§ Mr. O'GRADY
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
I am sure that the House will sympathise with the purpose that I have in moving the Adjournment, in view of the fact that this dispute has now lasted for nine long, weary weeks. I cannot help thinking, in considering this particular point, that had the House interfered when I suggested they might do three weeks ago the men would now have been at work, and the strike for all practical purposes would have been settled. The House will remember the fact that the junior Member for the City of London moved an Amendment to my Resolution on 1st July, in which he declared that any intervention by the Government in this strike would simply prolong it, that the strike itself was simply a partial strike, and therefore the 1080 Government should keep the ring for the combatants. Coming direct from the seat of operations this morning, I have to say that there is a possibility of the strike continuing for another three or six weeks with all the attendant suffering that it involves, as well as the damage to the material interests of the Port. It is a mistake not allowing the Government to interfere in these matters, because it must be obvious that this strike cannot be settled except by some form of Government intervention and some form of legislation. The Government interfered when the railway strike was on, and also when the coal strike was on.
Why they make a difference between the coal strike and the railway strike and the present strike I cannot for the life of me understand. I presume the Government interfered on these occasions in order to protect the interests of the community generally. They found that the interests of the community were being damaged very considerably by the men upon the railways and in the mines being out on strike. Well, I want to submit that there are something like 400,000 people involved in this strike in London. There are great material interests at stake. On these two points this strike is of as much concern to the community as was the coal and railway strike, and I repeat I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government should interfere in these strikes and refuse at the present moment to intervene in the present one. I want to say a few words with regard to the attitude of the Port of London Authority. I cannot understand their attitude. I cannot understand the attitude of the chairman of the Port Authority. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nor anybody else."] It is a quasi public body. It is the chairman of that quasi public authority who is taking the lead of the employers' organisations, and leading them into a policy of union smashing and the obliteration of the agreements that existed prior to the strike. It is clear that somewhere there is misunderstanding, because Lord Devonport, in his own words, says:—The strike now proceeding is in no way directed against the terms and conditions of the Port Authority employment. No allegation is, or has been, made against the Authority in either of these particulars, or as to the observance of its agreements with its workmen.I want to say that this strike would not have lasted so long had Lord Devonport occupied a neutral position, and if he had allowed the other employers to fight out 1081 their quarrels with their men. I repeat he has been the head of the employers, and has advised the employers; the Port Authority's offices have been used for the purposes of meetings of the employers, and the whole agency of the Port has been used in employing free labour—the blackleg labour which has been placed at the disposal of the employers. It is well to note that some change has taken place in the position of this strike. That was announced by Lord Devonport in his letter last Friday. He declares in that letter, for the first time, that when the negotiations were on between Messrs Gosling and Orbell, that they had made it clear to Mr. Gosling that the conditions existing at the commencement of the present strike as regards the actual wages and hours of working would remain intact. I want to point out that repeatedly Lord Devonport had been asked that simple question by the men's representatives. I know from my own knowledge that other interested outsiders—interested in the sense that they desired to see an honourable settlement arrived at—had heard this statement from Lord Devonport himself. They asked him whether they could make it public and upon that occasion Lord Devonport replied, and he also replied in the same way to Messrs. Gosling and Orbell, that if this statement were made public he would immediately repudiate it. The change has occurred because for the first time Lord Devonport has put these terms into writing in his letter of last Friday.
The only two points of difference outstanding between the employers as a whole and their workmen is, that the workmen are prepared to resume work immediately upon the agreements that existed prior to the dispute and on favourable consideration being given to the question of reinstatement. Let us consider this question of wages and conditions, and let us see where the Port Authority comes in and where the employers stand in this matter. We have the statement of Lord Devon-port that the wages and hours shall remain intact. Curiously enough in his letter he goes on to say that there are some variations. I will read his exact words. The variations are that—The shipowners now insist on having a condition stipulated in writing which was in force prior to August, 1911, though not specifically mentioned in either of the agreements signed by them last year. This condition is that the men engaged to undertake to work ns directed by their employers, and they engage not to require the production of any union or federation ticket from any man, however employed in the Port of 1082 London, whether afloat or ashore. This is in spirit a reproduction of conditions inserted in the Mansion House agreement of 1889, to which Mr. John Burns himself was a consenting party.If that statement of the shipowners was a correct statement of facts one would not demur much. But I have the exact words of the stipulations that settled the strike of 1889 and the terms of the shipowners and employers, and it is well that comparison should be made to show how impossible it is for the men to accept Lord Devonport's terms with these stipulations and variations. The terms that settled the 1889 strike signed by the present President of the Local Government Board were:—Clause 6. The strikers and their leaders unreservedly undertake that all labourers who have been at work during the strike shall be unmolested and treated as fellow labourers by those who have been out on strike.Clause 7. In employing fresh men after the strike is ended the directors will make no difference between these who have and those who have not taken part in it, and will not, directly or indirectly, show resentment to any men who have participated in the strike.That is a frank statement of the position which was accepted by the men in 1889. The present stipulations of the employers are—That the men engaged undertake to work as directed by their employers, and engage not to require the production of any union or Federation ticket from any man, however employed in the Port of London, whether afloat or ashore.That clause of the employers is neither in the spirit nor the letter of the agreements which settled the 1889 dispute. In fact, they are asking the men to cut their own throats. They have really gone away from their original position in regard to the Federation ticket. They now object to the individual union ticket. I do not for one moment think that this House would ask the men to go back upon terms of that character. We must remember also that the sailors and firemen are involved to some small extent in this dispute, and that the principle contained in the employers' stipulation is to apply to the man afloat as well as ashore, so that the men afloat will not be able to produce their union tickets without fear of contravening the stipulations of the employers, and therefore will be liable to be discharged at a moment's notice. I submit that is an intolerable condition, which no reasonable man, or man desiring to retain some honour and principle, could assent to. That is the position as the matter now stands.
