HC Deb 12 July 1905 vol 149 cc504-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir A. Adand-Hood.)

MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)

asked the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury whether, in the arrangement of public business, it was possible for him to influence the Prime Minister in the direction of pushing forward the Unemployed Bill. The representatives of organised labour had given and were prepared to give every possible assistance to secure the passage of the measure. They had not forgotten the acute suffering of last winter, and when the Government introduced their Bill they were exceedingly hopeful that it would be passed so that it might come into operation in the ensuing winter. It could not be said that Labour Members were responsible for any waste of time. The Gentlemen who obeyed the behests of the Prime Minister and the Government Whips had between them wasted more time during the present session than would have sufficed to carry this Bill through all its stages. The Bill passed its Second Reading by the largest majority any measure had secured during his three years of Parliamentary life; it was earnestly desired by the organised workers of the country; and he appealed to the Government not to allow matters to drift on to the end of the session without an effort being made to place the measure on the Statute-book.

MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)

assured the House that this was no mere idle protest; it was serious business. What was the position? The present Secretary for Ireland, impressed by his experiences of last winter, persuaded the Government to bring in a Bill. Every Labour Member supported the Bill, not because they thought it went far enough, but because at any rate it settled the principle that the nation had some responsibility towards the unemployed of the country. They were anxious that the measure should pass, but other proposals, certainly of less importance to the workmen, had been placed in front of it. The present protest was made with a deep sense of responsibility. The 12th of August was nothing to the Labour Members; they were prepared, if necessary, to sit to September 12th to carry the Bill; they feared to meet the coming winter unless some machinery were in force to deal with the suffering which would inevitably arise. Even now, in the summer-time, thousands of men, willing to work, were unable to find employment. Were the Government prepared to sit quietly down, and leave to labour leaders the responsibility of facing the situation? He wanted no riots of breaches of the peace; he would do all he could to dissuade the men from taking that course, as he had done in reference to marches to London; but he appealed to the Government not to put too much on them.

MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)

, while not endorsing all that had been said, cordially supported the main object of the appeal. Many supporters of the Government felt very strongly on the matter, and he hoped the Prime Minister would rind time, to carry the measure through.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

associated his colleagues and himself with the appeal which had been made, His object in rising was to make a practical proposal, which would not in any way hinder the programme of the Government with regard to the Redistribution proposals. The Prime Minister had announced that Friday would be given to the Scotch Education Bill. Personally, he was in favour of that measure, and would be glad to see it passed into law, but before a day was devoted to it an assurance should be given that it was intended to place it on the Statute-book, otherwise the day given would be a pure waste of time. Inasmuch as it was perfectly well known that the Government did not intend to carry that Bill, he thought that Labour Members had sound ground for complaint in the fact that there would be a day wasted which would be probably sufficient to dispose of the next stage of the Unemployed Bill. Further, if necessary, he thought the public spirit of the House should be called upon for a Saturday sitting. Personally, he was as constantly in attendance as the Chief Whip opposite himself, and his Saturdays were very precious, but he and his colleagues would gladly give up their Saturday's rest to see this Bill put through. It would be seen that these suggestions would not in any way affect the Redistribution proposals; they were made solely in the interests of the Unemployed Bill. Upon the merits of that measure he would say nothing; it seemed a very poor and inadequate attempt to deal with the question, but it was something, and in these matters he deferred to the opinion of the labour representatives. They considered the Bill of some value, and taking that view from them, he most earnestly joined in the appeal which had been made, and hoped the right hon. Gentleman would convey to the Prime Minister the suggestions he had made.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydfil)

pointed out that the only obstruction to the Bill came from half-a-dozen Members on the Government side of the House. If the Patronage Secretary would use his influence with those Gentlemen everything else would be easy, and the Bill would have a swift passage through its o various stages. He joined in the appeal, and cordially supported the suggestion of the hon. Member for Waterford.

MR. AINSW0RTH (Argyllshire)

hoped that in any re-arrangement of business the Government would bear in mind the absolute necessity of passing the Scotch Churches Bill, which was of infinitely more importance at present than the Education Bill. If necessary, he would suggest that the ecclesiastical measure should be taken on Friday.


said he could only promise to convey to the Prime Minister substance of what had been said. He was afraid that hon. Members overrated his influence with Gentlemen on his own side of the House. He much appreciated the temperate and earnest way in which hon. Members had spoken, and he would certainly acquaint the Prime Minister with what had passed, but it must be clearly understood that he could not undertake that there should be any departure from the programme of business already announced.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said the Bill was not opposed on the Opposition side of the House at all, and if the right hon. Gentleman's influence prevailed with the supporters of the Government there would be no difficulty whatever in getting the Bill through.

Adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.