§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
The Bill which is now before the House and of which I am now moving the Second Reading, is designed to meet the situation created by the judgment in the courts of law in the case known as the Osborne case, and in order that the House may fully understand the provisions of the Bill, and the various reasons which have actuated us in arriving at the present plan, it is necessary that I should for a few minutes, and only for a few minutes, recall to the minds of hon. Members what the situation was which led up to what has now become celebrated as the Osborne Judgment. The facts, so far as they are material, are really simple enough, but they do involve going back a little in order to thoroughly understand the situation. As the House well knows, trade unions in 1871 and in 1876 were recognised as lawful associations, and the statutes which were passed in those years, and which have since very often been referred to as the Charters of Incorporation of Trade Union, although I do not think the phrase is quite correct, still it is the sense in which the words have been applied, at that time in 1871 when the first Trade Union Act in question was passed, so far as I am able to gather, it was not thought that trade unions would take the active part in political life which they have certainly during the last ten or twelve years. I should like to say, further, that at that time no one contemplated that they would have thought it would be desirable that they should obtain political power or Parliamentary representation. I do not suggest that it was not thought that there should be representatives of labour in the House, but what I am speaking of is the passing of the Trade Union Act of 1871 in reference to later developments which have made the objects of trade unions to obtain Parliamentary representation and to have levies in order to pay for the maintenance for Members of Parliament. Very shortly after that, that is in 1875, un- 917 doubtedly it became apparent that trade unions were taking an active part in political life so far as they were then able, and were devoting money for the purpose of assisting and finding representatives of labour in the House of Commons. But it was not until 1902 that the party was formed which was known as the Labour party, although there had been a Labour Representation Committee before, and no doubt there had been a number of bodies, certain Socialist bodies, and also, I think, the Independent Labour party, and some of the trade unions which were affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee, certainly before 1902. In that year there was a conference at Birmingham, and the result of it was that the Labour party under that name was formed.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not want to go into details. I quite agree that there was a Labour Representation Committee in 1900, and that trade unions were affiliated, but in 1902 was held the conference at Birmingham which led to the formation of what is called, in terms, the Labour party. It is not of very great importance whether it was that year or the year before, and I have no doubt the hon. Member knows better than I do. I pass from that point, which is only important as a matter of interest, to explain the situation. It was during, at any rate, this period that the party was formed, and it was also during that time and from that time forward that certainly the Railway Society of Amalgamated Servants, one union, joined the party, and agreed further that it would find a sum, and contribute certain sums, which necessitated the passing of rules in order to carry out the objects of the union. It was those rules which were passed in 1903, and later on again in the same year or a year or two afterwards which have led to the case which was brought by Mr. Osborne against the Amalgamated Society. All that I desire to say with reference to it is this—that it was during this period that the levies were first made, certainly in this union in question, that of the railway servants, for the purpose of providing money for the maintenance of Members of Parliament, and also for providing Parliamentary representation, in order to assist, no doubt, in developing the party organisation which was then known as the Labour party, and in order that those, who by themselves would be quite unable to form a political organisation or probably to 918 stand as Members of Parliament or to take an active part in any political campaign which costs money, by combination and also by association with other bodies enable them to run what undoubtedly became and is a powerful political organisation.
The difficulty which led up to the Osborne case is this—that, as of course the House will appreciate, if a Member was returned to Parliament, and if his expenses were contributed to by various trade unions, and were supplied from the organisation of a particular party, he came into the House not as a representative of labour, but, as the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) so well said on a recent occasion, as a representative of national interests, including those of labour. He sat in this House—and voted on a number of subjects which in one sense had no more to do with labour than with any other class in the community. But nevertheless he voted as his party voted, and there were members of the trade unions who objected to finding money to contribute to the maintenance of a Member of Parliament who, on various important questions affecting national interests, held views which were quite contrary to those of a number of the members. Certainly, so far as any information that I have been able to obtain shows, they were undoubtedly in a minority in those unions. But still those members took the view, and were quite entitled to take the view, that they objected to pay to a fund which was used for the purpose of carrying out objects to which they objected. They objected to the expenses of Members being contributed to by the unions which came out of members of the unions' own funds, irrespective, of course, of the particular political party to which any member might belong. It is easy for the House to see that that led to a situation of some difficulty in the trade unions. There was a dissentient minority, and a minority which was in this position—that it was not able to withdraw from the union. I say that for this reason: A member of a trade union is not in the same position as a member of a club. If a member of a club objects to what is being done by the majority of the members he can resign and join another club, and in all probability he is none the worse off. But a member of a trade union is in a different position, especially in a trade union which has sickness and unemployed benefits, and has accumulated large funds, which 919 enable it successfully to cope with any difficulties that may arise between the employers and the employed. The consequence is that a member of a trade union has a very real interest in the funds of the union. If he withdraws he forfeits all that interest and loses the benefit of the money he has been paying in for a long time under the benefit scheme. Therefore, as the House will readily see, the member of a trade union stands in quite a different position from a member of a club.
There is one further point to be taken into account, in regard to which I am sure all members of trade unions will agree with me. When a man ceases to be a member of a trade union he loses the very valuable advantage of the protection of his union in all the various matters that may arise between members of his own union and the employers, and he is also put at a considerable disadvantage if there is a question of choosing union men or non-union men. Therefore the difficulty is one which gave rise to a certain amount of friction between the minority and the majority in the union. The result of it was that the union contended, from its point of view very naturally, that those who were members of the union must agree to submit themselves to the rule of the majority; while the minority, on the other hand, said: "When we joined the trade union it was a purely industrial organisation, but now it has become both industrial and political. We have no desire to have anything to do with the political purposes, and we object very much to the union being mixed up in politics." This, which was undoubtedly an element in the trade union situation at that moment, not only in regard to the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, but also in regard to a number of other unions, led to the action brought by Mr. Osborne, and it is that action which undoubtedly has caused the difficulty. Let me point out to the House in this connection that trade unions—and I am sure no one in the House will differ from me on this point—have been a most valuable acquisition to the country. Without trade unions much that has been done, and many of the agreements that have been made between employers and employed would never have taken place. Undoubtedly many strikes have been averted, and it may be quite legitimate to say that some strikes have been caused. While I think that is true, certainly on the whole my 920 experience of trade unions has been that they labour hard to prevent strikes. A strike does not do good to a trade union, but harm. The one desire they have is to bring about whatever advantage they can to their members—which is the reason of their existence—by peaceful means, by negotiation with the employers, and not by resorting either to strikes or to other violent measures.
In 1909, at the time the Osborne Judgment was given in the highest tribunal of the land, there were altogether some 1,153 trade unions registered at the Board of Trade, with a membership of 2,350,000. The House will therefore appreciate how trade unionism has flourished, and what its strength is at the present moment. So far as I have been able to ascertain—I do not vouch for the exact figures, as I have not the data upon which to give them accurately—the unions which had gone through the same process or through a similar process to that which the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants went through—that is, had passed rules to enable them to take part in political activities and to levy money for this purpose, had a membership of 1,500,000. I am not suggesting that all those 1,500,000 were in favour of this situation. But I am certainly justified in saying that a great majority of them were. From the figures which I have examined it is quite clear that the majority in favour of the trade union movement being extended to political activities is represented by a considerable majority in each union, although it is only fair to say that in some unions the number of members who have voted on the question has been small, compared with the total membership of the union. I will deal with that point later. I mention it now simply to show that I have not omitted to take notice of it. The Osborne Judgment is a very long judgment, and the decisions of the House of Lords were not on exactly the same points as the decisions of the Court of Appeal. I do not propose to go into those matters, because all that the House would desire to deal with at the present moment, I think, is the operative part of the judgment, that part which really is the decision of the courts, and which has led to the introduction of this Bill. What is decided there is this: It was said that a trade union had no power to collect or to administer funds for political purposes, that any rule to that effect was illegal, that it was not within the ambit of the charter, and therefore was not permissible. That, 921 in substance, was the decision of the House of Lords, following on the decision of the Court of Appeal.
I do not propose to trouble the House with any discussion upon another point that was raised in the course of the argument in the Court of Appeal, and dealt with certainly by one of their lordships in the House of Lords—that is, the exacting of the pledge. That is no doubt a very important constitutional point in the way in which it arose before the courts, but it must depend upon the ascertainment of the precise facts; and inasmuch as it has now no significance in reference to this case, or the constitution of the particular party which was then under review before the courts of law, I do not propose to say anything further in regard to it. No doubt the House will remember that during the latter part of 1910 it was stated, in the first instance, by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), that the Labour party did not wish to adhere to the particular condition which had given rise to the discussion, that condition being that a member should agree to abide by the decision of the Parliamentary party in carrying out the aims of its constitution. Those were the words which gave rise to so much discussion. It was stated during the latter part of 1910 that they would be abandoned, and in February, 1911, the pledge was definitely abandoned. It was eliminated from the rules of the party, and it no longer forms part of its constitution. When, moreover, we consider that payment of Members makes such a pledge unnecessary and, it may be, useless, I do not think we need concern ourselves very much with what has been stated as to the possibility of such a pledge being exacted again in the same form. Therefore I pass from that particular point. The House will also bear in mind that it was no part of the judgment in the Court of Appeal or in the House of Lords, certainly not in the House of Lords, where the majority of the judges deliberately refused to express, or refrained from expressing, any opinion upon that subject, as they said it was unnecessary, and they would only deal with it when it, became more material.
Let me point out to the House what the position is in consequence of the Osborne Judgment. One thing which I should have thought must have been quite clear to the House, and would probably lead to no difference of opinion, is that there is what I may call a non-debatable area of trade 922 union activity which overlaps the political domain, but which nevertheless would properly be described as industrial. Everybody will probably agree with me in that statement; but in case there is any doubt about it, let me give an instance of what I mean. Take, for example, delegates attending the Trades Congress. That is clearly for industrial purposes. The subjects discussed are undoubtedly industrial, and properly appertain to trade unions. Nevertheless, they do discuss also a number of political subjects of national importance, and in that respect a member attending the Trades Congress as a delegate of his union would he attending for the purpose of assisting by his vote in those industrial questions, but he would also obviously be in attendance when there was a discussion on political matters. I do not believe that anybody desires that any restriction should be placed upon the attendance of delegates from trade unions at such gatherings as those. I give that as an instance, because it seems to me to be one upon which there can be no difference of opinion between us on either side of the House. That is what I call the non-debatable area of trade union activities, although it is quite clear that it is not purely industrial, but is industrial as well as political. I might give a number of other instances. Take, for example, a trades council, which is an association of a number of unions who meet for purposes which may be described as local as distinguished from those dealt with by the Trades Congress. There again you get the same kind of thing in a minor degree. At a trades council the members deal with industrial questions affecting their particular locality, and also with local political questions. That is to say, they may be concerned with municipal politics, with the action of boards of guardians, or with the action of local authorities, in some way or another which entitles them, or at any rate enables them to discuss these matters and to pass resolutions. I do not believe that any one would contend that attendance at trades councils would not also come within the non-debatable area.
I will take one more instance to make my point quite clear. A trade union may be agitating, let us say, as we are dealing with railway servants, to get better protection for railway workmen, and it may be necessary to come to this House and co make representations to Members of the House of Commons, or to send deputations to Ministers. It is the practice of the 923 Trades Congress, for example, to send deputations to Ministers, irrespective of the particular party that happens to be in power. The Trades Congress would send deputations to the Government, whether it consisted of the Liberal party or of the Conservative party, to put before them the views which their members had embodied in resolutions. Just in the same way a railway workers' deputation may come to present matters to Ministers, to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, for example, in order that some redress might be obtained for the railway workers. That, again, would be a purely industrial purpose in one sense, but the moment you step outside to get industrial purposes carried out by legislation it becomes also political. I doubt very much whether there is any Member of this House who will venture to draw the line of demarkation between what is industrial and what is political. It is an extremely difficult thing to do. I have tried to do it for the purposes of this Bill, and I challenge anyone to arrive at a satisfactory answer to the question of where you should draw the line.
Almost all, I am not sure, but that perhaps all, industrial matters are in one sense political. Certainly a large number of them are. Take, for instance, the agitation for an eight hours' day. That is industrial, but, equally it is political; more especially when it is not to be carried out by agreement between employers and employed, but by means of legislation. The result of the Osborne decision is that in respect of all these various matters to which I have been referring, which are within what I may call, I think without contradiction, the non-debatable area of trade union legitimate activities, that that area is closed. If not closed to trade unions, it is, at least in such doubt that I am quite sure that no trade unionist knows whether he is not, in taking part in these matters, running the risk of an injunction being obtained against him or not. That is a state of things which I am confident the House of Commons cannot assent to. Whatever our view may be upon other aspects of this question—which I will deal with quite shortly—we must all agree that it is not right to restrict the sphere of operation of trade unions, and certainly that it cannot be right to prevent them carrying out their ordinary activities within what I have described as the non-debatable area. I hope, and 924 believe, so far as the part of the argument is concerned which I am putting forward to the House, together with my reasons that there will be really no question between us.
The effect of the judgment has been to completely paralyse trade unions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which?"] I will tell the hon. Member shortly. But the hon. and learned Gentleman will, I am quite certain, agree with me in this: that it is an extremely difficult thing to say what is and what is not covered by the Osborne Judgment. All trade unions are in doubt and difficulty. I am certain that a good many opinions have been taken by the unions from the legal experts, and I am not at all sure that the unions have got any certain guide from these gentlemen as to how far they may go, or what legitimately they may do.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
Sometimes when I listen to the hon. Baronet he almost makes me forget that he is not a member of my own profession. There is no doubt that lawyers will agree with me in this, that there is the greatest uncertainty as to what is covered by the Osborne Judgment. Trade unions are quite entitled to say that they have borne their share of litigation. It is a meritorious thing to contribute towards the incomes of the lawyers. Certainly trade unions have done their part nobly in this respect in recent years. But it is a very unsatisfactory way to spend their money; to take the money that has been paid into their funds for other purposes; and we do think that trade unionists are entitled to say, and to ask this House to say for them, that there has been enough litigation in regard to this matter, and that now we may arrive at the point at which this House will say how far trade unions may go and what will now be the legitimate sphere of their activities.
I propose now, having called attention to the position, and, I think, brought the history of the matter up to the present day—when the Osborne Judgment is still in active operation—to refer to the Bill in order to show what it is that we propose. Let me preface my observations on the Bill by saying that the object which we have had in mind throughout has been to restore the liberty to the trade unions which we 925 think the Osborne Judgment has in part taken away, whilst at the same time preserving to the individual member of the unions the liberty which he has and which he ought to have. The problem on the one hand is to give the trade unions sufficient power to carry out their legitimate objects as they were understood before the Osborne Judgment, whilst at the same time preserving to the dissentient minority the right to dissent, and to protect them in case of need from any loss in consequence of their dissent. What we think we have done by this Bill is that we have met both these points. We have given the trade unions the power which they can legitimately ask of us, and which they have asked, and we have at the same time given ample and full protection to the dissentient minority.
Let me call attention to the Bill. First of all, what should be done under the circumstances that I have explained? What is the remedy that should be proposed? On the one hand it will no doubt be open to the House to say, "We will refuse to interfere with the Osborne Judgment; we will refuse to restore to trade unions the position which they held for so long," and which very many lawyers in the country thought they were justified in taking and holding until the matter was challenged in a Court of Law. On the other hand the House may say, "What we propose to do is to reverse the decision of the Osborne case in its entirety." With regard to the first it appears to me that such action would leave the trade unions in what I conceive to be an intolerable position; that is, if we were to confine them, as the judgment confines them, merely to industrial purposes, and were not to allow them in any way to take part in anything which should be construed as a political act. It also appears to me that if the House went to the other extreme and said that they would completely reverse the Osborne Judgment that it would not be safeguarding the rights of the minority, and the minority would have just cause for complaint.
By the Bill the majority have full power to govern themselves, subject only to the protection of the minority in one direction. Before coming to the Bill let me say that if we get payment of Members that is naturally a very important remedy for some of the evils to which I have been referring. The question of the maintenance of Members, at any rate, will then no longer arise. That will be provided for by the State, and not out of the monies of the 926 trade unions. If we go so far as to have payment of official electoral expenses, that also will be a material advantage to trade unions and to labour parties in this connection, because that again will avoid for them the necessity of contributions being made by the unions for these purposes.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
Will this Bill be amended to this effect? Will the maintenance Clauses 3, Sub-section (2) paragraph (c) be deleted?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I quite see what my right lion. Friend alludes to, and I will come to it. Although I have covered the ground by referring to payment of Members and official election expenses, that does not entirely meet the difficulty, because, as is clear, there is an amount of expenditure which the trade unions and associated bodies have to make for the purpose of keeping up their political organisation. They have to collect money for this purpose, and one of their sources of revenue is their trade unions. In that respect, and also in the payment of ordinary election expenses and propaganda there is a field of expense. We have still, after allowing for the payment of Members and of official election expenses, to deal with expenditure which has to come out of the pockets of the trade unions. If the House will turn to the Bill, which I can deal quite shortly with, although it has not been introduced to the House in a formal speech, I would call the attention of the House to the particular provisions as I pass along.
The first point which arises under Clause 1 of the Bill is that we have taken care to extend the objects which unions may legitimately have to the application of their funds to such purposes as may be authorised under the rules—that is under the constitution of the union. That becomes absolutely necessary in consequence of the decision in the Osborne case. The objects are closely confined to those mentioned in Section 16 of the Act of 1876, which is the definition of trade union, so often referred to. If any union were to present itself now, since the Osborne Judgment, to the Registrar of Friendly Societies, who has to register the rules of the union, the rules with objects in them which go beyond what I may call the industrial objects which are sanctioned by the Osborne Judgment, the result would be, as I understand, that the Registrar would refuse to register the union. He 927 would take the view that a union with such objects could not be a trade union under the Act. We provide that trade unions may carry out any lawful object so long as it is authorised by its rules to do so. It becomes necessary to say what is a trade union. It also becomes necessary to say what are the statutory objects of a trade union. The statutory objects of a trade union are defined in this Bill as dealing with the relations between workmen and workmen, between workmen and masters, or between masters and masters; or the imposing of restriction conditions on any trade. We have in this Bill also added in order that there may be no question raised in the future a provision for benefits to members. The statutory objects we deal with in Clause 2. and the trade union definition is simply a combination for particular objects, and it is constitutionally what I may call industrial objects. I am using different words from the Bill, which refers to statutory objects, but that is the substance of them. In order to become a trade union it is not necessary under the Bill that all its objects should be industrial, but it is necessary that the main object of the society should be industrial; but it may also have political objects under the Clause to which I am now referring. Then naturally arises the question who is to decide what are the main objects and the principal objects of the trade union. That is dealt with under a Clause of the Bill by saying that the Registrar of Friendly Societies, who is a person of all others familiar with the rules of trade unions, who is every day dealing with the rules of trade unions and registering them, shall be the person who shall judge. I do not suppose a better person could be suggested than he. There has grown up a practice in the office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies of keeping a book which contains a number of rules of considerable magnitude, which are the result of what has been the practice pursued I do not know any book which is consulted either by members of the friendly societies or the trade unions for the purpose of enabling them to know what it is t hat they can do and what it is they cannot do, than this book. These rules have not the force of a statute, but, nevertheless, I cannot help thinking they have the advantage over a statute that they never come up for discussion; they seem to be accepted, and no question has arisen with regard to their interpretation.
928 Further, we want to prevent any litigation between trade unions and their members or any other persons as to what is a trade union, and therefore we propose that when the Registrar of Friendly Societies has registered the rules and done what would amount to certifying the rules that that certificate is to be final and conclusive for all purposes—that it is a trade union so long as the certificate is in force. In that way we obviate all questions of litigation under this part of the procedure of the Bill. We extend also the power of the Registrar to unregister a society, with the object of enabling it to become a trade union. If we did not do that the result would be that an unregistered society could not have the advantage of going to the Registrar and asking for a certificate so as to become a trade union within the meaning of the Bill. They could not become a trade union unless we made this provision, because an unregistered society could not go to the Registrar except with this provision. Once the Registrar has done that the unregistered society has the advantage of a certificate which is final and conclusive without being in any other way affected.
Power is given to the Registrar to withdraw or of course to refuse a certificate in reference to these trade unions, and in that respect, as that may be a very serious matter—there is nothing very serious in certifying a combination as a trade union, but in the refusal of a certificate might be very important—we have given the right of appeal to the High Court. So that any one aggrieved by the refusal or withdrawal of a certificate can go to the High Court and have the matter discussed. That is an advantage to the trade unions, because the certificate will be the only document that will have to be shown, and will show quite clearly that the combination in question is a trade union. I pass now to another Clause which brings me into a more debatable area, and that is the one which provides for the restriction of the application of funds to certain purposes. I will make that plain to the House. In respect of its partly industrial and partly political purposes, to which referred, and which I said come within the non-debatable area, it is not necessary for a trade union to have recourse to the ballot or to have recourse to any special machinery in order to pass a rule that it shall have as one of its objects the doing of any of these things, for the reason we 929 look upon this as a matter which properly comes within the sphere of trade union activity, as we think by common consent. But when you come to other political purposes, of course it is a different matter. For instance, when you are dealing with the payment of expenses by a candidate or a prospective candidate, either for election to Parliament or any other public office, or when you come to the question of holding political meetings and the distribution of political literature for what I may call party political purposes, and to a propaganda of that kind then we provide that there must be special provision applied in order to enable the trade unions to apply their funds for these purposes.
These provisions are quite simple; there must be a ballot, which we, provide for, and, of course, members of the trade unions must be free to vote by ballot, and then, if there is a majority in favour of the extension of the objects of the trade unions to what I may call for convenience party political purposes, then the trade unions can do so without anything further. It may then, as one of its objects, engage in these political activities, and it can provide funds for election expenses of candidates or for their maintenance, which is the point I think that was referred to just now by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whether as a Member of Parliament or any person holding public office. It may be necessary to have some special provision for maintenance, either for a Member of Parliament or some person holding political office, because this provision applies, not only to Members of Parliament, but also to representatives of municipalities or other local authority. As the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) pointed out what happens, there is that there is a payment for loss of time, and the only object of putting all these together under a special Clause is that we may have stated there what is meant to be covered by these political objects. The difficulty of definition will be apparent to all those who have to do with the framing or drafting of the Bill. You cannot define a thing perhaps, but you can state what is intended to be covered, and that is what we do under this Clause; and, therefore, in respect to what I may call party political objects you have to have recourse to these special proceedings.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Is public office intended to include the holding of a salaried office as a civil servant or as the servant of a public authority?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not think so. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at line 10, page 4, he will find it defined there. It is the office as a member of any council or public body to which I was referring which has power to raise public money directly or indirectly. Then, further, we provide how the fund shall be dealt with. Once the trade unions have got a majority which I believe the trade unions think they rightly have, they are quite free to carry out these objects without let or hindrance. They may devote their funds, which are collected for this purpose, to those political purposes, and the only fetter upon their power to collect is that we say if there is any member of the trade union who objects to pay for political purposes he is to be exempt. He gives a notification that he desires to be exempt and that he objects to pay to the fund. That is provided for in the Bill, and, moreover, we have taken care also under Clause 3, Subsection 1 (c) to protect the minority who objects to pay so that they may not be subjected to disadvantage or loss of benefit or otherwise.