What is the history of this strike? I do not want to go into details, but for the purposes of our discussion to-night it is well that the various heads should be enumerated. It is a story of broken agree- 1083 ments from 21st August last up to May of this year. I regret to say, so far as I am able to read every communication which has been published on the matter—so far as I am able to get the men's side; I agree I am partial in that sense—but so far as I have been able to gather the position of the employers not directly implicated, I find that those agreements were broken by the employers themselves for those eight months. Consider what that involves. It has been computed that it involves not less than £500,000 in wages, which the men have never been paid, and to which they claim they are entitled. Was that claim a justifiable claim? When the dispute arose over the question of the increase in the wages of the short sea traders' workpeople from 7d. to 8d., and the employers and the workmen could not agree—I shall have something to say later on about the lack of machinery in the Port of London Act to settle disputes—they resolved to submit the matter to the arbitration of Sir Albert Rollit. He found definitely and specifically, in as clear language as one could put terms, that the men were entitled to an increase from 7d. to 8d. an hour. That was not paid. When both sides mutually agree to arbitration it is always a point with the trade union movement and with most employers in various parts of the country that they both agree to observe the award of the arbitrator. Where union men do not observe it every pressure has been brought to bear upon them by officials to compel them to observe it. In this case nothing was done by the employers except to give a blunt refusal to accept the terms of the Rollit award.
There was another impossible position. After a while, when negotiations upon the matter had ceased, when there was no possibility of a settlement being effected, the men still remaining at work, both sides agreed to submit the matter to the Lord Chief Justice of England for a legal interpretation of the Rollit award. Again in clear and distinct language — the language of one of our most brilliant and leading lawyers, the head of his profession—it was declared that the Rollit award was a perfectly correct award, and meant what it said, that the men were entitled to claim a rise from 7d. to 8d. After eight months of that kind of endeavour on the part of the union to effect an honourable settlement and to get the employers to stand by their agreements, nothing at all was done. As I said the other night, 1084 it ought to be clearly remembered, in spite of what has been said by the Port Authority and by the employers, that this strike was not instituted by the leaders, but that the men themselves in a spirit of exasperation, I agree unwisely, struck over the question of the man Thomas. But there were 20,000 men out from the Port before the leaders took the attitude they did, and to save the situation, to prevent anarchy, and with the express desire of getting the 20,000 men back to work, they thought the best thing to be done was to raise the whole issue by withdrawing the other men. What followed from the employers' point of view? They absolutely and definitely refused to accept the Clarke Report. Sir Edward Clarke was appointed by the Government to investigate the matter. It is well known that he does not hold the political views of the Government at all. He was selected for his eminence at the Bar, for being a great public man, and a man who, in the judgment of the Government, and in my judgment, would be the man best fitted to decide as between the two parties. He declared that the men were wrong, but he declared also that the employers upon five points had broken their agreements involving questions of wages. The men at once, at the instance of some of us who had been advising them, immediately accepted the Clarke Report, and were prepared to go back to work upon the terms of that Report. Again we found an impossible barrier erected by the employers, by their refusal to accept the Clarke Report.
The Transport Workers' Federation held their annual meeting in London, and discussed the whole aspect of the dispute. Some of us, desiring that an honourable settlement should be fixed up, went to the Transport Workers' Federation and discussed the matter with them, and told them that they must remember that what the employers were apparently getting at was the fact that there was no guarantee given by the men that the agreements would be kept, and that the best way to get out of that difficulty would be for the Transport Workers' Federation and the other unions involved to offer monetary guarantees. The men discussed that in all its bearings, and instructed me to convey the information to the Government and to the employers that those monetary guarantees would be deposited. Lord Devonport declares that was an advance upon the previous position. The Government incorporated that monetary guaran- 1085 tee with certain proposals which they suggested to both sides. I have the proposals here, but I do not think it is necessary to read them. I believe that if those proposals had been accepted at that time by both employers and the workmen, and subsequently incorporated in an Act of Parliament, it would have been the very best thing that ever happened for the trade in the Port of London. The men accepted the Government's proposals, although they involved monetary guarantees and certain other stipulations and regulations which prevented the free action of the unions. Again the employers gave the Government an absolute and positive refusal. Since that time this House, by a majority of 66, carried a Resolution expressing its opinion that the time had come when the employers and workmen should meet together in order to settle this dispute. Again the employers flouted the opinion of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister had been doing his best to bring about an arrangement. All the way through the piece the employers have taken up the position that they want the intervention of no third party, and, above all, they resent the intervention of the Government. It got to such a pitch —and here I want to be careful in my statements—circumstances were such in the East End of London, brought about by this refusal of the employers to settle the dispute, that the King of the country had to cancel a public engagement. Really, I want to know where we are in this matter. I thought we had a Monarch and we had a Government, but apparently we have not got either. King Capital rules the roost to-day, dictates and controls in a despotic manner, flouts the Government, flouts public opinion, and decrees, above all, that Britishers should simply go and crawl to them on terms of unconditional surrender which I will never advise them to accept.
Let us get the story from the men's side. The original proposals that the men submitted to the employers have been whittled down time after time and there are only two remaining. What were the main points of the original proposals? Again, an effort to ensure peace in the transport trade of London. They suggested that a Joint Board should be established, consisting of representatives of the employers and the workmen. It is perfectly true they said the employers should be federated. The employers reply was that they could not be federated, and that the conditions of trade in the Port made it 1086 impossible. It is a curious thing that they can become federated to smash the men's unions. They are all alike for that purpose. There is no competition amongst them, there is no discussion of the specific interests of their respective trades which can bring them into conflict with one another, and if the principle of federation is good for union-smashing purposes, it ought to be infinitely better and more sensible to keep the peace in the Port of London. I am astonished at what I consider to be the gross stupidity—to say nothing else—of the London employers. I have been connected with the shipbuilding trade. The employers in the shipbuilding industry compelled the unions to federate and will have no contact with individual unions at all; but will fix up their terms of settlement with federated unions. I was on the executive of the Shipbuilding Trades' Federation and was a signatory to that standing agreement. The point that brought that about was that individual unions of workmen struck in the shipbuilding trade and went on fighting their employers, with the result that after a time other bodies of men were thrown out. These bodies of men said, "We have no trouble with the employers. Why should we be thrown out of employment? If you are going to squeeze us in that direction we may as well all come out together," and the employers replied, "That is the best course to adopt"; and they declared from that time forth that if one union struck and they could not be brought to reason, either by the other unions or could not settle with the employers, the employers would lock-out the whole of the trade. So that they compelled the unions to federate.
