§ Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, the object he had in view was the establishment of a friendly tribunal, to be called a Council of Conciliation, and to be constituted of an equal number of masters and operatives, to which all disputes between those two classes should be referred. If the Motion which he had made last year had been adopted by the House, all the misery which had resulted from the recent strike would have been spared. Considering the extraordinary privations which had been caused by that strike, he could not help thinking that some measure of this sort was absolutely necessary, and he could scarcely see what objection would be raised against it. In every strike there were four classes who suffered—first, the masters, whose capital and property were sacrificed; next, the workmen, who were ezposed to misery and privation by reason of the loss of their wages; next, the small shopkeepers, whose ordinary class of customers were the working men; and, lastly, the public at large. The Preston strike had entailed a loss of £2,400,000, and it was calculated that the average loss to the community by strikes throughout Great Britain was about £1,000,000 a year. Under these circumstances, it was most extraordinary that Parliament should continue to refuse to provide a remedy for these strikes. He had heard it said that the reason why Parliament refused to legislate was, that it relied on the 5th of George IV., entitled an Act for settling disputes between masters and workmen; but that statute was totally inoperative. There was a mutual dislike, and more strong on the part of the operatives, to refer questions to an unknown set of men, nominated by a justice of the peace. Going before a justice, too, in the opinion of most of the men bore the character of a criminal proceeding, and when resorted to by the workmen not unfrequently ended in their dismissal. If the parties named refused to act, all decision was left to the justice, and many of the cases raised required special knowledge of the particular trade, which a magistrate could not be expected to possess. Mr. Hammill, in his evidence before the Committee, stated that the most disagreeable duty which he had to perform was the disputes between 2011 the Spitalfields weavers and their masters. Large bodies of operatives throughout the country had declared in favour of this Bill, and last Saturday a meeting was held in St. Martin's Hall, Long Acre, attended by about 2,000 builders and brick makers, at which resolutions were passed approving its provisions. The conduct of the workmen during the late strike was, considering their fearful privations, deserving of all praise, and therefore their desires on this subject should meet with the kind consideration of this House. The evidence before the Select Committee of the year before the last proved that the equitable councils of conciliation had worked wonderfully well in France for fifty-four years, and had prevented many disputes there between workmen and employers; and he had it on the authority of M. Van de Weyer, the Belgian Minister, that the same had been its effect in Belgium. It had been said that the idea of this Bill had been stolen from the French law, but that was not the case. It was taken from the practice of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. When they differed, delegates were appointed to meet in conferences and settle the questions in dispute; and why not give the same privilege to the workmen and their employers? How did strikes arise? The workmen, feeling themselves aggrieved, met together and sent to their employers, perhaps, a violent and impudent message, insisting on the raising of their wages or the shortening of their time of work. The masters had a meeting in their turn; they were excited at the insulting message they had received, and they sent back a point-blank refusal. Then there was a collision between the two classes, and a strike followed. It was impossible that the present system, which perpetuated hostility between the different classes, could be suffered to continue; and it was the duty of the House to pass such a Bill as would restore a feeling of confidence between employers and employed, and to lay the foundation of a future means of accommodation on equitable terms in the event of difficulties unhappily arising. As objections might very possibly be taken to the details of the measure, if the House would give it a second reading, he proposed to refer it to a Select Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. SLANEY
, in seconding the Motion 2012 for the second reading, said both workmen and masters owed a deep debt of gratitude to the hon. Gentleman by whom the question had been brought forward for the unwearied pains which he had taken in endeavouring to provide a remedy for the great and increasing evils from which the country was suffering. Not merely were the working classes increasing from year to year in numbers and importance, but the different subdivisions of labour and the various degrees of skill required by the new kinds of manufactures which were constantly introduced gave rise to a complexity of interests more or less conflicting, and rendered it absolutely necessary that some mode should be devised whereby disputes could be adjudicated upon in a friendly spirit, and to the satisfaction of both parties. In all cases where controversy arose a great want was felt of some power which could interfere at the outset to prevent dissatisfaction from spreading and gaining a dangerous height. There could be nothing more valuable than some machinery by which workmen, who in moments of excitement were led by mischievous persons to commit acts of which they afterwards repented, and which entailed lasting injury on themselves, their wives, and families, should be induced to adopt the reasonable course of laying their complaints before a friendly council, impartially chosen, which would be the medium of accommodating exorbitant demands on either side, and in whose well-considered decision they would both be disposed to agree. In every part of the country vast buildings were to be found filled with the industrious classes, on whom this council would confer an inestimable boon, in elucidating points which might be in issue and in deciding whether complaints or demands were really founded in justice. Among those in a better position in life vexatious and expensive suits in courts of law were constantly avoided by a reference to arbitration. This Bill was in effect a proposal to extend the benefits resulting from such a course to the industrious poor, with whom the loss even of a few days' work was attended with more serious consequences than were felt by the rich who expended time or money in litigation. If the House rejected the measure, they would in effect be giving scope to angry passions, and encouraging the violent, the hasty, and the uncompromising of both sides, whose pride was interested in keeping up dissensions. On 2013 the other hand, by adopting the Bill they would be adding weight to the efforts of the moderate men who, from their practical acquaintance with the subject, were the best fitted for dealing with those difficult and delicate questions which were always involved in trade disputes. As it stood, the measure was merely an enabling Act, and his hon. Friend proposed to refer it to a Special Committee, in order that any provisions to which objection might be taken should be modified. He could not believe the House would refuse its assent to a proposal for the establishment of such a tribunal, when made with the view of lessening those great and growing evils to which the industry of the country had hitherto been subjected, and which, though it might not altogether prevent the occurrence of strikes, would lead, in his opinion, to a great diminution in their most pernicious effects.
