendment 1224 before the House? Is it not a fact that all the points that the hon. Member has just made, would be covered if there were a reasoned Amendment before the House? Is not that the difficulty in which hon. Members opposite find themselves?
§ Mr. A. Walkden
No. The precedents that I have quoted were not based on a reasoned Amendment but on the Notion "That the Bill be read this day six months." That is the time-honoured formula.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is forgetting that since 1907 the rule of relevance has been gradually applied a little more strictly. I remember the agitation about third-class sleepers when Bill after Bill was rejected, but afterwards that was ruled out of Order by the Chair. There have been several occasions subsequently when matters have been ruled out of Order, because they were not individual matters affecting one railway company, but affecting all companies. It seems to me quite wrong, when there is no reasoned Amendment, to introduce matters which have nothing to do with the subject matter of the Bill.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am extremely anxious to keep inside the Rules of Order. I cannot proceed unless I do. Will it be in Order to move,That this House declines to proceed with the Second Reading of a Bill presented by a railway company which unjustifiably refuses to grant trade union recognition to the professional and technical sections of its employees"?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am wrong. The Amendment has not been moved, as it has not been seconded, so the hon. Member can move his reasoned Amendment at the end of his speech, and it can be seconded.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am very much obliged. I was speaking about one per cent. of the L.M. & S. staff not being covered by trade union recognition. Trade unionism is now a part of our national economic and industrial set up. Industry cannot function without trade unionism. We desire the professional and technical people to be covered in the same way 1225 that everyone else is. They consist of various groups of technicians, men, and some women, of skill and ability who have been employed by the L.M.S. in their laboratories and workshops for a number of years, draftsmen and surveyors, engineers, clerks of works and other grades of technical people. Most of them join the railway service young in life and remain in it until they are of pensionable age. They came to us in majority numbers and said: "We consider the Railway Clerks Association to be the right trade union for us. We want them to work for us and negotiate for us." We said, "What do you want?" They said they wanted an improvement in their rates of pay and service conditions. It was my privilege to preside at a number of conferences attended by representatives of these people. I was favourably impressed not only by their ability, but by their desire to serve the company and to give good and efficient service to that great undertaking.
Ultimately, as the result of discussions extending over many meetings, a programme was formulated. On 7th May, 1943, it was submitted to the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company. Up to now the company have given no decision with regard to it. They kept us waiting many months before they gave any kind of reply, and the matter has been hanging fire for all that time. Their reply is to this effect: "We cannot recognise and accept your statement that you have a majority of these men in your organisation. What you have to do is to prove to us that you have a majority of the chemists, of the draftsmen, and of each one of the other sections. Further than that, you have to have a majority in each department in our concern. Further than that, you have to have a majority, not only of those up to £350 a year, but of those over £350 a year. When you have satisfied all these conditions we will be prepared to discuss the programme you have submitted." We resent the implication that a trade union should be asked to submit this kind of mathematical proof on its bona fides. The National Union of Railwaymen have been negotiating for signalmen for 30 years, and they have not been asked to demonstrate that they have a majority of signalmen in their ranks. We have been negotiating for station-masters, and the company has never asked us to prove that 1226 we have a majority of station-masters in our union, as, indeed, we have. We feel that when the general secretary of the union says to the chief staff officer of the L.M.S., "I say to you as an honourable man that we have a majority of these men in our union," the company ought to accept that and commence their negotiations with us.
I have been wondering what induces the company to take this very queer attitude, this 50-year-old attitude, the attitude of 1894, and not the attitude of 1944. I think probably that at the back of their minds they consider trade unionism as a satisfactory thing for manual and routine workers, but that it ought not to apply to the better paid people in their service. If that is the reason I hope they will not cling to it. Trade unionism is something that is right in principle. It is the right thing for a worker to belong to a trade union, irrespective of how much money he earns or what his position in the concern is. A large number of these men have voluntarily joined us and have come to ask us to undertake this work for them. It may be argued that our union has an all-in majority of lower paid men over the higher paid men. If that argument is in the company's minds I hope they will not cling to it because I know that our membership is fairly evenly distributed between the various grades. It is not only the lowly paid draftsman who wants us, but the highly paid chemist, the man with a university degree, and other technical grades come to us and say, "Will you act for us as a trade union?" The union is prepared to satisfy the Ministry of Labour that it has a majority of these people in its membership, but it is not prepared to analyse and split up its membership into sections and advise the company of the figures. The company could tell by that means how many of their highly paid men in any particular office were trade unionists. I cannot believe that that is in their minds, but that is what they can do.
I hope that I have said enough to demonstrate that the case we bring forward is a legitimate one. Trade unionism is very dear on the railways. The railwaymen are proud of being railwaymen and they want to be part of the general life of the railway world by being inside trade unions. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) is 1227 listening to what I have to say, and probably he will reply on behalf of the company. I have known him for a number of years, and I know that he has a great admiration and even affection for railway workers generally, including the professional and technical grades. I cannot think that he will recommend to the House that these conditions should be imposed against proper trade union recognition. To adopt a policy of this kind is a bit of atavism going back 50 years. I hope that I have stated the case honestly and accurately. I hope I have stated it moderately and that no exception can be taken to it on that score. The companies are very hard with us on this matter. They object to recognition being given to the union to deal with people getting over £350 a year. That is another matter that ought to be cleared up. I hope I have convinced the House and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport that the case I have submitted is a reasonable one. The companies usually act in a fair-minded, co-operative and accommodating way, and I beg them to use that frame of mind in this matter and to say that they are prepared to accept our union as the proper trade union for representing these men, and so end this dispute. If they did that no one would have more pleasure than I would in voting for the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
May I ask what proportion of the professional and technical staffs receiving over £350 a year, would be in favour of the Amendment?