Let me point again to the cotton trade, in which there are many conflicting interests. The cotton employers will not confer with an individual union at all. Under the terms of the Brooklyn Agreement if they cannot agree they all strike together or lock out together. The employers, for the safety and prosperity of their business, have declared that they will confer with a federated union only. What is this fear in the mind of the employers about the men's federation? That you cannot prevent federation goes without saying. No law, no decree, no action on the part of any employers can prevent the federation and amalgamation of trade unions. There are forces outside both employers and workmen that drive them into federation and that drives capital to 1087 federation. A unit of capital which will not federate to-day is remorselessly thrust out of production. That is an economic proposition to which I trust the House will give consideration. The very same principle applies to a workman's organisation under modern industrial conditions. They refused the Joint Board because it meant that the workman wanted the employers to federate. That was the first proposal they made to ensure peace in the Port, and, above all, to prevent smaller issues like that of the man Thomas, for instance, developing into great troubles and great strikes and involving the whole of the men and the employers in the Port. The next step the men took was that they unreservedly accepted the Clarke Report, and they unreservedly accepted the Government's proposal, and that was the occasion upon which they offered to deposit a monetary guarantee. Finally, when everything failed, the only outstanding point left for consideration by the employers, which has been rejected, is the resumption of work upon the agreements existing prior to the dispute, and the favourable consideration by the Port Authorities of the reinstatement of the men. Here is what the "Westminster Gazette" said:—In the Act that set up the Port Authority it says that a man shall not lose his position except for misbehaviour, and the strike can hardly be called misbehaviour. The Act also declared that the Chairman of the Port Authority shall take into consideration the conditions of labour at the Port, and do his best to prevent the casualisation of labour.If the latest terms of the employers were to be accepted by the men—and heaven forbid that they should—particularly the terms suggested by the ship-owners, they would involve the decasualisation of labour in the Port of London, and a reversal to the conditions of 1889, which I have before declared were simply brutal. The proposal of the shipowners is to take their men on inside the docks instead of outside. That means that the men have got to rush for their work, they have to brutally clamber over each other, and when they get work—this is the most insidious part of it—they have to subsidise the foreman, and the man who can sub-sidise the foreman most is the man who gets the most work. Although the wages in London are now 8d. an hour and 1s. for overtime for the docker, if these terms are accepted by the men, not only would you revert to the old conditions which I have described, but you would revert to the old type of wages of 4d. per hour, and 1088 not only that. The workmen are now bound to be given four hours' work. Under the old condition of things they were simply called in for an hour, and then flung outside the dock gates again. That is an intolerable position, and I will never ask the men to accept it. It is not sufficient for me simply to criticise. I am as anxious—I am more anxious—as any man in this House to effect an honourable settlement, and I want to suggest a way out of the difficulty. There are five possible points upon which this matter can be settled, and the men can resume work, always upon the understanding that the old agreements that existed prior to the dispute shall obtain. The first is the setting up of the Conciliation Board. I know that means an Amendment of the Port of London Act, but this House could devote its attention to no more beneficent measure. If that is not sufficiently drastic, there is the question of setting up a Wages Board. I do not believe in a Wages Board, but if it is the desire of the House, I feel sure that the men would accept a Wages Board, provided that it is done along the lines of the provisions of the Miners' Act, that is to say, the setting up of a board to discuss wages. Then there is the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). That also might be passed into law. Certainly the time has come when the principle of that Bill should become the law of the land. The Bill in effect says that when agreements are entered into between federated employers and federated workmen they should be compulsory and cover the whole trade. The whole difficulty in London in regard to the carmen's side of the question was that one gentleman who was told to sign on behalf of the carmen employers was not at the time a member of the Employers' Association, and he broke away from the others and refused to obey the conditions. If we are to have industry carried on in the ordinary manner—a manner which will not involve these great outbreaks on the part of the men—it is absolutely essential that these agreements should be compulsory over the whole trade. Then there are the Government's own proposals. If I may express my own opinion, I much prefer these proposals to any others. They are simple proposals, and the machinery is simple. They could be incorporated in a Bill in the shape of provisions which could put an end to these lamentable outbreaks in industry.
1089 I cannot finish without referring to the humanitarian side of the question. I was misunderstood the other evening on this matter. I said I was born among these people, and lived among them until I was twenty years of age. I know their life of grinding poverty, how they are often on the verge of destitution, and how when the slightest economic disturbance comes along it pushes them down into the pit. Once they get there, it is almost impossible for them to rescue themselves for a long number of years. I have been acquainted with poverty, and I have been acquainted with it in the seaports of this country, but I have never met such an appalling state of poverty as there is now in the East End of London. As Mrs. Barnardo indicated, the condition of things there is worse than that of the ryots as regards the effect on the community at large. The life of the children is being blotted out as if they were of no more importance than flies in God's creation. That is a condition of things this country ought not to tolerate. Whatever may be the difficulties and troubles in connection with the settling of this strike, whatever may be the points raised by the men or the employers, I claim that this House ought to intervene in the matter, and, without taking the employers' side or the men's side, effect a settlement of the strike. I have been with the men at meetings all the day long. I have told them "There is no money for you next week. The union chest is being depleted. It is quite true that money is coming from other unions, but it is not sufficient to keep your wives and children even in bread for a week." I have told them that the strike will last, that the employers are obdurate, and that Parliament is doing nothing, and they have said that they were not going back in dishonour, and that they would never accept the terms of the employers. That is a spirit and temper which I think ought to meet with the approval of the House. I do not think that we or anybody else should break a spirit or temper of that kind. Mrs. Barnardo says that the outstanding heroes are the men who will humble their pride and go to the workhouse in order that their wives and children may get outdoor relief. I think there is a general consensus of opinion in the House that the strike ought to be settled. I believe that. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said he did not wish to see the men's unions ridden over roughshod. But they will be ridden over roughshod. They are 1090 being ridden over to-day. We ought to save the men's unions, and I think if the Government would bring forward a single Clause Bill in the shape I have suggested, setting up a Conciliation Board or a Wages Board, or enact their own proposals into law, the general consent of the House would be given, and it would be passed in a very short time. The "Westminster Gazette" said a Bill would be passed in one day. I think it could, but whether it could or not the fact is that when this House likes it can do things. It can pass coercion Bills in twenty-four hours. I appeal to the House to give consideration to this question, and to urge the Government from all quarters that they shall enact some kind of legislation that will effect an honourable settlement of this dispute.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I beg to second the Motion.