§ MR. WALTER
said, it was not his intention to offer any opposition to the second reading of the Bill, because he believed that its provisions were, to say the least, harmless, and because the hon. Member by whom it had been introduced was willing to refer it to a Select Committee. But he must guard against its being supposed that he for a moment acquiesced in the opinion which had been expressed that such a Bill would have the slightest possible effect in preventing the periodical occurrence of strikes, and those serious differences between masters and workmen of which the country had such lamentable experience. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have become involved in some confusion of ideas with respect to the meaning of the word "dispute," for he had given a definition of that term which, he believed, altogether differed from the view that he really intended to convey to the House. In one portion of his speech he had alluded to a certain class of disputes which arose between masters and workmen as to questions of fact. It was easy to perceive that in trades of a complicated character differences of opinion must often arise as to the mode in which a workman had performed his task, which would involve other questions as to the amount or proportion of wages to which he was entitled; and for the consideration of technicalities and difficulties of this nature some council, such as it was proposed under this Bill to frame, might be a very fit tribunal. But the points on which strikes turned were not matters of fact, but questions of opinion, 2014 and originated in much deeper passions and feelings than were excited by mere disputes as to the mode in which a contract had been fulfilled. Those occurrences, of which the House had lately heard so much, arose, on the one hand, from a desire on the part of workmen to obtain a larger amount of pay than employers thought proper to give; and, on the other, from an equally natural desire in the minds of employers to keep down wages, and not to submit to what they considered the exorbitant demands of those who were in their service. It was not to be supposed that a measure like the present would have any effect in settling disputes of this serious nature, which in reality involved the question of free trade, and the right of both parties to agree upon their own terms. He therefore hoped that when it got into Committee the hon. Gentleman would endeavour to define those disputes as to which it was supposed the Bill might exercise a beneficial effect, and would not suffer himself to be persuaded that it could really terminate the differences between masters and men which eventuated in strikes. With this reservation he had no objection to the Motion for the second reading.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, the hon. Gentleman in former Sessions had not felt it necessary to take a vote upon this measure, but the events of last summer and autumn had probably induced him to think the present a more favourable time for asking the House to entertain the question. But it was precisely because the great builders' strike of last year had excited attention and given rise to anticipations in some quarters that legislation would take place that it peculiarly behoved the House not to give its assent to any measure on this subject, unless it were fully convinced that it would prove effectual as a remedy. If any hon. Member could conscientiously say he believed the propositions contained in the Bill would prevent the evils generated by a "strike," he ought to give his vote in favour of the measure; but otherwise he would probably agree with him that it was better not to raise false expectations and hopes throughout the country, unless the House had power to pass some measure which, in a moment of great excitement or difficulty, would arm either the parties themselves or the Executive Government with the means of carrying out some reasonable agreement. The Bill consisted of two parts. The first clause gave powers to workmen and masters to 2015 appoint certain persons to hear and determine cases in dispute between them; but in what respect did this differ from the existing law, which sanctioned the appointment of arbitrators. The clause therefore was either useless or imperfectly expressed. The second portion of the Bill provided that any number of masters and workmen, being independent householders, at a meeting specially convened, might agree to petition Her Majesty for licence to form an equitable council of conciliation, possessing all the powers enjoyed by arbitrators; and, if the licence were granted by Her Majesty or by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that a council—to consist of not less than two masters and two workmen—should be elected for a year. What object would be achieved by these enabling powers he was at a loss to understand; but if the machinery which it was proposed to create was to have any practical effect, it must be to make the Government to a certain extent responsible for the formation and working of these councils. Application had been made to the Government in the course of last summer to interfere in the dispute between the masters and workmen, and he refused to act in any way as an arbitrator, being perfectly convinced that if he undertook any such office he should have completely failed. The question was rather a trial of strength between the parties, or had reference to minute technical relations of trade, and in either case a Member of the Government was a most unfit person to become a mediator. Believing that the Government ought never to interfere unless it could