§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (12.15.) MAJOR EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
The Bill for which I ask the House to give a Second Reading seeks to prohibit compulsory membership of unregistered shop clubs or thrift funds, and to regulate such as are duly registered. The evils which the Bill will redress may be summarised as follows;— 1104
The matter has excited a great deal of attention in the country. The existing state of things has been vehemently protested against, and the National Conference of Friendly Societies, representing many millions of working men and women, has given its unanimous support to the measure before the House.
- 1. The power at present exercised by employers to compel their men to join an unregistered shop club, to make their joining a condition of employment, and to compel them to give up the membership of a friendly society to which they already belong.
- 2. The injury which this power inflicts upon the friendly societies of the kingdom.
In 1899 a Departmental Committee of the Home Office, over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham presided, inquired into the whole subject. The conclusions they arrived at were—1. That it shall not be lawful for any employer to make it a condition of employment that any workman shall join a shop club.2. That the foregoing provision shall not apply where the shop club
- (a) Is a Society registered under the Friendly Societies Act, and is certified by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to be one to which that provision should not apply; or
- (b) Is established in conformity with a private or local Act of Parliament.3. That it shall not be lawful for any employer to make it a condition of employment that any workman shall discontinue his membership of any friendly society to which he belongs or shall not become a member of any other friendly society.The Bill before the House has been prepared in accordance with these recommendations. Its provisions secure, within certain limits, what is surely the right of any and every man, namely, freedom to exercise his thrift in the direction he thinks most advantageous to himself; while the right of employers to demand that their employees shall belong to the shop club is preserved so long as such club is registered and conducted under certain rules laid dawn in the Schedule. Under these circumstances, and considering the extremely moderate and reasonable lines on which the Bill has been drawn, I cannot believe that any serious opposition will be offered to it. It may be said that the shop clubs, orsome of them, offer greater advantages 1105 to the men than the voluntary friendly societies can afford, and that therefore employers are justified in compelling the men to join. To this I would reply that, even if such greater benefits exist, the men may quite well be left to exercise their own judgment in such matters, and if they chose to sacrifice greater benefits in order to retain their freedom, they should be at liberty to do so, and no one has any right to prevent them from doing so.
The House may wish to know whether compulsion actually exists, and numberless examples could be given. I will only, however, quote one which illustrates both the compulsion to belong to the shop club and the compulsion to give up another society. Last year a lad named Hale was an applicant for employment at the docks as messenger boy. He was a member of the Rechabites Friendly Society, and this is the letter he received—London & India Docks Company,Dock House, 109, Leadenhall Street,London, E.C., 23rd August, 1901.Albert E. Hale.As requested, I return herewith your birth certificate, labour certificate from school, and letter of character from Mr. Ludford.As explained to you here on the 19th June last, that a condition of appointment as a boy messenger in this service was membership of the Dock Friendly Society—one of the rules of the society being that members shall not belong to any other benefit society—and as you are not willing to give up the Rechabites Friendly Society, your appointment will not be proceeded with.—R. BISCOE (for Secretary).Here we have the whole question in a nutshell. The lad's credentials were evidently satisfactory. He was not rejected on account of any shortcomings in education or character, but because he refused to throw up his membership of his own society. Compulsion such as this seems to me intolerable. No one need be surprised at the indignation and bitter feeling which it arouses. The Departmental Committee was emphatic that such compulsion should be put an end to, and the Bill before the House seeks to confirm that finding. It may be said that the provisions of this measure will tend to undermine such organisations as the Docks and other benefit societies which have been started in the interests 1106 and for the advantage of the men, and that we should hesitate before taking such a step, Sir, well-conducted shop clubs need not suffer in the slightest degree by this Bill becoming law, and, moreover, the great voluntary friendly societies should be our first consideration They have been the pioneers of thrift in this country. It is they who have taught working men to take some thought for the morrow. We should do all in our power to preserve and strengthen them and help them to continue the great work they are doing and have done, rather than allow others to unfairly compete with and destroy that work by compelling men to leave their societies.
