§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
My Lords, this Bill, to which I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading, has the support of all the friendly societies throughout the country, and it is a measure in which thousands of workmen are deeply interested. The subject first arose on account of the London Docks Company adopting a resolution that no one should 884 be allowed to join their permanent staff unless he belonged to some friendly society—a resolution with which I have not the smallest fault to find. But they went further than that, and had a list of friendly societies published which they thought were of such a character that their men might safely invest their money in them. So the matter went on, for some years, but, unfortunately, one of the great societies fell into financial difficulties for a time, and then it occurred to the Dock Company that it would be better to have a friendly-society of their own, and they started a shop club on the best terms and offered large benefits to the men who took advantage of it. They then made a rule that everybody on their permanent staff must of necessity belong to this particular shop club which they had themselves set up. A good deal might be said against that, but if the matter had remained there I do not think anything would have been said. But the Company went the length of saying that their permanent staff should not belong to any other friendly society, and that if an employee had, before coming into the service of the Dock Company, belonged to a friendly society, he must give it up and sacrifice the provision which he had himself made for old age and sickness. With all due deference to the noble Earl who has given notice to move the rejection of this Bill, I think that constitutes an undoubted interference with the liberty of the subject. I believe the most recent instance occurred in the year 1901. A lad applied to be allowed to enter the employment of the Dock Company, and he was requested to send in his birth certificate, his labour certificate, and letters of character. This he did, find then he received this answer—As requested, I return herewith your birth certificate, your labour certificate from school, and the letters of character. As explained to you oh June the 19th last a condition of employment as a boy messenger in this service is membership of the Dock Friendly Society, one of the rules of the Society being that members shall not belong to any other benefit society. As yon are not willing to give up the Rechabites Friendly Society, your appointment will not be proceeded with.I contend that that is an infringement of the liberty of a man to choose his own friendly society, which is altogether 885 against public policy. Representations were made to the Home Office on the subject, and the Secretary of State appointed a small Departmental Committee, which, I think, was extremely well chosen. The Chairman of the Committee was the Parliamentary Undersecretary for the Home Department. Mr. Jesse Collings, than whom there was no one more capable of dealing with this question. The other members were Mr. Cozens - Hardy, one of the most able lawyers we have, and who has since been raised to the Bench, and Mr. K. W. Bra brook, the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies. I do not think you could find three men better qualified to inquire into this particular matter than those three gentlemen. The reference to that Committee was to consider the complaint made by certain friendly societies that men were compelled by employers, as a condition of service, to join shop clubs and—here is the sting of the whole thing—to discontinue their membership of other benefit societies; to ascertain if, and to what extent, the practices complained of existed, and whether any interference on the part of the Legislature was called for. The Committee called three gentlemen representing the friendly societies. They also examined the officials of the Dock Company, and had papers and documents on the question before them. Having very carefully sifted all the evidence, and thoroughly considered the matter, they answered in the affirmative the question whether the practices complained of, that men were compelled by employers as a condition of employment, to join shop clubs and to discontinue their membership of other friendly societies, existed. That state of things is clearly an infringement of the liberty of the subject which ought not to be allowed. The next question put to the Committee was, whether the practice existed to any great extent, and the Committee stated that the three witnesses furnished a list of twenty-two compulsory clubs. The Committee did riot go further into that matter.