do so with usefulness and effect, he had refused to do so, and the result convinced him that he had exercised a proper discretion. The same reasons induced him now to think that the Government would be outstepping its office in promoting the formation of these councils, which could only raise expectations that would not be fulfilled. When a strike occurred persons were ordinarily exasperated against each other, and if expectations of accommodation were held out by the Government which were afterwards disappointed, that exasperation would be naturally, and he would add justly, increased. His hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney) with that benevolence for which he was distinguished, said, in seconding the Motion, that he wished the disputes between masters and men to be adjudicated on in a 2016 friendly spirit and in a manner satisfactory to both parties. When disputes occurred it was the wish of everybody that such a tribunal could be found by which that could be done; but in practice, where parties were envenomed by hostile feeling, he had never yet known any means of bringing them to an immediate agreement with perfect satisfaction to both. He therefore feared, if the House were now to give its assent to the second reading of this Bill, they would be only encouraging false hopes and fostering delusions among those whom they were most desirous of leading into the right way. But if the House believed that any good could arise from inquiring into either the facts or the law of the matter, he should not object the appointment of a Committee, with the understanding that it was to be in no way confined to the objects of the Bill, or contingent on its adoption. If the question went to a division, he should feel it his duty to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months; but he trusted his hon. Friend would render that course unnecessary by withdrawing his Motion for the second reading.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six mouths."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, the origin of strikes had been described by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) as a matter of opinion, and by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, as a trial of strength between the two parties; but he would ask the House whether such reasons adequately accounted for a strike like that in Lanark, for example, in the year 1856, when there were 40,000 men on strike, and by which masters, operatives, and shopkeepers suffered to the extent of £300,000 in a month; or for that in Preston in the year 1852 or 1853, where the operatives alone incurred a loss of £520,000. Could such facts as these be caused by mere opinion? If it were a mere trial of strength, it was a battle of giants. During the building strike last year, they heard a great deal from the journal which had the largest circulation in this country about the acts of folly committed by the men; the wives and families of thousands were reduced to destitution, some died, and others actually killed themselves rather than give in. Was it likely that all this suffering 2017 was incurred for a mere matter of opinion? Men in general give up their opinions; nay, even desert their principles rather than lose their money; much less would 40,000 men combine to starve for nothing; or see their families perish around them for a mere tournament of strength. Or was it not rather probable that the men felt there was some principle at stake which they thought it necessary to uphold? It was easy to say that one man forced another to stand out, but if the majority believed that they were not right in doing so, they would soon force the minority to yield. Persons said the workmen were led astray by demagogues. But had the persons who hazarded such statements ever gone to see the men who were out on strike? He came to London for the purpose, and went to one of their committee-rooms in the Strand, and more reasonable and moderate men he had never met. They expressed their ideas well—in better English than he had sometimes heard in that House. He had also gone to the Paviors Arms in the neighbourhood of that House, where he had found men equally intelligent and equally reasonable, and he did not hear an angry word or a malicious sentiment till a hot-brained fellow named Potter made his appearance; and he, it is true, cast about his words "like a Fury slinging fire." Strikes arose from a want of sympathy and of proper understanding between the masters and workmen, which gradually engendered a mutual suspicion and estrangement, so that when some trivial circumstance took place, which might be easily settled by arbitration, it acted like a spark and produced an explosion. Some masters, for instance, would affix a notice to their gates intimating that after a certain date the rate of wages would be reduced; and this at once led to a strike; while others consulted their workmen, showed them that the reduction was reasonable, and the matter passed over quietly. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the existing law (namely, the Act of George IV.) is sufficient; but the blue-book issued by the Committee which sat in 1856, showed that nearly all the witnesses who were examined disapproved of the existing state of the law, because the first step to be taken in the event of any dispute was to go before a justice of the peace, which looked like a criminal proceeding. The justice was then to appoint the arbitrator, who was thus chosen after the difference on which he was to decide had 2018 arisen; instead of being appointed, as the Bill proposed, once a year, by which means greater impartiality would be secured. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis) had called on any Member who conscientiously believed that the Bill would have the effect of preventing strikes to support the Motion for the second reading. He would be that Member; and he was strengthened in his view by the evidence to which he had referred. The eligibility of these councils of arbitration was not a matter of opinion, but one which had been tested by experience. They existed both in Denmark and in Norway, and their operations had been attended with most perfect success; in Belgium they were likewise to be found, and no strikes were ever heard of in the large manufactories of that country. In Prance they had their conseils des prud' hommes to deliberate on cases in which differences arose; and M. Van der Weyer distinctly stated that of the enormous number of cases, amounting to 15,000 or 18,000, which were heard every year, the vast majority were settled in a manner satisfactory to both parties, and but very few were followed by any subsequent litigation. The principle had likewise been voluntarily adopted in this country in various branches of industry; and, indeed, it appeared even better adapted to this country than to others, as foreign countries did not possess, to the same extent, the power of self-government. He was surprised at the opposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis), for if workmen in Manchester or Leeds living in £6 houses were, by the gift of the franchise, to be enabled to choose their representatives and to have a voice in State affairs, on what principle could he refuse to allow them to select a council for the management of those interests in which they were exclusively concerned? Boards of arbitration had been voluntarily established with perfect success. After the great strike of 1839 among the carpet-weavers in the north of England the masters expressed a wish that the trade should be governed on just and impartial principles, and proposed that a meeting of delegates should be annually held, at which they themselves would attend, and confer with the delegates from the operatives in regard to their mutual interests. After this board of arbitration was established the men two or three times demanded an increase of wages, which was held to be reasonable; and on another occasion, when they had 2019 manifested great anxiety to obtain it the board disallowed the claim, and the men acquiesced in the decision. This board entirely obviated all strikes. In Kidderminster, as long as a similar board was in existence, there were no strikes. In Macclesfield the board continued in existence for three years with the most perfect success, and was only dissolved owing to the want of legal power to enforce its decisions. In the Staffordshire Potteries the Courts of Arbitration worked so well and so amicably, that it never even became necessary to appoint the arbitrator provided by the rules. In Stoke-upon-Trent, similar arrangements were equally efficacious in preventing strikes, and most of the masters had now given their adhesion to such a plan. The compositors in London settle the disputes between masters and men in a similar manner. The masters and operatives of the boot-making trade met, after a long dispute in 1853, and their differences were speedily terminated. The shipwrights in Sunderland had such a board, and it met with a similar success. And in Price's Patent Candle Company disputes are avoided by a like conciliatory system between the masters and the employed. The ex-mayor of Nottingham, who was examined before the Committee of 1856, deposed that councils of arbitration, if established by law, would be acceptable, not only to the men, but to the employers, and certainly tend to obviate strikes. M. Chevalier, who was at present the great authority on political economy, viewed the system of equitable councils of conciliation as "one of the noblest creations of the present century." Mr. Mill, a writer on kindred subjects in this country, devoted two entire chapters to this question, in which he expressed himself even more strongly. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was anxious that this Bill should be withdrawn, and that a Committee should be appointed. He, on the contrary, hoped that the hon. Member would persevere in his Motion, as a Committee had already sat and collected evidence, and had strongly recommended that a tribunal of this character should be established. The present moment, when, if ever, a good feeling might be said to exist between masters and men, ought to be turned to account in preventing a recurrence of those strikes, from which so much evil had resulted. All are loud in decrying strikes, and in enlarging on the evils of such a loss of pay to men, women, 2020 and children; on the loss of trade, and loss of profits, and loss by unused capital, machinery, and buildings. All therefore allow that there exists a great evil, which calls for a speedy remedy. Such has now been proposed in the Bill before the House. Many witnesses have testified their approval of such boards of conciliation and arbitration. Similar boards have been tried with success in Denmark, in Norway, in Belgium, and in France. Such boards have accomplished their object wherever voluntarily established in this country. And, besides, the Bill before the House did not bind either class to submit to any new regulations; it was merely permissive in its character. The councils were only to last for a year, at the end of which time, if they proved unavailing, they need not be renewed; but if, as he firmly believed would be the case, it was found that they had done much to prevent strikes, the House would have no difficulty in renewing them for a longer period.