§ Mr. Watkins
I cannot give exact information on that point because we cannot analyse the figures, but my information is that we have a majority practically everywhere throughout our membership of not only the lowly paid men, but the higher paid men as well. To illustrate our fair mindedness, I would point out that we have not a majority of the architects and we have not put in an application for recognition on their behalf.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House declines to proceed with the Second Reading of the Bill until the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company con- 1228 cedes trade union recognition to the professional and technical sections of its employees.
§ Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I would ask the House to believe that I do so with profound regret. I have spent more than 40 years in the railway service, first with the Midland Company and then with the London, Midland and Scottish Company. I was a member of the executive committee of the Railway Clerks Association from 1916 to 1941—with one brief interval—and, since 1919, when official recognition was accorded to the Railway Clerks Association for all its members, I can honestly say that the executive committee has done everything possible, by collective bargaining, to establish good will and mutual understanding between the railway companies and ourselves. As one who well remembers those sorry days before recognition was conceded, I did hope that 1919 had seen the end of that business; that the right of the Railway Clerks Association to speak for all its members would never again be challenged, and that, as recognition had been accorded, a new era had opened, not only for the staff, but in the interests of the L.M.S. and of the community as a whole.
I submit that it is regrettable that the L.M.S. company—I used somewhat proudly to say when I was in its service that it was the greatest corporation in the world, and I hope that in many ways that it still is—should now lead the attack on the right of the Railway Clerks Association to negotiate for its members, and should seek to break down that spirit of mutual good will and understanding which has prevailed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) has said, for over a quarter of a century between the Railway Clerks Association and the L.M.S. I think it is also unfortunate that the L.M.S. should now try to whittle down what has been established for more than 25 years, the right of the Railway Clerks Association to speak and to act for those members of the Association who are in what is known as the special class, that is, with salaries ranging over £350 per year. It is the definite, anti-trade union attitude of the L.M.S. in regard to certain sections of its staff, small sections I admit, now in membership of the R.C.A., that we are challenging to-day. This attitude of the 1229 L.M.S. is, I am glad to say, relatively new. Speaking from experience, I can say that, while we have had our difficulties during the past 25 years, there has been, during that time, a desire on the part of the L.M.S. to find a solution of those difficulties agreeable to both sides to the controversy. To-day, I regret to say, an entirely new spirit animates those on the L.M.S. who are responsible for staff questions.
I am sure that hon. Members will agree that trade union recognition is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end, and that that end is, of course, negotiation in regard to salaries and conditions of service. The professional and technical staff of the L.M.S. have been more than patient in regard to this matter. I well remember when the "P. and T. men," as the phrase is, then employed by a railway which is now part of the L.M.S., moved a resolution at the R.C.A. conference of 1921 to protest at their exclusion, but we have gone on patiently building up the membership. I want to emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney that a majority of the members of the professional and technical staff of the L.M.S. have come, of their own free will, to the Railway Clerks Association. They have joined us voluntarily. There has been no coercion. The Railway Clerks Association has always steadily opposed the idea of compulsory trade unionism. Having come to us, the members of the professional and technical staff have a clear and definite right to ask the R.C.A. to discuss their conditions of service with the L.M.S.
The attitude of the L.M.S. strikes right at the root of collective bargaining. Is this an indication of the new spirit in industry? Is this attitude of the L.M.S. likely to produce that great co-operative effort between employers and employed, which, we are continually told, will be necessary if this old country is to get back again to the position in which we ought to be after the war? I submit that this reactionary, retrograde attitude on the part of the L.M.S. is not worthy of that great company. A statement has been issued to hon. Members which covers the case of the L.M.S. as well as the other companies. In order, I hope, to find a way out of this difficulty, I would ask permission to read a short extract from it. This statement says: 1230In the course of this letter, Mr. Gallie"—who is the general secretary of the Railway Clerks Association—writes: I am directed to inform you that it is felt that the request of the R.E.C. Staff Committee that we should furnish information in regard to the membership in the Association of each of the grades included in the application for a national agreement is unreasonable.I do not want to comment upon methods of controversy, but I think the House will be surprised to hear that that is not a complete sentence. It leaves off, and it omits a very vital sentence or two. It omits that the letter from Mr. Gallie goes on to say:and that in the light of the declaration I have made on behalf of the Association it should not be necessary.I do not want to enlarge upon it, but one can see how a truncated extract of that kind in a document, can convey a very false impression. What was the declaration made by the general secretary? It was, as my hon. Friend has said, that the R.C.A. was prepared to demonstrate that it represented a majority of the staff concerned, and a majority of the staff concerned on the L.M.S. That declaration still stands. It is in the hope that this House will see that justice and fair play is done to a very small section of the L.M.S. staff that we speak to-day. We ask the House to give the protection and justice which have been long denied to this small section. We should not have troubled the House about it, if there had been a more reasonable attitude on the part of the L.M.S. management.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I do not know whether the House would permit me to take part in this discussion at this stage. I must declare my association with the railways, although I think it is fairly well-known after 22 years in the House. At the same time, it is necessary to do so. I want to give one assurance to the hon. Gentlemen who have moved and seconded the Amendment, and also to hon. Members generally, that I do not think the record of the railways, as regards negotiation with trades unions, can be picked to pieces very easily. Our pride has been that, if all industries would adopt the negotiating machinery that has been established between the railway managements and the unions concerned, there 1231 would be very few trade disputes. It is my firm personal belief that the railways could not operate at all, but for this excellent system, and for the way in which all the unions connected with the railways have proved themselves to be always in favour of the national interest, wherever possible, and to support the managements and the companies.
I find myself in this difficulty. The London Midland and Scotland Railway Company have introduced a Bill dealing with water and canals, and I think it is due to hon. Members to say a word about the Bill which is now before us. It seems to me that this curious procedure is like a tin can tied to railway development. You come forward to this House in order to improve conditions which are going to affect a large number of local authorities and are going definitely to assist the war effort, and of which every single Member on those benches is entirely in favour. I cannot believe there is one hon. Member sitting above the Gangway who is not in favour of the proposals in these two Bills. By the procedure of this House, however, they feel bound to use the opportunity not to talk about what we propose to introduce, but what they consider to be of more immediate importance. Before I proceed I should like to assume that every hon. Gentleman on those benches, recognising the urgency of these two Bills, and the purpose for which they are introduced, will give us their support for them. If they do not, and they are turned down, it would have very unfortunate results in regard to that part of the country where these reforms have now been agreed on with all the local authorities and the industries concerned, and complete agreement was reached after full discussion in another place.