I would ask the House to remember that the condition of affairs in the East End of London has not been one whit exaggerated by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. O'Grady). Although it might be to the advantage, or the supposed advantage, of certain sections of society that the men should be beaten in the fight they are engaged in, I do want to call the attention of the House to the fact that every observer of the East End is, I believe, convinced that at the present moment you are adding tenfold, or even a hundredfold, to the weight of the ordinary destitution there is in that part of the Metropolis, and that you are piling up trouble, not merely for the day, but for the days to come, because children are growing up enfeebled and lacking vitality. The population growing up there at this moment are not getting sufficient food, and in all probability that will throw a tremendous burden on other people in days to come. But in addition to that, those who are bringing strike breakers, or blacklegs, or whatever you choose to term the free labourers, are, I think, incurring a very tremendous responsibility. One thing that the dock trade of this country suffers from is casual labour, and any man who goes through dockland to-day must be appalled at the number of men gathered up from all parts of the country and dumped down there to add to the multitude who, even when the strike is settled, will be fighting to get a day's work. For my part, I think one of the most terrible consequences of the prolonging of this dispute is that you are going to add 1091 to what every social reformer tells you is the worst and most wicked side of labour in connection with the docks. You will accentuate all the casual labour problem and all the difficulties of decasualisation. The great difficulty of decasualisation is that you do not know what to do with the surplus, the men who will be squeezed out. Even if we settle the strike to-morrow we have got on our hands an enormous problem of this kind, added to greatly by the fact that you have brought these men in from all parts of the country.
You heard from my hon. Friend that the wages in the docks previous to the original Dock Strike, from which we date almost everything in the East End, were 4d. per hour, and the men could be taken on for one hour. Will anyone in this House say that the men would have got this 6d. an hour, and finally the 8d. an hour, without the aid of the trade unions? Will anyone say that employers of their own good will would have given that increase? Does not every man who knows anything of the problem know that those men would have gone on with the 4d. an hour, and their frightful conditions of casual employment getting worse and worse, and the fearful scramble to get even an hour's work would have gone on if it had not been for the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns), who is now President of the Local Government Board, Mr. Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, and others? That was twenty-five years ago. No one can dispute that. When that is so, is there anyone going to say that you want to stop trade unionism in this country, and you want to keep down the power of combination in this country? I understand some people to say that they do not object to the men forming themselves into sectional unions, but they do object to a federation of unions, and they object to what is called the sympathetic strike. I understand that a great deal of the opposition that has been shown towards the men in this particular dispute is really on those lines, that men say they are up against a new kind of problem in industrial life, a new kind of difficulty which it will be very hard to overcome. May I ask those who think that way, have they never heard of the sympathetic lock-out and of the fact that employers federated together? In Lancashire only a few months ago, over a dispute that concerned only three people, something like 100,000 operatives were locked out. 1092 We must remember that both sides, employers and workmen, in industrial action to-day are bargaining, and it is only by federal action that they really can maintain their position. But in this dispute we have got the men who say that it is impossible that you can really have a federation. Let us inquire into that for a moment.
Take the Port of London. I have already mentioned that casual employment is one of the worst and most vicious characteristics of employment at the docks. Surely we are entitled to say that the great Port situated on this river which no man made, is an absolute highway belonging to the whole of the people of this country, and is of great national importance to the people of this country. You have already said that private people could not manage it proporly, and so you have set up a semi-public authority to manage the business of the Port, and those who have lived in London know how grossly the business of the Port was managed previous to the Port of London Authority being established. But is there anyone here going to deny that the conditions of labour, the settling of wages and the settling of the conditions on which labour shall be carried on are as important to the community as the settling of the rates at which the tonnage which comes into the Port is handled. In my opinion the Government, or whoever put through that Bill, missed a very great opportunity of settling once for all the casual labour question and the wages question. What is happening now? On one side of the basin in the docks a certain shipowner will be paying a man 8d. an hour. On the other side another firm of shippers are paying 10d. an hour. How can you have peace when conditions like that prevail? What I think ought to be done is that the Port of London Authorities should be made responsible for all the labour within the Port. Within the docks at present there is a multitude of employers. This business of the shipowners who are wanting to call the men in and take them on inside the docks, the whole of that business concerns numbers of shippers, some of whom may behave very well, while others may behave very badly. But my contention is that the docks and river are the property of this nation, and we here in Parliament ought to lay down that within that Port conditions of labour shall be observed, and must be observed, which shall give men 1093 living rates of wages for decent work each day of the week all the year round. There is no other means by which you can expect peace. No one can impose that but Parliament; no one can deal with that but Parliament, and I contend that the federation of trade unions, the amalgamation of the unions, is just as necessary as the amalgamation of the employers.
It is often said the men of the unions do not carry out the bargains which are made. Of course I do not want to labour any of the points about broken agreements. It is admitted on both sides that agreements have been broken on both sides; but you will never, in my opinion, get the work of the Port done properly, and you will never get any public work done properly, unless you take the organised workers into your confidence, and allow them to assist you in settling the regulations and conditions under which the men will work. That is not a new principle in this House. The Postmaster-General and the present President of the Board of Trade when he was Postmaster-General, over and over again met the representatives of the organised labour of the Post Office. The London County Council, which is a constituent part of the Port of London Authority, itself has a Conciliation Board to deal with all its highway workers and settle any disputes which may arise. It does not merely meet the individual workers, but it meets the representatives of the unions and settles matters with the unions as to hours and conditions, and instead of there being continual friction, the London County Council is able to carry through its work practically peacefully all the year round. And if you look at what has been done outside, you have got the mining industry. One of the things we claim in this matter is that the men are not paid the proper tonnage which they handle. One of the great difficulties is that there is no check on the tonnage. I may remind the House, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick), will know full well, that the miners of this country used to be robbed wholesale because they never knew how much coal they had dug out of the earth. There was no check on the weight of the coal which was taken out at the pit's bank. Now they have got the check weighman at every pit. You have also got the particulars Clause which was enacted by Parliament for the men in the cotton industry. Surely we are not asking too much when we say that we want this same kind of thing to be done in the case of a 1094 semi-public authority like the Port of London. If the Post Office and the county council do it, and Parliament has prescribed it in the case of private enterprises, surely we are entitled to say to Lord Devonport and his friends, that in the case of this Port of London Authority, which employs thousands of men, Parliament will safeguard them and see that they get the wages that they are entitled to from day to day.