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, he hoped the House would accede to the very reasonable proposal that the Bill should be read a second time, and then referred to a Select Committee. To the principle of the Bill—the establishment of some system by means of which the disputes between masters and operatives might be satisfactorily arranged—he could see no objection that could be raised; while he was at the same time disposed to think that the machinery which it provided would be found unworkable. He should also observe that, in his opinion, the operation of the Bill, should it pass into a law, would not prevent strikes, although it might put an end to those early animosities and differences between masters and men which so often eventuated in strikes. He was of that opinion because he coincided with the hon. Member for Berks (Mr. Walter) in believing that strikes had their origin in causes far deeper than legislation, such as that to which the House was asked to assent, could remove. During the recent lamentable strike in London the workmen, it appeared to him, had put themselves into a false position by demanding to be paid for labour which they did not perform; but it must, upon the other hand, be admitted that the masters had adopted a retaliatory measure which was equally unjust—he meant the imposition of the document which they required the workman to sign. An arrangement of the dispute had, how- 2021 ever, been brought about by the kind interposition of a noble Lord, so that if such a tribunal as that proposed in the Bill had been in existence, it was probable the strike would never have taken place. He trusted that the appeal which—on behalf of hundreds of thousands of men who had passed through a great struggle and endured great privations with the utmost fortitude—was made to the House in the present instance would not be made in vain, and that they would at least affirm the principle, that they did not begrudge the time spent in endeavouring to adjust by some mode the differences between masters and their workmen.
remarked, that the Bill presented a difficult question to the House, and great care should be taken in legislating on the subject. The object which the promoters of the Bill had in view was one which it was desirable to accomplish, but he, at the same time, agreed with the hon. and learned Member who had just spoken in thinking that its machinery would be completely useless for that purpose. The definition of terms which it contained was extremely vague, and it would, as a consequence, be impossible to say whether, in the recent building strike in London, the persons to be elected under its provisions should be chosen from among the Irish labourers or some of the other men belonging to the several trades concerned in the strike. He must also observe that the fact which had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire (Lord B. Montagu) that voluntary arrangements were in a large number of cases effected between masters and men with a perfectly satisfactory result, inclined him to the opinion that it was undesirable to proceed in any careless and hasty system of legislation in the matter. Another point to which he wished to call the attention of the House was that, if the proposed councils were to be empowered to settle differences, and then, as was intended, the authority to enforce their awards was to be vested in somebody else, great inconvenience would be the result. He, for one, should, as a magistrate, object to have that sort of ministerial authority placed on his shoulders; nor did he think it quite right that he should be called upon to pass sentence of imprisonment in a case which he had not heard, and upon the merits of which another tribunal had decided. The result of acting upon the provisions of the Bill in that 2022 respect might be that he would render himself liable to an action for false imprisonment. He should, however, raise no objection to the proposal that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee; but if, upon the other hand, the Government on their responsibility should maintain that the Bill ought to be thrown out, he should vote with them.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
observed, that while admitting the desirability of some tribunal by which disputes between masters and men might be settled, he did not think the operation of the Bill would be to remove those causes by which a strike was brought about, or to lead to the settlement of the differences which in those cases prevailed. There were, however, other questions—such as the amount of work done—he was ready to admit with which councils of conciliation might satisfactorily deal. He must at the same time say that the machinery which the Bill provided was of the crudest and weakest description possible. He thought it unfair to throw on the Secretary of State the responsibility of negativing a proposal of masters and men for the establishment of such a tribunal in a particular locality; and he doubted whether good would arise from reference of the Bill to a Committee of the whole House, although he was of opinion that benefit might result from a reference of the whole subject to a Select Committee. On the whole, he would suggest to the hon. Member who had brought the measure forward, whether it would not be better at present, in the absence of decided suggestions for remedies of the admitted evils, that the recommendation of the Secretary of State should be complied with.