We have safeguarded the man who objects to paying by inserting a Clause which would give him a right as against the trade union in case any such action was taken. That really is all that is material with reference to the Bill. We have taken a course, as it appears to me, which is the right one under these circumstances by this procedure, and what we have done is we have said to the trade unions: "You can go on doing what you have been doing for a great many years without let or hindrance notwithstanding the Osborne Judgment, but you may only do that which it is the desire of the majority of your members you should do, but that desire must be made manifest by means of a secret ballot with every opportunity for members to vote. If you get a majority you are entitled to apply the funds which you collect to these special political purposes." And let the House observe that the trade unions would not be dealing with funds collected from those in opposition to the political objects promoted. I conceive what is likely to happen is this. There are a number of members of trade unions whose political views are not so strong as to prevent them contributing to the political fund of the union in the belief that it will strengthen their union and enable them to get further advantages for themselves. They will take that view notwithstanding that on many political questions it may be 931 that they hold diametrically different views to those in the majority.
On the other hand, there may be a number of members who have very strong political opinions and who are entitled to say that they should not be bound to make these contributions for the purpose of being used against the party of which they may be sympathetic and even active members, and therefore we say no contribution can be exacted from these persons. That, we think, meets the situation that has arisen. It takes care to exempt every member of the trade union who desires to claim exemption while at the same time it gives to the trade unions the extension of the object which, in the view of the Government, trade unions are entitled to ask. That is really all I think it is necessary for me to say to the House in regard to this Bill. There is no difficulty in following it, and I cannot help thinking that on the Opposition side of the House there will be a desire on the part of hon. Members to co-operate with us, at any rate, to extend the sphere of operation of a trade union in this respect. We hope the result of the various proposals we have made, and the conclusions to which we have come, will prove that we have taken the right course, and by this Bill we provide a fair settlement. It is our view that in framing this measure we have acted consistently and in acordance with the traditions of this House, and, whilst giving full liberty to trade unions, nevertheless we have observed the full liberty of the individual who may object to this particular object of the unions.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The Attorney-General has laid the House under a distinct obligation by the extremely clear and lucid manner in which he has explained the objects of this Bill. It is not a very convenient course that a Bill so complex as this should, on the First Reading, be presented to the House without a word of explanation from the Minister in charge of it. The speech which the Attorney-General has just delivered is sufficient to make it clear that he is introducing an extremely controversial measure, and, judging from the reception which it has met with I predict that it is a Bill which will not give satisfaction to any section of this House—to the Liberal party, the Government, or to hon. Members of the Labour party who sit below the Gangway. The Attorney-General said in the course of his speech 932 that it was imposible for any lawyers or laymen to distinguish between industrial and political objects as far as trade unions are concerned. I remember someone once said it was impossible to tell precisely at what moment daylight ended and night began, but at the same time no one is in doubt as to whether it is day or night. I may point out that the Government have themselves admitted that they can distinguish for all practical purposes between industrial and political objects, inasmuch as they have established a political fund. I want to make it clear at the outset that as far as the contention put forward by the Attorney-General goes that the Osborne Judgment went rather too far in its limitation of the activity of trade unions, at any rate in the opinion of some of the judges, it restricted their activity more largely than probably any section of the House would desire. I do not dissent from that statement. The Attorney-General has in particular instanced the statutory objects which were defined in the old Trade Union Acts which he has repeated in the present Bill, and he says, as far as those objects are concerned, there is probably no section will quarrel with the view that some of them should be open to trade unions in the future, although it is open to doubt whether the Osborne Judgment has made it impossible for those statutory objects to be carried out. I do not think there will be any strong antagonism to that in any part of the House.
The real importance of this Bill does not lie in the least in those provisions which could have been embodied in a non-controversial Bill. The important parts of this Bill come under two heads. First of all, there is the enabling of trade unions by ballot to decide to make contributions towards political objects. In the second place there is the provision which, to my mind, is wholly illusory, for giving protection to minorities where such a ballot has been decided upon. Let me in the first place state the objections which I entertained to the supposed safeguards in this provision as far as the ballot is concerned. The Act allows a trade union to devote itself to political objects and to collect a political fund, provided that a resolution is passed recommending this course by a majority of the members voting. The Attorney-General, in the early part of his speech, made some observations upon the singular lack of correspondence between the total membership of a trade union and the number of members who take part in a ballot. If this provision is maintained 933 in its present form, what does it mean? It means that an extraordinary small minority of the total members of a union may legalise the practice of exacting political contributions from all the members.
I can give an illustration of that. Take the case in which the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, with a total membership of 107,000, voted on the question of a 1s. levy to replenish the Parliamentary fund. On that occasion there voted in favour 5,110 members, and against it 2,056, out of a total membership of 107,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "When was that?"] I think it was the year before last, but, at any rate, it was quite recently, and only 7,166 members voted. It is perfectly ludicrous to contend that in a vote so taken there is the slightest guarantee that such a vote will have any correspondence with the actual views of the members of the union as a whole upon such a question. I would point out, as showing how utterly inadmissible any such method is, that last year, in the industrial dispute in the Tonypandy district, even when votes were taken by ballot upon points which one would have imagined would have demanded the constant attention of the workmen in that area, even then the proportion of members voting compared with the total memberships was amazingly small. Take the Shipwrights Society as another illustration. The total number of members in this case was 21,805, and there voted in favour of the levy 3,133, and 1,000 against it. In other words, only 4,000 members voted out of a total membership of 21,000.
Then there is the Boilermakers Society, with a total membership of 50,000. In this case there voted in favour of the levy 3,371, and 1,000 or 2,000 against it. Out of a membership of 50,000 only about 4,000 voted, and yet under this Bill it would be possible for those 4,000 to decide that a fund should be collected for political purposes. In the year 1905 a vote was taken in connection with the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, which has a membership of 54,000. In this case the number favourable to supporting Parliamentary representation was 21,000. I admit that this is a figure which bears much more relation to the actual number of the members of the society than the other cases I have quoted. When Mr. Osborne lost his case against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in the Chancery Court, I want the House to consider what happened to this membership of 54,000. Remember that no less 934 than 21,000 of them had voted in favour of supporting Parliamentary representation. After the Osborne Judgment 30,000 members left the society, and this fact was stated by Mr. Osborne himself. [HON. MEMBERS "Speak up."] When Mr. Osborne brought his case against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants he stated that 30,009 members left the society. When the result was made known and when it, was shown that there was no power to compel members to contribute for political objects. If these figures are accurate they supply a most powerful argument in favour of the view that the only reason why these members have in the past supported a contribution for political objects is that they had no choice in the matter, and the moment it was shown that the Law Courts did not take the view that they were compelled to subscribe to such objects there was an immediate defection of more than 50 per cent. in the membership.
The Weavers' Protection Society took a vote in 1910, and they were asked, "Are you in favour of the law being so altered as to make it compulsory for every trade unionist to pay levies for political purposes?" In this case there voted for the reversal of the judgment 466 and against it 2,009, 13 being neutral. In this case the ballot papers were presented, delivered, and collected from the Members, which makes an enormous difference in regard to the proportion likely to vote. I pass from that with the observation that those inquiries and results show conclusively that you may have a ballot the result of which does not supply the slightest guidance as to the number of Members who desire that their funds should be used for political purposes. With regard to the second part providing for this alleged protection of minorities, I will state my objection as inoffensively as I can to hon. Members below the Gangway. The objection I have to this provision is that after considering all the evidence which is accessible to me, I am convinced that intimidation is simply rampant in trade unions in these matters. It is a farce to talk about dissentient members being able to carry out their individual wishes and take advantage of the so-called protection which is contained in this Bill. What is the alleged protection contained in paragraph (c) of Clause 3. It is as follows:—
"That a Member who is exempt from the obligation to contribute to the political fund of the union shall not be 935 excluded from any benefits of the union, or placed in any respect either directly or indirectly under any disability or at any disadvantage as compared with other members of the union (except in relation to the control or management of the political fund) by reason of his being so exempt."
Those are the terms of the Clause, and, as far as they go, they are reasonably wide, They only give protection to this extent, that no officer of the union, as far as the law courts can prevent them, shall be able to exclude a member from the benefits of the union or place him under any disability or at any disadvantage in comparison with the other members. It does not however, give the slightest protection, for the simple reason that the circumstances do not admit of the slightest protection being given to individual members of the union. There is not the least protection given. Let me just take a few important cases, which will show what is the real nature of the protection which must be given if this Clause is put into operation. I gave an illustration to the Attorney-General in Debate three weeks ago. I remember he said it disclosed a most lamentable state of things. I can only say those particulars were widely published, and I have received no contradiction of the facts as stated the other night. Let me very shortly summarise those facts. There was formed in Lancashire a Conservative trade union. Hon. Members below the Gangway may disagree as much as they like with the political view of the members of that union, but no one has dared to say they did not conform to every condition of wages and labour insisted on by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in their trade unions. They were working at a mine in Lancashire, and it so happened it was a mine which could not be closed even for a short time without disaster. The trade unionists who were working in that mine went to the manager and said: "We will not work side by side with the members of the Conservative trade union, and if you do not turn them out and deprive them of their livelihood we will leave your mine, and you will be ruined." This pressure was resisted for some days, I think for about a fortnight or three weeks, but ultimately the manager was most reluctantly compelled to give way in order to save his mine, and the result was these Conservative trade unionists lost their employment, not because they were not adhering to 936 trade union conditions, but for the one and only reason that they were Conservative in their political views. These facts were stated in Debate, and they have never been contradicted in the Press or by anyone else, and not one single member of the Labour party has expressed the slightest disapproval of the tyranny exercised.
What is the use of pointing to a Clause like this, and saying it gives the slightest protection to any member of a trade union who wishes to exercise his right not to subscribe to the political levy? What is the kind of thing that would happen? Members of trade unions working side by side with men who would not contribute would make their life in that trade union impossible. An hon. Gentleman says that would not happen. He cannot have paid great attention to what has happened quite recently in trade unions. Take a case reported in "The Times" 2nd September. It was never contradicted by any representative of the Labour party. It is stated in a report sent by "The Times" representative that at Abertysswg on 2nd September, in connection with the Tonypandy disturbances a non-unionist was surrounded by many thousands of people. He was wheeled down the street in a wheelbarrow, and, as he adhered to his refusal to join the federation, he was drenched with water, and then; such is the persuasiveness of such methods, he acknowledged himself a convert and expressed his readiness to join the federation. Will anyone suppose, if this was done in the case of a non-unionist, it would not be claimed by hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway that it was at least a piece of treachery on the part of a man who was a member of a trade union to refuse to contribute to maintaining their continued presence in the House of Commons. Of course they would, and, if there was any disturbance, members who refused to contribute would be treated precisely as non-trade unionists. I take another case. There was a strike in the Rhymney Valley in consequence of the dispute as to the employment of non-union men. There was violence, and the details were reported fully in the Press. I may perhaps just give an illustration of the arguments used—it will undoubtedly be used if this Bill becomes law—as some useful guidance in judging the value of this Clause.
At Gilfach two alleged defaulters were captured. They were called defaulters because they were men who had belonged to the trade union and who did not wish to 937 continue their membership. They were recognised in the street, dressed up in women's clothes, brought back to the meeting, and compelled to abandon their default and pay up. Surely no one will be under the slightest misapprehension. The only reason this violence was used— no one will defend it—was simply because the trade unionists resented, and were prepared to resent by violence, if necessary, the fact that other men working side by side with them would not accept the view of those who used the violence. Does anyone suppose, if others said, "We claim, while belonging to the union, to stand apart from your political representation and fund," the grievance would not be tenfold worse than in a case of that kind. At Abertysswg, on 2nd September, a non-unionist was surrounded by a large crowd. He refused to join the federation. He likewise was wheeled down the street in a wheelbarrow, and was thrown into water up to his neck, the weather being extremely cold, and he in the same way acknowledged himself to be a convert. I think the Home Secretary is making similar converts to his Coal Mines Regulation Bill by the provisions as to baths. On Friday, 11th November, at Tonypandy, a resolution was passed by the Strike Committee and sent to the Home Secretary protesting against the introduction of blackleg labour, and stating that unless it was withdrawn there would undoubtedly be bloodshed. I am not here arguing the case of blackleg labour, but, having regard to the scenes of violence which took place in that particular strike, having regard to the warning given by the Strike Committee to the Home Secretary that, if men went down to work who were not trade unionists there would be bloodshed, having regard to the fact that it is perfectly well known the kind of weapons that are open to trade unionists if they desire to make things uncomfortable for men who will not do what they want them to do, and having regard to the fact that scenes of violence do take place, it is perfectly futile to point to a Clause and say you have given any protection. What is the use of saying to a man in an Act of Parliament, "you need not be apprehensive, you shall not be excluded from the benefits of the union, and you shall not be placed directly or indirectly under any disadvantage compared with other members"? Every man, woman, and child is the area of dispute knows that members will not be put in wheelbarrows and ducked in water and that non-members will be.
938 There are all kinds of other forms of pressure which have been used in the past without actual violence. In the case of the Dockers Union, nearly all the officials of the union share the political view of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and many of them, I am informed, are permanently in charge of gangs. It is common knowledge, I believe, among those familiar with the Dockers Union that all kinds of pressure, short of actual violence—and pressure which is not guarded against by this Clause—is used by the head of the gang, both as far as the turning a man out of his gang and the withholding or giving of preference tickets. When one is asked to judge of the tolerance shown by officials of trade unions, one can only point to a well-known instance of the tolerance shown by the Labour party in Northumberland and Durham to very respected Members of this House, and to the hon. Member for Derby, one of the most respected Members of the House, who was subjected to a constant pressure which is well within the recollection of all those who sat in the House at the time. [An Hon. MEMBER: "What about Lord Hugh Cecil?"] My Noble Friend is well able to take care of himself in this House or anywhere else, and I certainly am not going to embarrass my argument by irrelevant considerations. If it be true, as I contend it is true, that no real protection at all is given to dissentient trade unionists under this Bill, how does the matter stand? It has been very simply explained by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) at Swansea quite recently. He said:—Labour representation means more than sending a Member to the House of Commons. It is a means to an end, and that end 13 not "Prides Unionism, but Socialism.That is the object. It is more than keeping hon. Gentlemen in the House of Commons; it is socialism. That is the avowed object. If I am right that the safeguards in this Bill are wholly illusory, what follows? You are going to compel Liberals and Conservatives to contribute to the political support of men whose one idea is to extend the doctrines of socialism. This argument is by no means confined to Conservative working men, though that matter is very much before our eyes in Lancashire and in the North of England. If the Government consider the views of the Liberal party in Scotland and in Wales, they will find there are many who will endorse the views I am pressing on the Government. A discussion took place 939 at the Liberal Federation meeting at Edinburgh last autumn, and the speeches of two Liberal miners, describing the tyranny to which they and their colleagues had been subjected, and the gross unfairness of their being obliged to contribute to the propagation of political views with which they did not agree were listened to with the deepest attention. If you take the case of Wares, it is equally strong. There is in the recollection of everyone a striking illustration in the case of the Mid-Glamorgan election. There was a Labour candidate. The Government did not put forward any official Liberal candidate, but, although it was damped down in every possible way by the Front Bench and in the Whip's office, the feeling in the constituency was so strong against being represented by a Socialist or a Labour Member that an unofficial Liberal was run, and he defeated by a considerable majority the Labour candidate. What would have happened in that case supposing the Osborne Judgment had been reversed or whittled down so that the pre - Osborne law had been re-established? These very Liberal constituents who voted for the Liberal candidate and who, against their own Leaders in this House, defeated the Labour candidate, would have been made against their wishes to pay towards the election expenses of the man whom they defeated. The thing is wholly intolerable. I remember one constituency in England at the last election—it was a constituency in which a Labour candidate and a Liberal candidate were run—being told by a man who took the chair at one of the Liberal meetings that he had been compelled to subscribe towards the election expenses of the Labour candidate against whom the Liberal candidate was running. This is absolutely intolerable. There is no party in the country who has ever dared to put forward such a contention. If such a contention were put forward either on behalf of the Liberal or the Conservative party, it would be received with universal derision.
I will take one other illustration, and that is the case of religious education, a question in which the deepest interest is taken in Lancashire. Even members of trade unions, who on other matters very commonly support hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, are in overwhelming numbers in favour of religious or denominational education being given in the schools of Lancashire. At the annual Congress of 940 Trade Unions a resolution was passed in favour of secular education, and the proposal that the members of the trade unions in Lancashire are to be compelled to pay towards the return of Members of Parliament who, when they get to Parliament, are going to vote against the maintenance of that religious education which is demanded by the overwhelming number of them. Whatever views Labour representatives may express in the House of Commons, and whatever votes they may give, when they come to Lancashire, we teach them in a week the real situation. I remember one Labour candidate, when he reached the constituency, was in favour of secular education in the schools on the most approved academic Socialistic lines, but after he had been there a week or two he was in favour of Cowper-Temple teaching. That was the case undoubtedly in several divisions. I made it my business to observe the position taken up by the Labour candidates in that district, and there was not one of them who did not undertake at the last election to give votes in this House wholly alien to their pledges as a party. It is not inconsistent with my argument to suppose that they should have been compelled to give these pledges in one particular part of the country. It rather supports and reinforces my general argument that if you take the country as a whole you will find trade unionists hold very strong views touching denominational teaching in the schools, and they are now compelled to vote against those views.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I think if the hon. Gentleman had followed the development of Manchester politics as closely as I and my friends have in the last five years lie would not have made that statement. I may tell him two things. In the first place, at the 1906 election, it was not the general practice on the part of Labour candidates to indicate the slightest sympathy with denominational teaching, nor am I aware of one Labour candidate at that General Election who gave a single pledge in favour of such teaching. In the January election the number giving such pledges was far smaller than at the last election at which public feeling declared itself so decidedly in favour of such teaching. At the last election in the Liverpool area I do not know of one Labour candidate who did not give a pledge to support denominational teaching in the schools. I 941 do not happen to recall the views of the hon. Member for the Ince Division, but I have a strong impression he gave such a pledge.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
Before 1906 I never spoke a word in favour of secular education, and I never gave a vote in its favour. I have always been in favour of denominational teaching in our schools.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman has made, as he always does, a very frank and clear statement of his views, and, as far as he is concerned, I completely withdraw any statement as to his attitude. But surely the House will observe how inconsistent is the position which the hon. Gentleman occupies in view of those votes which are given year by year at the Trades Union Congress, and are carried by a great majority. Does not the hon. Gentleman see that he is entirely out of sympathy with the majority of those sitting around him? The proposal is that working-men members of these trade unions shall be compelled to support the maintenance of Members in the House of Commons who support denominational teaching. On this ground I maintain that if this Bill becomes law it will really effect a reversal of the Osborne Judgment, and it will produce a state of things under which it will be impossible for Members of this House to preserve an independent judgment.
I am, as is well known, in favour of the direct representation of labour in this House, and greatly as I dislike the idea of the payment of Members—and I have constantly made it clear, both in letters and in speeches, that I do dislike it—I was prepared to support it in the interests of direct labour representation. No misunderstanding more painful in politics could have been incurred by anyone such as has been incurred by myself among those with whom I act, both in the country and in the House, in connection with this subject. I was convinced it would be disastrous for the country if there were no direct labour representation in this House, and I believed it would be disastrous to the party with which I act if it committed itself to any policy which might make it impossible for such representation to exist. But the consideration for the help I was willing to give in the way of supporting the payment of Members was the maintenance of the Osborne Judgment. My object was to secure that working men might sit in this House with adequate means of support. I never said a 942 word at the last election, greatly tempted as I was, to make the slightest capital out of that, but I must say that if this Bill goes through the consideration on which I relied will prove wholly illusory. It practically disappears, and, under those circumstances, I and those who act with me feel quite justified in voting against the Bill.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I am sure that those who have been concerned in the Osborne Judgment are very much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for his speech. It embodied two separate considerations. The first was that in times of trade disputes things are done on both sides that are very regrettable and often most reprehensible. Men, for instance, have been placed in a wheelbarrow, run down the street, and thrown in a pond, and as a result, we are told have changed their views and have joined the trade union. But that, I submit, has nothing whatever to do with this Bill. When the hon. and learned Member, in the Parliament of 1906 had to consider the Trades Disputes Bill such considerations might have been relevant. I am bound to confess that they weighed a good deal with us. But the hon. and learned Gentleman accepted that Bill, and it is too late for him to tell us that trade unionists occasionally in moments of hot blood, and under very exceptional circumstances, do these things, and, in consequence, to cast some reflection on a Bill which deals with a totally different form of trade unionism.
The second consideration which has been brought before the House was that the party of which I am chairman has committed itself as a party to certain things, and particularly to secular education. The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to show that a large number of members of trade unions were opposed to these things. The Lancashire Conservative working man, or, rather, the working man who used to be a Conservative, is being angled for by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who want to get him back to their own fold. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that because we are committed to secular education it would be a great injustice to members of trade unions, who are not committed to that solution of the educational difficulty, that they should be asked to subscribe to our political fund. If the hon. and learned Member had stopped at that argument we would have admitted that it was a fair argument. Still it was one to which we had a reply. But he called the attention of 943 the House to the case of my hon. Friend the Member for the Ince Division, and lie referred to him alone. As a matter of fact this party has never made secular education a party question at all, and several of my hon. Friends never have voted for secular education, and never have promised to vote for it. They have to appear before a tribunal much stronger than the House of Commons, but I think they would admit that the party has never brought the least coercion or the least pressure on a man to vote in favour of secular education against his conscience. As a matter of fact, the Labour party is the loosest party in this House—[a laugh]—in its organisation. I must be very careful lest I find my words blazoned forth in the leaflets of the Anti-Socialist League. I mean it has been loose in its coercion.
One of my hon. Friends interjected a reference to the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, and the hon. and learned Gentleman was so upset by the interruption, although it was exceedingly relevant, that the only retort he could make regarding it was that it was irrelevant. What are the facts? The Noble Lord took a certain view on the Fiscal question. There was a very small organisation inside the party that had made up its mind that no Conservative candidate should have a chance of being elected by any Constituency unless he supported their views upon Tariff Reform. The result was that the Noble Lord found himself without a seat, and to this day he would have been without a seat unless the Oxford University had offered him its well-known hospitality. What does that mean? If the Noble Lord had been a Member of the Labour party and had disagreed with their particular scheme for solving this or any other problem that was definitely germane to industrial politics, not only would he have had, no pressure brought to bear on him to change his opinion and to give his vote in a particular way, but he would never have been interfered with in any seat he happened to hold under our auspices. I need not, after that, refer to anything more that the hon. and learned Member said. It is perfectly easy for any Members of this House to bring forward instances of this nature. I have heard of certain forms of coercion of a political character being exercised by the party opposite. I have heard of Liberal employers of labour discharging their men because they are known to be leading 944 members of local branches of the Independent Labour Party. I have known members of my own organisation feeling so strongly upon certain matters that they have forgotten the efficacy of calm reasoning, and attempted things which in the quiet of the fireside one would deprecate.