There cannot, it seems to me, be any argument against that at all; yet that is all that these men are really fighting for. So far as I can judge the arguments against us are based on the assumption, as I have already said, that you must break down this federation of men's unions. I would like those who are undertaking that task, especially those who do not want Parliament to interfere, to take into consideration that there is a growing sense of injustice amongst working men, and a growing sense of injustice amongst the very poorest people which will find expression in one of two ways. It will either find expression in this House or it will find expression in ways that very few of us wish it to find expression. This House has got to make up its mind whether it will go on educating poor men's sons to read and write, teaching them to understand economic conditions, and at the same time refuse to pass the necessary legislation to prevent them when they become men from being starved in this kind of fashion. For my part I cannot for the life of mo see how you can expect men to do other than come together and federate through their unions in the way they are doing. I say you have set them the example in your huge combinations of capital. It is of no use talking and imagining that it is only a figure of speech. We know quite well that in the City of London aggregations of capital can be used as a screw not merely upon the workmen, but upon the smaller kind of people engaged in the same sort of industry; and the function of Parliament in dealing with grievances, it seems to me, really changes year by year. You now have to face industrial problems in a way that you have never had to face them before.
If you want to prevent working men from thinking that the weapon of the general strike is the right weapon, do not imagine that by crushing them, as you think you will this time, you will kill that idea. You will not do anything of the kind. You will only kill it by showing 1095 that Parliament is stronger and more powerful to deal with general grievances than the general strike or Syndicalism can be. You will never get working men to trust Parliament until it secures them their daily bread on honourable conditions. You are only, after all, showing these men how to stand out for the right of combination. Solicitors, Counsel, King's Counsel, the whole legal profession combine. [An HON. MEMBER: "And doctors."] I did not want to drag in the doctors, but, they, too, are showing the working men a splendid example of how to stand out for a minimum wage, and they are being backed up by the Tory Press, especially the "Daily Mail" and suchlike journals. They are showing the working men, I think, the very worst side of human life— certainly, in my opinion, a rather selfish side of human life—but, anyhow, they are showing the working men that they are strong in their power to combine not to do what they do not wish to do. I want to see preserved to the working men the right to combine that is enjoyed by every solicitor and every counsel. In this House there are representatives of the Teachers' Trade Union. I know they do not like to be called a trade union, though they are only that. The London County Council and every educational authority deals with the Teachers' Trade Union. If that is good enough for them, surely we have a right to come to this House and say that these people, who are amongst the poorest of the community, shall not be wiped out in this kind of fashion. I put especial stress upon this consideration, that the Port of London is public, is something that belongs to the nation, is a national interest which should be kept going, and I say that we ought to insist that the Authority of the Port of London should treat their men decently and fairly in all disputes, and submit questions of difference to arbitration.
The other matter to which I wish to call attention is this: People have denounced the leaders in this strike. After all, many of us say things outside this House which we do not say here. I suppose that every politician who makes a speech outside the House makes it in a more fire-eating manner than he generally does in this House. We have no right, it seems to me, to doom a whole mass of men because we do not like what some particular people have been saying. But behind these leaders are this mass of women and children. I do not know whether the 1096 House quite realises what the condition of things is. Only this morning four men marched into my house—four lightermen who, as a rule, earn a couple of pounds a week, or 35s. a week. Their clothes were worn, and they themselves looked very worn, tired, and heartsick. They marched in to beg a shilling ticket each. I got the particulars of the men and their families —five, seven, four, and I think two, represented the numbers of their families. There they stood, and I thought to myself, has not the British Parliament anything to say to these men? Has not the British people anything to do for these men? A man said to me the other day, "Let them go back to work; why do they not go back to work?" I will say what has been said in another connection, that in any time of persecution or of difficulty it is advised, "Oh, don't be a fool, submit to the conditions, and everything will be all right." I have seen the women in the Division represented by the hon. Member opposite—Mile End—Bow and Bromley and Poplar. There they gave away a little milk and dry bread—only milk and dry bread. Thousands of people got none at all—they wanted it, but they got none at all. Yet we are told about these men and these women—and the women are as heroic as the men in this strike; they are standing solidly behind their husbands, as it is possible for women to stand—that is all nothing!
But I will tell you what it is that they are doing—they are standing out for a principle. They want to stand firm on their legs as honourable men, not cringing to the employers, but free men, as you boast Englishmen should be. They want to have the power, if they are to be dealt with by massed capital, to face that massed capital by massed labour.
