asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state his reason for coming to the decision that the impartiality of the Labour Exchanges would be upset if trade unions holding their meetings in Exchange buildings discussed questions with which they were intimately concerned, consideration of which involved hostile criticism of the Government and whether he is aware that if the action of the divisional superintendent of Wales in asking the Cardiff Trades Council to meet elsewhere because they intended discussing the recent action of the military is endorsed it will discourage trade unions and other labour associations from holding their meetings in Exchange buildings, and thus place an obstacle in the way of close connection and co-operation between the Exchanges and organised labour?
I should regret anything that discouraged workpeople or trade unions from making free use of the Labour Exchanges. But, as I have previously stated, I think that the divisional officer for Wales exercised a wise discretion in this particular case. The situation was very exceptional, both as regards the state of feeling at the time between employers and workmen in the South Wales district, and also as regards the position of the divisional officer with respect to this matter. Under the statutory regulations the use of Labour Exchange buildings by outside bodies is subject to the approval of the advisory trade committee for the district, and in most districts the committees have come to a definite decision as to the policy to be pursued. In South Wales, however, the committee has not yet drawn up any rules, but has for the present left it to the Board of Trade to settle the arrangements for meetings of trade unions in the Exchanges. I propose to bring the question of future arrangements before the advisory trade committee at the earliest opportunity.
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman contends that criticism of the Government is a breach of impartiality, and, if so, in what way does the right hon. Gentleman propose to restore the balance by preventing criticism of the Government by the Employers' Federation?
I looked into this matter very carefully, and I think the steps taken in connection with the advisory committee may in future prevent similar occurrences. I am extremely anxious to work in complete harmony with those who use the Exchanges.