It is true few employers positively require the workmen to give up their friendly society, but in practice compulsion to join the shop club means the same thing, because in most cases the men cannot afford to pay to both. It may be said that if some limit is not set on the number of societies to which a man may belong, a premium will be put on malingering, but this objection can easily be overcome by limiting the total amount of pay to be given during sickness. Such a limitation is recognised as being desirable by the friendly societies themselves. I have heard it stated that the opposition of the friendly societies to compulsory shop clubs proceeds from jealousy. I cannot see where jealousy comes in. If it were a question of two societies competing with one another on fair and equal terms, one of them might conceivably be jealous of the success of the other. But as between the friendly societies and the shop clubs, the competition is neither equal nor fair. Employers use their power to force the men out of other societies into their own shop clubs. In these circumstances indignation and bitter feeling are no doubt aroused, but hardly jealousy. If employers were to say to their men; "Here are two societies, one inside our walls and the other outside; and here are the comparative advantages attached to both; you must choose one, but you are free to choose either," no one could complain: but, as I have shown, they say nothing of the kind, and no freedom of choice is 1107 left to the men. The freedom of the man is also restricted in other ways, for the effect of being compelled to join a shop club tends to bind a man down to certain employers, in some eases if he leaves his employment he forfeits his benefit in the club—in others a proportion of the money he has paid in, is returned to him, but in all cases he has no further voice whatever in the management of the fund.
There seems to be some misapprehension with regard to the effect of this Bill upon shop clubs in connection with railway and other companies established or supported under statutory powers given to such companies by their private Acts of Parliament. The measure before us would not, and could not, interfere with any thrift funds or clubs which have received special Parliamentary sanction. If this is not clear it can easily be made clear. I would, however, remind the House that of recent years Parliament has very closely scrutinised private Bills and clauses in Bills seeking to establish shop clubs and thrift funds. The cases of the Wallasey Improvement Bill and the Great Eastern Railway Bill, to name only two, will be fresh in the minds of hon. Members. The principle of compulsion has not been eliminated, but it has been hedged round and made much more difficult of adoption. Parliament would not today allow its inclusion in any Bill unless the fund were registered under the Friendly Societies Acts, and certain other conditions complied with, and this is the main principle which the Bill seeks to establish. Sir, I have endeavoured to show briefly what the objects of this modest and reasonable measure are, and to meet some of the arguments which may be advanced against it. The subject has been thoroughly threshed out by a Committee, and the Bill, as I have said, is in accordance with the decision arrived at. I much regret that the Government did not see their way to introduce legislation themselves, and that the Bill has been exposed to the shoals and quicksands which beset the course of a private I measure. However, Ministers have promised their "careful consideration," 1108 and I only trust that it will be speedy as well as careful.
I move the Second Reading with confidence, and with the earnest hope that we shall get it now and have the Bill in Committee immediately after Easter. If passed into law as it stands, and as it should be, it will remove a fruitful cause of ill-feeling and suspicion between employers and employed. It is, in my opinion, the minimum which the friendly societies can be fairly asked to accept, and if whittled down in Committee the Bill will be destroyed and an embittered controversy left open.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (12.30.) MR. HARRY SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
said it gave him very great pleasure to say a few words in favour of the Bill, as it had been his pleasure to work for the principle on which it was founded for very many years. Those of them who had borne the brunt of the work might take consolation to themselves that at last the matter had come before Parliament, and he felt confident that the House would deal with it in the same broad-minded manner as it had hitherto dealt with such questions. The Bill was to a very large extent drawn on the lines of the Report of the Departmental Committee, which was set up at his earnest solicitation of the Home Secretary and the Government, and in only one particular did it go a step further In Clause 1, Section C, it provided—It shall be an offence under the Act if any employer shall make it a condition of employment that any workman, if already a member of a registered friendly society, shall join a shop club or thrift fund if he is already a member of a registered friendly society assuring similar benefit or benefits which does not divide its funds.Now, that particular point, really and truly acknowledged on behalf of those in charge of the Bill, held that a man should belong to some friendly society, and surely it was only right he should be free to choose the Society he preferred to join. The Departmental Committee did not 1109 sec its way to go to the logical conclusion of the principles it laid down and carry out what was now proposed. There were many faults with these friendly societies. In some, men, when they left, lost all their benefits; in others they lost half; whilst in others, when out of employment, they had little or no voice in the friendly society which they had joined. He could not help thinking that when the whole matter came before the Committee they would find that this Bill dealt with conditions which could not be denied, and he was delighted to support the second reading of the Bill.