But labour is always at a disadvantage. Neither Lord Devonport nor any merchant who is at present feeling the distress, have gone without a single meal during the whole of the strike. I know that many of the people in the East of London who have nothing to do with this strike are going down financially because of the strike. It is all very well for these people, the big monopolists, to think that it is no concern of anyone else but the men who are on strike. It concerns thousands of small people carrying on small businesses. But even they are not starving as are the workers and their wives and children. We may hear that Parliament has not got time; that it cannot sit to see this thing 1097 through, and that the House is going to rise in a fornight's time. I would like to ask the British Parliament, you men who believe in heroism, that if this sort of fight were put up for the fleet or for a beleaguered city what you would think of it? What was it we saw the other day when the hero of Ladysmith, Sir George White, was buried? You honoured him for refusing to give way, even though women and children were starving. You honoured him because he kept the flag flying. I want the British Parliament to honour those women and those men who are fighting for the vital principle of the right to combine to manage their own lives, and in order that their boys and girls may have a better chance than they have had to live in the days to come. If you honour men in a siege and in a battle, honour those men and those women and children who are facing, many of them death, hunger—all of them; and who are doing so that they may win the right to combine, the right that you have got, and that I have got, with their fellows, to improve their conditions. I want this High Court of Parliament which is here to redress the grievances of the people, to stand by those men, and to set up in London an authority that will settle this and all other disputes in an equitable manner between both parties.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
The hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Motion have drawn a pitiful picture, and have made a pathetic appeal; but there is a real danger in this House of Commons allowing the opinion of the House to be swayed by sentiment from certain realities of business outside. This question is not one to be dealt with by impassioned oratory. This question is not one to be determined by whether those who are out on strike have conducted that strike with gallantry. This question is not to be dealt with by sympathy, which everyone must feel for those who suffer from the strike, whether they be directly or indirectly concerned in it. Behind this strike and behind this question there is a great reality, and a reality which has not been touched upon, in my humble opinion, by either of the hon. Members who moved and seconded. The real question has been kept in the background. A great deal has been said in reference to that of the trade union movement, A great deal has been said as to the usefulness of the unions to the men, and as to the right of the men to combine. That I accept, and that I do not question. But what you are dealing 1098 with here is not a question of men in combination, but it is a question of leaders of the union in combination without reference to the men at all. You have got, in considering this question, to bear this in mind, that the one point which keeps these men on strike to-day and the only one, is that the leaders of the different unions are standing out for the Federation ticket. [HON. MBMBERS: "No, no."] Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite say "No." Are hon. Members below the Gangway prepared to say this: that those who lead the men and those who purport to conduct this strike will make a written declaration that they will abandon the question of the Federation ticket? Will they say that? Is there any answer? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why should they?"] I thought hon. Members below the Gangway said the Federation ticket had no relation to the strike, and when I challenge them upon it they are silent.
Let me say how the matter really is. It is this: this Federation of Transport Workers is not a union at all, and all the talk that is directed against the masters for trying to destroy unionism has no relation to the question as it now exists. The Transport Federation is not a union; it is not registered; it does not consist of a body of men. It consists of a number of officials of the unions. It is said that the men have a right to federate. I say, in answer to that, that the Transport Workers' Federation is not a federation of men at all. It is a federation of leaders of different unions, and, what is worse, they do not consult the men of their unions before they determine what course they will take.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
Has any ballot been taken of any trade connected with the transport workers except one? Has any ballot been taken except one—I ask hon. Members below the Gangway? One was taken when a sympathetic strike was desired to be created by the seamen and firemen. The seamen and firemen, by an enormous majority, declined to be concerned in the strike at all. That is the only trade union in which the men were consulted in reference to this strike. Has a ballot been taken in any other union? Hon. Members will perhaps name one if they can. What is the position of the men in those unions? They cannot express 1099 their views upon going out. They are ordered out. They cannot express their views upon going in, except by the drastic expedient of tearing up their Federation tickets. A great many of them have done that, and to-day, under the Port of London Authority, more than a third of their men are back at work without their Federation tickets, and a great many more of them are on the list waiting, as opportunity occurs, to come on again. That is the position as regards the Federation, and the whole difficulty to-day is that while a great deal of suave and a great deal of soothing syrup is administered to the British public through this House of Commons, the plain truth is that the one thing that matters is not said, and it is that what the leaders are standing out for is the recognition of the Federation. If the leaders would abandon the question of the Federation ticket the strike would be settled to-morrow, and there would be no further difficulty in the matter. As regards the claim of the Federation it is very simple and it is this, that no man shall work who has not a Federation ticket, and that no man who has not a Federation ticket shall work. That is to say, you must act under the direct authority not merely of the trade union, but of the committee that controls all the unions, and unless you accept their ticket you shall have no work, and only on the condition of accepting their ticket shall you have work.
That is what the employers in the Port of London take a definite and determined stand against. Are they wrong? They say, "We have no objection to your unions; we have no objection to the men making known their grievances through their union leaders. But what we do say is this, if there are men who do not desire to belong to the union, and who are competent workmen, they have an equal right to work according to their skill and according to their opportunity with those who belong to the unions; and we intend to recognise that, and do not intend to be dictated to not by one union, but by a combination of all the unions in this way, or to accept their dictation as to whom we shall employ, or whom we shall not employ." That is the issue as between the Employers and the Transport Workers' Federation. Are they to be told whom they may employ and whom they may not employ? If they are to be told as regards individual labourers, they may be told as 1100 regards every single item that makes up the relations between capitalists and workmen. If they may be dictated to as to the identity of their employers, they may be dictated to to any extent both as regards the rate of wages and as regards the conditions under which they work. When you get that sort of autocracy not of the union, not of the men, but of those altogether superior persons who exist outside and do not even consult the men, then it is not surprising that capital makes a stand and says, "No, whatever happens, this strike may be settled in many ways; but if the settlement involves the recognition of the Federation ticket, this strike goes on until one or other of us falls." That is the principle, and you will never get the employers in the Port of London to recognise the Federation ticket however long this strike may last; and those who are encouraging men to continue in the strike, and to starve their wives and children, in the hope that the Federation ticket will be recognised in the last resort, are doing those men and women and children an infinity of harm. They are doing the men a wrong because they are keeping them out of work; they are getting their posts filled up by other men, and there will be less places for them when the men go back to work and the strike is over. They are doing no less grievous wrong to the women and children for whom they profess such sympathy. They are not consulting the interests of those whom they seek to represent.
The Transport Workers' Federation arose at the time of a former strike. It was said that the Federation would be independent of any particular trade, and that therefore it should be welcomed by the employers, because it would take a detached view of any industrial problem and be able to say to the men whether or not they should strike in reference to a particular question. It was on the strength of that representation that the employers in 1911 became parties to agreements to which the Transport Workers' Federation were also parties. I ask the attention of the House to that fact. In the belief that the Transport Workers' Federation were destined to be an engine for peace, the employers in the Port of London signed agreements with the Federation in regard to different rates of wages and so forth. Those agreements were broken forthwith. There was a small sectional strike in November, and another strike in the present year. The employers have realised that 1101 so far from the Transport Workers' Federation being an engine for peace, it is a most potent engine for war. The representatives of the men now say, "We are very very weak," we will go back on any terms." But what else? "We will go back if the employers will revive the agreements which the men broke when under the directions of the strike leaders they went out." That sounds plausible and reasonable enough, but what is the inner meaning of it? It is this: If the employers say that they will accept again the agreements which the men have broken, they will revive agreements to which not only they but the Transport Workers' Federation also are parties. The strike leaders will then be able to go to Tower Hill and say that the employers have recognised the Federation and revived the agreements with the Federation. That the employers will never do. If new arrangements are to be made, new arrangements can be made, but they will not be made with the Transport Workers' Federation; they will be made with individual men or individual unions. It is not immaterial to observe that great harm can be done by this House through a sentimental humanitarianism intervening in this matter.