If I may assume, therefore, that there is no great diversity of view about the Bills I would like to say one or two words about them. Hon. Members know that when they motor about the country there are few things more annoying than suddenly to come to a hump-backed bridge over a canal. You are thrown into the air like a cup and ball, you may or may not come down in your seat. It is due to the fact that the canals have to have hump-backed bridges for the barge traffic underneath. The hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite and the Minister of War Transport have a great affection for 1232 several Clauses in this Bill. The purpose of these is to do away with these humpbacked bridges as soon as possible and enable motor and other traffic to cross these canals without difficulty. [Interruption.] As a matter of fact barges have not actually moved in that canal for a great many years, but what is important is the water, and the water in the canal is used for cooling purposes by various industries which draw on it, and by agriculture, and the purpose of this Bill is that the water in that canal shall continue to be available for industry and agriculture.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I assure the hon. Member that that particular section of the canal would not be much use for modern traffic. I should be quite glad to see another canal if it is considered that it would pay, though not if it is to be just for fun. If it were possible so to use that water I think hon. Members and everyone else would be satisfied. From a navigational point of view it has long gone out of use, and is no use at all. I think it would be rather impertinent of anyone introducing a Bill not to mention Clauses in it.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
In the statement which has been circulated, it is said that these canals had ceased for many years to carry any substantial traffic. I imagine, therefore, that some traffic does go.
§ Sir R. Glyn
That is the other Bill. There are two Bills. I sympathise with the hon. Member. It is rather puzzling. Speaking generally, the type of canal which is now 150 years old is not something that a progressive country wants to retain. We want something better than that, to improve it. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent us helping to bring the canal up to date by subsequent action.
§ Mr. Mander. (Wolverhampton, East)
To which part of the Shropshire Union Canal is the hon. Member referring? It is an area well-known to me. I have often walked on it, and certain sections are used a great deal at the present time. Which parts are not being used?
§ Sir R. Glyn
It would be difficult to answer that without a map and a pointer, which would be out of Order, but if the 1233 hon. Member studies the Preamble he will see which sections are mentioned. May I assist him by lending him a copy of the Bill? The other matter to which I wish to draw attention is that the Bills which the company have brought in are urgent. I do not want to emphasise that, but if we have to wait for a further period it may have a very detrimental effect on the change-over of industry now engaged on war purposes to peace production. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me asked whether this was the new spirit which was to be shown in industry. One of the ways the House could show that it was not interested in industry would be to turn down these Bills, which are really important.
May I come to what apparently is to be the main object of this discussion to-day? As far as I am personally concerned I am grateful for the kind words which the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) used. I, with others, take great pride in being associated with the railway. I consider it to be a very great honour. When both the mover and seconder of this Amendment spoke I do not think they mentioned the fact that these negotiations have not been carried on with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway alone. They are carried on with the Staff Conference of the Railway Executive Committee. During the war, the Ministry of War Transport, as hon. Members know, have used this instrument, the Railway Executive Committee, and all negotiations are conducted through that medium, with which the boards are associated through their general managers.
In this case negotiations, I agree, have bean spread over a very long period; but the last thing that the L.M.S. would wish would be any misunderstanding in the House of Commons as to their attitude to the Railway Clerks Association. The Railway Clerks Association have rendered very great service on many occasions, and I know of no reason to believe that anything is being suggested or done which would be detrimental to the power or prestige of the Railway Clerks Association. In the negotiations the L.M.S. are only one of four companies concerned, apart from the London Passenger Transport Board. I was astonished to hear the mover of the Amendment speak against solidarity. I have always understood that 1234 one of the great pillars of the trade union movement is solidarity. The hon. Member asked one of the companies to break off by itself, and to put itself in a sort of force majeure position, suggesting that other companies might follow suit. But if you are having negotiations, you must go along with the other parties to the negotiations. Suppose that the L.M.S. agreed to what was asked by the mover and seconder. Does that mean that they are prepared to operate one set of rules for one company, which would not be applicable to the other three? No, it must be done on a national basis. I am sure that hon. Members, on consideration, will feel that they would be losing a great deal more than they gained if they accepted that principle.
Quite a definite position has been reached. It has been agreed, not by the L.M.S. alone, but by the Staff Negotiating Committee, that the Railway Clerks Association are to be recognised, and they are recognised, in so far as all their members are concerned. A very proper rule has been made, which has worked to the advantage of the trade unions, setting a limit in regard to salary or wages, above which people cease to belong to the trade union or to the Railway Clerks Association. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] A limit has been fixed at£360 a year—or that is what it was. The Railway Clerks Association, beyond having their undoubted right of putting forward a case on behalf of any of their members who come within the category of professional or technical employees, want to be able to say, "We, and only we, shall be able to speak for all the rest of the professional and technical staffs." I understand that the Railway Staff Committee acknowledge the Railway Clerks Association in the case of individual members, but not as generally representing the professional or technical staff. I do not think that any responsible body would assume that one trade union represents the whole of the professional and technical staffs.
We only say that we recognise the right of the Railway Clerks Association fully to represent their own members, and in so far as they are able to represent the larger body—we do not know whether they really are members of the organisation—we are quite willing to have the matter decided, not by ourselves, but by the Minister of Labour. I do not think 1235 that that is unfair. I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen would have been satisfied with that—indeed, one of them, I think, said that he was prepared to abide by a decision of the Minister of Labour. But it must be emphasised that it is quite impossible for the company which is introducing these two Bills to give any undertaking whatever to-day, because the matter is not being dealt with by the L.M.S., but by the Staff Committee of the Railway Executive Committee.