Then came the third question, and it is one to which I would ask your Lordships' careful attention, namely, whether any interference on the part of the Legislature was called for. That is a question, the Committee say, which 886 presents some difficulties, and divides itself into two branches—(a) Should the Legislature prohibit an employer making it a condition of employment that a man should join a shop club? and (b) Should the Legislature prohibit an employer making it a condition of employment that a man should cease to be a member, or should not become a member, of any outside benefit society. As to that they say—It remains to be considered what, then, are the requirements which a shop club ought to fulfil before the employer is to be allowed to make membership of it a condition of employment.The requirements the Committee suggest are, that the shop club should be registered under the Friendly Societies Act; that it should be of a permanent character; that it afford to the workmen benefits of a substantial kind, at the cost of the employer, in addition to those provided by the contributions of the workmen; and, lastly, that the conditions of insurance, taken as a whole, should be satisfactory, and calculated to be beneficial to the workmen. On the second branch of the problem, namely, whether the Legislature should prohibit an employer making it a condition of employment to cease to be a member, or not to become a member, of any outside benefit society, the Committee found that it was not unusual with friendly societies to protect themselves against the danger of malingering by enacting in their rules that their members should not belong to any other, or to more than a given number, of other friendly societies. Where, however, the withdrawal from another friendly society was sought to be made by the employer a condition of employment, the Committee considered that the case was different, and that such a condition should be made illegal. The Committee stated that they saw no objection to a rule of a shop club declaring that a member who received benefit from other societies should not receive from the shop club any allowance which would make his total income during sickness exceed the amount of his usual earnings when in health. That is quite right, for the danger you have to guard against is malingering. The conclusion at which the Committee arrived was this, that the Legislature 887 might properly interfere by providing that it should not be lawful for any ' employer to make it a condition of employment that any workman should join a shop club; but that this provision should not apply where the shop club (a) was a society registered under the Friendly Societies Act, and was certified by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to be one to which that provision should; not apply; or (b) was established in conformity with a private or local Act of Parliament. The Committee also recommended that it should be rendered unlawful for any employer to make it a condition of employment that any workman should discontinue his membership of any friendly societies to which he belonged, or should not become a member of any other friendly society. Let me take the case of a man who has been subscribing to a friendly society for a great number of years. He particularly wants to go into the; employment of one of these companies, and if he does so, and joins the shop; club, of course he takes that course subject to his being dismissed, to his finding better employment elsewhere, or to his leaving on account of dissatisfaction with something or other. Just, see what the consequence would be. He has been compelled to give up a particular friendly society of which he was a member, to join the shop club, and when he leaves the service of the company he may be too old to rejoin his friendly society with advantage, and the result would be that he would forfeit all the advantages which he had looked forward to in old age, and also the subscriptions he had paid. I maintain that this is a very great interference with the liberty of the subject. We are all anxious to encourage workmen to make some provision for their old age, and the friendly societies hold out great advantages in this direction, which are largely made use of. To say to a man that he must run the risk, simply because he wants to join a certain employment, of forfeiting all that he has laid by in the friendly society he has himself chosen is against public policy, and it is what this well-chosen Committee stated ought to be prohibited by the Legislature. Among the witnesses who were called to give 888 evidence before the Committee was the Hon. Sydney Holland, who is Chairman of the East arid West India Dock Company, and Deputy-Chairman of the London and India Docks Joint Committee, and he made very large admissions in the course of his evidence. He stated that, in the abstract, it was bad to compel a man to do anything, and he admitted that the Legislature ought to interfere to prevent compulsion where it was a condition that on leaving the employment all benefit ceased. asked by Mr. Brabrook whether he would object to legislation directed against an employer making it a condition of employment to join a society in which the benefits ceased on the termination of the employment, Mr. Holland replied—No, I think such a condition monstrous. You have no right, under the pretence of encouraging thrift, to bind the man to your employment.He said it would be distinctly right to enact that there should not be any shop club which could not come up to a certain standard. That is the Bill and nothing else. The Bill provides in the first clause that it shall be an offence if an employer shall make it a, condition of employment that any workman shall discontinue his membership of any friendly society other than the shop club or thrift fund. This, think, is a very desirable provision. Then it is proposed by the Bill that it shall be an offence, if, as a condition of employment, the employer requires a work-man to join a shop club or thrift fund, unless such club or fund is registered under the Friendly Societies Act. The Bill also provides that no shop club or thrift fund will be certified unless the Registrar of Friendly Societies is satisfied as to certain details which are set out in the Bill. I propose that the Bill, if passed, should come into operation at the beginning of 1903.
I understand that my noble friend the Earl of Wemyss is opposed to the Bill, partly on the ground that the Legislature has no right to interfere in such matters between employer and employed, but the Legislature has been called on before—as for instance the Truck Act—to interfere. The Truck Act is an interference with contracts between master and man, but it has been found 889 of the greatest benefit. Take again the case of the miners. It was found absolutely necessary to pass legislation prohibiting the payment of wages in public houses. My noble friend would probably describe that as an interference with the liberty of the subject, but it was found necessary in order to protect the workmen. lake, again, the case of the hosiery trade—a similar case—where in 1874 the Legislature stepped in on behalf of the employees to prevent contracts being made which were manifestly injurious to them. Again, in the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897, it is provided that no scheme shall be certified which contains an obligation upon the workmen to join the scheme as a condition of their employment. That is the whole ease. This Hill steps in to protect workmen who cannot protect themselves. It may be said, of course, that the workman, if he cannot enter one employment in consequence of this provision, can go elsewhere; hut why should a man he shut out from proper employment because of this unjust condition? I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading to the Bill, which is by no means an interference with the liberty of contract.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
Yes, to a certain extent; but it is right that it should be. This is one of those particular cases in which the Legislature ought to interfere, and I commend the Bill to your Lordships' favourable consideration.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Cross.)