To show the significance of what I have said, let me point out what happened in regard to a small Committee of hon. Members who made so bold as to intervene. Being certainly well-intentioned, but not so well informed, they passed a Resolution that it was desirable that the men should go back, and that agreements should be made by the employers with the different unions—missing the whole point of the transport federation ticket. That Committee of hon. Members, overlooking the fact that the federation ticket, suggested that it would be a good thing for the men to go back and the grievances to be considered between the masters and men. Those hon. Members were at once told by the strike leaders to mind their own business, because they had, probably inadvertently, exposed the whole point which makes the leaders compel the men to stand out. I observe to-day that Mr. Tom Mann, the hon. Member for East Leeds, and the same Committee of this House met, and with equally good intentions and even more confused information, passed a resolution saying that the men should go back on the basis of the old agreements—that is to say, the agreements with the Transport Workers' Federation. 1102 It is a question not of the position of the men or of the union, but of the position of the strike leaders. The masters' terms are perfectly reasonable. They are willing that the men should go back on the same wages, and for the same hours that they had before the strike, but the agreements on which they go back will not be the broken agreements of the strike leaders; they will be new agreements with the unions or the men.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
I also say that there has never been in the case of the masters what there has habitually been in the case of the men, that is a wholesale breakage of agreements. The masters also offer just and generous consideration of all grievances brought forward by the men or by their unions. Is it not sufficient that the men or their unions should bring their grievances forward without this hybrid committee intervening and trying to break both employers and employed to their will? The masters also offer the re-employment of the old hands as opportunity offers. It is quite unreasonable to suppose that the men who have stood the strain and stress and danger of taking the places of those who have gone on strike should be thrown forth from work because the other men are pleased to come back. These are the masters' terms. What is there unreasonable in them? Nothing at all. Why are they not accepted? Because they exclude the federation ticket. Hon. Members below the Gangway know that the real root of the difficulty is the federation ticket, and nothing else. The people who stand for the federation stand not for the men, not for the particular trades, but for this proposition—that the leaders of the trades in the aggregate may, whether or not particular trades have any grievance, call out the men of all the trades and paralyse the trades at their own call; without consulting the men; without demands on the masters; without stating grievances, and without any notice. That sort of thing cannot be tolerated in a commercial country.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
Sir Edward Clarke's Report has no relation to the present position. The position is far past the stage of Sir Edward Clarke's Report. On the things that had happened that report was against the men, though from the larger numerical point of view on smaller individual cases it was in their favour. But the masters have made their offer. The only thing that keeps the strike going now is that the masters will not recognise the federation ticket. That the men are out and are losing their employment, that they will not regain that employment when the strike is over, that women and children are suffering, that allied trades are being seriously injured, is due to that and that only. This House should recognise that you are standing for the federation ticket, which means the imposition on employer and employed alike, not in one trade but in all trades of that character, the will of a board that will brook no interference by anybody and asks nobody's wishes and nobody's will. The only other point is that the shipowners say that they will take on in future inside the docks. It is said that that is going to lead to great brutality.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
I am sorry that the foremen, who, after all, are presumably representative men who have emerged from the ruck, should be branded by the hon. Member as susceptible to bribery.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
Hon. Members suggested it would be very brutal to take on inside the docks. Let me remind them that at any rate it would have this advantage, that it would prevent intimidation and violence. It would give an opportunity to free men in a free country to sell their labour where they can sell it. It would, I agree, do a good deal of harm from the point of view of peaceful picketing, but there are other points of view connected with real employment from which it would do nothing but good. The House should pause, before it intervenes in an industrial matter like this, a matter which is not one of merely attacking a trade, not one of doing injustice to a particular trade, not one even where particular disputes exist. You are asked to intervene, not in 1104 a direct fashion, but in a dangerous and indirect fashion, by passing a Resolution here to give encouragement to the men down in the East of London, who are on strike and are suffering such misery, to continue in the belief that this House will act, when it must be in the knowledge of every hon. Member who considers the position that the House cannot accept the proposition that the employers must end this strike on terms which mean recognition of the Transport Workers' Federation ticket, which would mean to them in the future a denial of the right to control their own concerns, and to free labour in this country a denial of the right to work at all.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
We have had various discussions in this House regarding attempts to settle this strike, and every time a discussion has taken place hon. and learned Members opposite have risen to promulgate a sort of unauthorised employers' programme. In the last Debate the hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) made certain statements regarding what he thought were the intentions of the employers, and we asked him if he were authorised to make them— whether they were in the form of an offer? I regret very much he was unable to meet us in that respect. If he had been I think we would have settled the strike by now. The hon. and learned Member who has just spoken has again produced a programme. Is he authorised to make the statement he makes?
