HL Deb 19 July 1866 vol 184 cc1059-61

(The Lord St. Leonards.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


said, that when he laid the Bill on the table at the beginning of the Session, he announced that it was not his intention to propose the second reading unless he found that the measure met with the approval of both masters and operatives. Since the Bill had been read a first time he had put himself in communication with both parties, and it appeared to him there was a general desire on the part of the operatives that the Bill should be passed into law, while there was no such desire on the part of the masters to have any such Bill passed. At a meeting of delegates who, as he was informed, represented 100,000 operatives, a long discussion took place, and a resolution in favour of the Bill was carried. A number of those delegates had an interview with him for the purpose of receiving an explanation on some points; and he found that those men seemed well disposed to act in a harmonious manner with the masters, and they, in their representative capacity, expressed an entire approval of the Bill. But, on the other hand, in his communications with the great builders of London they told him that they thought the Bill would do them no good, although on a previous occasion, after an interview with him, they were desirous that such a Bill should be passed. He, therefore, did not ask their Lordships to read the Bill a second time. He had had considerable correspondence with both sides, and he had taken a great deal of trouble to effect what he thought would tend to the public advantage, and he had discovered that both masters and operatives were desirous that a Bill should be passed which would provide for the regulation of future wages. Now, the Bill which he had introduced carefully provided that the Council of Conciliation should have no such power, and he had expressed his opinion to the effect that he bad no intention of ever presenting a Bill to that House which should give Courts of Conciliation absolute power over wages; and, at all events, not unless confined to a very limited period. His purpose now was to move the discharge of the order for the second reading. Next Session he would introduce again the same Bill; and if the operatives and masters after reconsidering the Bill should petition the House in sufficiently large numbers he would do what he could to effect its passing. It was a permissive Bill, no man being bound who did not choose to be bound by it; and he had not the slightest doubt of its working well if it were to be passed. He moved that the order for the second reading be discharged. Its future progress would depend upon the masters and operatives themselves.


said, it was but justice to the noble and learned Lord to state that the Bill had been received with considerable favour by a large number of operatives in all parts of the kingdom. Indeed, some such measure was required in the times in which we lived. Disputes about wages and other matters would necessarily arise, and unless something were done there would be perpetual strikes, and the ten thousand evils which usually accompanied them. He had been anxious to learn the opinion of the operatives in regard to the present Bill, and he had received a letter from the chairman of a large body of working men, to whom the Bill had been submitted. The writer of the letter believed that the Bill, as a whole, was a wise one, and likely to have beneficial results. He also stated that he was apprehensive of strikes, and desired to avert them; and that the establishment of Councils of Conciliation, as proposed by the Bill, would in many instances prevent disputes, and generally foster a better understanding between employers and employed. It was a matter to be regretted that such a Bill should be withdrawn, but he trusted that next Session come such Bill would be passed into law.

Order discharged.

Bill (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.