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, it is with extreme reluctance that I oppose this Bill, no matter how illegitimate I consider this kind of legislation to be. I knew my noble friend in the House of Commons before he became a distinguished official, and a little incident occurred then which, I think, brought my noble friend into prominent notice, and probably helped to his official career. In those days, Members of the House of Commons had always two hats—one hat they left 890 for prayers, to keep their seat, and the other they wore. My noble friend showed what resourcefulness he possessed by having only one hat and trying to keep his seat with the help of a dog-skin glove. Wishing to know what the law was on the matter, I bagged his glove one day, and producing it asked the Speaker publicly whether this devotional dog-skin, as I called it, was a fitting and suitable representative of my noble friend. The answer was against my noble friend, but this incident showed his resourcefulness, and I have no doubt that his success in office rests more or less on the foundation of this dog-skin glove. But be that as it may, what my noble friend now asks the House to do is to give up its raison d'être, for what is the duty of Parliament? It is to protect freedom of contract. I have always held that the first duty of Government is that of police, and that its next duty is to take care that men are free to make their contracts. Whether they make them to their own advantage or not, they should make them freely and under the protection of the State. My noble friend comes forward professedly in the interest of the liberty of the working man, but he would make the working man the slave of Parliament. I hold this is counter to the whole spirit of the Constitution, in to the duty of Parliament in reference to she question of free contract. We know how this Bill is brought forward. The trades unions are anxious to break up that winch is a line between employer and employed. On the other hand, shortsightedly, in my opinion, the friendly and benefit societies are anxious that these shop, clubs should be driven out in order that men may come into their societies. I have evidence to show that the shop clubs increase the disposition of working men to join friendly societies. In the case of a great clothing establishment in Ipswich, whore, previous to the formation of the shop club, not 5 per cent, of the employes were members of a friendly society, after the shop club had been formed 95 per cent, joined friendly societies. I hold in my hand a letter from the secretary of one of these shop clubs to the effect that they encourage thrift by pointing out its benefit, and in that way induce men to join friendly 891 societies. In addition they promote very pleasant relations between employers and employed. I have also a letter which was forwarded to the Lord Chancellor, and which the noble and learned Lord handed to me, from the Rev. Mr. Abbot, Vicar of Paddington, who writes—I, for one, am grateful that there was delay in passing the Shop Clubs Bill since, as it stands, is would have a most disastrous effect on a seek club in connection with the Paddington Borough Council.After describing the working of these shop clubs, to which my noble friend so greatly objects, and which lie has denounced—
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
I did not denounce shop clubs. On the contrary, I said they were of enormous advantage, but that rules had been made in connection with them which were against public policy and against the interests of working men.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My noble friend does not denounce shop clubs, but only the conditions of service between employer and employed. Yet he brings in a Bill which, in the opinion of all cognisant with the subject, will practically destroy institutions which are at present doing a considerable amount of good. The Vicar of Paddington continues—I have seen the advantages of this club, and the gratitude of the men at its establishment, and it would be melancholy indeed to see it killed by the Shop Clubs Bill.These are the opinions of practical men on the subject, and I set them against the opinions expressed by the Committee to which the noble Viscount referred and which recommended legislative interference between man and man. I have here a Resolution, passed today by the Employers' Parliamentary Council, on the Motion of Sir George Livesey, seconded by Mr. William Shepherd, a master builder, expressing the opinion that the Bill would tend to discourage thrift, to do away with a source of friendly relations between employers and employed, and to affect seriously the question of freedom of contract in trade relations in general. I heartily endorse the opinion of the Employers' Parliamentary Council, and I resist the principle laid down by my noble friend that it is the duty of 892 Parliament to make terms of contract for working men. I contend that the duty of Parliament is not to forbid contracts but to protect them, unless they