§ MR. BLACK
maintained that the Bill, if it passed into a law, would, instead of promoting conciliation, lead to the contrary result; inasmuch as the very fact that the operatives knew that there were tribunals to which disputes between themselves and their masters might be referred for settlement might lead them to start objections which, under other circumstances, they never would have contemplated raising. It was true that the great bulk of the operatives were sensible men, but there were among them agitators whose office it appeared to be to excite discontent. He was convinced, therefore, that the Bill would be productive of more harm than good, and he thought that the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the sub- 2023 ject would only tend to excite hopes which could not be realized.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, that any measure on the subject must be tentative. He hoped, therefore, the House would consent to the second reading, in order that an attempt might be made in Committee to remedy the defects in detail of the measure. He had read several pamphlets of late on the subject of strikes. They were aware that the amount of wages depended on the ratio of supply and demand; but they seemed to imagine that strikes were the only means of raising wages where the masters desired to keep them unduly low. He thought that courts of reconciliation could be constituted, which would have a beneficial operation; and he hoped the House would allow the Bill to go into Committee.
§ SIR ERANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that his vote for the second reading might depend on the answer which the hon. Member should give with regard to the powers of the proposed courts of arbitration. He objected to the power which the Bill apparently gave to one party to compel another to appear before the proposed councils, a power which he believed could not be safely entrusted to a committee of working men.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he very much doubted whether the law as it stood was not sufficient to meet the object which the Bill proposed to effect. He had had some experience in strikes, and had always found it an easier matter to deal with the men themselves than with their committees. At present, however, there was an uneasy feeling among the working classes, and he should be sorry to see the House close its doors against the complaints of the workmen. There were, moreover, certain matters connected with the details of trade in which it was expedient that the men should have more power of producing evidence before some board than they at present possessed. He must, however, deprecate the passing of the Bill as it stood. In the machinery for electing the councils of conciliation, they did not, in his opinion, go sufficiently amongst the body of the people. The councils, also, ought to have the power of enforcing their decision.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, there 2024 were two matters involved in the Bill, first as to what questions were to be submitted to the new councils of arbitration, and next, what would be the power and operation of such tribunals, With regard to the questions that were to be referred to the new tribunal—were all the same as those which could be decided by arbitration under the existing law, with the exception of the question of wages. The statute of Geo. IV. strictly excluded all interference with the rate of wages, without the mutual consent of masters and workmen. The question of wages, however, was included in the new Bill. The principal change was in the constitution of the tribunal itself; and he thought the change likely to produce more mischief than good. The machinery of the existing law was very simple, and he had not heard any fair case of complaint against the tribunal of justices, or the powers it exercised. Then, if the existing tribunal was not open to objections, why should Parliament be required to set it aside? The machinery devised by the present Bill was very cumbrous, and was likely to cause a great deal of agitation that did not now exist. It would create a controversy between two classes without any good result to compensate for it. He hoped the House would reject the Bill.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, he trusted the House would not adopt the advice of the hon. and learned Gentleman; it would create an impression that they closed their doors against discussion on any question that affected relations between the working classes and their employers. Still, as to the measure itself, he thought it would not promote the object its hon. Mover desired. The noble Lord (Lord R. Montagu) had correctly stated that councils of conciliation existed in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. He had had to conduct large works in Denmark; there the several trades were regulated by "guilds," and under them there were councils of workmen and masters. But he had found it so impossible to carry on any work, liable to the interference of these guilds, that he always made it a condition precedent, that the guilds should have no power of interference; and he did it quite as much in the interest of the workmen themselves as his own. In Denmark a workman could not remove from one parish to another to get work till he obtained a certificate from the minister and two churchwardens, declaring that he had con- 2025 ducted himself properly in that parish. Such regulations were of a nature that England could never adopt. He thought the existing law was effectual, as the magistrate had the power of appointing arbitrators. If the Bill before them had been law at the time of the recent strike, it would not have prevented or in any way affected it as had been argued, because the half a dozen masters would have been found voting one way, and the six workmen the other, so that the whole reference would have come to a dead lock. He hoped the second reading of the Bill would be postponed, in order to refer it to a Committee with large powers; it would sift the whole question, and its decision would be satisfactory to the country.
said, he wished to express his obligations to the noble Lord (Lord R. Montagu) for his able and interesting speech, and to the hon. Member for the suggestion he had just made; no man had more practical experience of the subject. He would postpone the second reading of the Bill until that day month, and then move that it be referred to a Committee.
§ MR. FRANK CROSSLEY
observed, that the tendency to strikes among the workmen was becoming every year much less in proportion as the master and workmen understood better their mutual relations; and he regarded the Bill as one which would not prevent those collisions that had occurred in times past, and which, in his opinion, might to a great extent have been avoided if the masters had met their workmen in a spirit of calm deliberation.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave withdrawn. Second Reading deferred till Wednesday, 28th March.