But what is the use of bringing up these individual cases? In so far as they are breaches of the law I can assure the whole House it will never find the Labour party condoning them. They may ask for facts. They may be careful not to condemn on ex-partc statements either in this House or in the Press. But so far as they are breaches of the law the Labour party has quite as clear a record as any other party in this House. As regards the Bill itself, perhaps it might be convenient if I gave the House something of the history of the Osborne Judgment and its sequel. There is an assumption abroad that when we started this party we did so in a harum-scarum, irresponsible and illogical way—that we sat down and decided that certain things should be done irrespective of all consequences. That is not the case. I come now to speak upon a point with special authority, because since the beginning of the party I have been the secretary. What is the first thing we did? We made up our minds that some such organisation as this had to be created. We saw the two sides battling together and we were not satisfied, and in order to carry out the programmes that we thought were right to be carried out we thought that some new force ought to be brought into existence to bear upon them. What did we do? We went to two of the most eminent lawyers in the country and asked their opinion. The eminent lawyers were not drawn from this side of the House or from the other side, but we took one from this side and one from the other side. They were Sir Edward Clarke and the present Lord Chancellor, and we put certain questions to them before we laid a single stone of this fabric.
We said we proposed to do certain things and we detailed them, and at the end we said, "Will you be good enough to give us your considered opinion as to whether these things are legitimate to a trade union." My hon. Friend, the Member for Stockport, has got the actual document sent by us signed by Sir Edward Clarke and Sir Robert Reid, saying that everything that we have done since was perfectly legal and well within the scope of the Act. All I say is in conclusion upon that, and I believe every Member of the 945 House will follow me and assent to my conclusion—all I say is this, that if there has been any breach of the law, if there has been any irregularity, in the use of trade union funds, we are not responsible for it. We did not go to second-class men, we did the very best thing we could to put ourselves right, and having got the opinion of those eminent lawyers, nobody can blame us for going on as we did. May I say, parenthetically, that we were also fortified by something else. The South Wales miners at the time were contributing their union funds to the Liberal Associations and that is not denied. There were certain Members of this House sent to this House and kept in this House by trade union funds, and these trade union funds or part of them were being transferred from the unions to the organisations in the constituency for the purpose of maintaining Liberal Members. The Conservative miners who were members of the South Wales Miners Federation took action in a court and they were beaten. The matter was carried to the Court of Appeal, and the decision of that court was in favour of the payment. We assumed that that was also a settled matter, and there were various other things which pointed in the same direction. I wish the House to keep its mind open to that accumulation of evidence that everything was done that could be done. It was clone in the best way and after consultation with the best kind of opinion that we could command. The Osborne Judgment followed, and this Bill is the result of it, and I ant not going to follow up all the details. This Bill can proceed upon one of two lines of policy dictated by one or two points of consideration. It can either say what practically the courts have now said that political action is not within the sphere of trade unions, or it can say that political action is within the sphere of trade unions. If it says political action is within the sphere of trade unions well and good. If it says that political action is impossible by the trade unions, then in view of the interference of the State with industrial matters—take for instance the Bill the Second Reading of which we discussed yesterday—then I hold that that means that the organisation of a trade union is of such a nature that minority rights, such as are given in this Bill, ought not to exist at all.
Let me state the case by an illustration in regard to an army. From the mere nature of its organisation the rights of individuals in that army must be limited. 946 The amount of freedom of action must be determined by the nature of the organisations which men join, and you cannot go and talk a lot of humanitarian balderdash about the rights of individuals within such an organisation. Before you can make up your mind what is and what is not the right of an individual with an organisation you have got to have the very clearest conception in your own mind of what the nature, the character, the purpose, the life, and the essential activity of that organisation must be. This Bill does neither the one thing nor the other. It declares that the unions may engage in political action, and then immediately says the members of unions may not do so if they do not want to do so. You might as well say a member of an army must be subject to a court-martial unless he has got conscientious objections, and then he has got to be tried by some other method. The position is not on all fours, I admit; but I do not want to quibble about details; but the point of what I have said is that the nature of the organisation must be taken into account and not the scope and quality of the individual right of the member of the organisation. We have asked for a complete reversal of the Osborne Judgment, and we have asked for it on the ground that it is absolutely impossible for a trade union to carry on its work now unless it engages in political action. Take our own experience. I have had to sit first on those Benches opposite, and then here, and I have had to listen to hon. Members opposite, who have had their say as landlords whenever we were discussing the question of rating or of taxation of unearned increment. They did not talk as Members of a constituency, and if any hon. Member will take the OFFICIAL REPORT, and read the debates that took place upon the great Budget of 1909, they will find that landlord after landlord got up in this House and talked about "We" and "my" when he referred to the landlord interests as they were attacking the proposals of that Bill. I have heard railway directors in this House time and time again, not refer to themselves in the course of a Debate as a Member speaking for our national interests and representing a particular constituency, but referring to themselves as a representative of directors standing for a railway interest in this House, and in a position to negotiate as such. I am not complaining—
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Yes, private views. Will the hon. Baronet meet us so far as to declare that there is no minority right such as is presented in this Bill in respect of legislation affecting trade unions and in respect of legislation affecting the working classes. If he does that I think he will help us very substantially in travelling along our road. I am not saying it is wrong. I regret it should be so. The circumstances of life have to be bowed to and have to be accepted by the most highly principled of men. All I ask is that what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
Our case is that owing to the concentration of capital and the use which capital is making of political power, and owing to the encroachment of the State into industrial affairs, it is folly and the act of enemies of trade unionism to say that a trade union may send its deputation to the outer Lobby and send in a green card into this House to see a Member, but shall not have the right to send a member of the Labour organisation here to sit in this House and represent it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Other people's money."] It must be other people's money that sends railway directors here. If that was offensive, I did not mean it offensively, but what I did mean to say is that it does not affect the argument at all. It is other people's money who have joined a trade union to advance the interests of trade unionism and to accept full responsibility for what is done and which, so long as it is done as it has been done, is perfectly justified. It is not other people's money at all, but corporate funds created for a specific purpose. The Bill does not give us what we want, and it falls very far short of that. Of course, we will do our best in Committee to persuade a majority of this House that we are right. I am sure the Government expects that we are bound to carry out the decisions of our consciences, and that we will do that believing that those decisions are perfectly right, and that this House ought to respectfully listen to them and pay them respect. Supposing we cannot do that, what about the right and the justice that is provided for within the limits of this Bill? How do we stand? The Bill provides that as soon as it passes every union proposing to take advantage of this latter Clause must take a ballot of its members. Some have already taken a ballot, and the ballot has been successful.
I will come back to the third and last relevant section of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. He told us that the 948 minority of a union voting by ballot might, but for the neglect of their duty of great numbers of members, become a majority and control the whole of the union. Under a democratic system, what remedy has the hon. and learned Gentleman for that sort of thing? If you have thousands of members of a union with ballot papers placed before them, with due notice given them that this decision is going to be taken within a certain period, if they do not take the trouble to vote, what are you going to do? I say that in all referenda the man who does not vote does not count. A man who has not the energy, the intelligence, nor the will to make his vote and influence felt must not come and whine if others have given the decision and say he had a vote but did not use it and he is going to quarrel with the decision. Neutrality carries consent, and you cannot help it. There is no other way if the active majority is to exert its proper influence. Then we have the figures. I am not going to give figures, but I should have liked to have heard about other ballots in some societies for things that were legitimate and, from the hon. and learned Member's point of view even more important. Everyone of them can be dealt with in the same way, but I will only take one. He referred to the 21,000 vote which was given by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in favour of affiliation, and he said, quite truly, that 21,000 was a fraction of the whole membership. The hon. Member (Mr. J. H. Thomas) is the assistant secretary to that union. He had to fight for his position. Manifestoes were issued by rival candidates, and there was very keen competition for the position. What happened? My hon. Friend was elected by a vote of 18,000. As a matter of fact, what happens in all these votes is that a great number of the members of a society are perfectly willing to put themselves passively in the hands of the more active members of the society. It is a great pity. I do not justify it—I certainly do not boast about it—but there it is, and the 21,000 vote which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted as being something which was very reprehensible or something which ought to carry no majority influence with it., was the largest percentage of votes ever cast in the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants for any proposition placed before its members. You get a ballot and you have a majority, say, in favour of joining the Labour party. What happens? The minority, beaten in the ballot on the proposition 949 placed before it, can immediately turn round and contract out. The purpose of the trade unions going into politics at all—it may be wrong, but there it is—is undoubtedly to strengthen the union and to make its work on behalf of the working classes more effective than it would be if the union was not in politics at all. But the beaten minority, whilst claiming and receiving and enjoying all the benefits of political action, is going to have power to decline to pay its share of the costs.
But that is not all even. Take the relative position of the two minorities. Supposing, first of all, a majority of a society is in favour of affiliation. Then this Bill gives the right to the minority to contract out altogether in respect to that particular thing. But supposing the majority of the society is opposed to affiliation with the Labour party or with the Liberal party. This is no party measure, although it happens that up to now we, being most active in the matter, have got the affiliations. There is no reason why, say, a glass-bottlemakers' society that thinks its interest is wrapped up in. Protection should not affiliate with the party opposite. I never said anything contrary to that, and I never will. We only want the wishes of the majority to prevail, whether they are right or wrong. Experience is the only schoolmaster that ought to be left to teach majorities wisdom. But when the majority declares for no affiliation then the minority has no right at all. You can get a majority, say, of 2,500, against political action, and a minority of 2,400 in favour of political action; but the 2,400 cannot do anything at all. If it was the 2,400 the other way and 2,500 the other way, the 2,400 could immediately put in a notice saying: "The 2,500 can do what they like, but we are not going to support them." That is not equity, that is not an equal distribution of justice between minority and minority, because, as this Bill is drafted, and in view of the decision given by Mr. Justice Parker in the Engineers' case, the minority that has been beaten in its attempt to get its union to engage in political action cannot hand in its pennies or its shillings and ask its branch secretaries to transfer them into any funds at all. They are absolutely powerless. They cannot join with their fellow trade unionists in promoting objects and undertaking activities which are absolutely essential to the health and the successful activities of the trade union. That is not fair play. We shall certainly try to support an Amendment—I hope it will be 950 very much better than this—but if we are beaten and have to come to this deplorable ditch of Protection, we shall try to support an Amendment to give the minority that is in favour of political action some measure of right equal to that measure of right which the Bill gives to minorities who are opposed to political action altogether.
The only other matter that I should like to point out is in reference to Clause 5. It is proposed here that at any time a member of a union can refuse to pay his political levy. I will give two cases to show what it means, to show how, as a matter of fact, the Government is simply putting a noose about the neck of this very activity that it is professing to support in this Bill. Take the case of a man in arrears. All he has to do is to declare that he is not going to pay any more, and he writes a letter in accordance with the Schedule attached to this Bill, and that practically settles the matter. I do not know what the intention of the Government was, but so far as the Bill is concerned there is no provision for protecting the funds against such action as that. Because a man is in arrears he says he will not pay any more— not because he has voted against political action, but because for a mean, selfish reason he is not going to take upon himself responsibilities for which he actually has been assumed to vote when the ballot was being taken at some previous time. That kind of shirking one's responsibilities is not exactly the sort of thing that ought to be protected by an Act of Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER "He could always do that before the Osborne Judgment."] It may be that he always had power to do that, but until the Osborne Judgment was delivered such a payment was part and parcel of the trade union responsibilities, and if he did not hurry up his arrears he became subject to the rules of his union, and those rules generally provide that he was to be out of benefit. But that is not the case now.
My second point is this. We have had cases of some of our members—some of my colleagues here—being sent down by their executives to get industrial peace. The general view of a trade union official is that he is a gentleman who is always stirring up strife and is used by his executive for that purpose. As a matter of fact—may we confess it?—in nine cases out of ten, when we get into trouble with our members, it is because we have stood for peace when they wanted us to declare 951 war. At any rate, there is an actual case in point which has taken place in the last twelve months, since the Osborne Judgment was delivered. One of my colleagues was sent down by the executive of his union to get a branch of his union, which was dissatisfied and in a state of revolt, to remain passive. He went and saw the branch. He told them they must not strike, and that the union would not support them in striking. A voluntary fund was then in operation, necessitated by the Osborne Judgment. That branch was and is to-day, in favour of Parliamentary action. But because my colleague undertook the responsibility of that thankless task, the branch has ceased to subscribe to the voluntary fund from which he is drawing a certain amount of his expenses and maintenance. We will deal with that all right— I see a suspicious smile; the suspicious smiles always crop up when there is anything about labour action—and not by running men in wheelbarrows into ponds. The handful of hon. Members who jeer at these instances, showing what they know about trade unionism and what they would like to do with it, are not even representative of their own party in that respect. We will deal with it as honourable men deal with honourable men. But under this Bill what would have happened during the stage of hot blood through which these men went, was that every one of them would have signed the form that is provided for them and would have contracted out.
Of course, if the Government does not want to give trade unions power to enter politics, I understand that. If it wants to appear to give them power but to qualify that power in such a way that it is not effective, that again I understand perfectly well. If, however, the Government honestly wants to declare that political action may be part and parcel of trade union activity and then to impose conditions on that political action which are just, which are fair, which are equitable all round, and which will not encourage the malingerer and the shirker, they must amend their Bill. What are we going to do? We are going to follow sound Parliamentary practice. Sound Parliamentary practice always determines that a Second Reading vote shall be given in respect of two considerations. The first is, do you agree with the general intentions of the Bill? That generally narrows it down to this. Do you agree with the title of the Bill and the explanation following the 952 title? In this respect we do. The second consideration is, is the Bill capable of amendment in Committee? In this respect we have come to the conclusion, after very careful consideration, that the Bill is capable of amendment, and therefore the two considerations which determine, on sound Parliamentary practice, the vote given on the Second Reading determine us to give a vote in favour of the Second Reading to-night. But I wish— I am afraid my wish is an impossible one—that the same own-mindedness and fairplay in regard to the case which can be and will be put up in Committee in favour of certain Amendments to the Bill, will be shown to this Bill as has been shown to the Bill to which we gave a Second Reading yesterday. At any rate, we hope we shall have an opportunity in Committee of fairly discussing with the Members of the House in a rational and, I hope, in a calm way our point of view; and I believe as a result of that such Amendments will be made as will make the Bill fair and equitable to the members of trade unions, and will enable them at the same time to carry on under the altered circumstances of the future the excellent work they carried on in days gone by.
§ Sir ALFRED CRIPPS
The hon. Member has made it perfectly clear that he dissents from the view put forward by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Government. Quite clearly from his point of view, and from the point of view of trade unionists, although you may have a dissentient minority who have not subscribed with a view of having their funds used for political purposes, yet if they are in a minority they are not entitled to make their views heard or attended to, but are to be bound hand and foot by the decision which may be given by the majority in the trade unions. I do not want in the first instance to deal with that question, because in my view this Bill is one of the most vital and far-reaching importance, and even if it contained a protection for the dissentient minority, although I agree with the criticism of the hon. Member for Liverpool, who showed conclusively that the so-called safeguards were really shams and delusions, I should oppose it for my own part at every stage and at every turn, because I believe it involves a principle wholly inadmissible, which, if properly understood, would tend more than any other to the degradation of political life in this country. 953 Let me explain what I mean by that. I start from the proposition that trade unions are not to be regarded as privileged bodies. I shall probably have the assent of the hon. and learned Member, the Leader of the Labour party, when I make that statement.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I gave assent to the proposition stated by the hon. and learned Member. I only ventured to indicate dissent from the word "learned."
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I apologise. The hon. Member does not dissent from the proposition. What we gather then is that all the rights as regards political action and political subscriptions which are given to trade unions ought also to be given to other statutory bodies which at present are debarred from using their funds for these purposes. To my mind, when we deal with that proposition, I think there is every possible reason to be advanced, and I think on the soundest grounds, that the limitations now placed on statutory bodies in this country should be maintained in future, and that no liberty of the kind that is claimed for trade unions should be given to them. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is no liberty."] I think there is, and I will tell the hon. Member why. I think the sound principle as regards statutory bodies, whether they are trade unions or others, is that they should be confined within statutory limits and not allowed to use their funds outside of these limits, and more particularly for political purposes or objects. I am not now dealing with the debatable area which was referred to by the Attorney-General. I should like to deal with one of the arguments which have been used. The Leader of the Labour party said, as regards the conduct of trade unions, "I do think they exercise an admirable influence in the prevention of strikes and in promoting the settlement of industrial and labour difficulties." I do not take any exception to that view at all. The Attorney-General called attention to their number. He said they were somewhat over 2,000,000. In my view the number is an admirable reason for not giving them a privileged position. You should not create an imperium in imperio, and you should not give a specially privileged position to anyone, and above 954 all, to a body which already holds a very strong position as regards numbers.
Let me put this proposition either to the party opposite or to the Attorney-General. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman advocate, for instance, that a railway company should use its funds for political purposes? Not long ago in this House that question was raised in the case of the London and North-Western Raiway Company. It was said that a certain subscription by the railway company was not intended to be used for political purposes. When it was known that it had been used for a political purpose by the body to which it was given, an apology was made and the subscription was withdrawn. I agree with that policy. Neither a railway company nor a trade union ought to be allowed to use its funds outside of the recognised statutory purposes in order to embark in the political sphere. If you once start that in this country I think the same policy must be applied all round. The principle of allowing these various statutory bodies which are working under statutory powers to go outside the powers which Parliament has entrusted to them in order to use their funds for political purposes involves the running of the risk of getting very near the political corruption of America, which is very largely consequent upon action of this kind. In the same way are the shipping federation and all other bodies who have acknowledged statutory or corporate positions to be allowed to use their funds for political purposes? What would be the result? You would have Members of this House not representative in the true sense at all. You would have them all nominees of those various contending bodies, each of them striving not for the advantage for the country at large but for the advantage of the particular interest which he represents, and in my view that would be wholly inconsistent with the representative principle.
The learned Attorney-General did refer to this when he spoke of the Osborne Judgment. I agree that he stated quite fairly what the general effect of the Osborne Judgment is. What is the alternative? The Osborne case was not decided on political grounds. It was decided by judges who included two well-known Liberals—Lord Moulton and Lord Shaw—both of whom sat for a long time as Members of this House. What did they say? I think it is worth while for the House to give attention to what they said. They 955 said that it is inconsistent with the whole constitutional position as laid down by the peat text writers and constitutional authorities in the past that you should by political subscription have a body of people in this House, or Members of this House, who owe their allegiance, not to the country at large, but to those who maintain and pay them either on that side of the House or on this. Of course, on a point of this kind there is no question between one side of the House and the other. If you are going to introduce a number of paid Members—I use the term paid Members in the sense of Members paid by their organisations— if you are going to introduce paid Members all sound, so that railway companies, the shipping federation, and other organisations should have the same privileges as trade unions, you would introduce on one side of the House and on the other side what we ought to avoid in every way, if possible, namely, Members coming to represent particular interests from whom they receive their maintenance or salary as the case may be. It is no good in the case of trade unionists or employers of labour imagining that human nature is something different from what it really is. If you regard human nature as it is, a person who receives a wage or salary must, pay special regard to the commands or orders given to him by those from whom he is receiving the wage or salary, and although it may be true—I take the point which was referred to by the Attorney-General— at the time that the pledge has been withdrawn, that is a pledge which, though in form withdrawn, yet in substance remains, and not only does it in substance remain, but in substance it must always remain. Suppose that railway companies had ten or twelve representatives in this House, what would the effect be when railway questions came on for discussion? [An HON. MEMBER: "They have representatives now."] It would be much worse than now. At the present time there is no Member in this House who is supported by funds from a railway company.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
There is no Member of this House who receives pay for his services in this House as the representative of a railway company. Do not let us get mixed up with other matters. I desire 956 that the secretaries of trade unions should get fair and proper payment, but not as Members of this House. It is an entirely different matter to use the funds of trade unions not for the legitimate purposes of the unions, but in order to pay members to come to this House not to represent the nation at large but the interests of the trade unions. The same principle will apply all round. Let me put this to the Attorney-General. If this right to override restrictions of this kind is allowed, what answer can there be if railway companies and other corporations come forward and make the same claim in their case as is made in the case of trade unions. There is a debatable area. There are a large number of matters which are brought before this House concerning the working, management, and trades interests of railway companies, exactly in the same way as there are matters which concern trade unionists. But when you get out of the debatable area, and make the representatives in this House not truly representatives but the paid nominees of particular interests, then I say you are doing the worst thing you possibly can do to demoralise the whole tone of representative Government, and that, to my mind, is the fatal defect of this Bill. I hope that trade unionists will bear with me when I say this. I am not wanting to make any complaint or particular objection to them or their wages. I am dealing with human nature as it is. Human nature in a trade unionist and in the representative of any other of those great, corporate institutions is the same, and I say that if once you make a Member a paid nominee, he loses his representative character.
I agree with Lord Moulton and Lord Shaw that to put any Member of this House in that position is inconsistent with the whole history of representative Government, and with the whole basis en which representative Government should rest. Therefore, the Attorney-General and Members of the House will understand why it is, so far as I am concerned, whether a dissentient minority was properly represented or not, I should still raise my voice and give my vote against the underlying principle of this Bill, and against paid nominees of particular interests, coming to this House instead of representatives of national ideas and national interests.
Let me say another word as regards the question of dissentient minority. I agree 957 with the Leader of the Labour party that you have to face this proposition boldly and either repeal the Osborne decision or leave it alone. That is the line taken by the hon. Member opposite. I do not see that the half-way house suggested by the Attorney-General can be supported for a moment. My reason for saying so is this. It is impossible, under the conditions that exist, that there can be any safeguards which are really adequate safeguards of the interests of the dissentient minority. It cannot be done. I am not going to call special attention to what took place individual cases. They seem to me to be natural. Of course, I agree that we must keep within the limits of the law whether as trade unionists or members of other organisations. But if you tell me that a particular member or associate is himself in antagonism to all the other interests of the members of that association, do you mean to tell me that he will not suffer in the most vital manner? Of course he will. What do we find when we come to this Bill? We find, first of all, that the dissentient minority in the true sense of the term is not protected at all, because whether a trade unionist has to subscribe for political purposes, defined or not, depends upon the mere majority, not only depends on a mere majority, but depends on a mere majority of those voting.
I do not wish at this stage to go into a discussion as to whether we ought to have a majority of all the members or a majority of those voting, but I take objection at a point above discussion of that kind. If you are to have a simple majority to determine whether the funds should be devoted to a particular purpose or not, where is the protection of the dissenting minority? As far as I read this Bill—though perhaps that is a matter that might be put right afterwards—if you had perhaps a man who had been subscribing for years on the basis of the Osborne Judgment—that is to say, on the ground that his subscriptions were not to be used for political purposes—the very day after this Bill is passed, however much he might object to it, the funds he had subscribed could be used for political purposes by a majority of the society of which he is a member. It may be that a matter of that kind is capable of adjustment. I take it from the learned Attorney-General. But let me take it that is not so, by reference to what the hon. Member said as regards amendment, and let me make this statement. If I believed there was any machinery by which a dissenting minority 958 could really be protected, then upon this point I agree that it would be a matter of amendment as regards the terms of the Bill. But I do not believe that at all. I cannot believe myself that a dissentient under these circumstances could in any way be protected by any safeguards you like to name or like to introduce against the real tyranny which would be brought to bear against him because of his variance with the majority of the society of which he is a member.
