§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS,
having first presented Petitions signed by masters in the building trade, and every description of labour in that trade, from Birmingham, Manchester, Stockport, Blackburn, Coventry, and other large manufacturing towns, said, that the main object of the measure was to establish Councils of Conciliation to settle disputes between masters and their men. The Bill had been very carefully framed and considered, and was approved of by delegates from the various trades that would be affected by it, and he ventured to believe that its passing would be attended with good results. In any case, the measure could do no harm, because it was altogether of a voluntary nature, and no courts could be established under its authority without the consent of the Crown, It was supposed by some that its leading features had been borrowed from the French system, but the powers of the Crown in England and in France were very different. In France the Emperor has the power to appoint and to remove the President and Vice President. No such power would be submitted to or sought for in this country. But the Cours de Conciliation was borrowed from the French Code, and had been found to work admirably. Anything which legislation could do to increase and confirm the co-operation and friendly relations of labour and capital ought to be attempted; and he believed there now existed as strong a feeling on the part of the operatives for some conciliatory measure of this kind as had been avowed on the part of the masters. The details of the measure being already familiar to their Lordships, he would do no more than move the second reading.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2.a"—(Lord St. Leonards.)697
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, the Bill, the object of which was admirable, proposed to extend the provisions of some thirty previous Acts to the enforcement of awards made by these new Councils. He wished to know how far the powers of enforcement were extended by this measure?
§ LORD CRANWORTH
desired to call their Lordships' attention to the terms of a provision enabling the Councils, with the consent of both parties, to fix a rate of wages that should be binding on employers and employed for a period not exceeding twelve months from the date of the order. If the parties were not bound to remain with each other for twelve months, the order would be nugatory; and, if they were, such a regulation might be attended with injurious consequences.
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
said, the Bill did not affect the provisions of the existing law on the subject referred to by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll). As regarded the rate of wages, it was a question which he himself approached with considerable hesitation. The Bill originally contained no such power. The men and also the masters wished future wages to be within the power of the Council, but he objected to it, as he did not think that if, by the action of supply and demand or other circumstances, it should appear that the rate fixed was below what the market would have supplied, the vast body of men spread throughout the country would submit to the award, and if litigation were resorted to, the benefits of the Act would no longer operate. But upon further reflection, which he had promised the delegates to him from 100,000 operatives, he thought such a power limited to a year might safely be given, and therefore he added it to the Bill.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
proposed that the title of the Bill should be altered to "Masters and Workmen" instead of "Masters and Operatives," not that anything material depended on the title, but simply because "workmen" was a good old English word, more accurate, and was used throughout the Bill itself.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.