§ *(12.34.) MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
I do not rise to move the rejection of this Bill, but to point out that the Bill as it at present stands is not practicable, and that certain alterations must be made in Committee. If the House will allow me, I will briefly go back to the origin of this Bill. It was owing to certain action taken some years ago by the London Dock Companies. Everyone will remember that there was a big strike some years ago. Prior to that strike, the Dock Companies were in the habit of employing the vast majority of their labour as casual labour; but after the strike, in order to prevent its recurrence, they endeavoured to make their labour of a, more permanent kind, and to establish friendly relations between the employer and the employed, and they made it a condition that their men should join a friendly society. So long as it was a condition that the men should join a friendly society, there was nothing said about compulsion. But the Dock Companies found that compelling the men to join a friendly society placed them in an invidious position if any financial crisis occurred to the friendly society, and thought it would be better to establish a friendly society of their own, the financial basis of which they knew to be sound. It was not until their friendly society was established that the outcry of compulsion was raised. I do not wish to decry the great and good work which has been done for many years past by friendly societies, and I recognise that every encouragement should be given to them; but, on the other hand, I am not prepared to 1110 create a monopoly in their favour, and say that nobody should belong to any society other than a friendly society. If this Bill had beer, drawn on the Report of the Departmental Committee of 1899, as my hon. and gallant friend said it had, I should have had nothing to say against it; but it is not drawn on that Report, and it differs in most vital particulars. That Committee realised that it was absolutely essential, if there was to be an employer's shop club, that the whole of the men should belong to it. That was laid down by the Departmental Committee, and the reason was evident. It would be impossible to give the benefits which under a property-worked shop club accrue unless all the men belong to it, and it is also evident that there are some men who do not wish to belong to the employer's shop club or any other friendly society; and if there was not an arrangement that every man should belong to them, there would not be any shop clubs at all.
It is said that it should not be legal to compel a man to leave a friendly society to which he belongs, and everybody would agree with that; and it would certainly be a mistake for an employer to impose such a condition on his employee. The report of the Departmental Committee recognised that it should be in the power of the employer to make it a condition that his men should belong to a, shop club—I use the word "condition" because there is no compulsion for a man to accept service with anybody if the terms are not agreeable to him. The word "compulsion" is absolutely absurd, The compulsion will come in this Act if this Bill is passed, because the employer will be compelled not to make what arrangements he likes with his men. The Committee provided that men should belong to shop clubs where certain conditions were carried out; that where any employer started a shop club and said his men must belong to it, it was the duty of the proprietor to see that his club was properly established on a sound financial basis, and was really beneficial to the men who joined. And I am prepared to go with the Bill in order to arrive at some understanding to that effect. I think the recommendation of the 1111 Departmental Committee was a proper one. The Departmental Committee said a shop club should be registered under the Friendly Societies Act; that it should be of a permanent character, affording benefits of a substantial kind at the cost of the employer in addition to the funds provided by the employees, and the conditions as a whole should be calculated to be beneficial to the workmen. Those were good conditions, and they ought to be embodied in an Act of Parliament, and if that was done they could not harm the employers or employed. But the provisions of this Bill are absolutely contrary to what was laid down by the Departmental Committee. The hon. and gallant Member who introduced this Bill said that these shop clubs bound the employees, but that is what we want to do when we desire to avoid these strikes, which, while they do harm to the men, do infinitely greater harm to other people. There is one other point. The Departmental Committee did not inquire into the shop clubs established by railway companies, because those clubs were carried out under statutory conditions. I am not a lawyer, but I should think this Bill, if passed, would override an Act which had been enacted previously. I hope it is not the intention of the promoters of the Bill to interfere with railway clubs, and, if it is found that this Bill does so, that they will insert provisions to prevent it.
§ (12.45.) SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
As having taken the chair at many mass meetings in support of the principles of the Bill, and as a lifelong supporter of friendly societies as among the saviours of the State, for which they effect great saving in rates and the like, and have moulded its national character, I desire to support this Bill. It is satisfactory, at any rate, that one Member of the House should have stated the objections which can be raised to this Bill, and it is still more satisfactory that those objections have reduced themselves to such very small proportions. The first objection raised by the hon. Member for Beckham was that the Bill was not practicable. My experience is that my hon. friend never admits any 1112 Bill, which means legislation, to be of a practical character, and he must excuse us if we venture to differ from his isolated view.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
Well, if there are two, we must beg leave to differ from both, and do our best to pass a Bill which we believe will be the means of remedying a serious grievance felt by the very best of the working classes connected with the great friendly societies.