You cannot do it; and if I might take the illustration which the learned Attorney-General gave of 31 (C) in the Bill, which says he is to be treated by the officers of the society in the same way whether he subscribes to the political fund or not, I would ask is that any protection to him? I would ask any trade unionist, here present if that really gives protection to one of their members or not, because I say, coming back again to what was said by the hon. Member the Leader of the Labour party, you must take the point, where he takes it, and either repeal the the Osborne Judgment, and give trade unionists this power of dealing with their funds as they like, or else, which I think was the proper principle, deprive them altogether of the power of giving political subscriptions. But do not take it halfway. Do not suppose that at the same time you can give them the power and in any way really protect the dissentient minority. Those two positions in my view are inconsistent, and I do not believe myself that this Bill is worth anything to protect any member of the society who in the matter of political subscription differs from the majority. This Bill appears to me to go to the very roots of some of the most important facts of our industrial and political life. It is on that ground, apart altogether from any question of precautions and any question of protecting a dissentient minority that if there is a division I shall cast my vote against the Bill, and I shall do what I can to maintain the principle of the Osborne Judgment, which I believe to be sound and right and in accordance with representative principles and constitutional liberty.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I have the honour to represent, I believe, the largest industrial constituency in this country, and I believe I was returned by the largest majority of any Member of this House. As this question is one, of great importance to my Constituents, I wish in the first place to say that the views which I am going to put 959 before the House to-night are not quite those which I put before my Constituents actually at the time of the election, because up to the time of the General Election I only spoke at one meeting in my Constituency. Up to the time of the last election I had taken the view, and spoken in this House against, any minority being compelled to subscribe to the funds of any party to which they were opposed. But the Bill of the Government, if amended in an important particular, would, I think, meet the reasonable demands that have been put forward by the representatives of the working man who wish to have representation in this House. There are, however, many important points which the Leader of the Labour party ought to have dealt with in his speech. First, it is said that the Labour party are the loosest party in the State and in the House itself. To the best of my belief the Members of the Labour party are under a pledge when they come to this House that if a question is discussed by the party sitting in a Committee room upstairs, all the Members when they come down to this House must vote according to the decision of the majority. The hon. Member who is a member of the Independent Labour Party says that is not so. But take the question of armaments. The Trades Union Congress, by a majority, passed a resolution that members of the party should vote on all these questions against armaments. When we come to look at the resolutions passed in this House, we find the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) and the Member for other constituencies in places where armaments are made voting against their own party. Yes, but they only do so because if they had not done so they would have lost the seats. I do not think that anyone will attempt to deny that that is so.
The point that the Member for Leicester put to the House is this: He said that Members of his party here were independent. We are having at the present time meetings in Committee upstairs in this House in relation to the Miners Bill, and to-morrow we are actually going to have one again, and the Government and others are opposed to the Labour party on certain points which they are proposing, and on which we are going to fight them, though many of the Labour Members are absolutely opposed to the provisions which they are going to support, and which they have to support because they have been told to do so by the party. There is no 960 independence of action and no independent thought. The representative in this House, when he gets into Committee of this House, or in this House, realises he has got to vote in accordance with a decision arrived at, not by a majority of the House itself, but by a bare majority of the so-called Labour representatives. I claim to be as good a representative of labour as any representative in the House, and never during the whole time I have been in this House have I given a vote in the interests of my own pocket, and when I hear the hon. Member for Sheffield saying that the Labour party is the honest party, that is an insult which we, at all events, who come here at great personal sacrifice, must resent.
My remark was called forth by a remark of the hon. and learned Member (Sir Alfred Cripps), who has now left the House, to the effect that payment of Members was demoralising. My reply to that is that our position is the more honest of the two.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
I do not follow the argument of the hon. Member. I do not say that there is any reflection on individuals. The reflection was certainly on those who are not members of the Labour party. I do not understand the reason of the interruption if that was not so. I want the House to bear this in mind, that the so-called ballots of workmen are in the great majority of cases absolutely valueless. You have, in my business, two or three thousand men employed in a mine, and if the men are doing well and getting good money not twenty of them will go to the lodge meetings where these ballots are taken. If, on the other hand, the men are doing badly, you will have a large number of men turning up at these meetings where these ballots are taken. When this Bill gets into Committee, I am going to move that it shall be legal for trade unions to take a ballot on the premises of all the employers, where the people are employed, for the purpose of ascertaining what the wishes of the Members may be. I say that without some Clause under which you will get an effective ballot of the men the Clause which stands in the Government Bill is wholly inoperative, because the men will not take the trouble very often to attend these meetings, which in many cases are held on nights when the men cannot attend the lodge meeting. Sometimes they are held on Saturday nights, when the men are off playing football or attending football matches. In many cases it is not con- 961 venient for the men to attend these lodge meetings, and, unless an Amendment is made the object of the House to get at what is the effective desire of the men themselves will not be achieved.
The point that I would respectfully submit to the House is this—that I do not think it is possible or a thing that would work out in practice to give a minority the power of saying that they will not contribute. Let me put this case. There are many men who have contributed to their union for a number of years. Numbers of them do not contribute, others do contribute under compulsion. They contribute for the reason that if they do not contribute they are turned out, and no doubt a great number of men are forced to contribute whether they like or not. But in the whole course of my experience I have never known a single case of all the trade disputes that I have been connected with, where the man on principle only objected to belonging to a trade union. I have known particular cases where men have been out of the union and have refused to join the union, and those particular men have been at one time leading agitators in the union, who got behind with their contributions; and in the great majority of cases the reason why they did not contribute is that they spent their money on drink and other purposes, and not because they had any conscientious objection to belonging to a trade union, quâ trade union. That I think is an incontrovertible fact, that with few exceptions the overwhelming majority of the working men of this country have no objection to belonging to a trade union, and no objection to benefiting by what the trade union gives then. Having been connected with trade unions all my life and the inner working of trade unions, I say that the practical view and the only view on which it is possible to work this is to take first an effective ballot of the men employed, and if having taken such a ballot the majority of the men voting are in favour of subsidising or sending a man to this House, I think they ought to be permitted to use those funds for political purposes. But now I take a very wide distinction between what is happening to-day and what I think the House ought to guard against.
What I put before my Constituents was this: I said to them that we were interested in a certain industry, and if by a majority they thought fit to send a representative to Parliament, that was a perfectly proper thing to do, and no one could object. But if a particular society 962 elected a man, and he, in turn, became the delegate of the Labour Representation party, or some other party, then that would be an entirely different thing. I put it to them as a condition that if by a majority they voted in favour of one of their members being allowed to take part in politics, and paid out of the funds of the union, then the association, quâ association, should be the only people to pay that man, and that their funds should not go outside their association. If I have not made myself quite clear, I shall endeavour to do so. In my opinion any funds collected by an association should be administered by that association and by no one else. If you are going to allow, as at present, an association to collect funds, and to send those funds to a central fund in London to be administered by a party whose members are bound to vote, not according to the wishes of their Constituents, but in accordance with the orders from the particular party, then I submit that such a course is contrary to every principle of representation on which this House is founded. It is very curious that in the speeches already made on this subject hon. Members have not really dealt with what really is the effect of the Osborne Judgment on this particular point. While an association is keeping and financing a Member of this House, and while the funds of that association are administered by it, I do not think anyone can grumble.
But the case is that the association parts with the control of money and pays it over to another party, the members of which sign a pledge that they will vote, not according to the wishes of their Constituents who subscribe the money, but at the dictation of a self-constituted party in London. What happened in my own county? There an overwhelming majority of men voted against being associated with the Labour party in London. They said that they wanted to be under their own management, and to administer their own funds, and that they did not want to have anything to do with the party of the hon. Member for Sheffield. They said that they liked to stand on their own bottom, and they did not wish to be affiliated. But owing to a majority of votes in South Wales and Scotland they had to come into the general scheme. Therefore you have a system under which money is taken out of one district and out of the control of the members of the union in that district, and put into the hands of the party in London, who are in no way 963 responsible to the men of that district. I say the whole of that procedure is absolutely destructive of every principle upon which Members are sent to this House. If we are all to be delegates, sent here to vote according to orders, then the whole system on which we pride ourselves in this country of representative Government falls to the ground. That is a fundamental point which I would urge upon the Government. Under the Government scheme they would still allow an association to collect money — I would certainly vote against them on that point—and then subsidise and to keep in Parliament not their own members, but the members of other societies to whose principles the minority might be wholly opposed. If you are going to protect the rights of minorities—and they should be protected—then it is self-evident that you should give protection to the minority by keeping the funds of the union under the administration of the members of that union. There may be a few cases of very small societies where they have a community of interests, and where it might be possible to make an exception, but as a general rule the great body of trade unions are sufficiently large in themselves to deal with their own funds and to maintain and to keep their own members in this House.
We hear a great deal from the Labour party of their being responsible for all the legislation passed in the interests of working men, and that it is by their vote the Government have been urged to pass certain measures. In point of fact, the Labour party's claim is a very shallow one. The Labour party in the country say that they have done this, that, and the other, but they altogether fail to recognise that they are, after all, only a small fraction of the entire body of Members on this side of the House who have passed legislation for the benefit of working men. I shall give my vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but on the clear understanding that when we reach the Committee stage I shall put down an Amendment to the effect that ballots shall be taken on the premises where the workmen are employed; and, secondly, to provide that where a majority have voted in favour of this legislation the funds that have been collected shall remain under the control of the union.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
I hope to approach this subject, not from the standpoint of technical law so much as from the point of view of public policy and expediency; and I think myself that the House 964 will agree that it is in the highest interests of the community that trade unions should exist, that the organisation of labour should be powerful and effective, and that the responsible leaders of trade unions should be sagacious and efficient men. From that point of view I conceive there can be very little doubt, when we come to examine this matter, that the Osborne Judgment requires some mitigation, not in the least because it was wrong—it would be gross impertinence for me to suggest that—but because it has covered certain matters within the scope and operation of trade-union activities, which I think everybody agrees it is desirable that they should continue. For instance, we know that for many years trade unions have given their funds to matters like the University extension lectures, free libraries, towards the circulation of books, towards scholarships, and to other matters educational and otherwise, which no one can doubt is beneficial expenditure approved of by all trade unionists, and has this further advantage that it attracts into the sphere of trade union operations men who perhaps would not otherwise have come there, who it is desirable should be there, and who perhaps are of an even higher class than those who are attracted to trade unions because of the material interests which they represent and of the material warfare which they carry on. So far, I ask the House to take it as almost beyond controversy between us, and I think the Attorney-General treats the matter in the same way.
There are several matters which are at present excluded from the activities of trade unions by the Osborne Judgment, but which all fair-minded men would desire to restore. There is therefore prima facie some case for this Bill, so far as it goes, in mitigation of the extreme record of the Osborne Judgment. But the Bill takes us into far more controversial matters. It would retain to the trade union all the privileges which were granted to it. What for? For the purposes of industrial warfare. I might remind the House how great and extensive those privileges are. When a trade dispute is being carried on the law of conspiracy, the Master of the Rolls said, is repealed. Boycotting is made legal. Immunity is given to the trade union in a trade dispute. Immunity is given even to members who induce a breach of contract which has been deliberately made. Or, higher even than that, immunity is given to a trade union from all liability in consequence of civil wrong. These are 965 enormous privileges. For myself, I have never said that they are fully justified, and I never will say it. I believe that two of them, and some of the very best friends of trade unions say so—that by which you are going to give immunity for all actions of tort and of civil wrong, and that which gives immunity for deliberately seeking to set aside and inducing breach of contract—are indefensible on any ground. I pass from that. I quite admit that they are now on the Statute Book, having been passed in 1906, but they were deliberately put there for the purpose of trade disputes and for no other purpose. The House will observe and note particularly that these privileges, these immense immunities, under the common law of the land granted to trade unions for the purposes of their activities in industrial pursuits, are now going to be continued, although trade unions are going to be invited, actually invited by this Bill, into the political arena, and although political activity is to be definitely sanctioned under this Statute.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
Those immunities would not follow in the cases to which the right lion. Gentleman has referred.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
The hon. Member is wrong. I happen to have made a lifelong study of this matter, Those three immunities to which I have referred are limited to the action of trade unions in furtherance of trade disputes. The fourth is not. Therefore I say that for this purpose the Bill really invites and sanctions trade unions to enter the field of political activity. The Bill does two things. Clause 3, as has been quite fairly pointed out, for certain purposes, which I may call electioneering purposes, does maintain a certain protection of those who differ from the electioneering advisers. Electioneering expenses for literature, electioneering expenses for registration, expenditure for public meetings, and maintenance of Members here, and in other public positions, those are not recognised by the Bill. As to those objects there may be a minority which strongly objects to them, and certainly the right of the minority who dissent from those objects are definitely recognised by this Bill, which provides machinery to protect the rights of a dis- 966 sentient minority. I will come back later to the point and show how inadequate that protection is. It is fair to observe that this Bill recognises the right of a dissentient minority to protection against certain forms, and those very prominent forms, of electioneering activity. What I think the House had not been reminded of is that there is an enormous political field open to the activities of trade unions under this Bill, and as to which the minority have no protection whatever. I take as an illustration, not in any way because I desire to offend hon. Gentlemen, that of socialist propaganda. Under this Bill it is perfectly competent to a trade union to spend its funds, not at election times, in socialist propaganda of the most active and expensive and effective kind.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
Will the right hon. Gentleman observe the Clause, which seems to me the very question and the very point which is being raised?
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
That is in Clause 3:—
"On the holding of political meetings of any kind, or on the distribution of political literature or political documents of any kind, unless the main purpose of the meetings or of the distribution of the literature or documents is the furtherance of statutory objects within the meaning of this Act."
"Statutory objects." That is why I take the illustration of Socialist propaganda. I do not think it can for a moment be contended that the statutory objects of trade unions being the relation between workmen and masters, that you might not have lecturers and literature of the most strong socialistic character carried on in furtherance of those definite political statutory objects. I do not feel any doubt on that subject. Therefore you have it that the whole of one of the most important features of political work, perhaps the most important—namely, Socialist and anti-Socialist propaganda — can go on under this Bill without any protection to a dissentient minority at all. Is that safe? I think the best friends of the trade unions would say that it was highly undesirable for active political agitation to take place—I am not saying at election time, for that is excluded, but at other times—and that the funds of the union should be devoted to that object without there being some opportunity to a dissentient minority to withdraw from that and to prevent their funds being used for it.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
That answers the Attorney-General, and shows the statutory objects in which the trade unions at present indulge.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
That shows that the trade unions take the view that that is a statutory object. Now that we are reopening the whole question, is it right to continue those political activities with the privileges that they have also, and that they should be at the same time absolved by Parliament from certain disabilities which the Osborne Judgment has inflicted upon them? I say that those who seek relief from the High Court of Parliament should at any rate be prepared to do justice themselves. I submit to every Member for trade union purposes here that is highly undesirable, when they are to receive the relief and immunity which they do by the passing of this Bill, that at the same time they should continue active political propaganda unchecked, and a minority unprotected, as it has been admitted by one hon. Member they can do at the present time.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I certainly do not agree with the view that has just been expressed. The question is whether it is within the statutory objects. As I understand the pith of the Osborne Judgment, the statutory objects would not cover socialistic propaganda. On the contrary, it will only cover, according to that judgment, something which is done for industrial purposes. Whatever the effect of the words is, I am only anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should not misunderstand what the intention is. This Clause is drafted with the object of preventing any kind of political propaganda being carried on which is not in the main industrial.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I appreciate what the learned Attorney-General says, and I quite sympathise with the great difficulty of expressing that view in language which is satisfactory. As I understand the desire is to make it perfectly clear that such propaganda as I have alluded to would be illegal. In that case I have no doubt the point which I am now making falls to the ground, but I think it was well worth making, inasmuch as a very distinguished representative of the trade unions only Low declared from his place in this House that it has been the actual practice of 968 trade unions at the present moment. I pass from that great field of political activities, which I certainly thought under the Bill, and which certainly is an existing practice, not protected in the manner of the latter part of Clause 3 of this proposed legislation. I come to consider what may be called the protective Clauses. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), who made a powerful speech this afternoon, declared that in his view those protective Clauses were absolutely illusory, and I confess that I very much share that view. Why I am able not to dissent from the Second Reading of this Bill is that the Government state their intention in the Bill of imposing no disability whatever upon any dissentient to those political purposes if it is expressed. Under the Bill they have said that no disability is to light upon him. That is a perfectly sound principle. Those are the two things in this Bill with which I thoroughly agree: first, that the Osborne Judgment requires some mitigation; and, second, that the dissentient minorities should be thoroughly protected and should suffer no disability by reason of their dissent. Those are the two things which the Government profess to desire, and have more or less stated on the face of the Bill. But is this protection the least secured. The whole Clause 3 which deals with the subject should surely be turned round the other way. Do hon. Members desire that there should be freedom and liberty to those who dissent from the political objects of the majority? Do they desire that there should be freedom? They are not very anxious to respond to that question, but I can hardly impute to them the desire to make a sham of this Bill. The question I ask is, do they desire to place the dissentient minority in a position of liberty and freedom?
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I stated at least once or twice definitely that that was our desire and the principle upon which we framed the Bill, and I really would accept any sugestion which would make it more clear.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I suggest that instead of throwing the onus upon the dissentient of declaring that he desires to be exempted from paying, that by far the fairest way would be to throw upon the majority the burden of saying that they will voluntarily pay for the political object. That is a perfectly good and sound test of the sincerity of the Government in 969 this matter. How can it be said that a man or a majority in a trade union effectively and really desire a certain policy to be pursued unless they are willing themselves to state that that is their desire. How can they be prejudiced by it? It requires merely the inversion of this schedule and notice to be given by those who wish the political policy to be carried through to this effect. "I hereby give notice that I am willing to contribute to the funds of so-and-so union, and for such and such object." What possible objection can there be to that I see no possible objection. On the contrary, it is a perfectly definite measure of the real wish of the majority of the political objects which they are supposed to desire. If they do not wish for them they will not sign the request.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
No. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walton by the figures which he gave this evening most conciusively showed that those ballots for general objects do not in the least represent anything more than a trifling fragment in many cases of the trade unions, I maintain that an industrial body formed for industrial and benefit purposes in the first instance, when they so far turn aside from their original project as to embark in some definite political propaganda of a party kind. I say under those circumstances it is not too much for this House to demand that those who are in favour of such a policy against a minority should affirm it definitely. That obviously is not, at present at any rate, the opinion of the Government. Let us take the other side. Under the Bill as it stands a dissentient has to give notice that he is unwilling to contribute to the political fund. That makes him a marked man. I am willing to take the hypothesis that the majority have declared themselves in favour of this political object. Each member of the minority has to declare that he is unwilling to contribute. Hon. Members know as well as I do the great power of the officials of trade unions and of the majority to make it thoroughly uncomfortable for anybody who dissents from that which the majority have approved. Is it likely that a dissentient will face that? You have all the forces of lethargy and timidity against you.
I am not imputing to members of trade unions anything more than human nature. Do you believe that when a man declares 970 himself unwilling to support the political policy of a union and to contribute to its funds there are not many means by which the presence of that man in the union will be made difficult and almost intolerable? There need not be resort to those descriptions of violence which when passion has reached great heights have been displayed. Take an ordinary case. Suppose a man who has sent his letter of dissent is working with three or four mates. When he comes into the workshop the next morning will they not be at him? The moment he comes to his morning's Work will they not upbraid and rebuke him for having opposed the policy of the union and for being so stingy as not to contribute to its fund? [An HON. MEMBER: "How would they know?"] Everybody knows perfectly well that that would be the result. The fact of having designated themselves as dissentients from the policy generally approved by the majority would operate most strongly against the political liberty of the minority and their freedom to carry out in the union without coercion or restraint what they believe to be its objects. The more valuable course in the interests of trade unions is to preserve their spirit of liberty and voluntarism. Men ought not to be coerced into doing that which they do not like to do, especially when the objects for which they originally joined the trade union were not political but industrial.
There is one other point which the Attorney-General did not make clear to me when I interrupted his speech. The other day the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) declared in the most emphatic terms that the position of a Member of this House ought to be that of representing the nation and not any section of it. His words were:—I have always taken the view, and I repeat it this afternoon, that it is an exceedingly bad thing for trade unions to provide income for the maintenance of Members of Parliament. We are not trade union servants here in this House. Members of the Labour Party ought to be National servants.He put it more strongly later on, when he said that they ought to regard themselvesas National servants instead of mere pettifogging servants in sectional interests, whether of landlords or brewers, or trade unions.I have listened to the Debate very carefully, and I have heard strong opinions expressed in favour of the payment still of their representatives by trade unions. In Clause 3 of the Bill, among the political objects for which money can be spent, I find the maintenance of Members of Parliament. Why is that in the Bill? Why is 971 no definite information vouchsafed to the House on that point? Although payment of Members will be strongly opposed by many on this side of the House, we must take it, I suppose, that the Government are determined to pass it. If that is so, the maintenance of Members of Parliament by trade unions becomes no longer necessary. Why, therefore, is that direct provision for the maintenance of Members of Parliament contained in the Bill? Why has no statement been made as to its excision in the event of the passage of payment of Members? There is no distinction in the Bill to differentiate the maintenance of Members of Parliament from the rest of the objects to which the money may be applied. It surely is an extraordinary thing that the House should be deliberately asked to sanction this against the provisions and terms of the Osborne Judgment, when in addition the Government themselves are proposing to pay £400 a year in order to make such a power absolutely unnecessary. I do not know why the hon. Member opposite smiles.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I do not see the relevance of that observation. £400 is to be allowed. Why after that allowance has been made is the provision inserted that that sum shall be added to, although the Leader of the Labour party has declared that it is absolutely contrary to policy that Labour Members should be paid by trade unions? I hope we shall have some fuller explanation on this point before the Debate closes. I wish to indicate to the House the view taken in regard to this measure by those who act with me. Almost everybody agrees that there should be some mitigation of the Osborne Judgment. That is one of the objects of this Bill. To that purpose we have no objection whatever. There is also the assertion of the principle—although in my judgment the principle is very ineffectually carried out—that before certain political objects are subsidised by trade unions the dissentient minority are to have distinct protection, and a code is drawn up in the Bill formulating the machinery for that protection. That code, in my judgment, is absolutely inadequate. But the Government have expressed the desire that the machinery should be effective, and the Attorney-General has stated his willingness to accept any Amendment which will 972 secure that result. That statement of intention enables me, at any rate, and I hope my hon. Friends will see their way to take the same course, not to divide against the Second Reading of the Bill, but to see that in Committee the measures promised by the Government to make the protection thoroughly effective are carried out, provided we satisfy the Government that the present machinery is inadequate and that the machinery we suggest is better. That enables me to say that I shall not oppose the Second Reading, but that I shall await the attitude of the Government in Committee. If they are not able to carry out to our satisfaction the intention they have expressed our course of action on the Third Reading will be a matter for consideration. Certainly, if they do not strengthen the Bill in this respect I shall vote against it on the Third Reading.