The other point which was made by the seconder of this Amendment was that this was an indication of the attitude of the railways towards the new era. I do not think that it can be interpreted in that way. We want to encourage people, in every way, to get on in the railway industry. There are large numbers of men who have a right to have their interests protected by trade union action. That, more or less, applies to all those in the lower salaried grades. I do not believe that any hon. Member would be willing to have any restriction imposed on individuals to prevent them advancing to the very top of the tree and gaining whatever salaries their professional qualifications entitled them to. I do not believe that there is any Member who would say that was not a legitimate ambition. It is absolutely certain that in the post-war period scientific, technical, and professional men will be required, in increasing numbers, to keep railway transport well abreast of the times, and to see that it is associated with other forms of transport, and I do not think that anything should be done which can be interpreted in any way as a restriction on individual enterprise and on the reward for application to these particular problems. Therefore, I think we can say that there is nothing at all in dispute about the right of the Railway Clerks Association fully to represent, through trade union methods, every one of their members, whether he is a stationmaster or a draftsman, or whether he belongs to any of the professional and technical grades.
What is being considered is in what way, and by what method, the other members of the technical and professional grades, who are not members of the Railway Clerks Association, are to be represented. Are we entitled to assume that they all wish to be represented only by 1236 the Railway Clerks Association? That is surely a matter which is open to consideration. I would like to give an assurance—and I hope that my hon. Friends will accept it—that we feel that everything possible should be done to strengthen the trade union position in its negotiating machinery, but we do not feel entitled to assume, without further inquiry, that all those members of the professional and technical grades will have their views represented by the Railway Clerks Association.
§ Sir A. Beit
Do I understand that the question of whether a majority of these professional and technical grades are represented by the Railway Clerks Association is no longer a point at issue?
§ Sir R. Glyn
It is a point for further investigation. I see the point of these hon. Gentlemen fully in one regard. They think that there is a danger that the management may become acquainted with how many of the members of these grades are associated with the union, and how many are not, and that there might be prejudice. Nobody wants any prejudice about it, and I feel that the fairest thing is to submit it to outside arbitration. If it is submitted to the Minister of Labour, nobody, I feel, will have any cause to complain, or to believe that the railway managements are opposed to trade unionism. I submit that these two Bills should have their Second Reading to-day. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman should be against that, but I hope that the rest of the House will be prepared to give these two Bills a Second Reading, and to see them go to Committee.
§ Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)
I am sorry to have to take part in this discussion, but it is due to the wrong-mindedness of certain officials of the L.M.S. I am sorry to hear the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) making an apology for them, and I think that, on the whole, he has not been acquainted with all the facts on this rather complicated matter, nor is the House acquainted with the Bills. Hon. Members of the House never see these Private Bills. They are printed by the promoters, who send letters to us about them but they do not send us a copy to show what they are about.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
As we are not discussing the Bills, it does not very much matter whether we read them or not.
§ Mr. Walkden
As the hon. Member for Abingdon said something about the Bills, I also must say a few words about them in reply to what he has suggested. Quite briefly, there is a Canal Bill, which seeks to enable the company to make more money by selling water. I am sure the Ministry of Health will agree that they will charge for the water. The other Bill will enable them to close up the canals, because, I suppose, they are uneconomic, and they will be relieved of the responsibility of maintaining them. There is a statutory obligation on them, made when they took this canal over, that they should maintain it and keep it in a navigable condition. They want to be relieved of that responsibility and it will be an appreciable assistance to them, from the financial point of view, and that is why these Bills are really here. No railway company comes here for the good of anybody's health. They come here to get value for themselves, and so let us strip all this cant away and come down to realities.
My hon. Friend paid some tribute to the work of the trade unions in the railway world. I think hon. Members must have noticed that there have been no stoppages in the railway world all through this war. No one has endured greater strain under war conditions than the railway workers, and we ask the House to be considerate with us and consider our point of view in the matter of fair play as much as that of the railway companies. I would remind my hon. Friend that we have even helped him financially. There was the extraordinary case of the Railway Clerks Association, when the Company's superannuation fund, set up under statutory authority, was practically insolvent and they were feeling the burden of guaranteeing the benefits. It was a very generous scheme and the staff were only required to pay 2½ per cent. contributions. The Company had to make up the rest, and we agreed with them that the staff should pay more. The Association's men went about the country persuading the members of the fund and inducing them, by the necessary four-fifths majority, to pay 4 per cent. That brought the Company at least ££100,000 per annum in additional contributions from the staff.
1238 I think we are on pretty tenable ground. But when we met the Company's staff officers, the first thing that staggered us, when we had a discussion to try to negotiate a settlement, was that the companies would not do any business above a figure of £350 per year. There is no stipulation that a man having more than £350 might not be in a union; he can be in if he gets £1,000 a year. But the company said no further agreements would be made for rates of pay exceeding …350 a year. There is no such stipulation in the Burnham Committee procedure for the National Union of Teachers. The latter stands for and represents great headmasters and assistant masters, and it pleads for them, and they are not asked to prove that they are all members of the N.U.T. Some are too mean to pay the subscription, but not too mean to take the benefits. In local government, all sorts of technicians and employees, clerks and others come under the discussions of the National Association of Local Government Officers, and there is no restriction, or questioning or embargo, and no pernickety "Are you this?" or "Are you that?" Nothing of the sort. They negotiate direct with that union, make settlements and carry on local government staff matters satisfactorily.
