HL Deb 10 July 1902 vol 110 cc1303-9

House in Committee (according to order).

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:—


My Lords, the Amendment which stands in my name, and which is of a rather more important character than might be imagined is directed against the provision that the shop club or thrift fund should be of a permanent character. I am assured that unless this Amendment is accepted these shop clubs will come to an end. I think I can show that this provision is entirely unnecessary. Section 1 of the Bill safeguards entirely the position of the workman with regard to his either joining, or continuing to remain, a member of an existing society. Subsection (a) of Section 2 enacts that the Registrar of Friendly Societies shall be satisfied that the club or fund is "one that affords to the workman benefits of a substantial kind"; and a further subsection makes it a necessary condition that the opinions of the workmen shall be obtained, and that seventy-five per cent. of them shall be in favour of the existence of the club. I maintain that with these provisions it is quite unnecessary to insist on the permanent nature of the club or fund, and I should like to ask what there is immoral or objectionable in the fact of these clubs and funds not being of a permanent character. I believe there are, or there used to be, institutions called public house clubs, in which men used to meet annually and spend the whole of the available funds in one large drink; but nobody asserts that these clubs that arc under discussion are managed in an improper way, or that the funds are improperly applied. I should like to point out that these clubs are primarily, I might say solely, intended to provide for those men who are at any given time working for the firm with which the club is connected, and therefore the necessity for permanence, or for a reserve fund, does not really arise. If a man desires to make provision for his old age, or for those cases of sickness which usually accompany old age, he can perfectly well do so by joining one of the existing large friendly societies, and experience has shown that men who join these so-called shop clubs in many instances—most instances, in fact—follow up that action by joining the friendly societies. It is perfectly obvious that the clubs which are aimed at in this Bill cannot be of a permanent character, because men are constantly leaving the employment upon which they are engaged. Suppose a man removes into a remote part of the country, or suppose, to take a strong case, that he should go abroad, it would be impossible for the club to verify any claims which he might subsequently make upon it. I am assured that this is an absolutely unworkable provision, and unless my Amendment is carried there is absolutely no doubt that these clubs and institutions will come to an end. I would appeal to my noble friend, who I know is a reasonable man, to accept my Amendment in a proper spirit, and I can hardly bring myself to believe that he is going to oppose it.

Amendment moved— In page 1, line 22, to leave out from 'that' to 'and' in line 24"—(Lord Newton.)


I am sorry to be obliged to oppose this particular Amendment. The noble Lord seems to forget that the gist of this Bill is to prevent the compulsory giving up of friendly societies and shop clubs. If any shop club is willing not to have the compulsory rule, then of course they do not come under the provisions of this Bill at all, but if they insist on having the compulsory rule that the men must not belong to any other friendly society, then this clause ought to apply as it is drawn. This is a point which was specially brought before that small Departmental Commitee of which I spoke the other day, composed of Mr. Jesse Collings, Mr. Cozons-Hardy (now Lord Justice Cozens-Hardy), and the Registrar of Friendly Societies. They exhaustively discussed this question, and the requirements they suggested were, first that the shop club should be registered under the Friendly Societies Act, and next that it should be of a permanent character. That is the strong recommendation of that Departmental Committee which my noble friend wants to sweep away. I say that there is no injury done to these clubs. If they do not insist on the compulsory retirement of the men from other friendly societies, this will not affect them. If they do, then this clause is properly drawn. I must resist the Amendment.


I am very sorry to put the Committee to the trouble of a division, but this is an Amendment of a very important character, and if these clubs come to an end I should like the blame to be fixed on the proper shoulders. Therefore, if I can get anyone to tell with me, I shall divide the Committee.


I must take exception to one expression of the noble Lord. He talks of these clubs "coming to an end." Now, there is absolutely nothing in this clause which can bring these clubs to an end. The simple proposition is this: You, the employers, ask for compulsion to compel the men to join a particular club; you ask to be allowed to say to the men: "Leave your own friendly society; you must come into this particular club." The men, on the other hand, say: "We will agree to that, but all we ask is that you shall give us a good club, a solvent club, and in one sense, too, a permanent club; that is to say, that you shall not force us into a 'slate club,' that meets at some public house and divides its funds every three months, so that we shall not obtain a sufficiency of insurance." If once a working man leaves his club he cannot go back to it, as time and age go on; and all the men ask is that these clubs shall be solvent and sure. This is really a Second Reading Amendment. If these words are struck out as suggested by my noble friend the efficacy of this Bill is gone.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


My Lords, I hope my noble friend will not sink oven lower in my estimation by opposing the Amendment I now have to move. I cannot really conceive that there can be any opposition to this. When an employer has been subjected to all the conditions in the previous portion of this Bill, it is really too preposterous to refuse to insert the words "unless discharged for misconduct."