Mr. C. EDWARDS
The declaration of the right hon. Gentleman that he will not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, and his statement that in principle there should be some mitigation of the Osborne Judgment, are exceedingly gratifying, showing, at all events, that we are not going to deal with this great measure affecting Labour organisation with the usual acrimony of party warfare. But when the right hon. Gentleman proceeds to his criticism of the Bill, it is a little difficult to appreciate what would be left to mitigate the Osborne Judgment if he had his way. He proceeds upon certain assumptions which I venture to say cannot be substantiated. Like many other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on that side f the House, he makes declarations about the wonderful legal privileges conferred upon trade unions by the Act of 1906. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman, who is a great and distinguished lawyer, to point to a single privilege possessed by a trade union under the Act of 1906 which is not possessed by an employer. I challenge him to point to a single privilege possessed by a trade union under the Act of 1906 which is not possessed by every other incorporated body in the land. It is quite clear that there is some confusion of thought upon the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and also in the minds of the hon. Baronet the Member for Buckinghamshire, who suggests that because it is proposed that certain rights shall be given to trade unions under this Bill, that therefore it would be equally proper for similar rights to be given to a railway company. He spoke over and over again just as 973 though trade unions were under the Acts of 1871 and 1876 in precisely the same position before the law as the railway company, constituted under its distinctive railway Act is.
The facts are that long prior to 1871 there were trade unions in existence that were perfectly lawful bodies. They did not depend upon the Act of 1871 to give them legal existence. All they depended upon the Act of 1871 to do was simply to extend the legal power which they had Previously possessed. Instead of the Act of 1871 being an enabling Act, the great complaint that we have with the court in regard to the Osborne Judgment is that they treated the Act of 1871, not as an enabling Act, but as a disabling Act, depriving those unions who had had legal power prior to 1871 of those political powers and activities which as a fact in several cases they had exercised in the election of 1868 and on. Further, the great distinction between a railway company which has absolutely no powers outside its private Act of Parliament, and the trade union is that the railway company has the right of enforcing all its obligations as between itself and its members against those members, whilst a trade union has no power whatever to enforce any obligation that may be entered into as against any individual member. Further, I think the paramount distinction between a railway company and a body like a trade union is that the railway company exists entirely as a private profit-making concern for the shareholders, and there is no profit-making power possessed by trade unions. If I may respectfully say so, this Bill, in broad principle, apart from the there mechanism, with which I will deal in a moment or two, does represent a wise and expedient course out of the difficulty created by the Osborne Judgment.
I should first like to say that I think there is an underlying fallacy running through the point of view that is represented by the hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Labour party. That is that the powers possessed by members of that party who sit in this House are simply powers almost subordinate to, and certainly merely incidental to, the ordinary objects of the trade unions. If they never exercised those powers, and there was not any machinery by which it could be provided that they could, then I think there would be a great deal to be said for the point of view expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Labour party as to minority rights being treated very 974 lightly. But, of course, the great point is that it was not until the Labour Members had branched out into the wider activities of political controversy that they took, and have taken, sides—necessarily by virtue of our great political system they have to take sides upon the great controversial questions which divide men more acutely than those questions which are of a purely trade union character—I say that it would be—and this is the point which I particularly desire to emphasise—I say that from the point of view of trade unions themselves it is of imperative importance, having come to that degree of importance to which they have recently attained, having indulged in the great political activities which have characterised their movements for the last few years, in the intersts of their organisations themselves, it is of imperative importance that there should be found a real outlet, a real safety valve, for the views of the minority.
Take the education question to which allusion has been made, and as we know it in South Lancashire. There are many workmen in South Lancashire, taking one side of the matter on the question of denominational teaching, who are much more moved, and much more concerned about that question than they are about the rights of the Unionists against the non-Unionists, or the question of a relative rate of wages. Take again the great question that is moving people in Wales. I know a large number of workmen in my constituency, who are Conservatives, but who are none the less good trade unionists. If they had to choose between the point of view represented by the Established Church on the one side, and the point of view as to religious equality represented by the Labour party on the other they would have no hesitation whatever in throwing up their trade unionism and going outside the ranks to fight for their particular denominational position. Allusion has been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walton, to an organisation with which I am personally familiar, that of the dock labourers. You have the dock labourers in Liverpool and in Belfast. They are acutely divided into Orangemen on the one side and Roman Catholics on the other. They are acutely divided first of all on the religious question, and secondly on the great question as to whether Ireland is to have Home Rule or not.
Mr. C. EDWARDS
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says, "So are the Liberals." The point is that a Liberal who is against Home Rule goes one way, and a Liberal like myself who is in favour of Home Rule goes another way, and I have no power of coercing the Liberal who goes the other way because he differs from me on Home Rule. The whole point is that if you do not give an effective minority right, the minority who are not prepared to come into line and subscribe for the propagation of views, and the establishment of institutions, to which they do not agree, are to be deprived directly or indirectly of what are known as their trade union benefits. I say that it would be much better from the point of view of the trade unions that there should be a safety valve found in the form of the ballot and contracting out—with which I will deal in a moment or two—for the minority. Unless you provide means for your dissentient minority on general political questions being unfettered and unconfined inside your ranks, you are not merely going to have trouble with them; but also—and this is I think of vital importance—you are going to make your trade unions a cockpit for fighting out these great questions. It becomes a quest ion in Liverpool if those who are in a minority and decline to subscribe are to be sent to the wall, what are they going to do? They are going to appeal to their outside friends, and their outside friends will back them for all they are worth to secure the ascendency inside trade unions. To the extent that this is done, to that extent will the power of trade unions for their purely trade union work be weakened.
My Constituency offers a particularly good example of the kind of thing which has happened, and which may happen. I will be perfectly frank. In my Constituency there are 23,000 electors. Out of that number 18,000 are members of the South Wales Miners Federation. The Labour party ran as their nominee at the last election one of the leading officials of the Miners Federation in that Division. In spite of that, rightly or wrongly, the men were more favourable to my type of candidature than to the other type of candidature. Nine thousand of them voted in support of my candidature. I frankly admit that whilst they are a majority in that particular constituency that they are a minority over the whole of Wales. If it, should be that there had been no Osborne Judgment, and that there should be any attempt to coerce these 9,000, or 976 any of them, to deprive them, or any of them, of their trade union benefits; what, am I going to do? I am going to fight for all I am worth inside that organisation, with which I have nothing at all to do, to secure the re-ascendency of my Friends, so that they can be kept in what I may call the straight path of righteousness, with the result that the trade union is going to be enormously weakened for purely trade union fighting purposes.
I put it particularly to what I may call, the trade union section of the Labour party that they will be doing an unwise thing for trade unions—I speak strongly from a trade union point of view, because I have always professed a fanatical faith in the efficacy of the most powerful organisation that has yet been known for the working classes—I appeal to that trade union section to fight for all they are worth to see that this safety valve for the minority is made remedial and effective. It is, I suppose, useful sometimes in controversy to ignore the salient facts of history, but I think that possibly the hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Labour party simply made a casual slip when he referred to the opinion that was obtained from the present lord Chancellor and from Sir Edward Clarke. As a matter of fact, the history of the Labour party is very different to what, he put it. In 1900 there was a conference held at the Memorial Hall, London. That conference was called at the instigation of the Trade Union Congress, so that steps could be taken to form a united Labour party. A resolution was proposed which formed the basis, the constitution, of that party. That resolution was proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, seconded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, and supported by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board.
That resolution declared that a Labour party should be formed upon the principle of active co-operation with other parties in matters affecting the interests of labour. The whole thing was upon the basis of cooperation, and that is how the Socialist element in the party were able in the first place to secure the active co-operation of the trade unions. The larger part of the fund came from the trade unions, but the Labour party said that any Member who co-operated with any other party was to be excluded, and not very long afterwards that was made the rigid iron constitution of the Labour party representation. Then 977 the predecessor of the present hon. Member for Derby declined to sign that constitution, and that was the beginning of the Osborne trouble, and the opinion of the Lord Chancellor and Sir Edward Clarke was taken, not upon the broad question as to whether the trade unions could devote any of their funds to Parliamentary purposes—that had never been questioned— but upon the particular question as to whether a trade union could legitimately devote its funds subscribed by its members to an organisation which was not a trade union, but labour representation, which exists for a very different purpose.
The real origin of the Osborne trouble— and it is well to get back to these facts— was an attempt to coerce Mr. Richard Bell, who was Member for Derby. The Osborne Judgment was come to on two grounds. First, it was decided that it was outside the scope of a trade union as defined by the Act of 1871 and 1876 for money to he devoted to Parliamentary purposes; and second, and this was a much higher constitutional ground, it was contrary to public policy for any organisation to extract from a Member of Parliament that he would follow the Whips and carry out the policy of a particular political party. There is nothing, of course, that conflicts with that decision in this Bill, and I am not quite certain whether the matter will not have to be made a little more clear.
Broadly, I think this is a right Bill. It entirely expresses the views I frankly put before my own Constituency. There are certain serious matters touching the mechanism of the Bill with which the House will have to deal in Committee. I am not at all certain, as the Bill now stands, whether would not be possible for a great profit-making concern to come along, and by putting in quite spurious objects enable it to obtain the sanction of the Registrar and to obtain a certificate and then devote its money to purely election purposes. As the Bill now stands, I am not at all certain that a combination of brewers, or railway companies, or a combination of water companies or other great institutions, might not very easily frame a constitution which would satisfy the technical but not largely experienced mind of the Registrar, and enable them to subscribe money in connection with elections, to the serious hurt of the policy of our electoral system.
There is another matter, which may perhaps be due to a slip on the part of the 978 draftsman, and that is that members of town councils are not admissible. A county councillor can come in, but a town councillor or a councillor of a mere borough does not come within the definition, unless he comes in under the definition of the larger words at the end. Members of the Labour party may find some difficulty with colleagues of theirs outside who represent labour on the town councils unless this is remedied. I am not at all certain— and here I am one of those who make my representation to the Government quite disinterestedly— whether it is admissible on the part of trade unions to subscribe money for a purely non-trade union body like the Labour party. I rather think it is not, and if that be so, I, for one, representing a consituency in which I have to fight them, think that power at all events ought to be restored, if the words as they now stand do not do it sufficiently. I have taken up a strong position in this House or out of it, and I speak now of course with bated breath and whispering humbleness when I say I do not believe that our legal tribunals as at present constituted and officered are really competent, for a variety of reasons, for dealing with this great question affecting large bodies of men in the mass. I do not think they are competent, and in this matter I made a strong fight for the Trades Dispute Act of 1906. I do not think they are the best to deal with this social warfare in trade disputes. They are picked from men who are eminent in law and advocacy, and their very eminence almost unfits them for their subsequent positions in matters of this kind. They attain to the most wondrous skill in the microscopic examination of the finest points of individual rights, and that training of the brain peculiarly unfits them for dealing with these great masses of questions with that open-mindedness requisite. Therefore, taking that view, I watch with a good deal of apprehension the provision in this Bill which tends to give some additional powers to the courts, and I do not like the idea of the power of the Registrar being increased. I am not at all certain how you are going effectively to give him power in regard to unregistered unions. At present under no single Trade Unions Act has he the slightest power, and I am not certain that it is wise now to include unregistered unions within the scope of this Bill.
There is one other point with regard to the machinery of this Bill. My view is quite different to that expressed by the 979 hon. and learned Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) as to the power of the ballot. I think it is a real power, and it will go a long way to effectively secure rights. I think sufficient, and more than sufficient, provision is made for the minority in regard to contracting out. I think the Government have probably in that respect erred a little on the side of allowing too great laxity. I am not certain whether you are given power to contract out that in a case of this kind there ought not to be something more than a mere declaration that the man does not want to subscribe. I am not at all certain, taking the fact that he has already joined the organisation for trade union purposes, whether you ought not to impose upon him the duty of making a declaration that he conscientiously objects. Frankly I have no patience with the mere slacker, who does not want to subscribe to anything, but I have the profoundest sympathy with the man who has a conscientious objection to subscribe money to the propagation of, it may be, Socialist views, or non-sectarian views with regard to education, and so on, and I would give him every power I possibly could which would free him from the obligations of subscribing to something which he does not agree with. Taking that view, I rather suggest when we come to Committee that it may be well to substitute for a mere declaration something in the form of a declaration of conscientious objection. After all, these are but minor criticisms. I desire to say as one who at the last election took a strong stand against the Labour party in my own Constituency I very much admire the strong, bold, and courageous line which the Government have taken in regard to this Bill, and I trust the expressions of opinion we have heard from the Opposition and from the leaders of the Labour party that this may be treated as a matter rather of social reform in many respects, and that it may be made a really effective measure for dealing with these conditions.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not want to follow the hon. Gentleman in the expressions he made in the last part of his speech as regards the competency or otherwise of the judiciary. The whirligig of time brings about strange things, but I never expected to hear after the excellent speeches made by Lord Shaw, his devotion and appreciation of democracy, cried down by an hon. Member on the other side. That is the last thing I should 980 have expected. I do not dwell longer upon the subject. I only rise because I was directly appealed to by the hon. Member for Leicester as a representative of the anti-Socialist element in the country. I shall endeavour to answer the only two effective arguments put forward by the hon. Member. He put the two sides of the question: he said, in the first place, we are out for as much as we can get and the largest possible measure of reversal that we can secure. Failing that, he thinks the Bill provides ample safeguards for a minority. What was his argument upon that point. It was put in the form of a logical proposition. He said, "minorities not protected; why, the minority has far too much protection. Look at Clause 3." That argument is founded upon an entire fallacy. If there is a minority anxious to engage in political action it can do so, and nobody can prevent it. Therefore that argument goes by the board. Take the case of the Registrar's decision as to certificates. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has appreciated the fact that where a minority is aggrieved by the refusal of the Registrar to grant a certificate there is an appeal; but where a minority is aggrieved by the granting of a certificate by the Registrar there is no right of appeal. There is not in the Bill equal treatment of minorities even from the point of view which the hon. Member opposite suggested. I do not suggest that this is a case which is likely to arise, but that is the effect of the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I have already said that where a minority is aggrieved by the refusal to grant a certificate there is an appeal, and where a minority is aggrieved by the granting of a certificate there is no appeal, and the certificate of the Registrar is final for all purposes.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I will not press my point. In the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester I interjected a suggestion that it seemed hardly proper under certain circumstances that trade unions should spend other people's money to propagate views in which they do not believe. The hon. Member said a trade 981 union is a voluntary association, formed to promote the principles of any particular party and to promote the industrial principles in which it believes. That undoubtedly was true of trade unions in the past, but I doubt very much whether it can be truly said to be the case with the trade unions of to-day. The resolution passed at the Nottingham Congress has been the real driving force behind this movement for reversing the Osborne Judgment. Hon. Members were warned by Mr. Shackleton that this would be the case. They were warned of this when they were insisting upon the adoption of the principle of Socialism as a part of the party test. They were warned of this when the Socialists captured the machinery of the trade unions. Hon. Gentleman opposite had their warnings, and therefore it is absurd to say that a trade union can be regarded as a voluntary association.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well that there are conditions in certain factories and workshops which compel men to come into the union. What has been stated here to-day upon this point is only what is happening every day in isolated instances. You have before you this plain fact, that the industrial army of which the hon. Member for Leicester spoke is in some particular trades in a large measure subjected to a process very much akin to conscription, and it is very difficult indeed for a non-unionist to get work at all in some places. I confess that I cannot help regarding the safeguards which the Attorney-General has introduced as being to a considerable extent illusory. I have very grave doubts about the methods suggested in this Bill for taking a ballot. If your ballot is to be a really effective test for ascertaining the opinions of a union, further provision will have to be made to ensure its absolute secrecy, and some provision should be made to prevent intimidation and undue influence. This point arises under Clause 3, Paragraph (c), which provides:—
"That a member who is exempt from the obligation to contribute to the political fund of the union shall not be excluded from any benefits of the union, or placed in any respect, either directly or indirectly under any disability."
Supposing a trade union presumes upon its position and takes advantage of its power. It has power either direct or indirect to contravene the provisions of that Section. In that case what recourse or what remedy has an aggrieved member 982 against that particular trade union? Supposing the union excludes him from benefits, what has he to do? He cannot sue the union, because that is made clear in the Act of 1871, which provides in Subsection (3), Section 4:—
"Nothing in this Act shall enable any court to entertain any legal proceedings instituted with the object of directly enforcing or recovering damages for a breach of any of the following agreements, namely."
The Clause goes on to provide amongst other cases for
"any agreement for the application of a fund of a trade union to provide benefits for others,"
It is clear that under those circumstances a member has no legal remedy. Does the Government propose to give him any legal remedy? If not, what, effective steps do they propose to take to see that the provisions of this Sub-section are made real and effective. Personally, I do not think it is possible to find effective safeguards. I do not believe any safeguards you can devise can be made absolutely water-tight. I believe, however, that this Bill can be made more effective, and I will do my best to improve it by Amendments in Committee. I regret that the Government have approached this question by means of a system of contracting out instead of a system, if I may use the term, of contracting in. I think it is in the opposite direction that the real solution can be found.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I rise to answer one or two of the points which have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House with regard to the safeguards in the bill. Our point is that those safeguards are far too strong, and should be carefully considered. The hon. Member for East Glamorgan (Mr. C. Edwards) referred to an opinion given by Sir Robert Reid, as he then was, and Sir Edward Clarke. I hold an exact copy of that opinion in my hand, and I can assure the hon. Member that he is quite wrong in what he said with regard to it. The opinion of those gentlemen was taken upon the general question as to whether a trade union could or could not take part in political action generally, and these are the words they used:—The society can rake money for purposes which fall within the declared objects for which it exists. The first of these objects is to improve the condition and to protect the interests of its members. Whether the maintenance of Parliamentary representation falls within that object or not is not a question of pure law, but a question of fact to be determined by judges. In 983 our opinion, however, a Court ought to hold that this society is entitled to require, by properly made rules, a contribution from its members for Parliamentary representation. Such a step may tend to improve the condition and to protect the interests of its members, and if it may do so, and the society deliberately concludes that it is so, we do not think the Courts would take upon themselves to declare the contrary, though it is quite possible some judges would overrule the conclusion of the society in this respect.We quite see the prescience with which that opinion concludes when it said some judges might overrule the conclusions of the society in that respect. Two of the most learned men in the law were asked to give their opinion, and it was on that opinion that the society with which I am connected acted when it finally decided to incorporate this provision in its rules. It seems to have been forgotten by many hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate that this is no new question. The question of trade unions taking part in political affairs, paying election expenses, and providing funds for the maintenance of Parliament is not a new question at all. It has been going on ever since 1868. Members of this House have been paid by trade unions ever since 1874, and there has never been a period during the whole of that time when there has not been some Member of this House whose election expenses have been paid and whose salary has been found by trade unions. I want to ask, and I think we are entitled to ask, when hon. Members get up in this House and say that to give trade unions a power to pay Members of Parliament means the degradation of public life and putting them into a privileged position; what has been the conduct of the Labour Members in this House during the whole of that period. Have they degraded public life, and if they have not then the charge falls absolutely to the ground. The hon. and learned Member opposite said the passing of this Bill to enable trade unions to pay the salaries of Members of Parliament would be the beginning of the degradation of public life. He said: "Once start and we shall see the results as they have seen them in America." "Once start!" I was amused, after thirty-seven years' experience, we should be told that in future this degradation is to take place. We have certainly the right to ask hon. Members who say this policy will mean the degradation of public life, whether they mean to say, honestly and fairly and above board that the presence of Labour Members in this House has degraded public life and has made it any worse than it was before. If they were honest in 984 what they said on other occasions, that is not the fact, and they would not get up on any public platform and say so.
I want to say a word with reference to something which fell from the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Markham). He does not seem quite to realise what the position is with regard to a Member elected by a trade union who becomes a Member of the Labour party, and he does not seem quite to understand the actual practice which has already been in vogue with reference to payments to the Labour party. As a matter of fact, no trade union which goes in for Labour representation parts with its money altogether. After ail, I should like to remind the House that we are dealing to-day with a question which has never affected any individual member of any trade union at any time of his life snore than ls. per year. All these questions about rights of minority, about conscience, and about the trouble that is going to ensue if a ballot is taken and somebody refuses to pay his shilling, is all really so much nonsense when you come to examine the matter. It is only one shilling a year that has ever been asked for, and twopence of that shilling is all that has ever been paid to the Central Labour party. Tenpence has been kept by the organisation itself to be dealt with by its own particular members. We are told this trouble would never have begun if it was not that a pledge was exacted from Members of Parliament that they would be bound by some mysterious Whip to do certain things to which they were opposed, which were against the interests of their Constituents, and possibly even against their own consciences. There has never been such a position taken up by the Labour party at any time. What has happened has simply been that Members of Parliament of the Labour party who were elected to this House have met in conference and have decided their own policy. After this they have put up their whips and have expected their Members to go into the same Lobby, but they have never on these occasions tried to impose any condition or to say the Member must go into the Lobby. Nobody has suffered either in pocket or in reputation by the fact that he has not obeyed what is called the party whip. As a matter of fact, the statement made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) is perfectly true. The Members of the Labour party in their votes in this House have practically been the freest of any body in the House. I am 985 quite sincere when I make that statement, and I believe it to be perfectly true.
I now come to the Bill. The Amalgamated Society has been the first to be affected by the decision of the law courts, and, as in so many matters, it has had to pay a very heavy price for legal advice and opinion and also for legal advocacy. This case alone has cost us some thousands of pounds, and I think I am quite right in saying we have suffered if we have done anything wrong. I make bold to say the society did all it could to get proper legal advice before it took the action it did, and therefore it has only been carrying out what it believes to be a perfectly, correct and perfectly legal policy. I should like to deal just for a moment with the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman and others as to public policy. Lord Davy said:—Public policy is always an unsafe and a treacherous ground for a legal decision.Public policy was the ground upon which certain members of the highest court in the land gave a decision against the trade unions in this matter. Public policy is a matter for the Legislature. The courts have outlawed us, and it is to the Legislature we now come for remedy. It is incumbent upon all those who defend the Osborne Judgment upon the ground of public policy to say in what manner public policy has been outraged. We believe the action of Labour representatives in the House, from the first time they came into the House, so far from being contrary to public policy, has been in the interest of the public well-being. It has not been merely in the interests of a narrow or a sectional class, but, in the interests of the whole of the public. We now come to this House and ask them if they really desire there should be no representatives of the working classes here at all. Hon. Members by their conduct upon this Bill or upon some other Bill must be judged in regard to that question. It is perfectly obvious working men cannot be elected to this House except through the instrumentality and by the agency of the trade unions. The trade unions, when they started this policy, felt that the interests of their members demanded there should be working men in this House. The policy was successful, and the country and this House has had an opportunity of judging of its success. It has been said many times that the value which the House puts upon Labour representation is very great. We are not asking for privileges; we are asking for equality. It is only by the combined 986 pence of the working men, gathered up by the trade unions, that it is possible to get a fund by which Labour Members can be elected to this House. Before trade unions began this policy there was no opportunity, and no working man ever got into this House. Practically every person, or nearly every person, who has been elected as a labour representative has been elected by means of trade union subscriptions. It may be said that, so far as Members of this House are concerned, the payment of Members would be sufficient. But it will be nothing of the kind. It will meet the position so far as attendance at the House is involved, and in regard to certain other matters for which a Member is responsible, but it will not aid or enable a working man to get elected to this House. We ask for a remedy for the Osborne Judgment, which prevents trade unions from taking the steps they have hitherto taken to secure the election of working men. We have been told by the "Daily News" that the remedy proffered is full and complete—that it is a complete fulfilment of the Government pledge. I desire to say we do not think that this Bill does provide that fulfilment; we think it goes very much too far in the direction of exemption; it goes too far also in other ways.