My hon. friend next said that shop clubs were the means of preventing strikes. Everybody must have echoed his opinion against strikes, which are the cause of suffering, diversion of trade, and so on, and it is most desirable, if possible, to put an end to such a state of industrial war. But even that good end must be attained by proper means, and I venture to say that greater comity between employers and employed, more conciliation, arbitration, and the like, are the means which naturally suggest themselves for that purpose. But, whatever is done towards conciliation, the two parties must be in absolutely equal positions, and to handicap one by placing him in the position that he must either submit to coercion upon a point which affects the value of his own personal labour, or forfeit the accrued benefit which he himself has paid for in a shop club fund, is most unjust and unequal. My hon. friend goes further, and says it is desirable that people should be locally connected closely with their labour, but I think a better and more important principle, at this stage of our industrial life, is that there should be a perfect right of mobility of labour, having regard to migrations of trade and industry. Attachment to a particular place, guaranteed by unjust conditions, takes us back to the Middle Ages, to the times of serfdom and of villeins attached to the soil, but it is absolutely inconsistent with the freedom of labour in the twentieth century.
Then the hon. Member said that when large employers who have shop clubs made the condition that their employees 1113 should join the friendly societies, no objection was taken. I objected to that in principle, and I object now. The very principle of the friendly societies has been their absolutely voluntary character, and their growth has been identified with perfect freedom. They have emanated from the working classes themselves, who, under great difficulties, without at times being able to clearly see their way, actuarially or otherwise, have produced the most splendid voluntary result which probably marks the last century. Individual and collective freedom of action have been the pivots of this success, and I personally take exception to the principle that an employer should say "You must join a friendly society." In this country we do not like the word "must," we prefer "may"; and the great objection to the shop club system which has been in vogue has been its compulsory character. My hon. friend said that the Departmental Committee allowed that, under certain circumstances, there should be a right of compulsion to join these shop clubs. We do not object to the shop clubs so long as they are voluntary and have reasonable conditions attaching to them. But we say that some of the conditions have been most unjust and unreasonable. My hon. friend himself objects to the monstrous condition that a man, as a condition of obtaining employment, should be compelled to leave the friendly society of which he has been a member for perhaps three-fourths of his life, and to renounce all his benefits therein, to say nothing of the social breach in the links of life, his associates, and his friends. By that admission he justifies the introduction of this Bill.
§ MR. BANBURY
I was not defending the present position of affairs. I said there ought to be some alteration, but that the alteration proposed in the Bill required safeguarding.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
In saying that, my hon. friend justifies this Bill, because it is for the purpose of putting an end to that state of affairs. Then my hon. friend said there was no obligation to accept employment, and therefore it might be made conditional. 1114 In far too many instances there is the greatest obligation to accept any employment that can be obtained. To say to a man under such a temptation that he shall accept an admittedly unjust condition is duress of a serious character, and the object of the Bill is to put an end to such duress. My hon. friend also said that registration of a society would redeem its character. I will quote what the Registrar himself says about the present position of these societies.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
Very well, I am going to quote the opinion of the Registrar, who will have to consider the safeguards. As to the existing position, he says—There are, as far as he knows, scarcely any, if any, shop clubs now in existence that could have a certificate under the Act, with the safeguards suggested, without very large modifications in favour of the workmen.Therefore, the tribunal to which, by accepting registration, my hon. friend would be taken is one which, in advance, condemns the existing system as unjust to the employees.