are of an immoral or dishonest character. My noble friend cannot say that these contracts are dishonest or immoral, but he wants Parliament to step in and do for working men what they are free to do for themselves, and if they do not do it it is their own fault. You have no right to ask the State to make up for the faults of men in their dealings with their fellow-men, providing, as 1 have said, that those dealings are not immoral or dishonest. I urge your Lordships to beware how you embark on the policy contained in this Bill. We all know what has been the result of the interference with land in 1870. That interference has gone on progressively. Liberals and Conservatives are racing each other in dealing with these subjects. You have had in this Parliament Mr. Gerald Balfour's Land Bill, and there is now a Bill before Parliament introduced by the present Secretary for Ireland. 1 am happy to say, from all I hear, that that Bill is likely to expire, that it was born practically dead, and that no political midwives, certified or uncertified, can bring it to life. I hope that that report is true. I think we can rest assured that our experience of exceptional legislation in the case of land will be repeated in the matter of trade if Parliament is guided by my noble friend. Trade is, as yet, comparatively free, but if once the thin end of the wedge is introduced the matter will not long rest where it stands at present. Why are railway companies, which have these funds, exempted from the Bill? Simply because they are too powerful.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
You have not touched them because they are too powerful. If this Bill is passed it will strengthen my noble friend's position, and he will then move to include railways. One of the advantages in the case of many shops in London is that the employees, male and female, dwell on the premises. That is a 893 condition of the employment. Are you prepared to interfere with that? If not, why not? Then, again, there is the coal trade. My noble friend Lord Londonderry is a colliery owner, and I would ask him whether the cottages in which the men live who work in his collieries are not his property. Is Parliament prepared to say that the colliery owner is not to have this pull over the men employed in his collieries, which enables him to turn them out of their houses in case of a strike? Why not, if yon agree to the principle of this Bill? It is undoubtedly a bud bargain for the collier, looking to the possibility of a strike, and I have no doubt that if the thin end of the wedge is admitted by the passing of this Bill it will be driven home, if not by my noble friend at any rate by some other person, at a sub-sequent period. It is worth while looking at the names on the back of Bills that come up to your Lordships from another place. I notice that one of the names on the hack of this Hill is that of Sir Charles Dilke, the great municipal socialist. It your Lordships look at the lists of Bills which are periodically published you will find the name of Sir Charles Dilke on all measures of this kind. There is the Bill to create Wages Boards with power to fix the minimum rate of wages to be paid to workers in such trades as the Home Secretary decides. Does my noble friend approve of that? Does he doubt that this sort of legislation which is now before the House will, if passed, give strength to these further measures? Then there is the Shops Bill, under which all shops are to be closed one day a week at or before one o'clock, three days before seven o'clock, one day before nine o'clock, and on one day before ten o'clock, the days to be fixed by the local authority. Meal hours and hours of work are regulated, and all persons are deprived of their liberty to work more than sixty hours a week. That Bill was brought in by Sir Charles Dilke. Then there is the Bill to deprive all persons of their liberty to work in any mine underground or more than eight hours. That Bill was brought in by Sir Charles Dilke, and that Conservative socialist, Sir Albert Rollit. Then we have the Trades Union Bill, which has Sir Charles Dilke's 894 name on the back of it. What is the object of that Bill? It is a Bill to give trades' unions, through their officials and members, exclusive privileges to commit illegal acts with impunity. Your Lordships will remember the famous case in which, as the result of an appeal to your Lordships' house, picketing and terrorising on the part of trades' unions over free labourers who were willing to work were forbidden, and there have been two attempts made in Parliament, one by the noble Viscount's friend, Sir Charles Dilke, to undo work wisely done by your Lordships, in the interests of the liberty of the subject. I could go on, ad infinitum, but I think I have said enough to show that if von once open the door, if you once let the thin end of my noble friend's wedge in, by passing the Second Reading of such a Bill as this, this principle of interference will gain strength, to the detriment of freedom of contract between man and man.
