HC Deb 20 June 1910 vol 18 cc165-7W
Colonel RAWSON

asked the President -of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the case of the "Indian Transport," owned by Messrs. Houlder Brothers and Company, which case was submitted to arbitration at the instance of the Board of Trade, and an award given by the arbitrator entirely in favour of the principle contended for by Messrs. Houlder; and, seeing that the men "have refused to accept the award of the umpire appointed by the Board of Trade, whether His Majesty's Government propose to defray the cost of the arbitration to which Messrs. Houlder were compelled "to submit, and to indemnify them for the "delay to their vessel and other damage sustained by them, over and above what may be recoverable from the Corporation of Newport, as the result of their compliance with the wishes of the Board of Trade?


further asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the principle at issue in the Newport Dock dispute was, at the suggestion of the Board of Trade, referred to arbitration between Messrs. Houlder Brothers and Company, Limited, and the two trade unions representing the dock labourers of the port, under an umpire appointed by the Board of Trade, with the terms of reference, namely, to decide the general principle of the substitution of day wages for tonnage rates of payment at Newport, and, in the event of an alteration, the proper rates and conditions; whether the umpire awarded that in loading general cargo at the port of Newport, in the county of Monmouth, it shall be at the option of the employer to engage and pay men by tonnage rates of payment in accordance with the rates of the port or by day wages, as such employer may think fit; whether a representative of the Board of Trade was present at a meeting of the trade unions concerned at which the award was considered, and during his attendance at such meeting telegraphed to the Board of Trade inquiring whether the award was limited to work on the vessels of Messrs. Houlder Brothers and Company, Limited; whether the Board of Trade informed their representative at the trade union meeting that in their opinion the award was so limited; whether this opinion was expressed by the Board of Trade after consultation with the arbitrator; and, if not, upon what grounds the Board of Trade base their variations of what appears to be the obvious meaning and intention of the award, namely, that it should apply to the whole of the general cargo work of Newport and to all the members of the unions who were parties to the submission to arbitration?


As the hon. Member is aware, serious rioting occurred at Newport on 18th May last in connection with the proposed substitution of day rates for piece rates of wages in the loading of Messrs. Houlder Brothers and Company's ship "Indian Transport." On Saturday, 21st May, at a conference presided over by the Mayor of Newport, at which an officer of the Board of Trade was present, an agreement was signed by which work was to be resumed, and the matter in dispute referred to arbitration. Messrs. Houlder Brothers, however, subsequently stated that they had not authorised the signing of the agreement on their behalf. The loading of their boat was not therefore proceeded with. Anticipating that further rioting might occur, and after consulting the Home Secretary, I invited representatives of Messrs. Houlder Brothers and Company, Limited, representatives of the workpeople concerned, and also representatives of the Corporation of Newport, to meet me at the Board of Trade on 26th May, to discuss the situation. As a result an agreement was signed by the representatives of the firm and of the men, referring the question in dispute to a Court of Arbitration, the two arbitrators to be nominated by the firm and workpeople respectively, and the chairman to be nominated by the Board of Trade. Other agreements were also signed by the representatives of the firm and the Corporation, referring certain questions of compensation for alleged loss sustained by the firm to the chairman of the Court of Arbitration. With regard to the question of costs, the Board of Trade have power to pay the expenses of the hire of rooms, the fees and expenses (within certain limits) of the arbitrators they appoint, the taking of shorthand notes, etc., but they have no authority to pay any expenses incurred by the parties in connection with the case. The question whether and, if sc, how far the award is binding on other parties outside those represented by the signatories to the agreement is not one of interpretation of the award, and has not, therefore, been referred to the arbitrator. The Board of Trade, in reply to a query raised by one of their officers, stated that they had no authority to decide the matter as a point of law, but that, though the arbitration proceeded on the general principle, the specific case on which the actual arbitration had been held was that of Messrs. Houlder and Company, with whom ths difficulty had occurred which gave rise to the arbitration. Messrs. Houlder alone signed the agreement and the reference, which did not purport to bind anyone else, and they alone as a firm appointed an arbitrator and alone appeared before the court. The Board further expressed the opinion that any question with other shipowners should be capable, in the event of difference occurring, of being subsequently raised if desired under Clause 3 of the agreement of 21st May, which was not affected by the later agreements.