In the Civil Service, there is a salary line drawn, hut it is not £350; it is £850. If the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) were here, he would tell us that he could argue for and represent a man on the £2,000 scale; he could argue for what he considered right or wrong up to £850. I have been on these tribunals which deal with these cases, with representatives of capital on the other side of the chair. We heard arguments about these men, but none of these trivial questions are raised. No one would think of raising them, and they would be ruled out if they were raised. The railway service ought not to be so far below the Civil Service, but I am afraid those who are running the railway service now are not taking much notice of the world they live in. This is a great time in which we are living. This is a great Parliament, and it is undertaking great tasks. This Parliament has raised the general line for all workmen in the matter of social insurance, and, where industrial legislation touches the worker, it touches him up to £420 a year, instead of £250. My hon.
1239 Friend wants to keep these technicians—our middle class—below the line of the workmen under them. These men make the plans and the drawings for the manual workers who carry out the jobs. They are highly qualified and highly educated men, and most of them have spent hours of their lives getting qualified in railway technical colleges at Crewe and Derby, as my hon. Friend knows, yet he wants to keep them below the standard of the men whom they supervise. It is quite intolerable, and it is quite evident that my hon. Friend has not been told all the truth. [Interruption.] No, I know what has been going on. That is the position and that is the £350 stipulation they made.
Our proposition for these men is perfectly simple. There is a range of salary scale suggested for them, and to suggest that they cannot put these men on the scales is simply preposterous. We set out our proposals, but there is no salary scale proposed which goes beyond £650. That is the highest figure mentioned, and it is perfectly moderate for such people, but, when they ask us to represent them, the companies say, "You have got to segregate them."
They want us to segregate our membership in order to show exactly what membership we have; segregation is a most objectionable principle. We believe in solidarity. We are the only people qualified to speak for them. They have not gone to a dozen outside organisations. They want us to act for them because they know that we can act in harmony with the railway management. We know one another and they want us to represent them. There is another little union, the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen. They have about 45 members in the railway service, but they have paid the R.C.A. a capitation fee and have asked us to represent their members as well as our own. As far as the foremen are concerned, a settlement was made for workshop foremen, and none of these questions was raised at all.
This House, years ago, dealt with the case in which the old Great Eastern Railway Company, which was then headed by Lord Claud Hamilton of blessed memory, tried to show that the booking clerks should come in one lot, 1240 the goods clerks in another lot and engineers' clerks in another lot, all of whom had to come separately and see his lordship, cap in hand. We asked that they should come unitedly. We held up a Great Eastern Bill and this House approved the principle of acting unitedly. That was long ago and we cannot forget these things. There is a broad general code to rightness in representing people. In one of the formulas of the Ministry of Labour it says:There should be organisations of employers and trade unions representing, respectively, a substantial proportion of the employers and workers engaged in trade or industry.They do not challenge the details in any cases that go there. These details are never rendered.
§ Mr. Walkden
I will give it in a few moments if the hon. Member does not mind, but to give details to an employer would be rather betraying the general practice of trade unions in the country. They are not expected to give details, and I would be letting them down if I gave them to the railway company. I have our own membership figures here in my hand and I wish that I were free to quote them. They give the number of persons in the occupation, and we have got out the number who are in our ranks, and there is a very substantial majority. We are told that the latest total figure for 1944, is 4,100, and that according to the Ministry of Transport returns for 1938, it was only 3,600. We will let the 4,10o stand, and acknowledge that there are a number above our reach who are receiving more than £650 a year. We do not expect to represent engineers who have a direct responsibility to the Board of Directors. If you take off about 500 —there are five concerns involved—it leaves 3,600.
We have in our membership 2,164 out of 3,600, a majority on the total of 1,436. We have nearly two-thirds of them in our ranks. We are all anxious to be accommodating and helpful but we cannot give the analysis asked for by the railway companies. A man may have joined us, say, seven years ago as a research worker; he studied and became a chemist; and another man joined as a 1241 draughtsman and five years afterwards became an engineer and we do not know of all this. They joined at one salary, and we cannot say the individual rates of pay of these men to-day. We ought not to be expected to do that. We represent these people as a class. The hon. Member for Abingdon talked about the non-member. I will not use all the terms applied to non-members; there is one, "blacklegs." They always want the benefits that the trade unions can get, and there will be no objection from any non-member to any settlement that we get on a basis of this programme. They will not say that they do not like the Railway Clerks Association doing this and that they will not take the money, not on your life. I hope that the House will be satisfied that we are playing on plain ground and playing a straight game.
§ Mr. Bowles
My hon. Friend said the railway companies would make money by selling the water and save money by giving up canal bridges. Will all the money that they make in any way go in an increase of salaries?
§ Mr. Walkden
I suppose it will go towards helping the general coffers. We do not want to analyse what they do with it so long as they pay our rates of pay.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
Is it not a fact that all the surplus of the railway companies goes to the Government in any case?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
Some time ago my hon. Friend referred to a reduction of 1½ per cent. in superannuation. Do I understand that the P and T men agreed to 4 per cent., and that you induced them to do so?
§ Mr. Walkden
Yes, it is true that the P and T men consulted with us and agreed with the R.C.A. in doing the right thing for the superannuation fund. We did it because the men were going to get better benefits, and for a more joyful reason, that the men live longer. We want the fund to keep on because it helps to make people cheerful about their old age. The railway service is really a public service. It is under private ownership, but the companies are statutory companies. No one would deny that. It is a public service and everyone recognises 1242 that they should step into line with the Government's public policy on labour questions. That public policy was recently declared with striking emphasis. We do not merely wish to maintain good relationships for the sake of helping on the progress of the war but in order to make a better future for our own people and be of greater advantage to the railway service. If we get this little blot out of the way, we shall have a much better outlook for the future. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said thatin industry there are certain standards that are accepted and that a new, wider and better code will have to be written for the conduct of industry generally in this country.Will the hon. Member for Abingdon help us to write a better code? Will he help us to get this trouble out of the way? If he will, we can soon reach agreement. Be says that he is only one among many. But they are the greatest company of the lot, and it is true that, "if father says turn, they all turn." The London Midland and Scottish is the leading company and we have done right in selecting the L.M.S. in order to bring our grievances to the House and I hope that we shall be supported in our case.