I wish to make an appeal to your Lordships. Your Lordships' House is the highest court in the land on such questions as this. In your independent position your Lordships have not to consider how your decisions will affect your seats. You are here to criticise, and to reject measures which you believe to be unsound in principle, regardless of the Party from which they emanate. That is your proud and enviable position, and I would urge you to exercise your rights, independently of Party and personal considerations. This is one of the opportunities that your Lordships should take to reject a measure interfering directly with freedom of contract, which yon are here to uphold and maintain. Under our Constitution, your Lordships' House is practically what the Supreme Court is in America, and is there any one who has the slightest doubt that a Bill such as this would be scouted by the Supreme Court of America, which exists in the main for the maintenance of freedom of contract. I am told that the Government are neutral on this matter. The Prune Minister has no doubt a heavy task, for he has to drive and keep together a team, I think, of nineteen. I well recollect the story of a coachman who was driving a four-in-hand and experienced some little trouble in getting along. When spoken to by a passenger seated beside him on the subject, he replied, "Ah, Sir, you little know what it 895 is to drive three blind 'uns and a bolter." I have no doubt that my noble friend has found in his team of nineteen something like three blind 'uns and a bolter, but I hope he does all that is possible to keep his team, on the straight road. If any question is worthy of consideration by the Government, this one of interference with freedom of contract is such a measure. What has passed in this House leads me to believe that the subject was novel' considered by the Cabinet up to the time that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack called attention to it, and got the consideration of the measure postponed. The "man in the street," who knows everything, tells me that the Bill has since been considered by the Cabinet, and that the Government have decided to be neutral on the question, and to leave Members to vote as they chose. I venture to think this is a question above neutrality, and in connection with which some light and leading from the Government are needed, and it would have been well if the Government had taken a more prominent part and given sonic guidance on this difficult question. As regards myself, feeling as I do that the only thing worth living for in this world is liberty—liberty to live one's life, provided one does no harm to one's neighbour, in the way which seems best to oneself—I rejoice in this opportunity of opposing what I regard as an unsound attempt at legislation. I hope your Lordships will reject this Bill, for it is a measure that would destroy those shop clubs which tend to encourage thrift on the part of the working classes, and which also establish and maintain the most friendly and charitable relations between employers and employed in this great commercial country.
Amendment moved, to leave out "now," and add, at the end of the Motion, "this day six months."—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ LORD JAMES OF HEREFORD
My Lords, my noble friend is quite correct in saying that the Government take up a position of neutrality in respect of this Bill. But for myself I desire to support the measure, and I have arrived at my opinion in its favour as the result of 896 considerable experience. It has been for some years past my constant occupation to make an attempt, at least, to mitigate in some way the struggles which take place between employers and. employed, and I am keenly alive to the desirability, as far as possible, of diminishing any friction between those two great classes. I am certain that if this Bill is rejected by your Lordships friction will increase, and there will be a grievance—in my judgment, a truegrievance—on the part of the operatives, which will constitute a greater difficulty than ever in effecting conciliation in trade disputes in the future. My noble friend on the cross Benches must forgive me if I do not make the slightest attempt to follow him into the irrelevant matters he introduced. I venture to think that if he had made that speech in the House of Commons the word "Question!" would have resounded, throughout the House. I must say that it is scarcely fair of my noble friend to select one name out of the twelve which are on the back of the measure and ignore the name of every Conservative Member who has-hacked it in order to prejudice your Lordships. That, however, is a question which I am sure will not affect your Lordships' minds. My noble friend has declared that the Bill is intended to injure shop clubs or to bring them to an end. But there is no attack whatever in the Bill upon shop clubs. There are good employers and there are bad employers, and the workmen say, "Do not let us be compelled to leave a solvent club and join a shop club which may he insolvent and can confer no benefit upon us." The employers and employed appear to have arrived at the same conclusion. The workmen concede their point about compulsion on the condition that they should have some guarantee that the club they were compelled to join was a solvent club. Mr. Sydney Holland, whose friendship I greatly value, comes within the category of a good employer, and I could quote from the evidence he gave before the Committee approving of every Clause in this Hill, particularly of the Clause requiring that there should be a certificate that the shop club is solvent before workmen are compelled to join it. 897 With regard to the letters which the noble Earl on the Cross Benches read. I would point out that no good shop club can be injured in any way by this Bill. Shop clubs can exist, and employers can compel workmen to join them so long as they are registered. The Bill is really an employers' Bill, and now that the workmen have given wav on the question of compulsion, are your Lordships to turn round on them and say that they shall not have the safeguard of a certificate from the registrar? The noble Lord quoted a resolution passed by the Employers' Parliamentary Council, but I believe lie is the President of that body. Therefore in quoting that resolution ho was quoting himself. When the Bill was before the House of Commons not one employer of labour raised his voice against it. Practically all employers of labour on both sides of the House agreed with the representatives of labour that the Bill should pass, and the Second and Third Readings were taken without a dissentient voice. Therefore I appeal to your Lordships to concur in the judgment of practical men and agree to the Second Reading.