I should like to enforce two propositions in favour of the Bill. Throughout the friendly society movement, though it has always been voluntary, the Legislature has always claimed the light to come in and regulate the interests of those concerned. The Act of 1875 and others enforce that view. But the main precedent for this Bill is, I think, the Compensation to Workmen Act. The conditions attached to shop clubs for compensation purposes under that Act are almost exactly the same as are proposed to he attached under the Bill to a benefit society in connection with a shop. In the debates on the Employers and Workmen Act, and the Compensation Act, strong objection was taken to the permanence of these shop clubs for compensation purposes, and the only condition on which they were allowed to subsist was conformity to certain conditions, and I would like to read one of those conditions, which 1115 absolutely justifies the present Bill, and affords a precedent exactly in point. Sub-section 3 of Section 3 of the Compensation to Workmen Act saysNo scheme shall be so certified"—that is, for a shop club for compensation purposes—which contains an obligation upon the workmen to join the scheme as a condition of their employment.That is practically the whole principle of this Bill. It is to be hoped that all that is good in the shop clubs will be maintained under proper and beneficial conditions, with free choice and fair benefit and good and independent administration, but that an end will be put to a state of things which has been condemned almost universally among the working classes, and unanimously by the representatives of the friendly societies, by this Act being placed on the Statute-book, so that the great voluntary principle of our friendly societies may be maintained, and that they may be protected against both injury and injustice, and that public policy which condemns restraint of trade.
§ (12.58.) SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
I hope I may be allowed to speak in order to show that this side of the House, as well as the other, supports this Bill very strongly indeed. The hon. Member for South Islington said that the hon. Member for Beckham opposed all legislation. That is not exactly the case. There is this qualification. The hon. Member opposes all legislation which is not supported by His Majesty's Government. Perhaps before the end of the debate we shall have from the Treasury Bench a speech heartily in favour of the Bill, and then no doubt the hon. Member will withdraw his opposition and cordially support the measure. The hon. Member said the Bill was not workable, but he did not say how it was not workable. The argument of the hon. Member for Peckham in regard to the East India Dock. Company showed that friendly societies recognised free competition in this matter. On the other hand, the friendly societies very rightly and properly objected to dictation in this matter, and if this particular Company were 1116 allowed to go on, other employers would be tempted to set up these close corporations. It is perfectly true that working men are not free agents in this matter, and they have to accept conditions which they would not otherwise accept simply because it is a question of getting work, or no work at all and starvation. Very often this would necessitate a man giving up work in a particular locality where he has lived all his life. There are other sentimental arguments which act very strongly in working men's lives, just as in our own. But even this Bill provides that employers may compel men to join a thrift society if they do not belong to a friendly society, under certain conditions, and provided that society is a good and sound one. But that is only carrying out a principle which has been conceded by this House in a largo number of private Bills. The Friendly Societies Clause has been introduced into Railway Bills, into the Manchester Ship Canal Bill, and other Bills The question was fought out in this House, and it was decided that Corporations and Urban District Councils, if they wished to make their men join thrift funds, should insert proper provisions preventing undue influence and containing a provision that the men should have some control over these societies. The hon. Member for Beckham said this provision might affect the railway companies. I do not know whether the hon. Member is a railway director or not, but I wish to point out to the House that railway companies, as far as we are aware, do not seem to object to this proposal, because last session the Great Eastern Railway Company took additional powers in regard to their railway men. I had some negotiations with the Company, and they accepted most willingly and approved of the principle of my Friendly Society Clause. I will read a few words which show that the Company do not object to this. A clause in this Company's Act provides that—The directors of the Company shall not exercise the powers conferred upon them by this section in respect of any society until it has been registered by the Registrar of Friendly Societies under the Friendly Societies Act.This shows that railway companies admit that provision, There is a still more 1117 important item in Sub-section D, which provides—Notwithstanding anything contained in any rules of the Company, it shall not be compulsory for any servant of the Company to become a member of this society.That is very strong evidence indeed, and it shows that the Great Eastern Railway Company is ready to admit the principle of absolute freedom for its servants, whether they join this thrift fund or not. I shall be very much surprised if any director of a railway company says that what is good enough for the Great Eastern Railway Company is not good enough for them. We should remember that, although this Bill has been opposed by the hon. Member for Beckham, he has not ventured to say that he comes here representing any large number of employers, or even thousands or hundreds of thousands of employees. We are able to say that we represent over 3,500,000 of the cream of the working men of this country, who through their friendly societies declare that this Bill is a good one, and they ask this House and hon. Members who believe in friendly societies to support this Bill unanimously and give it a Second Reading today.