§ Sir R. Glyn
Will the hon. Gentleman accept the certificate of the Minister of Labour or some outside arbiter on this matter?
§ Mr. A. Walkden rose——
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in Order when this House is seriously discussing a Herring Bill, that the railway companies should throw a couple of stinking fish on to the platform? Can steps be taken to have them cleared off, so that we can get on with the Herring Bill?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
It was perfectly in Order to put down these two Bills for discussion to-day.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
May I make an effort to shorten this discussion and achieve a position of clarity by putting this point to the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn)? What does he suggest to us? He asked if we were prepared to accept the certificate of the Minister of Labour. I return that question to him and ask: Is he, and are those for whom he is speaking, prepared to accept a certificate from the Minister of 1243 Labour that we represent—I am speaking for the Railway Clerks Association—the majority of those for whom this claim is being made to-day? Further, if the Minister of Labour is prepared to give such a certificate that our representations in that respect are accepted, are genuine, will those for whom he is speaking accept that and, on the basis of that, negotiate in the way that we are asking in these representations?
§ Sir R. Glyn
With the permission of the House may I say this, that in a letter dated 3rd July—which I am quite sure is in the possession of the hon. Gentleman—not the L.M.S. but the Staff Committee of the Railway Executive Committee said:With reference to the discussions between representatives of your Association and the Railway Staff Conference to-day, I hereby confirm the suggestion made on behalf of the railways that as the alternative to supplying the numbers of staff you claim to represent in each of the sections of Professional and Technical staff enumerated in your claim, you should supply to the Ministry of Labour the numbers in each of the following three groups…:And then it goes into some detail. The point I have to accept on behalf of the cannot bind other companies —is that the Staff Conference will accept outside arbitration if it is suggested. I cannot do more than that, and I am sure hon. Members will understand the reason. If the Minister of Labour will accept that decision and go into all these germane matters, I think that would put the matter on a proper footing, satisfactory both to the Railway Clerks Association and to the railway companies.
§ Mr. Mathers
Following that point, does the hon. Member realise that the details he dismissed so lightly involve i6 separate categories of the individual position of members of these grades? That is the point which we said we could not accept and should not be expected to accept, that it is not in keeping with ordinary trade union practice. We suggest that if we get a certificate from the Ministry of Labour that we represent, in the broad sense, a majority of the men for whom we are pleading to-day, then the companies should accept that and negotiate on that basis.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I rise to make a brief intervention because 1244 I do not want it to be thought that support for the point of view that we have had from hon. Members above the Gangway is limited to Members of one party. I am just as much in sympathy with the point of view they are putting forward as anyone who has spoken. I am very glad that advantage has been taken of the opportunity presented today by this Bill to raise this point. It is a perfectly legitimate Parliamentary stratagem. Many of us have taken the opportunity in the past of objecting to the First or Second Reading of Railway Bills. I remember objecting to the First Reading of a Railway Bill once, to the great annoyance of the Great Western Railway but, as a result, I was able to prevent a children's playing pool in my constituency at Wolverhampton being taken over by the Great Western Railway. So long as the railway companies are under private management—I think they should be nationalised as public utility companies and many hon. Members on all sides of the House think that —they must come to the House and be prepared to hear the kind of argument that has been put forward to-day.
I think we are all in favour, in principle, of collective bargaining. It is impossible for anyone to get up and oppose it, but we do know that in practice all employers tend, as their employees rise in the scale, to look with increasing reluctance on the clerical staffs, and others higher up, being dealt with through trade union organisations. It is a well known fact, and it is not confined to the railway companies. The railway companies have had a very good record in the last few years, since my hon. Friend was associated with them, but we know quite well that 40 or 50 years ago their record as regards collective bargaining was not at all good—they were extremely reluctant to accept it and had to be pushed.
As to the precise point we have heard about to-day, I do not quite understand where these negotiations are leading. It seems to me there is the question, shall the Railway Clerks Association be represented? Shall, associated with them, be some other small trade union or trade unions, or shall non-unionists be represented? It seems to me a quite impossible position. Is it suggested there should be one rate of pay for trade unionists and a lower one, presumably, for non-union- 1245 ists? You would not have many non-unionists left for long. I quite appreciate that these Bills are required, that we ought to pass them, and that this particular point is not dealt with in the Bills themselves, but this is our opportunity, and I do appeal to my hon. Friend to represent to his fellow-directors on the railway companies, the clear feeling of this House. No one has spoken on the other side at all. We do look to the railway companies to deal with this situation in such a way as will give proper recognition to the Railway Clerks Association. It seems perfectly clear from the figures quoted to us that they are entitled to it. They are only working on lines that are adopted with other great aggregations of capital. Other people do not ask for these detailed categories that we hear about; that is a new point. It is something quite new in industry, and I hope that my hon. Friend will succeed in persuading his colleagues that they ought to adopt the view of the House of Commons, that the Railway Clerks Association should be recognised.
§ Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South-East)
As one of the St. Pancras Members I have received a fair amount of correspondence on this subject, and what I found of interest in the Debate to-day was that it was not until an hour and a quarter had passed, that we received an estimate—admittedly only a very approximate estimate—of the numbers of men involved, together with the numbers of those whom the Railway Clerks Association profess to represent. I must say that the figures given by the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) were not very clear to me, nor was his arithmetic very clear either. As I understood it, he said that there were some 3,600 men throughout the whole of the railway companies in these "P. and T." grades, of whom the Railway Clerks Association represented 2,100. That seemed to me a fairly clear majority, and I imagine that the object of the offer made by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) was that it should be definitely established without any shadow of doubt —because the hon. Member for South Bristol admitted that there was some doubt as to how people are reckoned—that there was a clear majority of these men who could claim to be represented by the Railway Clerks Association.