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I should like to express my respectful sympathy with my noble friend who has moved the Second Heading of this Bill, and who, after many vein's of irreproachable political life as a member of the Conservative Party, has lived to hear himself described as little better than a revolutionary and a socialist. I do not go so far as the noble Lord on the Cross Benches in my denunciation of this Bill, but I recognise the extreme artfulness of its promoters in choosing a gentleman of the blameless antecedents of my noble friend to take charge of the measure in your Lordships' House. He does not, however, appear to have made out a strong case for the Bill. The Bill, in fact, appears to be promoted chiefly in the interests of friendly societies and trades unions, who are naturally opposed to workmen's funds going into any other pockets but their own. If shop clubs were productive of harm, there would be nothing to say against this Bill, hut that is not so. These clubs in most eases promote good feeling between employers and employed, and some of the objections urged against 898 them are, in my opinion, of a somewhat pedantic nature. My noble friend was eloquent on the question of the liberty of the subject. I would like to ask him what is the difference between the case of a man compelled to join a trade union and that of a man compelled to enter a benefit society conducted by a firm of employers. The two cases are absolutely parallel. Repeating the question asked by the noble Earl who moved the rejection of this Bill, I wish to know why under Clause 5 railway companies are exempted. Surely what is good for one trade is good for another. if it is necessary in the interests of workpeople generally that these clubs should be put under control, surely it must be more necessary in the case of railway companies, who have greater means of exercising pressure on their men than private firms. If I am not mistaken, the noble Viscount is himself a railway director, and I presume that his railway company, like others, make it a condition of employment that the men should join that company's benefit society. I wonder what attitude will be adopted towards my noble friend by his co directors, when they next meet, with regard to his action today, for after- his speech in moving the Second Reading of this Bill it will be incumbent upon him to move, at some later date, that railway companies should be treated in the same way. I feel inclined to come to the assistance of my noble friend, and to myself move, if the Bill is read a second time, that railway companies be included. From the speech to which we have just listened, I am not quite clear whether the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy spoke on behalf of the Government or not.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am glad to hear it. In that case I hope we shall be vouchsafed an expression of opinion from a responsible member of the Government. I should like to hear the opinion of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, but, above all, we are entitled to know the opinion of the Home Office. I venture to hope that the noble Lord who represents that Department will-immediately enlighten us on the subject. 899 Unless some satisfactory statement is made, I shall vote with my noble friend on the Cross Benches against the Bill.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, I have no intention to interpose for any length of time between the House and the division which I understand will take place upon this Bill, especially after the clear explanatory statement which has been given by the noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading. I do not rise on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Previous to the appointment of the Departmental Committee by the then Secretary of State, Viscount Ridley, this question had excited very general interest, and various representations had been made to the Home Office in favour of a measure of this kind. I would point out that the Departmental Committee did not express any extreme views, and their proposals are of a moderate character. The Home Secretary, though requested to do so, declined to introduce a Bill founded upon their Report, but when a private Member did so, the right hon. Gentleman thought the Bill should have fair consideration, especially as it was founded on the Report of this Committee. I have some difficulty in following the noble Lord who has just sat down in his objections to the measure. The Bill, as I read it, does not propose in any way to interfere with shop clubs, or even to prevent an employer compelling a workman to join his shop club, providing the club is registered under the Friendly Societies Act and is certified under this Act by the Registrar of Friendly Societies. Practically, the Bill only gives security that the shop club shall be properly managed, and that the rules shall be fair and reasonable. So far from being a detriment, that is, I think, an advantage to both employers and employed. With regard to the provisions of the Bill, I think it will be at once admitted that they are reasonable. The question has