(1.8.) MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
I wish to say a few words from the point of view of many of the existing thrift clubs outside the friendly societies. Thousands of thousands of working men are subscribing to societies which confer very great benefits upon them, and which they wish to continue, and which may be endangered by certain provisions under this Bill, and which, I think, may be altered with advantage in Committee. We should all agree, in the first place, that if every working man belonged to a friendly society there would be no need of outside societies, but every practical employer of labour must know that he cannot afford to employ a man who does not belong to a friendly or thrift society. With the work-people at large you will find that the thing most repugnant to them is to constantly, and without notice, have calls made upon them, as they inevitably must in many cases where there are a large body of men not belonging to any society. Very often the hat has to go round for workmen, 1118 and the great aim of these societies is to do away with the necessity of "going round with the hat." It is necessary that workmen should belong to some friendly society. I include shop clubs, because I think they have been very friendly to working men, and were in existence long before friendly societies had obtained the proportions or were managed as well as well as they are now. We are all glad to see friendly societies growing, not only in numbers but in solvency, and we must be careful that, in a moment of philanthropic enthusiasm, we do not pass a Bill for the benefit of a certain number of extreme cases which will do widespread harm to societies which are doing very good and beneficial work to the working classes of this country. That is the point which I feel is somewhat in danger in a Bill like this. If the Bill had been confined to the report of the Committee alluded to, it would have gone through after twelve o'clock at night. We should all agree that an employer has no business to stop a man joining a friendly society, and make it a condition that he should not belong to one. This Act makes it an offence if an employer shall make it a condition of employment—That any workman shall join a shop club or thrift fund if he is already a member of a registered friendly society, assuring similar benefit or benefits, which does not divide its funds.I think that requires very careful consideration. What is the danger if it is entirely optional? The danger is, that a great many societies that have been started in connection with works—I speak for one in my own constituency, which was started some forty-five years ago, when friendly societies had not got the hold they have now; and in this case the body of the workmen came to the employers and asked them to make it a condition that members joining the works permanently should be members of this society, and for forty-five years this rule has been enforced. The men themselves manage that club, and the employers have had nothing to do with it; 1119 and are we to go to these men, who have contributed to the funds for thirty or forty years, and tell them that the fund is going to be withdrawn? I say that would be a hardship upon the members of this society. This is a concrete case, which, I think, is more worth mentioning than a vague and general statement. Where these societies are managed exclusively by the workpeople, they should not be excluded under the Bill. Many of them are of a permanent nature, and others are not. The Committee calls them slate clubs, but considering the meaning which has been given to the word "slate" recently, I had better call them by some other name, for it might be misunderstood. Slate clubs, I suppose, mean that the members contribute sufficient to meet sick payments or funeral expenses. Therefore I should like in this Bill, when it comes to be considered in Committee, to see that such bonâ fide workmen's clubs, especially those which have been in existence for a number of years, should not be hastily set aside by legislation of this sort. The representative of the friendly societies stated in evidence that if he were a large employer of labour he should hesitate about employing a man who was not insured against sickness. The workmen can he, and will be, got round where the employers or managers determine to get round them. How is the works manager to know whether it is the intention of a man to join the club? If an employee does not join, some fellow workman will find it out, and I think Parliament should hesitate before passing such a drastic compulsory clause. I do not speak today as opposing this Bill in toto, by any means, but only as 1120 one who wishes to see provisions inserted for the protection of those societies which are doing good and useful work in the country.
