HL Deb 22 March 1866 vol 182 cc717-8

rose to lay upon the table a Bill to establish Councils of Conciliation for the purpose of ending disputes between Masters and Operatives, Their Lordships might recollect that in 1860, when a Bill on the subject came up from the House of Commons, their Lordships did not receive it with much favour: it was sent to a Select Committee upstairs, and, as the Session was considerably advanced, the Bill was allowed to drop. He took no further steps with respect to it, though he felt a very great interest in the subject, until he should have an opportunity of consulting with masters representing capital to the amount of hundreds of thousands, and also with the men. In the course of time he found that the operatives generally were discussing the Bill and expressing their desire that such a measure should pass. That induced him last Session to lay on the table a copy of the Bill, and to ask their Lordships to read it a first time, He then stated it was not his intention to ask to have the Bill read a second time unless both masters and operatives desired it. His object was to obtain circulation for the Bill throughout the country, so that masters and operatives might be able to express an opinion upon it. So matters remained until this year; when the operatives of London generally took the Bill deeply into consideration; they had a great many meetings upon it; and about ten days ago deputies from bodies representing, he was told, something like 100,000 operatives, all in favour of the Bill, met; a resolution in support of the Bill was put, and one of the delegates moved an amendment to the effect that they should not accept the measure; but the amendment was rejected, and the resolution in favour of the Bill passed by an almost unanimous vote. A deputation was appointed by the meeting, and they did him the honour to go down and wait upon him. He (Lord St. Leonards) found that these men thoroughly understood the matter, they thoroughly understood their own interest, and they were earnestly desirous—at least as far as he could judge from their expressions—to conciliate the masters. As the great body of the operatives in London were in favour of the Bill, that circumstance had induced him to take the matter up, and he now desired to ascertain whether the masters were in favour of it: for unless both masters and operatives expressed their approval of the Bill he should not attempt to carry it into execution. He rather expected that the masters would approve, because in the year 1860 at a large meeting the great London builders were all in favour of the Bill, and many of them and of the great contractors, who were themselves Members of the other House, supported the measure. His object, therefore, now, in laying this Bill again upon the table, was that the masters might meet and express their opinions upon it. If the masters expressed themselves favourable to the Bill, he would then venture to take their Lordships' opinion upon it; if unfavourable, he would take no further steps in the matter, for it was not his intention to do more unless with the approbation of both masters and operatives. He begged to move the first reading of the Bill. A Bill to establish Equitable Councils of Conciliation to adjust Differences between Masters and Operatives—Was presented by The Lord SAINT LEONARDS; read 1a. (No. 59.)