been asked why railway companies are not included. I understand that the reason is that railway companies are entirely under the control of Parliament, who, if they think right, have plenty of opportunities of dealing with them. Their position is totally different from that of ordinary 900 firms carrying on shop clubs, over which there is no Parliamentary control. I am authorised by the Home Secretary to state that on the whole, looking to the great agitation there has been with regard to this question, to the general interest which is felt in it in all parts of the country, and to the fact that the original form of the Bill has been considerably modified, it would be wise to pass the Bill into law. He therefore hopes your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I think it is worth while calling the attention of the House to the very awkward and unusual position in which we are placed by the action of the Government in respect of this Bill. The Bill was supported by the Government in the other House, and we now hear from the Minister who represents the Home Office in this House that his chief is in favour of the Bill. It certainly does seem that when so important a Minister as the Secretary of State for the Home Department gives openly and publicly his support to a Bill, that Bill has received the support of the Cabinet of which he is a member, and not merely of himself as an individual. It also seems to me that a support of this Bill is really a natural part of the policy of the Government with regard to this particular question. I have no doubt that noble Lords opposite, when they have gone down to the country to support their Party, have taken great credit to themselves for the Workmen's Compensation Act which they passed. In that Act I find a clause which contains the absolute root principle of this Bill. Sub-section 3 of Section 3 of that Act contains these words—No scheme shall be so certified"—(that is, for a shop club for compensation purposes)—"which contains an obligation upon workmen to join the scheme as a condition of their employment.It seems to me that a Government which has made itself responsible in one of its most important Acts for a clause of this character ought not to find any difficulty in making up its mind to support this Bill, which is a necessary corollary of the section I have quoted. I think the noble Earl on the cross Benches adopted a peculiar course when he singled out one 901 name which was on the back of the Bill and endeavoured to induce your Lordships to take a hostile view of the measure because it was supported by that Gentleman. I would remind the House that the Bill had on its back in the House of Commons the names of many Conservative Members, and that in the course of a debate Conservative Member after Conservative Member rose to speak in its support, and it passed its Second Reading alter two hours debate without a division. The noble Earl laid threat stress on the desirability of securing liberty of contract. We are all in favour of that.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I think it will be admitted that a condition of liberty of contract is that employer and employed should meet on equal terms; but a man who is dependent on the work of his hands for a living and who is in poor circumstances cannot approach a rich employer on equal terms, and there is a great inducement for him, fur the sake of immediate employment, to sacrifice the freedom which should rightly be his. I contend that it should be left to the man to select the friendly society or association in which to invest his savings for old age and sickness; and this Bill only attempts to secure this liberty of action. There is no attack whatever on shop clubs. The desire of the Bill is simply to secure that every shop club remaining in existence shall be a sound and solvent club, and I think a Bill of this nature is worthy of your Lordships' support.
§ LORD EBURY
My Lords, I shall not take up your Lordships' time more than three minutes, and I will confine my remarks to a single point in connection with this Bill. What appears to me to be a very great danger in connection with the Bill has not been referred to in the course of this discussion—I refer to the minimising of the total funds set apart for thrift in this country. I can emphasise and illustrate this point by showing your Lordships what will happen in the case of two provident funds, or shop clubs, if that be the more acceptable term, with which I am connected as a trustee. In both cases the fund is 902 perfectly solvent. In both cases 70 per cent. of the whole amount is provided by the employer. In both cases there are large accumulations of funds available for, amongst other things, pensions in old age, and in both cases the employment of a permanent staff is compulsory. In neither case could there be the slightest question of registering those funds under the arbitrary conditions which this Bill and its schedule provides. If the Bill becomes law the trustees will circulate an intimation that in future membership of this club will be optional, and that subscribers may continue or discontinue their contributions as they please. As the benefits to be derived are exceedingly large compared with the premium paid, the chances are that a considerable portion of the men will desire to retain their position; but, if this Bill passes, some of them will not have strength of mind sufficient to resist the temptation thrown upon them by the legislature to relinquish the small act of self denial involved in keeping up their subscriptions. They will not thank the legislature when, sooner or later, they are overtaken by sickness or calamity, and are forced to place themselves in the unsympathetic hands of the Poor Law. It must be obvious that these two incidents, winch happen to come within the scope of my personal experience, cannot stand alone, but that there have to be added a large number of provident funds and shop clubs throughout the country. As