§ (1.16.) THE UNDEE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. JESSE COLLINGS,) Birmingham, Bordesley
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House that I should say a few words now to show the attitude of the Government with regard to this Bill. There appears to be no division of opinion as to the principle of the Bill, and the Government will offer no opposition to the Second Reading, for the reason that the main provisions of the Bill are in accordance with the findings of the Departmental Committee; but it must be distinctly understood that Amendments will be necessary—Amendments which we think are for the interest not only of the workmen, but of the friendly societies themselves. I followed with interest the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I think what they had to say was very moderate. While there are some defects in the Bill, it is, on the whole, on the lines of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, and altogether the speeches have been extremely to the point. If the Bill had been like those speeches, it would have closely followed the lines of the recommendations of the Committee, but the Bill does go beyond the recommendations of the Committee. On that Committee there was Mr. Justice Cozens-Hardy, a very able man, as we all know; and they had also the advantage of the assistance of Mr. Brabrook, Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies, whose 1121 knowledge of this subject and of cognate subjects is unrivalled. It was a pleasure to hear the manner in which he could place before the Committee the pros and cons of this question. Of course the Committee did not, as I hope, indeed I am sure, the House will not enter into the claims of rival societies and parties. They will consider what is best for the working men themselves. We must remember that we are dealing with grown-up men, and that, in our anxiety to prevent abuse, a matter on which we are all agreed, we must also be careful that we do not inadvertently put a bar to their progress in the direction of thrift. The arguments in favour of the employers wishing to have as employees other than a thriftless body of men seemed to the Committee to be unanswerable. What my hon. friend said about sending round the hat is perfectly true. But it was recognised by the Committee, and I believe it is recognised by everyone who knows anything about these clubs, that the only way to secure full advantage to habits of thrift is to extend the area of contribution. If there are 600 men, it is necessary that all for each, and each for all, should participate in the advantages of the employment as a whole. My hon. friend the Member for North Worcestershire described a club which he knew very well, but his modesty did not permit him to say that it was in his own works. It is a club which would be a credit to any Member. It has enormous advantages. I know it very well, and I know that it is valued. For a few pence per week the members get enormous advantages, such as no other society could give. When a member dies, the club gives £10 to his family, and the firm supplements that by other, £10. The club has solved the 1122 question of midwives. Whenever a member's wife is ill, the club supplies not only the doctor but the attendance, and there are a lot of other advantages which the members get for the few pence they pay per week. I think that everyone in this House would wish that such liberal firms should be encouraged, and that such clubs should exist.
It is with thrift as with many other things: it is a habit, and there is evidence to show, as everybody knows, that if, in the case of a young man, it is made a condition of employment that he shall join a society, he becomes a thrifty man, and but for that process he would probably have become a thriftless man, so that it is for the benefit of friendly societies that the habit of thrift should be inculcated. I have letters from the heads of friendly societies, which I shall not trouble the House by reading, in which they state that they have no objection to its being made a condition of employment that a man should be in some club, and that there was no difficulty in the matter. As long as the Docks Committee compelled their men to join a friendly society there was never a word said about it. It was only when they formed a friendly society of their own, with superior advantages, in consequence of the liberality of the employers, beyond those which an outside society could give, that this objection to compulsion was raised. I am bound to say, in justice to the Joint Committee of the India Docks and the London Docks, in view of some of the hard things that have been said, that the evidence before the Departmental Committee was that they were a band of the most liberal employers in existence. They guaranteed 1123 four per cent. on all the friendly society's investments, and they have actually given half wages as a contribution where men were on sick leave, in addition to all the advantages they got from their friendly society. Of course, they added the unfortunate rule, which has given rise to all this difficulty, that the men should leave any other friendly societies to which they happened to belong. The object was to prevent the duplicating of relief, with respect to which members of friendly societies know there are great difficulties. Some societies actually have a rule that their members shall not belong to more than one other society. They are compelled to do that for the purpose of dealing with the question of malingering. I must say that this condition of compelling men to leave any other society did not seem to be a general one. In fact, there was no other instance brought before the Committee. That ought to be prevented, and this Bill does prevent it. But the Bill goes beyond what the friendly societies themselves want in one or two particulars, and they have sent to the Home Office the draft of a Bill, which I have here. It was accompanied by a letter stating that the Bill was agreed to at their annual conference in March, 1901. It agrees exactly with the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, with one exception—that is to say, that the people employed shall be practically unanimous in desiring the establishment of a shop club. That is the only thing that they have put in extra.
§ SIR EDWARD STRACHEY
I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to be aware that a conference has lately unanimously approved of the Bill now before the House.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I am speaking of the only communication we have had from the National Conference of Friendly Societies in 1901.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
It is the last we have. I mention this, not in any antagonistic spirit, but to show that when the Bill gets into Committee it will require certain Amendments, which will make it a good working one, on the lines of what the friendly societies want. Amendments in the direction of the Report of the Committee will be introduced. If the recommendations of the Committee are carried out, bad shop clubs will be done away with, and the others which remain will come up to a standard of efficiency. I do not know any Member of the House who wants to do away with good shop clubs. At any rate, the Departmental Committee did not. I do not go into the details of the Bill, because I think I have made it clear that there is no opposition to the Bill on the part of the Government, but that there will be Amendments proposed to effect improvements in many ways and to make it a workable measure.
Bill read a second time and committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c.
In pursuance of the Order of the House of March 25th, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Two o'clock, till Monday, April 7th.