Amendment moved— In page 1, line 28, after 'even,' to insert 'unless discharged for misconduct.'"—(Lord Newton.)


I am afraid I cannot agree with my noble friend. Let me put this case. You may have a man who has been in a friendly society for years and years; he comes into your employment; you compel him to give up his own society, or else he cannot come to you at all; when he comes, then for some misconduct you discharge him; it may be right or wrong, but look at the consequences to the man. The man has grown old; he cannot go back to his old society, because he may have got beyond a certain age; you have compelled him to give up his own society, and because you discharged him, it may be for some trivial matter, you deprive him of all the benefits of the club to which he has been subscribing. I really cannot consent to the Amendment.


I hope your Lordships will allow me to suggest a middle course, which is, I think, of a practical nature. I agree that these words ought not to be here inserted, because I think that if a man were even dismissed for misconduct, you ought not to penalise him by taking money away from him, us you would be doing by driving him out of the club. But suppose a number of men strike and leave their employment; then some of their number, by virtue of being on the committee of the club, would have a right to enter on the premises and then address all their fellow-workmen who had been in favour perhaps of some attack on the club itself. That, I think, will raise a practical difficulty, and it ought to be avoided. Therefore I would suggest, in order to meet my noble friend Viscount Cross, that at the end of Clause 6, which deals with the workman having the option to remain in if he likes, we should add these words, or something like them— Provided that any such member who shall exercise the option to remain a member of the club so long as he is not in that employment shall not be entitled to take any share in the management of the club or to vote in respect of such management. I do not think that that will be objected to by the workmen themselves, and I think that in justice to the employers they ought to have that protection. I will move that at the proper time on the Report stage.


I will accept the Amendment if it pleases my noble friend.


It does not please me at all, but I suppose I must do the best I can. I confess that I think my own words are preferable.


I will not move it if it does not please my noble friend.


Beggars must not he choosers, and perhaps I had better accept the miserable crumb of comfort offered by my noble friend. On the noble Lord's promise to insert some words on the Report stage, I will withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave of House, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:—


In another place the Home Secretary promised that there should be an Amendment made in this clause, which was apparently drawn rather hastily. The provision of the clause with regard to the cumulative penalty is a very extraordinary one, and I think the words I have to suggest will not only amply cover the ground and prevent any recurrence of the offence, but will be much more in conformity with the usual wording of an Act of Parliament.

Amendment proposed— In page 2, line 10, to leave out from 'and' to 'provided' in line 12, and insert 'in the case of a second or subsequent conviction within one year of a previous conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.'"—(Lord Belper.)


I agree to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5:—


I will ask the noble Viscount whether he will accept the Amendment of which I have given notice. It is in the interests of municipal and other large councils, who, rightly or wrongly, consider that the funds that they have established, and to which they have subscribed largely, should not be interfered with by having to go to the friendly societies in order to have the rules sanctioned. Lord Wemyss referred to one of these societies which felt strongly upon this matter and passed a resolution, namely, the Paddington Borough Council Sick Benefit Society. Since then other large bodies have had the matter under consideration, and I have just been talking to members of the Edinburgh, Manchester, and Glasgow Corporations, who feel strongly that it is very undesirable that they should be put under the friendly societies. They think that they are quite competent to administer the large funds that they have and their liberality to their workmen is well known. Now that they hive become large employers of labour they think it would interfere with them and the good understanding they have with their workmen if anyone could come down (as would be quite possible under the present provisions of the Bill) and have a meeting of the employees, and create friction between the workmen and their employers. Railway companies are already excluded, and I ask why should not the municipal authorities and large councils be exempted also.

Amendment moved— In Clause 5, page 2, line 19, after 'contributes,' insert 'or compulsory membership of any superannuation fund or insurance or other society which already exists, or may hereafter be established, for the benefit of the persons employed by any municipal or other local authority.'"—(Lord Kinnaird.)


I think these municipalities had better take care of themselves. They have simply to comply with the requirements if the Act, and then they can do as they like. I cannot imagine why they should lie exempted and put in a different position to other parties.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:—


I have an Amendment in this clause, but after the undertaking of my noble friend perhaps I had better not move it.


I said that I would move the proviso I suggested at the end of this clause, but I think the wording requires a little consideration. I will send my noble friend a copy of the proposed proviso, and move it in Standing Committee.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and schedule agreed to, with Amendments.

Bill recommitted to Standing Committee; and to be printed as amended. (No. 147.)