I cannot contemplate with indifference an enormous accession to the ranks of pauperism caused by a deflection from the ranks of thrift, encouraged and promoted by the legislature, if my noble friend, as I hope he will, divides the House on his Motion, I shall go into the Lobby with those who are opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (the Marquess of LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, my noble friend on the Cross Benches alluded to me in the course of his speech, and as an employer of labour, and solely in that capacity I desire to place my views on this question before the House. I confess that to a great extent I sympathise with some of the views which were 903 put forward by the noble Earl who moved the rejection of this Bill. In that part of the country in which I live the workmen's organisations are very powerful and are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. I do not wish to say anything in the least disrespectful of those organisations, for I consider that the meetings held between the representatives of the employers and the men have been conducive to the welfare of the county and of the industry with which I am connected. But, as I say, they are very powerful, and one of my own collieries was thrown idle for three months because I declined to force twelve foremen to join the men's union contrary to their wishes. I have always believed in the liberty of the subject, and I would rather that a colliery should be idle than that men should be forced in that way to do something which they do not wish to do. So far as the district with which I am connected is concerned, this Bill is unnecessary, but I should be the last person to oppose any measure which was calculated to be of benefit to the working classes generally. The noble Viscount who has moved this Bill has had great experience of the wants and requirements of the working classes, but I would ask him whether this Bill wholly carries out his views. I cannot help thinking that the effect of one of the Clauses would be to prevent employers who have contributed largely to these funds from contributing at all in the future. I have endeavoured to balance both sides from the speeches which have been delivered today, and I confess that there are certain things in the Bill of which I do not approve. But on the understanding that the Bill will be amended in Committee, I shall have no difficulty, as an employer of labour, in supporting the Second Reading.
|York, L. Abp.||Camperdown, E.||Stamford, E.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President).||Carrington, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Chesterfield, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Lindsey, E.||Cross, V. [Teller.]|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abereorn.)||Lytton, E.||Falkland, V. [Teller.]|
|Bristol, M.||Morley, E.||Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.]|
|Lansdowne, M.||Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Hampden, V.|
|Ripon, M.||Onslow, E.||Knutsford, V.|
|Winchester, M.||Powis, E.||Melville, V.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Russell, E.||Portman, V.|
|(L. Steward.)||Spencer, E.||Sidmouth, V.|
§ LORD BARNARD
My Lords, I only rise to draw attention to one point, namely, the penalties for infringement of the provisions of the Bill, which are so severe as almost to create a new criminal offence. I do not see in the Committee's Report any recommendation stronger than that to force employees to become members of shop clubs should "not be lawful," and I think that could be effected without creating penalties which would practically bring the employer who did not comply with the Act within the criminal classes.
With regard to Clause 4, to which the noble Lord who has just sat down has alluded, the matter was brought before the other House after the Bill had been through the Standing Committee. When the difficulty was pointed out, the Secretary of State stated that he was not at all satisfied with the way in which the Clause was drawn, and that he would draw up Amendments to it when the Bill came to your Lordships' House. I think those Amendments will meet the views of the noble Lord. In reply to what was said by Lord Ebury, I am perfectly at a loss to understand how good shop clubs can be injured by this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
That is a safeguard which Mr. Sydney Holland himself entirely approved of.
On Question whether "now" shall stand part of the Motion, resolved in the affirmative.
Then, on Question that the Bill be now read 2a, the House divided:—Contents, 78; Not-Contents, 17.
|Bath and Wells, L. Bp.||Colchester L.||Norton. L.|
|Lichfield. L. Bp.||Congleton. L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Rochester, L. Bp.||Crofton. L.||Raglan, L.|
|Salisbury, L. Bp||Davey. L.||Robertson, L.|
|Winchester, L. Bp.||Denman, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Dunboyne, L.||Saltoun L.|
|Ashcombe, L.||Farrer, L.||Saye and Sele, L|
|Balfour, L.||Heneage. L.||Seaton, L.|
|Barnard, L.||James. L.||Suffield, L.|
|Belper, L.||Kilmarnock, L.(E. Erroll.)||Tredegar, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and||Kinnaird, L.||Tweedmouth. L.|
|Orrery.)||Lawrence, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Lindley, L.|
|Castletown, L.||Macnaghten, L.||Wandsworth L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Monckton, L. (V Galway.)||Welby, L.|
|Clonbrock, J.||Monkswell, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Llandaff, V.||Sherborne, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L.(E. Galloway.)|
|Landerdale, R.||Ebury. L. [Taller.]|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Hatherton, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Mar, E.||Lamington, L.||[Taller.]|
|Westmeath, E.||Lamington, L.||[Teller.]|
|Goschen, V.||Newton. L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L|
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.