1246 Therefore, even although it may go against previously established trade union practice it seems rather much for the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) to object to the classification of such a small number of men as this. To state how many of these 16 different trades are represented by the R.C.A., when the total is 3,600, would, I imagine, be a very easy task. It is not asked that that information should be given to the railway clerks or to the Executive Committee; it is only suggested that it should be given to the Ministry of Labour, which could produce a certificate stating briefly what was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). As the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has said, this Debate has provided an opportunity for a Parliamentary strategem. That is common enough, but I think it is regrettable that we should have to discuss matters completely foreign to the Bills that are before the House. I should have thought that the offer that was made—and the real issue is a very small one which could be rightly decided by the Ministry of Labour—is one that could be accepted.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
The issue before the House is not a small one, but an exceedingly important one. My hon. Friend the mover of the Amendment, and those supporting him, have succeeded to some extent because in their desire to convince the House they have understated the significance of the issue which is before us. It is the first time I have ever heard that a trade union would have to claim to represent the majority before it could claim recognition. No trade union of Great Britain would ever have established itself if, first of all, it had had to convince the majority that it could start operations and get recognition from employers. My hon. Friends have enable their opponents to seize upon their moderation to make a case against them. It would be sufficient for the Railway Clerks Association to say that they represent two or more. The House is under an honourable obligation to insist that the railway companies should recognise the Railway Clerks Association in this matter, because it was only a short time ago that the House passed legislation the effect of which was to send persons to five years' penal servitude if they could not obtain trade union auspices under which to present their claim.
1247 Is it to be suggested that workpeople are to be put under disabilities which employers do not labour under? These men have acted as loyal citizens throughout the war. If they had been spurred or incited into stoppages in order to secure recognition it would have been only what work-people have always had to do in order to obtain recognition. But these men have loyally worked difficult hours, under arduous conditions, and at the moment they are in the position of having to fight for the privileges, or rights, that every civilised man regards as the normal concomitant of human life. I think the attitude taken up by the L.M.S. Railway is entirely untenable; I think the House is with me in that matter. It is not fair, because if these men wish to have their grievances attended to how can they act? I ask the Members of the House who are in the legal profession: What can these men do? If the employer says he will not recognise them where can they go? They cannot go to an arbitration tribunal, because the question of recognition is not regarded as a dispute. I had the same sort of situation among the colliery clerks of my own constituency and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar). There was a large number of clerks to whom the colliery company refused to accord recognition. The clerks tried for 18 months, but the companies refused. They tried over and over again to go to the National Arbitration Tribunal. The law says that if men strike in war-time they are committing an offence, yet they cannot obtain the service of a Tribunal set up by the nation for the purpose of dealing with a dispute, because recognition is not a dispute. So men are put under a legal impossibility. It was only after these men had handed in their notices to stop work, and some of us saw the Ministry of Labour about it and prevailed upon them to retire from their impossible position, that we were able to avoid a stoppage in the industry and obtain recognition for these clerks. These railwaymen are in precisely the same position. How dare the House of Commons——
§ Mr. Bevan
I have never known the hon. Member have any limit at all to his improprieties. How dare men, in reason, 1248 impose upon workpeople such onerous disabilities as to say that if they strike for recognition they will be imprisoned, and that if they try to importune their employers in order to obtain redress of their grievances when they are not in a union they will be given five years' penal servitude? The employer can sit back and shelter himself behind all the disabilities to which his workpeople are being subjected. No Member could defend this in his constituency. The offer which the hon. Member far Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has made to-day is no. offer at all. My hon. Friends have said that if they can establish to the satisfaction of the Ministry of Labour that they represent the majority of the people engaged in these crafts they will accept the decision of the Minister as to whether or not recognition should be accorded.
What was the answer the hon. Member for Abingdon made to that reasonable and over-moderate offer? We on this side think recognition should be accorded despite the fact that there is not a majority. The answer of the hon. Member is that the Association should split their 2,100 members into 16 categories. But even when they have done, that they do not get recognition. The argument would be shifted as to whether they represented the majority in each category. They would say: "We will accord you recognition in those particular categories and offices and departments where it can be shown that you have a majority." That would be the next stage. That is the logic of it all. If that is not the logic of it, why are the itemised figures required?
The only merit in having them split into these categories is that the railway companies want to fall back upon a second line of defence. It is a perfectly reasonable proposition that these men should be represented in the way they claim to be represented merely on account of the fact that the 2,100 represent a global majority of the total members involved. I am satisfied that the House of Commons would be doing less than justice unless it supported my hon. Friends in their Amendment.
§ Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)
On a point of Order. Would you, Sir, accept a Motion to adjourn the Debate if I moved it in a few minutes' time? It would be extremely unfortunate if we went to a 1249 Division on this Motion, whereas if we adjourned the Debate it would give a possibility of agreement, which seems very near to being reached, and we could proceed with the Bill after agreement had been achieved.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not think I should be disposed to accept such a Motion at the moment. There appear to be only some two or three speakers. Perhaps in a little time I shall be able to consider the proposal.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
Should not we rather stultify the House if we took a Division on this Amendment? I have been in the House for 25 years but have never been in it under conditions such as we have to-day, when a Ruling has been given that we can discuss for hours something that has nothing to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member appears to be reflecting on a Ruling of Mr. Speaker, which it is not, of course, in Order to do.