May I be permitted to explain what I mean? It completely, it seems to me— I am not a lawyer, of course, but it completely and fundamentally changes the character and nature of trade unions. I do not know if I am right in that, but if it does we shall have to consider the point very carefully. It seems to accept and confirm the idea that a trade union is a statutory corporation. It seems to stereotype the doctrine of ultra vires with regard to trade unions, and it would appear from the Bill that in future a trade union will be absolutely and entirely limited by its constitution. It cannot change it even by the votes of its members. I hear an interjection to the effect that it cannot do so now, but that is our complaint against the Osborne Judgment. We complained that it treated trade unions as statutory corporations or quasi corporations. It assumed that they were limited absolutely by the objects set out in the Trade Union Act of 1876, and for that reason they prevented us from doing those things which we had previously done, and which in fact we are still doing. Again, the powers of the Registrar of Friendly Societies are very much enlarged, and in our opinion they seem to go too far. Previously he 987 was held practically to have no power with regard to trade unions. He only had to see that their rules did not conflict with the ordinary law of the land.
Again, it gives far too wide a power to the men who desire exemption. I wonder why the Government have not put into the Bill a provision that the trade unions shall send a stamped envelope to the man who desires to dissent, in order that he may return the form which is to be forwarded to him, and which practically invites him to become a dissenter from the fund. If we are to allow a dissentient minority, I, for one, am in favour of the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, that one of two things should have been done; either there should have been a complete reversal of the Osborne Judgment, or the Government should have said they would not take the matter any further. I agree too with the view of the hon. Member for East Glamorgan, that there ought only to be a declaration that a member desires to be exempt from the payment, and that he should be treated as a conscientious objector to that payment.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, would invert that provision of the Bill, and suggests that a man should make a declaration that he is willing to pay; not that he is unwilling. That in practice is voluntaryism under another form. It is making the matter on the part of the member a purely voluntary contribution. Our reply to that is that a purely voluntary contribution is well-nigh useless. It is with the utmost difficulty that it can be collected, but if you put it in the rules and make it part of the organisation, that in effect is an obligation on the man to pay; in nine cases out of ten he will not resist it but will pay it ungrudgingly. He will do that provided it is put in as part of the rules, and provided it is made an obligation on him, but if you leave it an open question, if you let it depend only on his own volition or on the purely spasmodic action of local secretaries, it will not succeed. I am the Secretary of a Voluntary Fund formed in our Amalgamated Society since the Osborne Judgment. We know it is not the fact that men are entirely unwilling to pay, or that they have any conscientious objection to paying. The difficulty is in making it a voluntary fund, and in collecting the money. These difficulties are exceedingly hard to get over. But if trade unionism is to take a part in politics it 988 must take it as a recognised part of the organisation and not as a mere appendage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer only yesterday pointed out in regard to the question of insurance, how voluntary insurance had failed in Massachusetts, where the rich men had to pay collectors to go round to the houses to collect the money. The object was a reasonable one, but still they could not get the money because it was merely a voluntary fund, and people would not voluntarily insure, although the Government was offering them special inducements to do so.
We of the Labour party believe the test of sincerity, whether we are required in this House at all, or whether it is desired we should be here by Members of either of the great parties, will depend on the treatment meted out to this question. We are not in the same position as they are. We must depend on some outside forces or agency to provide the money for our election expenses. It is true many Members on both sides of the House do the same. I believe it is also true that there are Members in this House who are paid their salaries to be here by outside agencies, such as the Tariff Reform League. But whether that be so or not we cannot be here unless funds are found for us by the trade unions. So far they have been willing to find those funds, and, I repeat, it is a test of the sincerity of hon. Members and of their desire to have us here whether they will give trade unions power to provide those funds. We feel we have justified our existence here, and appeal to the House to pass this Bill, which will provide the means for our continuing here.
I am sorry the Attorney-General is not here. But we must have some degree of compassion for him because he stood the punishment of interminable dreary speeches for four hours. I may perhaps make a similar appeal to one I made to the Committee upstairs, and that is that Members should endeavour to give others a chance of speaking by confining their own observations within ten minutes. Last night we had for example a most interesting Bill—the Insurance Bill—upon which certainly thirty or forty Members wished to speak, and we had one hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Swansea, who is a very able man and a man who speaks well as a rule, and he occupied the House for forty minutes. I have no doubt he is quite ashamed of the speech when he reads it, and we were told that he was instructed or desired to speak 989 for forty minutes. All that is said by Members on both sides of the House, with rare exceptions, which extends to over ten minutes is not worth hearing. I take it as a proof of that, that with the exception of the Gentleman who has just sat down there has not been a single Member who has spoken to-night who has not retreated, on who has remained and faced the misery and the suffering of the people he left here after his speech. I would appeal to the hon. Gentlemen who have to speak not to punish the House for more than ten minutes. I myself have never spoken for more than five minutes, and I will keep within ten minutes to-night. The Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite know my attitude as regards trade unions, and what I have to say I would rather say from a cross-bench in the House, if such existed, because I do not want to associate the party I vote with as a rule with what I have to say. The bare, cold truth has been exposed to-night with considerable courage by the Labour party. We have it, and they will correct me if I am wrong—we have it from the Member who last spoke, that the working men, much as they should have representation here, much as it is to be desired that they should have representation, and every party in the House wants the Labour representatives here, who are the pick of their class—it has been made absolutely clear that the working man will not himself subscribe the necessary funds to bring members here, and that the only chance the Labour Members have is to make for their continuous and continual support of the Liberal Government a bargain with the Government that they should give the Labour party compulsory powers to levy upon the members of trade unions, whether they are Conservative or churchmen, or whatever they may be, contributions for Socialistic purposes. They have asked, and I am afraid the Government are willing to bargain with them, full power to tax the whole of the working classes whom they control, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will not deny that they do control them. They want the power to wring from the hard earnings of the working man contributions to support Labour-Socialist, Socialist-Labour, Liberal-Labour Members, or whatever name you like to give them, and to send them to Parliament here. That has been exposed, and that has been admitted by all those Labour Members who have spoken. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) the Leader of the Labour party, 990 used words to the effect that the minority had no rights, and whatever the majority of the Labour Members did must prevail. Hon. Members know, however, that the nicest of the working classes do not attend the meetings of trade unions that are so frequently held in public-houses. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh."] I am glad you admit it. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do not admit it."] The respect able married working man as a class does not attend trade-union meetings that are held in public-houses, and therefore the governing of these lodges that are held in public-houses is left in the hands of the least desirable of the members of the trade unions, and those members of trade unions who are not, so good citizens as the others. [An HON. MEMBER: "Good-looking."] Well, I do not know that you are a picture of beauty. I do not know whether as to personal beauty you have anything to "swank" about, but anyway, I think you will admit that I have had thirty years' experience of the continuous opposition of trade unions.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I think it would be well if I remind the hon. Member of the custom of the House to address the Chair and not hon. Members.
I must apologise, but I was led away by an interruption. The two points that I want to make are that it has been admitted by the Labour party that the minority have no rights, and I want also to point out that there is clearly a determination to enforce the contributions of members of trade unions to the Socialist or Labour party, or whatever party it may be called, irrespective of the feelings and the deep and sincere convictions of some of the members of that body. The safeguards that are put in the Bill are merely imaginary and do not exist. As a matter of fact, everyone here who has experience of trade unions knows that the system of intimidation, terrorism, and tyranny that is exercised against these few members who dare to exercise their consciences is too much for the ordinary working man to bear; and if this Bill is passed in any form you are giving the Labour party the right to tax the conscientious and conservative working man for purposes to which he objects, whether you call them Labour purposes or Socialistic purposes. You are compelling him to give his money in the form of subscriptions to objects of Socialism which he properly and conscientiously loathes.
§ Mr. BARTON
I am always glad to agree With my opponent, and I start my speech by saying that I am certainly inclined to follow the right hon. Member opposite in the line he laid down in his speech. I listened with the utmost pleasure to the felicitous speech of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke officially for the Opposition. I was agreeably surprised when he followed it to its logical conclusion by intimating that the Opposition did not propose to divide on the Second Reading of this Bill. I was all the more surprised because the speech which opened this Debate from the Opposition was an extremely impressive speech, which led us all to expect that it was their intention to fight the Bill. I observe incidentally that the hon. Member fell into a mistake which is rather a common one with junior Conservative Members for Lancashire Divisions. He spoke at least twice, I think three times, in his speech on behalf of the county of Lancashire, and as a Lancashire Member I could not forget than after all he was only the representative of a minority, almost a permanent minority, in that county. I support the Second Reading of the Bill with the very greatest pleasure. I regard it as part of the necessary steps, which will be completed by the payment of Members, to make possible Labour representation in this House. I do not know that I am specially interested in labour representation as sectional representation, but I feel most strongly that the balance of national interest can only be preserved by direct representation of Labour here.
Apart altogether from any theory which one may hold on this subject, my short period of attendance in this House has convinced me that the Labour party is not, any more than any other party, a sectional party. On great national questions it can be relied upon to exercise as sound a judgment as any other party in the House, and, indeed, if the Government had not provided a Rill such as that with which they have provided us, I should have been prepared to vote for legislation completely reversing the Osborne Judgment. My recollection is that one of those judgments. I think that of Lord James, was almost entirely based on the fact that the Labour party was a pledge-bound party, and if my recollection serves me further resolutions which have since been passed by the Labour party have largely taken away that around of complaint. But whether that recollection is correct or not, of one thing I am quite certain, that they are no 992 more a pledge-bound party than any other party in the House. The only difference, I believe, is that formerly they had a written pledge, which certainly is not true of the party with which I am associated, and I think it is not properly true of any other parties, but nevertheless we all in the main support the party with which we are officially connected.
It may be asked why, holding these views, I support this Bill. My principal difficulty in advocating legislation which would amount to a complete reversal of the Osborne Judgment was the position in which a minority man would be placed if he seceded from his union. I know, as a man engaged in trade myself, that it is almost impossible for a man in several of the highly organised trades, probably all of them, to obtain work at all if he ceases to be a trade unionist. I am not at this moment suggesting any coercion which may be put upon him by his union. I am thinking rather of the fact that many employers of labour to-day, and I amongst them, distinctly prefer to have union labour. We find we get the pick of the men, and we find it easier to deal with the representative of a well-organised body than to deal with disunited and isolated men. So it is undoubtedly the case that for a man to secede from his trade union vitally prejudices his chance of earning a living. That being so, I am glad to support this Bill, because it finds us a model way out of our difficulties. I represent one of the largest industrial constituencies in the country. Out of every ten men who voted for me— and I think there were something like 18,000 of them—at least nine would be trade unionists. Before the General Election it was made known, I think by the Prime Minister, what the attitude of the Cabinet was on this particular question, and the attitude as then declared was very much the position which is revealed in this Bill.
I think the real crux of this Bill comes in Clause 3 (c), that is, as to the efficacy or otherwise of the safeguards provided for the minority man. I have studied the Clause as well as I can, and, to the best of my judgment, it adequately provides safeguards. I do not know of any other words which would better provide those safeguards, because, when a man deliberately takes a line of action in opposition to the vast body of his co-workers, and in opposition to what they believe to be their best interests, it is exceedingly difficult to find suitable words to provide a safeguard. 993 But, if the Bill is to have any meaning at all, it is obvious that the safeguards must be effective. I support the Bill, believing that those safeguards are adequate, and that if other words can be found more adequately safeguarding the minority man the Government is willing to accept them. I also believe that this promise-keeping Government, as I believe it, has in this Bill fulfilled one more of the promises which we made at the election to our constituents.
§ Viscount WOLMER
This question has reached a pitch of the very greatest importance in my Constituency, which, until the last election was represented by a Member of the Labour party, and the election was fought very largely on this particular question. I think we recognise on this side of the House that on this question some legislation was necessary. We realise that the position of the Labour party as the paid officials of distinct organisations is in many respects, as their leader has himself said, not a very satisfactory one, but still there is no other suggestion that has been put forward which would secure adequate representation of the views which are held by a very important section of the community. However much we may differ from them politically, it is obvious that this House cannot conduct its business efficiently unless the views that are put forward by such an important body as the Members below the Gangway are adequately expressed in this House.
I would put forward that the situation which existed before the Osborne Judgment, however much the leader of the Labour party may have taken pains to secure that his action was strictly legal, was nothing short of a hideous tyranny. I ask hon. Members to consider the claim that is put forward by the Labour party on this subject. It is a double claim. In the first place, they say that all working men in the more highly organised trades in this country must join a trade union; and, secondly, they say that if they join a trade union, they must pay a levy towards the upkeep of Socialism in this House. I admit that the attitude of the Labour party during the last few months has undergone considerable modification. When the Osborne Judgment was first pronounced they declared that they would force Parliament to abolish it immediately, and when they discovered that Parliament had no such intention they proclaimed a propaganda throughout the 994 country to make another Taff Vale case and to sweep in all trade unionists to coerce both political parties. They had had an excellent opportunity at two elections, and the result in that part of the country from which I come has not been encouraging to Members who sit below the Gangway. I was interested to hear from the leader of their party that they still demand the total abolition of the Osborne Judgment. Let us analyse the claim they have put forth. In the first place, they demand that every man shall join a union; and, in the second place, they demand that every man shall contribute to the upkeep of their party in the House of Commons.
I want particularly to deal with the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation, because they have been exceedingly active in the neighbourhood of my Constituency during the past few weeks. The history of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation during the past few years has been a typical one. I believe I am right in stating that during the past five or six years many thousands of men have left that union. I certainly ascribe that large resignation of members to the political complexion which has been thrown over the trade union movement by the advent of the Socialist Labour party. I shall prove to hon. Members that these Lancashire men were not opposed to the trade union point of view, and that they have not been driven from their union merely from being out of work and not having the money to pay their contributions. In this part of Lancashire a new union has been founded which is exactly similar to the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners Federation in every respect except that it is Conservative instead of Socialist. Although it is small, not having more than 1,000 members, it is registered as a trade union, and is in every respect as much a trade union as the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners Federation. The federation have decided that this union must be stamped out altogether. They have been alarmed at the number of men who have left the federation, and therefore they have decided to force every working miner in Lancashire to join their own union. How do they set about it? In the first place they chose pits at Barn furlong, near Wigan, which were specially favourable to their tactics—pits where there were only four men working who did not belong to the federation. The mine is such a delicate one that it could not have been 995 left vacant without the roof falling in. By threatening the masters with a strike they forced them in this case to dismiss the men because they would not toe the Socialist line, and would not become members of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners Federation. Now they have gone on to some pits called the Park Lane colliery, also near Wigan, and there they have forced over 250 men to join the union by threatening the masters that the pit would be closed down unless these men were either forced to join the union or discharged. To prove that this is not exaggerated I will read the sort of circular that is sent round by the federation. Many hundreds of copies of the circular have been sent to me by indignant Conservative miners who are acting under compulsion in this matter. This is from the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners Federation:—Fellow Workmen,—During the past four weeks the organising has proceeded at these collieries with remarkable success: over 800 have joined the society. We appeal to all these to remain loyal, to stand firm, and become financial members, so that any action we take in the future may be successful. We can only succeed by combination—powerful, progressive, perfect combination. There are still a few remaining outside the union. The Federation and the local branch intend that none shall remain outside the society at this firm. The Federation spent nearly £2,000 to make one man join at Pendlebury. Bamfurlong colleries have been brought to the point of a general stoppage to force all men to join… Let no man suffer the discredit of having to be forced.It could not be more brutally put by a German drill sergeant.
Let hon. Members below the Gangway consider for one moment what they are demanding. They are forcing these men, who are Liberals, Conservatives, Independents, or Socialists, every one into the union. They may be right or wrong. I am not going to pass criticism on that action at the present moment. But when they have forced these men into their union then they demand that these men shall be obliged to contribute towards political principles which they abominate. The Leader of the Labour party has said to night that his party, as regards its pledges and its party test., is the loosest in the House. He says that hon. Members who have constituents who care about these matters, like the hon. Member for Ince, are free to go in for religious education in our schools, or any other subject which they do not regard as of paramount importance. But what consolation is that to the man who has been forced to pay for members who of their own free will go in for policies of which he entirely disapproves 7 The Labour party are presumably bound 996 together on certain questions. On certain other questions they inform us that every man is entitled to act in the manner he desires. But how much further does that take us? The point we have to quarrel about is not the particular line of action which hon. Members below the Gangway take, but that they are being supported out of the funds of men who are diametrically opposed to that policy. That is the point. It has been said that a man goes into a trade union with his eyes open, that he knows trade unionists have been captured by the Socialists and that he is free to go in or not as he likes. But that is diametrically the opposite to the fact. The essential point of the whole situation is that these men are forced into the union against their Own will, and, having been forced in, they are forced to support principles which they loathe and abominate.
And then we are told by hon. Members opposite that the majority must decide, that the majority must rule in the trade unions. But what must the majority rule? Is the majority to rule the opinions, beliefs and wishes of every individual man in the minority? I submit that no such claim has been put forward since the days of the Spanish Inquisition. The majority is at liberty to decide questions which are germane to the particular organisation, but no majority that I am yet aware of has ever put forward the claim that it is to decide what a man shall wish, what a man shall believe and what policy a man shall support. That is the claim that is being put forward by the Labour party at the present moment. The Leader of the Labour party, in his most interesting speech this afternoon, likened his party to an army. He said that in an army you cannot have dissentient men, and he asked us whether we would tolerate such men in our army; but our army is recruited on a voluntary basis, while he deals with a conscript army, an army of men, the minority of which are forced in against their will, and are then forced to support policies which they absolutely detest. Other Members said that the Labour party is primarily a trade-union party, and not a political party in the sense of the Conservative or Liberal party. Take the Leader of the Labour party himself. I believe I am right in saying he is not a trade unionist. Hon. Members will correct me if I am wrong; but, at all events, he is a party politician. They are nearly all Socialists; they are all Home Rulers; they are nearly all secularists; they are as much party politicians as many 997 other Members of this House, and to say that they are immune from the ordinary distrusts of party warfare, and that they should be trusted by men of all parties simply because they happen to be chosen by a majority in the trade unions is, to my mind, putting forward an absolutely absurd and indefensible claim.
The Leader of the Labour party has said that the minority has got the benefits which have been secured to workmen by the majority. Yes, but what benefit? The benefits of Socialism, the benefits of Home Rule, the benefits of secular education.[An HON. MEMBER: "Have you got Home Rule yet?"] That, I understand, is the policy, the benefits of which hon. Members are holding out as a charm to the dissentient minority. Whatever policy the Labour party may bring forward, as long as they have men who disapprove of their policy they cannot help outraging the feelings of that minority when they offer them rewards and benefits which they detest from the very bottom of their hearts. The fact that they do not detest one thing and do detest another does not mitigate the injury. The minority, of course, will not disagree with the majority on every subject under the sun, but there are questions of the most vital policy on which these men are diametrically opposed to the Labour party, and which it is pure unadulterated tyranny to force them to support by their contributions. I will only say to the Labour party that they, have two alternatives: either they may be free trade unionists, on the ordinary level of other corporations and bodies of citizens in this country, or else if they are to be a special class by themselves, they must be very carefully placed under the special supervision of the law. I mean to say this, that we give trade unions great privileges and put them in a very special position, and we allow them to enjoy a monopoly and a power over workmen in this country which is unequalled in any other class of the community, for this House allows trade unions to force men to join them against their will, and as they are put into this special position it is therefore for the Government to see that those men are not handed over to the tender mercies of their political opponents. If we allow men to be forced into trade unions and allow them to be forced to belong to these bodies against their will, then it is the duty of the State to see that the power which has been entrusted to trade unions is not deliberately abused I say that that power has been abused in 998 the past, and that a system of tyranny among trade unionists exists at the pre sent moment, which is such as to call for the active interference of the State.
Now with regard to the details as opposed to the principles of this Bill. In the first place, I would strongly impress upon the Government the absolute necessity of securing that if a trade union decides to embark on a new policy it shall do so with the approval and support of the majority of its members. When you allow the union to be committed to a new policy on a mere majority of those enthusiastic members who are in a position to control the machinery of the party, then you are allowing the energetic minority to lead and coerce the passive majority, and I think that is a very dangerous position indeed. With regard to the administration of the ballot itself, I would not trust it, in the hands of the trade union leaders. I think that the Registrar of Friendly Societies ought to have the power of appointing some officer who shall see that the ballot is conducted upon fair and just lines. Mr. Osborne and other members of trade unions have made the most serious charges as to the partiality of the management of trade unions, and it should be seen that the ballots are managed in a fair manner. If ballots are managed fairly, hon. Members opposite can have no possible objection to this being proved publicly by the testimony of impartial officials. Therefore, for the necessary security of the carrying out of the ballots it is essential that some impartial judge shall be in the position to see that they are not gerrymandered in the way which certain rumours suggest that they have been gerrymandered in the past. With regard to the intimidation of the minority, hon. Member opposite have poured great scorn on stories of men who have been ducked for their resistance. But we have got much more serious cases of intimidation than those.
What has happened to Mr. Osborne himself? Has lie not been hounded out of the union simply because he dared to be a Liberal instead of being a Socialist? I know that the men in Lancashire who dared to get an injunction against the Federation have been subjected to every sort of petty personal persecution, arid public attacks and abuse of the most personal and most violent character, not from irresponsible Socialists, but from the responsible Leaders of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation them- 999 selves. That, I think, shows the so-called tolerant spirit in which the trade union officials would deal with men who dared to avail themselves of the privileges given under this Bill. I do not think that this Bill provides for the safety of the minority in at all a proper degree. There is no security in the Bill that the Bill itself will be enforced. I mean to say that there is no security that the man who has dared to avail himself of the privileges under this Bill will not be hounded out of his union in the same way as were Mr. Osborne and other men. Of course, the union officials would not be able to allege it openly as heretofore, but they would neglect no excuse to turn a man out of the union, and to deprive him of his past payments to that union simply because he has dared to stand up against the caucus in power. The record of trade unions in this matter is bad. I think many Members of this House have had instances of personal and petty persecution against men who have dared to stand for their own free opinion.
