§ Mr. WILLIAM THORNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the lead miners employed by the Leadhills Mining Company, Leadhills, Scotland, have been out on strike for the past fourteen weeks, not on account of 183 asking for higher wages, shorter hours of labour, or improved conditions, but because the company insist upon the men signing an agreement that they will leave the Gasworkers' and General Labourers' Union, and give an undertaking not to join any other union; if he is aware that thirteen men, not miners, have been engaged to take the places of the men on strike through the Labour Exchange at Glasgow, on 7th March, and are now housed in the company's engine-house; if the men were told that there was a strike on, and if he intends taking any action in the matter?
I have made careful inquiry into the facts of the case. It appears that the men in question were, in accordance with the Regulations, fully informed of the circumstances of the case, namely, that a labour dispute was alleged to be in progress, and they were also informed of the statements lodged by the local secretary of the Gas Workers Union, as well as the replies of the managers of the mines. The Regulations governing the conduct of the manager of the Labour Exchange were therefore complied with.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the man sent along to engage these men was not a representative of the firm at all, but one of the ordinary blacklegs engaged there, and that money was supplied by the firm to go and take the men out of the Labour Exchange, and whether he will insist upon employers doing their dirty work themselves?
If the hon. Member will communicate with me on the matter I will endeavour to ascertain the facts. I should certainly say, as a general proposition, that in those cases it is the employer, or a recognised representative of the employer, who should engage the men and not an outsider.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
May I ask whether it is a fact that in the case of the statement lodged by the workmen the employers are in a position to get possession of it, while the workmen are not in a position to get possession of the statement lodged by the employers?
The statement in the first case is made by the unions, and the employer when he comes to engage men is asked if he has any statement to make. The statement made by the employer is conveyed to the men before the engage- 184 ment actually takes place. The duty of the manager is to give full information to the men before they are engaged.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
If an employer sends along a statement to the effect that there is no dispute, who is to be the final arbiter whether there is a dispute or otherwise?
The manager puts the men in possession of the information before him. It is obvious that it is not possible for him to come to a final decision. The man seeking employment has to make up his own mind in regard to the matter.
§ Sir WALTER MENZIES
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be better to instruct the managers of the Labour Bureaux not to allow their exchanges to be made the medium of interference in trade disputes, as has been the case in this affair?
The intention of the Board of Trade is to take an absolutely neutral and impartial attitude, and that is what they have done in the present case. The bureau officers give to the men the information which was given to them, and after that they cannot be made responsible for the action the men themselves may have taken.