Sir Patrick Hannan (Birmingham, Moseley)
I would say in the first place that the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) is not new. I have known the same strategy employed when my party was in opposition. Secondly, when the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) talks of impropriety in the House, I would suggest that he is a master of impropriety. I believe the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) has made a case which the House must consider with sympathy, and I am bound to observe that my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has not replied to the case made, as adequately and fully as I should have expected. I do not think we can adequately appreciate the services rendered to the country during the war by the "P. and T." classes engaged in railway operations. They have done a marvellous work. There is nothing more gratifying to me than the enthusiasm, loyalty and personal self-sacrifice of hundreds and hundreds of these railwaymen night and day, enabling the country to carry on its transport operations in circumstances of great difficulty. I believe the hon. Member for 1250 South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) has made a first-class case in presenting the claim of the "P. and T." classes in railway operations to adequate appreciation on the part of particular railways of their proper place as part of the organised labour of the nation. If this were to go to a Division, I, as one who wants to express appreciation of what the "P. and T." classes in the railways have done in war service alone, should vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I intervene to make an appeal to the railway companies, because I am affected by the Bill itself. I represent the territory over which these big battalions are fighting. I shall suffer to some extent if the Bill, with its Clauses protecting the interests of the Montgomery County Council, is lost. I do not know what further costs may be placed upon us if the Bill does not get a Second Reading, but I think those who are opposing it have taken not only the proper but the only opportunity they could, in order to bring forward their grievances, and it is an absolutely legitimate grievance. I make this appeal inasmuch as we are interested in the Bill itself, quite apart from my personal views, which accord entirely with those of the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden). I appeal to the railway companies to meet the case put forward by the railway clerks here and now. I suggest that two leading counsel should leave the Chamber, as they sometimes leave the court, for a few minutes and see whether they cannot come to an agreement and obviate the necessity for a Division.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)
I have a very modest, undramatic task to perform. If any hon. Member thought it right to move the Adjournment of the Debate, I should not resist it, but of course this is not a Government Bill, and it is not for me to make the proposal. My hon. Friends who have moved and supported the Amendment will not expect me to deal with the substance of their most interesting speeches. Under the control of the railways, as it has been worked during the war, staff questions have been left to the ordinary peace-time machinery—the managements and the trade unions—to deal with. Whether it has been a question of some 1251 minor grievance of an individual, or a larger question of general principle, like that which we have had before us to-day, the Ministry have not sought to set the established machinery aside, or to settle it themselves. They have left it to the unions and companies to reach agreement themselves. That has been in accord with the wishes of all concerned, and certainly it has worked well during the war, as the Mover of the Amendment said it had worked well during peace-time. In any case, this difference between the Railway Clerks' Association and the L.M.S. has raised issues of general trade union policy and general industrial relations with which it would hardly be for me to deal. I must, therefore, confine myself to saying that my Noble Friend hopes that this difference will be settled by agreement through the usual machinery and that he would be much gratified if it were. If it is not so settled, of course there is always, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has said, the possibility of invoking the help of the Minister of Labour, within whose competence such matters lie. Similar issues have been so settled in the past. My Noble Friend hopes that this difference may be settled by agreement without the need of recourse to the Minister of Labour and, if the Debate has helped to bring about agreement, my Noble Friend will be much gratified by that result.
May I say one word about the Bills. These are private Bills. My Noble Friend is not responsible for their promotion but my task is to explain the Ministry's attitude towards them. As Minister of Transport he has what I may call a P and I "interest in their passage. Apart from the money considerations for the railways which are involved, it is a fact that there are in both Bills points of public interest and policy involved. The first Bill deals primarily with the sale of water to industrial users on the Shropshire Union Canal. It is desirable that the L.M.S. should be empowered to continue to sell water to these users in the next 10 years, and this Bill is needed because their right to do so has been challenged. The industrial users who buy the water are now engaged on national production of high priority. It is also eminently desirable in the national 1252 interest that they should continue in productive enterprise after the war. Therefore, it would be against the public interest if they were obliged to close down by having their water cut off. My Noble Friend hopes that in Committee an Amendment will be made to Clause 4 of the Bill. We have already put in a report to Parliament on the point. The purpose of the Amendment is to make it possible to take 12,500,000 gallons of water a day, even after the ten-year period laid down in Clause 4 has expired, if those 12,500,000.gallons are needed for the purposes of navigation. Canal questions have been raised, and I would say to those who raised them that no one can foresee the future of inland waterway navigation. It may well be that within the next 10 years there will be development and modernisation of existing waterways or even the cutting of an entirely new waterway, which might make it desirable that this water should be available.
The public interest in the second Bill is a good deal greater, and it lies primarily in Clauses 9 to 12, which deal with bridges. My colleagues in the Ministry took a large part in drafting these Clauses, and they had conferences with the railway companies, county councils, highway authorities, and so on. We achieved a highly satisfactory result. Under these Clauses the bridges, which now belong to the railway company, will pass from their ownership to that of the highway authorities if they are on classified or unclassified roads, and to my Noble Friend if they are on trunk roads. They will all pass together, without the necessity of a long series of time-wasting negotiations bridge by bridge. They will pass on extremely advantageous terms to the highway authorities and the Ministry, who will pay nothing to the L.M.S. for them. On the contrary, if I may reassure my hon. Friend who raised the question of money, the L.M.S. will pay to us a sum which will be the commuted value of the maintenance obligations under which they at present stand. If these bridges so pass to the highway authorities and my Noble Friend, we shall be able to reconstruct them, to get rid of the hump-backed formation, sometimes even to fill in and make culverts for the water, and to have road widenings at a very much reduced cost.
1253 We do not want to lose the value of the work that has been done on this Bill. Therefore, we hope that it will be sent by the House to a Committee and that it will become law. I say that subject, as I have indicated, to my desire not to prejudice anything that has been said by any of my hon. Friends on the major point that has been discussed. I repeat my personal hope that the Debate may lead to a happy and agreed result.
§ Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
I have seldom seen the House in a more unanimous mood. It wants, on the one hand, these two Bills, and it wants, on the other hand, that the Railway Clerks Association should have reasonable recognition. Obviously it cannot get both these aims by dividing, and it is clear that, if we adjourn for a while, the parties might come together and make an agreement. The issue now is a very small one. Apparently the railway companies have agreed to submit to the Ministry of Labour the question whether recognition should be given, having regard to the figures relating to the different categories of workers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Railway Clerks Association point out that it is difficult to produce the figures of these categories. I suggest that it would be easy for the Ministry to be able to declare on the simple point whether, in their judgment on the facts given to them, the Railway Clerks Association should be deemed to be the proper body to represent the professional and technical grades.
§ Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.