I do not regard this Bill as in any way guaranteeing the rights of the minority in a trade union unless there is some provision in it to enable a man who has refused to pay the Parliamentary levy, and who has subsequently been ejected from his union, to call upon the officials to show cause why they have ejected him from that union. I think that should be an absolutely essential feature of the Bill, to make it workable. There are many minor objections that we have against this Bill. We do not think that the Registrar of Friendly Societies is altogether as satisfactory a tribunal as His Majesty's Courts of Law. In the great Osborne case itself the Master of the Rolls pointed out that the Registrar of Friendly Societies had registered a rule, although it had been passed in an illegal and irregular manner, and there are other reasons for showing that these matters should be tried and judged by the ordinary courts of law. There is another defect in this Bill. There is an appeal if the Registrar of Friendly Societies refuses to register a trade union, but I see that there is no appeal if he refuses to withdraw his registration of a trade union. It is absolutely essential that there should be an alteration in that respect in order to give the aggrieved minority a chance of bringing the trade union to book. We would not on this side of the House interfere with trade unions if they did not interfere with working men. 1000 [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Do hon. Members opposite deny that they have forced working men into trade unions against their will?
§ Mr. SUTTON
Does the Noble Lord deny that the minority do not refuse to accept the benefits obtained by trade unions?
§ Viscount WOLMER
I say that the minority, in so far as they disagree with what is carried out by hon. Members opposite derive no benefit at all, and that is the one thing they want to avoid. To that extent it is an absolute outrage to the minority to tell them that they have as much opportunity of enjoying the benefits of Home Rule as the majority have. What we object to is trade unions going to these men and forcing them to belong to a union, and then forcing them to pay for principles which they detest. Hon. Gentlemen opposite challenge my right to speak for the working men. In the Constituency which I have the honour to represent there are something like 9,000 trade unionists out of an electorate of 15,000. If the trade unionists supported hon. Members opposite the Member for Newton would be sitting amongst them.
§ Viscount WOLMER
It was simply because the trade unionists have revolted from their union leaders that the whole of South-West Lancashire was swept at the last election. I beg to put forward for the consideration of this House the claims of the minority, of men who have been forced into trade unions against their will, and whose only crime is that they as free citizens stand for their own opinion, and will not kowtow to what is dictated to them by the trade union caucus.
§ Mr. CRAWSHAY WILLIAMS
The Noble Lord finds himself, I think, in some general agreement with the main principles of the Bill before the House. I think his main object was to attack the position of the Labour party, and, in doing so, he, if I may say so, made quite an eloquent appeal in favour of Section 1 of Clause 3 of the Bill, which provides for minority rights. The argument in favour of Clause 3 could not be put better than it was by him. I do believe that the minority should have their rights accorded to them. I have always been in favour of some provision ensuring that the minority should be able either to take back their money or not to have to pay it in such a matter as a trade union levy. I 1001 think throughout this Debate there has been a considerable amount of agreement on the main principles of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), in his speech, also assented in the main to the principles of the Bill, and indeed went so far as to say that he would offer no opposition, and advised his own followers to offer no opposition to the Second Reading. Whether the independent minority behind him, some of whom, I think, are not quite in agreement with him on this point, will assert their rights and freedom which have been so much extolled in this Debate, we cannot yet tell. The Opposition, as a whole, do, I think, agree that some modification is necessary in consequence of the Osborne Judgment, though what precise modification they would suggest I must confess I have not yet quite ascertained from their speeches. They do agree that some modification is necessary, but the right hon. Gentleman, I think, advanced the proposition that under the Bill as it stands the minority would still be liable to have their money used for certain political purposes That is to say, that they might find under the Statutory rights of trade unions that the trade unions were using their money for such things as the advancement of Socialism. Surely that centres round the phrase "Statutory objects," and that objection is as liable to be advanced to-day as it would be under the Bill.
As to what Statutory objects may be and how they should be defined I will not venture as a mere layman to suggest, but I would point out that the principle of the Bill is surely, even according to the right hon. Gentleman, a right one in that it divides the objects of trade unions into two classes. You have industrial objects which are statutory ones, and it may be necessary to further define those objects, and you have political industrial objects which are, so to speak, onside the scope of the ordinary trade union until they are brought within it. Therefore, as far as the principle is concerned, and so far as the definitions at present are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman could not, I think, advance any objection to the Bill itself. The right hon. Gentleman then asked do we desire to place the minority in a position of real freedom and security. He said if we desire to do so that we ought to say that only voluntary contributions should be invited under the Bill. That is to say, a man would have to come forward and say, "I want to con- 1002 tribute to the political fund." To my mind there is a very great practical objection to that, in fact it becomes almost a practical impossibility. After all we are reckoning with human nature and those obstacles that stand in the way of the purely voluntary contribution are in the nature of objections which are raised by ordinary qualities of human kind. I have always said it is a farce to restore any liberty of political action to trade unions without giving facilities and methods for carrying that out. I do not think that permission of purely voluntary action would be really restoring to trade unions effective liberty of political action.
The right hon. Gentleman further advanced what I may call the "marked man" argument. He said if you do not have these contributions purely voluntary that the men who refuse to pay will be marked men, but surely that applies exactly as much to the voluntary contributor. If a man is to be a marked man because he refuses to contribute, why is he not to be a marked man if he does not come forward and contribute. It seems to me that the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used with regard to the man who claimed exemption would apply with equal force to the man who refused to come forward. He would be just as much a marked man as the man who claimed exemption. I support this Bill, though perhaps I cannot agree entirely with its provisions, but be cause I believe it does a great deal in the direction of reform of the Osborne Judgment and the situation caused by the Osborne Judgment, and because it may be made to do even more than it does at present. I agree with the two theses of the learned Attorney-General when he said that the two necessary objects of the Bill were to restore liberty of political action to the trade unions, and at the same time to protect the minority. What is involved in this restoration of political activity? I do not think it is enough to give simple permission to take political action without, making it possible to take that action and without granting facilities which make it a real gift. This is, after all, a matter of money, and you must enable them to raise that money. It is not enough to say to them that they can raise it by inviting voluntary subscriptions. Unless you enable them to use their machinery effectively for collecting funds I do not believe you are really and in effect restoring that liberty of political action which they had in the past, and which they used well in the past.
1003 On the other hand. it is no less necessary in my opinion to protect the rights of the minority, and as has been pointed out the minority in a trade union is perhaps in a different position to almost any other minority. As the learned Attorney-General said they are in a very different position from a minority in a club, who can leave if they like, while in the case of a trade union it may be a matter of livelihood or benefits, and it means a very great deal to a man to leave his trade union. The question of a minority is a different matter in a trade union to what it is in other walks of life, but I also agree that that when a man refuses to pay towards political funds of his trade union that it should really be a matter of conscience and not merely a matter of casualness. How are you sure that it is his conscience and not casualness that operates. My own view is embodied in a Bill which I have introduced, and which provides that you should not grant a man any exemption until you have first of all collected the money, and then repay it if a man's conscience prompts him to ask for it. That makes it a little more of a ceremony than is provided in this Bill to allow a man to get his money back. To that extent, perhaps, that would be a better provision. It would, I think, make a great difference in some ways, because many men would not care to go to the trouble of writing to ask for their contributions back who might take the trouble, once and for all, to claim exemption from payment. I heard one man who knew a good deal about this subject say that the difference between a voluntary contribution and a refund would be that in the case of the voluntary contribution about 10 per cent. might make the contribution, whereas in the case of a refund only about 10 per cent. would ask for it back. You may say that that is all very well; why should they contribute if only 10 per cent. would contribute in the original instance? My answer is that if only 10 per cent. asked for their money back, only 10 per cent. would have any very great conscientious feelings in the matter. That is all I want to ensure. In conclusion, although I am not absolutely satisfied with the provisions of the Bill as it stands, I believe it is a real and distinct advance, and that if amended it may be made an even greater advance than it is at present. Therefore I shall, with the greatest heartiness, go into the Lobby in support of the Bill if a division is taken.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I regret that the Noble Lord opposite (Viscount Wolmer) introduced into his speech a considerable amount of heat and animus which I hardly think are shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have known something of the working of trade unions for a considerable number of years, and, although I cannot deny that occasionally pressure of an improper character has been brought to hear, yet I can say with absolute certainty that so far as the general conduct of trade unions in this country is concerned, and the way in which they manage their business, there is a singular absence of all lawless proceedings and of all desire to oppress those who may happen to differ from the majority. I make that observation, not merely from my experience of trade unionists in the division that I have the honour to represent, but also of trade unionists in various parts of the Kingdom. Another strange misconception which runs through the speeches of many hon. Members, and from which the Attorney-General was not altogether exempt, is that trade unions have only recently made an incursion into political life. As a matter of fact—I have very good reason to know it—going back as far as the early 'forties, trade unions took a very active part in politics. They promoted, financially and otherwise, the election or the attempted election, of Members to Parliament. They used their funds for philanthropic, industrial and commercial purposes. It is altogether a misconception of trade unions to suppose that they were formed purely as benefit societies—although such they probably were in their origin—or as associations for regulating the relations between employers and employed.
It is not for me to criticise the judgment in the Osborne case. That judgment has been given, and by that judgment it has been established that the Trade Union Acts of 1871 and 1876 are by analogy the memorandum and articles of association of a joint stock company, and that anything that a trade union does outside the powers conferred upon it by those Acts is ultra vires. That is the position taken up by the courts of law. Under these circumstances the Government has, in my judgment, pursued a wise course. I should have preferred the repeal of the Osborne Judgment. If I accepted the accuracy of the statements of the Noble Lord opposite, I should be perfectly willing not only to give the protection to the minority which 1005 the Bill seeks to afford, but even greater protection. But, looking back over a long period—long before the institution of the Labour party—during which trade unions have taken part in political life, I absolutely deny that there has been adduced one shred of evidence, in this House or outside, to establish that trade unions have applied coercion to the members of the dissenting minority. There has been no dissenting minority. The very life blood of trade unionism, especially in more recent years, has been its political work. Trade unions have recognised—they began to recognise it long ago, but they only fully realised it somewhat tardily—that for promoting the interests of their constituents the most effective means, especially in view of recent legislation, was to use Parliament as the machinery by which the wants of the working classes might be best remedied and their mental, moral, and material improvement assured. Therefore the whole case against trade unions on the basis of their having abused their powers falls to the ground.
With regard to the Bill itself, I give it my support. I do so somewhat grudgingly, because I think the Bill shows a certain amount of distrust of trade unions, while I have the fullest confidence in those bodies. But I think the Bill is capable of amendment, and that it requires amendment in some very important directions. I do not quite see how the desire of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) can be fulfilled in order to enable a minority to do something which the majority refuse to do. It will require the constitution of a separate organisation on the part of the minority, as it is obvious that a minority could not use the machinery of a trade union if the majority of the union negatived a particular action. Still, it may not be beyond the wit of the Attorney-General to devise some means by which the minority may be enabled to take certain political action if the majority negatives it. One matter which has been a grievance among trade unions for a considerable length of time is the vexatious interposition of the law courts in the settlement of their rules and of their constitution. I think that the Registrar-General, a very useful person as an administrative officer, is given far too much power of a judicial and executive character, and I earnestly entreat the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he cannot meet the purposes which he has in 1006 view simply by a confirmatory word in the statute, rather than providing the machinery which he suggests.
There is a second objection which appeals to me very strongly, and that is the right of the individual workman to claim exemption from subscribing to the funds when he is invited to do so. I think the effect of imposing upon the officers of the union the duty of sending him a notice suggesting to him that he might get exemption for the few pence subscribed is exceedingly invidious. I say it with some shame, but undoubtedly if workmen—and I hope my hon. Friends will not be angry with me for saying it—if workmen have the question put to them as to whether or not they will subscribe to political funds—it is only human nature—they very possibly will answer in the negative. I do not think that it is at all marvellous or extraordinary. People do not subscribe to politics. They shout for politics, but they do not subscribe. I certainly think that the Bill requires amendment in that direction. Moreover, I am not at all sure that the method of the Bill—this I speak from the point of view from the other side—of taking the opinion of the workmen would be fair to the individual workman. I think if there is any trade union coercion, which we do not believe, the fact hat a man had to send in a written notice saying that he claimed exemption would be an exceedingly difficult task for him to perform. I think in respect of these provisions of relief to the individual workman that some simpler form than that might be found. Above all, I must impress upon the right hon. Gentleman, who has control of this Bill, and my hon. and learned Friend, the necessity of removing from the Registrar the power which is given to him under the Act of deciding whether a union is bonâ fide or not. That is not a matter which lies within his purview whether or not the constitution properly conforms to the requirements of the statute, and consequently that he shall have a final conclusion, as far as I can see, without any appeal to the law courts as to the form and substance of the rules which constitute the political objects of the union. Apart from that, I think the Government is to be congratulated on an extremely difficult and complex question in having framed a measure which meets a most difficult situation. I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are animated, I feel perfectly sure, by good feelings towards trade unions, that we on this side 1007 believe that we can trust trade unions as in the past properly to discharge those duties that appertain to them in the future.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
I shall answer at once the appeal which has been made, and in no hostile spirit. Like many others I recognise what good work trade unions have done in the past, and what good work I hope they will do in the future. I only want to say a few words about several points which have occurred to me, and it is in the interests of trade unions that I make them. I do not altogether agree with the history of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Whatever may have been the position of trade unions before the Trade Union Acts were passed, I do not think that anybody can deny that when these Trade Union Acts were passed the legislature put trade unions into a special position. It gave them great rights, great powers, great privileges. When it gave them those great privileges the legislature took particular care to see that the objects of trade unions should be specified. Those objects have been stated quite clearly, if I may say so, by the learned Attorney-General. They have also been put in this Bill. They are, namely, the regulation of the relations between workmen and workmen, workmen and masters, and masters and masters. I think hon. Members will agree that when trade unions were given rights and special privileges it was recognised that they would use their powers for this particular purpose.
I think it lies upon those who are wishful to extend the object of trade unions to show that there is a real cause for it. I agree that as time has gone on changes have been made, and it seems to me to be impossible to tie trade unions down to those rigid limits which were laid down in the Trade Unions Acts originally. The only question—well, I will not say only, but the first question—is to what extent those objects are to be increased. For my part, I think one ought to keep the objects of trade unions as far as possible upon the same lines as the original objects. The Attorney-General to-night has drawn a very clear distinction between those objects, which are incidental to the industrial objects, and what I may call purely party politics. I want to ask the Home Secretary a question, but perhaps before I do that I might refer to a statement by the Leader of the Labour party. He argued that if you may use the funds of the trade union for sending a deputation 1008 to the House of Commons, why should you not use those funds to send a Member of Parliament into the House? It does not seem to me to be a very good argument, because when a deputation is sent up by the trade union it is sent up for one particular purpose. I suppose in all probability it comes up with the assent of the trade union. If any members of the trade union do not agree, they can send up another deputation. But when you come to apply the funds of a trade union to pay a Member of Parliament it is a very different thing altogether.
Party politics are not altogether confined to matters relating to trade unions, and you cannot expect members of trade unions to agree to allow their funds to be used to give carte blanche to Members of Parliament to act upon the various subjects which come before this House day after day, week after week, and month after month, in the same way that they would give authority to a deputation to wait upon Members of this House, to present views to them. I think it is in the interests of trade unions that their objects should be limited in the way proposed by this Bill. If they have unlimited power to use their funds for party politics there will be great danger of a trade union being captured by one particular party and such party using the funds of that trade union for its own purposes, and there would be very great danger that a man who does not agree with the tenents of that party will not join the union, or if such a man had joined it he would probably leave it. It would be very much more desirable if it could be arranged to keep the objects of trade unions as nearly as possible upon the same lines as those originally laid down for trade unions. Their powers must be enlarged, I agree incidentally, to meet changed circumstances, but to give them unlimited power would have the effect of decreasing instead of increasing the real powers of the trade unions. If it be admitted that the objects of the unions ought to be enlarged, the question is how are you going to provide funds for carrying out these objects? I have been asking those who know more about trade union work than I do why these objects cannot be carried out by voluntary contributions? If members of trade unions desire that they should be represented in Parliament, why should they not subscribe voluntarily to pay the expenses of their Members? I heard a Member below the Gangway opposite say that it was the members of the trade 1009 unions who wanted these powers to provide funds for political purposes. If that is so, they ought to be willing to subscribe voluntarily, and then there would be no difficulty.
I heard it stated that since the Osborne Judgment the work of the trade unions has been absolutely paralysed. I do not see the symptoms of that. On the contrary, I think the trade unions are as effective now as ever and there are just as many Members in Parliament representing the interests of trade unions, if not more, as there were before the Osborne Judgment. I would like it to be explained why it is necessary to have an Act of Parliament to authorise trade unions to collect funds when they can be collected by voluntary subscriptions.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
I think it is perfectly legal, the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong, for any body of men in this country to club together and to subscribe funds towards a man's election expenses A man, because he is a member of a trade union and subscribes to a trade union for certain specific purposes is not debarred from doing that any more than any other man. Now, with regard to the minority, we have heard a great deal about fair play and freedom. I cannot understand how anybody who has the interests of the members of trade unions at heart can possibly object to making substantial provision for minorities. A man joins a trade union for certain specific objects—I put aside the question of coercion—he joins in order that he may strengthen his trade union for the purpose of negotiating with his employer or for the purpose of negotiating with his fellow workman, and if he says, "I want to remain a member of the union but I am not a politican, and I do not want to take any part in politics or to support the party which has control of this particular trade union," why on earth should you compel him to do so. It seems to me to be contrary to the doctrine of fair play and freedom.
I want to ask the Home Secretary one or two questions of the details of the Bill, and although they are details they raise matters of principle. First, with regard to Clause 3, Sub-section (c), it is there provided that a member who is exempt 1010 from the obligation of contributing to the political funds shall not be excluded from any benefits of the union or placed in any respect, either directly or indirectly, under any disability or disadvantage. I want to know how it is going to be provided that a member who is exempt would not be subject to any disability. I cannot find any provision or machinery in the Bill for carrying that into effect. I have no doubt it is perfectly well known that by a certain Act it is provided that no court is to entertain any legal proceeding to enforce any agreement as to the application of the funds of a trade union, and supposing in this case a man who is exempt finds himself subject to disadvantages and finds he is treated differently to other members of the union, how is he to protect himself? As far as I know there is no machinery in this Bill that provides for that.
I should like to ask another question. Under Clause 2, Sub-section (2) the Registrar of Friendly Societies can withdraw the certificate of registration from any registered trade union if the constitution of the union has been altered. Who has to draw the attention of the Registrar to that state of affairs? Has he to make inquiries himself? Or is it to be left to another person, whether he is a member of a trade union or not? The next Sub-section provides that any person may go and make an application to the Registrar with regard to the case of an unregistered society to withdraw the certificate if it has not been carried on bonâ fide. Then there is, another case where if the Registrar withdraws the certificate there is an appeal given to the High Court. I cannot understand why there should not be an appeal to the High Court if he refuses. When the Registrar refuses to withdraw the certificate is there to be no remedy? It is a difficult matter to express all one feels upon the different points in this Bill in a short speech of ten or fifteen minutes, but all I wish to say, in conclusion, is that I speak in the interests of trade unions, and if I have said anything which is liable to be interpreted in any other way it is not what I intended.
§ Mr. BRACE
One outstanding impression left upon my mind as a result of this Debate is the apparent misunderstanding of the trade union position. Whether we like it or not we must be in politics because the trade union movement of this country is dual in its character. It has to be industrial to look after the affairs of individual members at home, it has to 1011 arrange price lists and do the work of the conciliation boards, look up cases of compensation and other matters; and in addition to that so long as the House of Commons is the instrument through which we are to wield economic freedom we are bound to have attached to our great unions political activity as well as industrial action. I cannot congratulate the Noble Lord opposite (Viscount Wolmer) upon the modesty of his speech in which he classed the Labour party as a socialist party. I wish the Noble Lord and other hon. Gentlemen opposite would do us the compliment of calling us what we really are, that is the Labour party. I happen to be the Vice-Chairman of the Labour party, and I am not a member of any socialist organisation. I am sent here by a trade union, and I speak on behalf of labour. I wish to emphasise the fact that the Labour party is not a socialist party, but it is the official mouthpiece for organised labour in this country, although there are Socialist members of that party.
In this matter I take my stand upon the right of a majority. There seems to be a kind of holy passion amongst hon. Members opposite for the rights of minorities, but have majorities no rights? Surely the sacred rights of the minority must be less in importance than the rights of the majority. This Bill is conceived largely in defence of the rights of the minority. I have never hesitated to declare that the members of the organisation for which I stand, voluntarily or otherwise, must be members of the organisation. We make no secret about it. How do we do our business? We do it through a conciliation board. If I go into a colliery district to negotiate the settlement of a dispute the colliery owner would not permit me to act for a section of the men, but I must negotiate a settlement for the whole of the men in his employ. The first I should be asked is, "Are you representing the whole of the men in our employ?" Whether we like it or not we have to represent the whole of the men in an industry. A conciliation board is very nearly as expensive a matter as a Conservative organisation. When we have to pay our independent chairman, when we have to bear heavy expenses in connection with organisation, and when the conciliation board has to do everything for the whole of the men in the industry we always insist that every man in the industry must pay his quota.
1012 I have never made any secret about this matter. Why should the Tory Members of our organisation not pay towards the political fund of our organisation? Do they not take the advantage equally with every other member of the organisation? I have been working on the Mines Bill this morning. Are you going to allow that Bill when it comes down to this House to apply only to the members of the mining organisations who have paid to the political fund? Certainly not. The House of Commons will say that every member of the industry must come within the purview of this Bill. While the Noble Lord opposite may have a knowledge of many things, upon this matter as a collier I claim to bring a knowledge to bear which he does not possess. As we are sent here by our organisations to represent and work for the whole of the men in the industry I claim that the whole of the men must pay industrially as well as politically. It is because this Bill falls short of that, that while I shall accept it on its Second Reading I put in a caveat that when this measure gets into Committee I shall endeavour to get that minority right reduced very substantially or abolished altogether. There can be no rights of minorities in the solution of this question. How does this House recognise the rights of minorities? When the Conservative Government were in power they passed an Education Bill. Did they recognise any of the rights of minorities in that measure? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Why, you actually laid it down that men must either pay for something which they totally disagree with or else go to prison. The House of Commons refuses to recognise any minority right as citizens of the State. The only right of the minority is to conform to the ruling of the majority, and endeavour to convert that minority to a majority. The whole government of this country is based upon majority rule.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
They can withdraw their children from school if they do not like the religious teaching.
§ Mr. BRACE
The hon. Baronet will not teach them at his own house, so that is a proposal that is really not within the range of practicability. This State is built upon rule by majority. The wisest men of this country have laid it, down that the only way a democratic State can govern itself is upon the principle of rule by the majority. There is no recognition of the rights of the minority at all. I put forward this claim: the trade unions of this 1013 country constitute a State within a state. They represent organised labour, and, as representing organised labour, they have a right to manage their own business in their own way. We want to be placed in the position in which we were before the Osborne Judgment. This Bill does not give us that right. It falls short of that right. I notice there is a provision that we are to take a ballot. The miners of Wales by a majority of over 30,000 have decided for the creation of a Parliamentary scheme. Is not a majority of 30,000 sufficient to warrant us saying we are speaking for the mass of the people there, and are we now again to be called upon to take a ballot as to whether the people are in favour of Parliamentary representation? I shall fight this principle all along the line, because our people having decided in favour of the creation of the scheme by a majority of over 30,000, it is an insult to ask them to again ballot on a question of this kind. When we make an agreement, we invariably find a substantial minority not in agreement with what lye have done. It is less than twelve months; ago we made the Conciliation Board Agreement. There was a large and substantial minority against the terms of the agreement, but we said, according to the doctrine of rule by majority, the minority must accept it, and the whole had to accept the agreement even with a vast minority against it. If it is right the majority should prevail in this domain, it cannot be wrong that, the majority should prevail politically. This Bill gives a recognition to a minority which they have no right to receive. I stand broadly for the right of majority rule. Our members come into our trade union, and they receive all the benefits we can give them, industrially and politically, and this House has no right to make the majority carry the whole of the responsibility, financially and otherwise. It is because I feel any departure from the principle of Government by majority is dangerous to the State, and because I am certain it is dangerous to our trade unions that I say this House of Commons works by the rule of majority and cannot fairly withhold from the trade unions this same principle. That is all we ask. It is nothing revolutionary, and we say the House of Commons ought not to expect us to accept anything less.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
The Government are extremely well con- 1014 tent with the discussion of this Bill. It is quite true we have been assured on the high authority of the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool that it commands satisfaction in no part of the House; but I observe that, while the hon. Member and his friends are far from being satisfied with the Bill, and regard it as containing most dangerous principles, they are not going to divide against it. On the other hand, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, who see in this measure many shortcomings-and their views have been very ably and frankly expressed—also assure us that, if there is a division, they will not go against it. That being so, I think, considering the thorny nature of this subject and the great amount of public excitement is has engendered, we are entitled to congratulate ourselves upon a solution which, if it does not gather to itself great elements of enthusiastic support, at any rate seems to drive its way between two formidable opponents.
I should like to say that this Bill is not a compromise between two opposing principles. It is a full recognition, carried to its logical extreme of two perfectly distinct, and clear sets of principles and objects, neither of which is incompatible in any way with the other. We have endeavoured to achieve a two-fold object in this Bill. First, we have tried to secure for individual workmen freedom of political opinion. Secondly, we have tried to secure for the trade union organisations of the country freedom from the embarrassment of that perpetual litigation to which in the last decade they have so harshly and vexatiously been subjected. This Bill we believe will achieve both these results. I should like to say that no one in any quarter of the House has disputed the necessity of the Bill. It was, indeed, impossible to dispute that, after the statement which was made by the learned Attorney-General, supported as that was, from a quite different point of view, by the senior Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). These two speeches showed that the trade unions have now reached a position in which they are so harassed and tied up by legal decisions that there is no great lawyer in the country who can advise them as to what they may or may not do. And apart from that uncertain realm in which their action seems to be doubtful there is a large region of trade union action at the present moment which lies under an absolute bar. Action is absolutely necessary; legislation is required. But I do not think we are 1015 confronted with the hard dilemma which was put to us this afternoon by the senior Member for Leicester. He said that you must make up your minds whether trade unions are to be allowed any political activity, on the one hand, or whether they are to be allowed to force all their Members to join them in all political activities, on the other. I do not think that is really the proposition as it presents itself to us at the present time. At any rate, if it were the proposition, I should have no hesitation in saying that it is quite impossible to prevent trade unions from entering the political field. The sphere of industrial and political activity is often indistinguishable, always overlaps, and representation in Parliament is absolutely necessary to trade unions, even if they confine themselves to the most purely industrial forms of action, and the moment you touch representation you reach the very heart and centre of controversial political life, because the disputes as to representation raise every question of general politics and party politics which can be imagined. The problem therefore as the Government have considered it is how to render possible the participation of trade unions in politics without doing violence to the conscientious convictions of individual trade unionists. That is the problem as we have regarded it, and I think it will be found as this Bill is studied, and I think it has emerged from this Debate as it has progressed that we have honestly laboured to give effect to both those purposes, and that we have succeeded in producing genuine safeguards and a practical procedure on both points.
Let us take the case of the workman first. It is highly important that the workmen should be assigned the noble status of citizenship in all our legislation. We must in the House of Commons never lend ourselves to the view that a workman has not got the same rights to conscientious scruples or convictions in political or religious matters as any other class of the community or that his convictions are not as important to him, and not as important to our society of the present day, as the convictions of individuals in any other class. If we were to fail to recognise that we should take a most disastrous conception of democracy. A man may be poor; he may have nothing at all except his labour to sell; he may be a manual worker for a weekly wage, but in a free 1016 commonwealth he must enjoy as good a right as any lord, or prelate, or capitalist in the country to the integrity of his own political convictions. I hope the House of Commons will never consent to say that a workman must put his opinions in his pocket if they clash with his personal interests, or that the majority must decide once and for all what his political action must he, or that he must not arrogate to himself an independence above his class, or that political independence of judgment is the privilege and the perquisite of the well-to-do. Any assertion or demand of that kind in the House of Commons would, I am sure, be most injurious to the foundations of our whole political system. I quite agree that in practice there is a great deal too much of this sort of pressure operative upon working people and employés generally throughout the country. The contrast which exists in our system between the unequalled sovereignty so freely assigned in speeches to democracy and the actual facts of the situation, and especially the economic situation as they present themselves to the individual worker may afford a fertile field for political cynicism, but the House of Commons cannot sanction or give any countenance to a suggestion that the workman has not the fullest political discretion, and has not the fullest right to express freely his own opinions. We must resist and we must repudiate that in whatever form it manifests itself. The whole foundation of our political system is the equality of rights and the equal importance and value of the political rights enjoyed by persons in every class. I quite agree the difficulty is one of theory rather than of practice. In the great majority of cases workmen do not feel injured even if their very small contributions are taken to support trade union politics, with which they do not agree. They do not in the great majority of cases object. Many of them do not think very much about it. Very few workmen, luckily for them, are cursed with logical or theological subtleties of mind. They do not mind, in practice and as a general rule in the great majority of cases, paying for their union politics, which they regard as advancing the interests of their class, and then voting for a different political party which they regard as advancing political affairs upon another road at the same time. There is a great deal more sense and deep reason and sagacity in that lack of logical subtlety than might appear upon the surface. I think the workman will not often raise the 1017 point. He has often voted against a candidate to whom his trade union subscription has gone without being conscious of any injury to himself in his own personal integrity.
Where there is no sense of injury in this field there is no injury. Where a man is not conscious of the fact that he has been made to take sides against his personal convictions there is no injury which need trouble the legislature. But where there is a sense of injury, that sense of injury is fundamental. If the workman objects it is imperative that he should have a right to object, and it is imperative that the House of Commons, which stands on the foundation of the common people of these realms, should make it clear to him that he has a right to object. To deny that lie has a right to object would be an unmistakable insult to the moral and civic status of labouring men, which undoubtedly would be fatal in the end to their future political advancement. I hope hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, who are deeply concerned in all these matters, will consider that to adopt the position of saying, as I am afraid the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) did, that all this is mere humanitarian balderdash about the rights of the individual in regard to the trade union is to place the great mass of the working-class electors in this country, many of whom belong to trade union organisations, more and more of whom, I trust, will belong to such organisations as the years pass by, in a position which is undoubtedly humiliating to their status as citizens. No one can say, as my hon. Friend the senior Member for Leicester (Mr. Crawshay-Williams) pointed out, that if the workman does not like the decision of the majority of his trade union he can leave the union. You might as well say he can leave the earth. He cannot leave the trade union, and he ought not to leave it. In a great many great trades in this country, the best and most highly organised trades, to leave the union would involve leaving the only means by which he could earn his living. What we want is to encourage people to join trade unions and not to force them to leave them. I consider that every workman is well advised to join a trade union. I cannot conceive how any man standing undefended against the powers that be in this world could be so foolish, if he can possibly spare the money from the maintenance of his family, not to associate himself with an organisation to pro- 1018 tect the rights and interests of labour, and I think there could be no greater injury to trade unionism than that the unions should either be stripped of a great many strong and independent spirits, because it is only the strong and independent men, in most cases, who stand upon these subjects, or that they should split into rival bodies and that attempts should be made to make party trade unions—Liberal and Socialist party trade unions—and so break the homogenity and solidarity of the great trade union movement. It would be a great disadvantage to the movement that individuals should be forced out of trade unions because of their political opinions, or that the advantages of trade unions should be reserved for persons of one political creed. We make it clear by law that a man may not be deprived of the immense benefits of trade unionism—after all, apart from politics, 90 per cent. of the work of trade unionism lies in the industrial field—because of the peculiar views lie holds on politics or religion. An hon. Member asked how you can enable him to enforce these rights. He can take action in the courts, and action has been effectively taken in the courts by individuals; in fact, so far as individuals are concerned, in their actions in the courts against trade unionism it must be said that the advantage in every case rests with the individual who has taken action rather than with the trade union.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester raised a very interesting point. He said some people will object, not because of their conscientious scruples, but because they have got some spite against officials, because they have got some grievance, or seine quite unworthy and insignificant motive. He told the House, as an hon. Member told the House at this time last year, of the case of the trade union leader, a Member of Parliament, who would go down to an important branch and try to advise the members wisely and rightly to take a, particular course of action in a dispute, and because the advice is not acceptable to them, he is told, "We shall not subscribe to the Parliamentary fund." What is the remedy for that? The remedy for that is payment of Members. We are making the provision which will enable that labour representative, whenever he is confronted with that position, to say to the branch he is endeavouring to advise, "You can do your duty, and I shall do mine, and I shall rely upon the nation to judge of my services to it and to make it possible for 1019 me to render further service to the nation." I hope the House will not forget in this matter how enormously the controversy has been mitigated and narrowed by the fact that payment of Members is now a feature of our political proposals. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Bill is not passed."] It is within the scope of the House of Commons to pass it, and I do not think we need have any doubt as to its passing. Then we come to the argument of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), who makes very controversial speeches in the House, but infrequently remains to hear any answer to them. The argument which he put forward is one of the most obvious which has been raised on this subject. He said, "These securities exist only on paper. These safeguards will be worthless in practice. They will be purely illusory in practice." That is a view which is strongly held below the Gangway on the other side of the House.
Of course, it is quite true that in all societies and in all times there is a pressure operative upon individuals to make them conform to the dominant tendencies. Within reasonable limits it is not an unhealthy pressure. I do not know whether any of that pressure has been applied to the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. F. E Smith) who in less than six months has turned round and deserted payment of Members. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. A. Lee) has been trying any measures of peaceful persuasion, or whether in private he has wheeled him round on a wheelbarrow through the saloons of the Carlton Club, or exercised any other sinister method of compulsion. At any rate, whatever the methods used, they have been operative, and have succeeded in producing that very peculiar movement which in a very short space of time carries a man's opinions from one side of the House to the other and back again. I was going to say, that nothing you can put into an Act of Parliament will prevent a certain element of illegitimate pressure existing in all societies, in all communities, on all sorts of subjects about which people feel keenly. But I say this: there never was a time in the history of this country when intolerance or bigotry of any kind, harshness or bullying of individuals for their opinions, or the persecuting of humble people for their political or religious views was more generally and universally condemned. 1020 There never was a time when public opinion was more vigilant, when publicity was more searching, and when intolerance in all its forms was so absolutely lacking in defenders of any kind, and any attempt to trample upon the political convictions of individuals, whether it be an attempt by a landlord—that happens sometimes—or by a trade union, or by a Government, as we are told, or by party Whips, or by an employer of labour, or by a university caste, or by a club, or by a bench of magistrates, or by a religious body—any attempt to bully, to persecute, to harry individuals in the tolerant exercise and expression of their opinions is more severely censured and condemned, and more effectively pilloried at the present time than it ever has been in any other country or circumstances of which we have any record.
There is your safeguard, your only effective safeguard against abuses of this character. It is no good to amend the Bill. You will have to amend human nature if you wish to arrive at any absolute prevention. No doubt occasional abuses will occur in every party and in all circles, but public opinion is the only safeguard, and it is a safeguard whose power is constantly growing. Intolerance and persecution arise from a grave sense of injury engendered in passions. People do not quarrel in that manner about small things, and no very great issues are now in dispute in regard to political funds as we propose to establish them. Payment of Members will remove one enormous series of difficulties, and if, as I trust, Parliament may succeed in doing, we add the payment of the returning officers' expenses, those will enormously diminish the main causes for which expenses are thrown upon the political funds of trade unions. Let my hon. Frineds below the Gangway remember this, that an enormous saving, not merely of purely industrial funds, but what are called political industrial funds is open to them from the general fund, without any reference to the political fund at all.
Practically the main causes which originally brought them into this House will be paid for out of the general fund without being subjected to any of the special restrictions which are imposed upon the purely political fund. Lastly, I want the House to consider the machinery of the Bill. Our method gives effect to our two-fold object, that the unions should not be prevented from engaging in politics, and that dissentients should have effective 1021 exemption. I cannot put the effect of the Bill more shortly than that— that the union should not be prevented from entering into politics, and that individuals should not be deprived of effective exemption. We say that by a simple majority of those voting the union may decide to embark upon political action. We are told that it ought not to be a majority of those voting, but a majority of the total membership of the union. At any rate, the object of the Government is not to stifle the effort of the workers with a deadweight of inertia. I entirely agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Leicester, that if a man has the opportunity of voting, if he has had the plain issue put before him on which he could declare his opinion, and cares so little about the discharge of his public duty as not to take the trouble to do so, then he has no right whatever, on the next occasion that there is an opportunity to vote, to make any complaint against the conduct of those of his comrades who are assuming the duty and responsibility of acting for the trade union or the party with which he is concerned. The argument of the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) appeared to be very inconsistent. He tells us that the small majority of those voting, but who are a minority of the total membership of the union, are in favour of embarking upon political action, and then in the next breath he said that intimidation will be rampant.
Surely, how is a small minority in favour of political action to intimidate the great majority that are opposed to them. How is the minority of those who are voting, we will say, for the Socialist candidate in Mid-Glamorgan to wheel about in wheelbarrows the large majority in favour of trade unionists on the other side? Two hundred and fifty thousand miners vote in favour of political action, and 125,000 against; that is a very respectable body, and I very much doubt that there would be enough wheelbarrows in the country to accommodate them. I say that the minorities are powerful enough, and will be able to defend themselves. The machinery of the Bill is designed to be as convenient as possible. It is quite true that we do not allow a man just to do anything. We think that if he dissents from the general policy of the union he ought to take the step of giving formal notice that he intends to do so. We provide him with an opportunity of giving formal notice that affords no ground or occasion for altercation of any 1022 sort. We do not ask him, as proposed in many cases, to pay his money and afterwards to reclaim it. We give him an effective and convenient method in regard to his subscription which is not unfair, which does not stone-wall the trade union with indifference, and which does not expose the individual who wishes to dissent to undue pressure. It is not at all invidious that a man should decline to pay to a particular political effort, because, by the separation of the fund he will not get any part of the management of it unless he has contributed to it.
I turn now to the second main object of the Bill. As I have said, the first is the effective protection of the rights of the individual workman in regard to his conscientious opinions or convictions, and the second is to relieve trade unions from the harassing litigation to which they have been exposed and set them free to develop and do their work without the perpetual check and uncertainty of frequent trials and without being brought constantly into contact with the courts. It is a very unseemly thing, and indeed in the House of Commons we must regard it as such, to have the spectacle we have witnessed these last few years of these workmen's guilds, trade union organisations, being enmeshed, harassed, worried, and checked at every step and at every turn by all kinds of legal decisions, which came with the utmost surprise to the greatest lawyers in the country. It is not good for trade unions that they should be brought in contact with the courts, and it is not good for the courts. The courts hold justly a high and, I think, unequalled prominence in respect of the world in criminal cases, and in civil cases between man and man, no doubt, they deserve and command the respect and admiration of all classes in the community, but where class issues are involved, and where party issues are involved, it is impossible to pretend that the courts command the same degree of general confidence. On the contrary, they do not, and a very large number of our population have been led to the opinion that they are, unconsciously, no doubt, biassed. [HON MEMBERS: "No, no," and "Withdraw," and interruption.]
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member speaking for himself or for the Government?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am sure the House will feel that that is an abuse of interruption on a point of Order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing, and I repeat what I said, that it is unfortunate that these collisions occur between the courts and the great trade union bodies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I have only got two or three more words to say, and I am quite indifferent to the interruptions. It is for those reasons that we have sought to find in our Bill some bulwark which will stand between the trade unions and the courts. Some authority which will be able—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] We have tried to discover some authority—[An HON. MEMBER: "We do not attack the judges."] No, you do not attack them. We have sought to find some authority which could give in the vast majority of cases a franking certificate, and we find that authority in the Registrar. The Registrar of Friendly Societies has for a long time administered the affairs of trade unions, and a very elaborate code of regulations and rules has grown up under his authority. In the vast majority of cases the Registrar will be able to give to trade unions a certificate or else to register them in such a way as to secure them against any vexatious action which may break out in future in regard to their general powers. I see no reason why we should not lay that duty on the Registrar, although it is a rather more difficult duty than those which he has had to discharge, at any rate, before the Osborne Judgment. But although it may be very difficult to define in law what is or what is not a trade union, most people of common sense know a trade union when they see one. It is like trying to define a
§ rhinoceros: it is difficult enough, but if one is seen, everybody can recognise it.
§ The decision of the party opposite not to divide against this Bill is a measure of the general acceptance by this House of the value and usefulness of trade unions. We know perfectly well that the trade union movement ought to develop, ought not to be stereotyped, ought to have power to enter a new field, and to make new experiments. We do not wish to tie up or to trammel it, but we wish to remove it from the area of uncertainty in which it has been placed. We wish to separate it from the perpetual contact with the courts, from the sort of warfare between the great hierarchy of the law and the workmen's guilds. We wish to do that in such a way that the work of trade unions may proceed on a reasonable and practicable basis, without injury to or intruding upon the rights of individual workmen or their conscientious convictions or scruples, which are guarded to the full. We wish to set the trade unions free to develop their efforts, to build up in this country a minimum standard of life and labour, and to secure the happiness of the people, which, after all, in spite of party feeling, is the goal and object which earnest men in all parties, by different roads I do not doubt, are increasingly labouring to attain.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 49.1025
|Division No. 245.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Beale, W. P.||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Beauchamp, Edward||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Benn, W. (T. H'mts., St. Geo.)||Chancellor, Henry George|
|Adamson, William||Bentham, G. J.||Chapple, Dr. William Allen|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Boland, John Pius||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Booth, Frederick Handel||Clough, William|
|Alden, Percy||Bowerman, C. W.||Clynes, John R.|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Brace, William||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Brigg, Sir John||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Brunner, John F. L.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Bryce, J. Annan||Cory, Sir Clifford John|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Burke, E. Haviland-||Cowan, W. H.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot|
|Barnes, George N.||Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Crooks, William|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick)||Byles, William Pollard||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)|
|Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jowett, Frederick William||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Dawes, J. A.||Keating, M.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Robinson, Sidney|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Dillon, John||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Doris, William||Lansbury, George||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld., Cockerm'th)||Rowlands, James|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Leach, Charles||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mic.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Lewis, John Herbert||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Elverston, Harold||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||McGhee, Richard||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Maclean, Donald||Seely, Colonel, Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Sheehy, David|
|Falconer, James||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Shortt, Edward|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Callum, John M.||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Ferens, Thomas Robinson||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||M'Laren, H. D. (Leicester)||Snowden, Phillip|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Gibson, Sir James Puckering||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)|
|Gill, A. H.||Manfield, Harry||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Markham, Arthur Basil||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Marks, G. Croydon||Summers, James Woolley|
|Grey. Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Sutherland, John E.|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Sutton, John E.|
|Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Millar, Duncan||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Hancock, J. G.||Mooney, John J.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morgan, George Hay||Toulmin, George|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Muldoon, John||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Munro, Robert||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes, Ince)|
|Harvey. W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Needham, Christopher T.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Nicholson, Chas. N. (Doncaster)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Nolan, Joseph||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Norman, Sir Henry||Wardle, George J.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Helme, Norval Watson||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Webb, H.|
|Henry, Sir Charles||O'Doherty, Philip||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Higharn, John Sharp||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North|
|Hinds, John||Parker, James (Halifax)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Hodge, John||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Pointer, Joseph||Wllkie, Alexander|
|Howard, Hot. Geoffrey||Pollard, Sir George H.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)||Pringle, William M. R.||Wood, T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Johnson, W.||Radford, George Heynes||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Reddy, Michael|
|Jones, Leif Stratton (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Rendall, Athelstan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'rnts, Stepney)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Hickman, Col. Thomas E.||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Hills, John Waller||Stewart, Gershom|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Swift, Rigby|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Touche, George Alexander|
|Boyton, James||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Morrison, Captain James A||Valentia, Viscount|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Carllie, Edward Hildred||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Younger, George|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Jardine and Mr. Hunt.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Forster, Henry William||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
§ Question accordingly put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."1026
§ The House divided: Ayes, 219; Noes, 18.1027
|Division No.246]||AYES||[11.10 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||France, Gerald Ashburner||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Gibson, Sir James Puckering||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Adamson, William||Gill, Alfred Henry||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Greig, Colonel James William||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Alden, Percy||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Pease, Rt. Hon Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||Pollard Sir George H.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Hancock, John George||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Radford, George Heynes|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Reddy, Michael|
|Beale, W. P.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Hayden, John Patrick||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Bentham, G. J.||Helme, Norval Watson||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Bird, Alfred||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Boland, John Pius||Higham, John Sharp||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hinds, John||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Hodge, John||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Brace, William||Holt, Richard Durning||Rowlands, James|
|Brigg, Sir John||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Johnson, William||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sheehy, David|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Jones, Leif Stratton (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Shortt, Edward|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jowett, Frederick William||Snowden, Philip|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Keating, Matthew||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Clough, William||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Clynes, John R.||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molten)||Summers, James Woolley|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Sutherland, John E.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lansbury, George||Sutton, John E.|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron||Leach, Charles||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Lewis, John Herbert||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Craig, Herbert James (Tynemouth)||McGhee, Richard||Toulmin, George|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Maclean, Donald||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Crooks, William||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||M'Callum, John M.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Dawes, James Arthur||M'Laren, H. D. (Leicester)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Manfieid, Harry||Wardle, George J.|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Warner, Sir Thomas Ceurtenay|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Marks, G. Croydon||Webb, H.|
|Dillon, John||Marshall, Arthur Harold||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Doris, William||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Millar, James Duncan||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Money, L. G. Chlozza||Wiles, Thomas|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Morgan, George Hay||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Elverston, Harold||Morrison, Captain James A.||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Muldoon, John||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Munro, Robert||Wood, T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Falconer, James||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Nolan, Joseph||Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hickman, Col Thomas E.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Boyton, James||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Pete, Basil Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Mr. Jardine and Mr. Hunt.|
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Question put, and agreed to.