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
I may answer the hon. Member at once. I am not authorised in the sense he means. I speak for employers, but not for the employers as a body. But I may say that I not only reasonably believe, but my belief amounts to conviction, that if hon. Members opposite will abandon the Transport Workers' ticket, then the strike from the point of view of the employers will come to an end.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Of course a great deal depends on the meaning of certain words which the hon. and learned Gentleman has used. Speaking for myself, and I can only speak for myself in this particular instance, I should be very pleased to put myself into communication with him to try and see how far the words he has used have, the same meaning in both our minds. I hold in my hand the actual document which was sent by the Port of London Authority to the men—the last official communication made 1105 to them by the Port Authority. If there is any further statement to be made, and if it be made in the same way as this has been, then the men will be in a position to discuss it, but until it has been made in this form I am sure the hon. and learned Member will not expect them to discuss it. The statement is as follows:—That, all classes of the men agree forthwith to resume work, not stipulating for any conditions, but relying on the assurance given by the employers that they will consider any grievances brought before them, either by the men themselves or by representatives of the particular unions concerned.The men agreed to accept these terms, provided that one thing was inserted, and the words they wanted inserted were:—Without alteration of the agreements prior to the dispute.The hon. and learned Member tries to build up an argument that these agreements involve recognition of the Federation ticket. I want to be quite accurate in what I am saying. If the hon. and learned Member does not agree with me, I shall be very glad to be corrected by him. I hope that some good may come out of this night's Debate. But the hon. and learned Member seems to read in that expression a desire or demand, perhaps, that the Federation ticket should be observed. There is no such intention. The hon. and learned Member knows that these agreements are of two characters. I am informed—it is information I received while the hon. and learned Member was speaking—that the majority of the agreements were made with the unions, and not with the Federation. In my statement I want to be quite within the bounds of truth. Certain other of the agreements were made by the Federation. Is it the contention of the employers that these agreements made by the Federation shall lapse altogether, and that nothing shall exist to cover the ground that they cover, or is it the intention of the employers that these agreements shall be transferred to the unions concerned? Are the employers willing to say, "We will vary the agreement so far as the Federation itself is concerned as the contracting party; we will not vary the agreements so far as the conditions of labour are concerned, but will transfer our dealings from the Federation to the individual unions concerned "? Are they going to say that? If they are, then perhaps we shall be in a position to make further progress.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
Does the hon. Member expect an answer? As I understand the matter, the hon. Member also 1106 speaks from information in this way. He is speaking with the authority of the men's leaders. As I understand the matter, the agreement has been broken. The employers are willing to enter into a new agreement, to which the Federation shall not be a party, but at rates of wages and labour conditions established as before. Perhaps I should add this: It is impossible that these agreements should inevitably include all those who have gone on strike because of the new element that has come in.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Agreements cannot affect men on strike or men who have been on strike. The agreements affect men who are in employment. I want to stick to my point, if I may. I do not expect the hon. and learned Member to give me, perhaps, a firm answer, or to commit anybody for whom he thinks he is speaking; but I should like that the House should be in a position to judge. I want to understand whether the employers are willing to renew this agreement in every respect except the point that the Federation shall not be the contracting party, but that the unions of the men shall be the contracting party. If we get that, I think we are not far from settling; that really is the point, and, as a mater of fact, I do not want to go into the controversial matter, which has been raised, regarding the government of the Federation. The hon. Member is quite wrong in a good many of the statements he has made. I am sure he has made them in good faith. He knows perfectly well that the leaders of the unions, just in the same way as leaders of parties, have to form their judgment from what they know. Sometimes there are referendums upon which they form their judgment and sometimes they form them from their knowledge of the men themselves, and they have got to take the risks whether their action is approved or disapproved. As a matter of fact, and nobody can dispute this, this dispute arose because, before the leaders were consulted, the employers took certain action and locked out certain of their men, and the fact that certain men were locked out precipitated a situation which had been growing very difficult for some weeks before, and it really is profitless to discuss that matter. We fought about that before. We put up our case. Hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite put up their case. They have not convinced us, and I am sorry 1107 to say we have not convinced them; and the problem this House has to face is, can it by any action which it may take, or perhaps even better, can we by any statement we may make, as at any rate more or less responsible, do something which to-morrow morning will bring the two sides together to affect a settlement? To come back to the statement that I have read, the official statement, communicated by the Port Authority to the men's unions, if the hon. and learned Member is really still under the delusion that the men are standing for the federation ticket, will he use every endeavour that he can command on the assurance that he is wrong to settle the strike?
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
Is the hon. Gentleman speaking for himself now, or is he speaking for those whom he describes as the men's leaders?
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
May I ask the hon. Gentleman another question? Will the leaders of the strike sign a declaration that in any settlement they do not stand for the federation?
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
In that specific form the matter has not been discussed. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I am quite sure, does not intend to narrow down this matter and to raise a false issue, because the important part of his second statement was the writing and signing. I say I have not authority upon that—it has not been discussed in that form. But let us go back to his first statement. He asked me whether I sneak for the men only, or whether I speak as a responsible representative, so to speak, or agent—I use the expression without offence to myself—as the responsible agent of the men?
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
May I assure the House that the leaders have made the statement I have made? And what I have said now I am perfectly certain the leaders will stand by, because they have already stated it on their own account. And if I may say so, those who are in attendance outside this House have been good enough to inform me that the sentence I have just made use of does represent their opinion, and they make themselves responsible for that. Now, 1108 can I do anything more than that? I venture to say that the situation is so very simple now that all that is required is a certain amount of pressure from more or less impartial persons. Hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite have on the whole—I do not want to misrepresent them—taken up the employers side. We on the whole have taken up the men's side. But whilst we have ranged ourselves upon either side I think we have kept ourselves somewhat out of the dust, and the more heated passions of the fight; and I think we are both more or less as one, and if now as the result of this Debate and this exchange of opinions we can lay our heads together, and each of us bring to bear what pressure we can upon our various sides after consultation, I feel perfectly certain we will settle the whole matter; but it does depend upon what hon. Members opposite have said. I was very much tempted to follow the hon. and learned Member who preceded me into the more or less controversial parts of his speech, but I will refrain from following that great temptation. We have tried to get the adjournment of the House for the purpose of settling the strike, and I have risen with that sole and simple purpose in my mind, and having said that I think I will leave it to the sense of the House.
MARQUESS Of TULLIBARDINE
I feel that a very great responsibility rests upon anybody who joins in this Debate to-night. I am perfectly certain of this, that every Member of this House, no matter to what party he belongs or what side of the House he sits in, is certainly anxious to get this strike settled and to see peace again in the docks. I simply want to explain my position. My name has been dragged into this, and I want to explain first of all my own position in it, and the situation now as it is at this moment. Originally I was asked merely to take a message between the two parties. Whether I was successful in taking that message or not does not matter. But I assure hon. Members I have not the slightest feeling of pique or anything of that sort because my message was not received. It is quite conceivable that it was a case of policy on the part of the employers not to have any third party in the dispute, and no doubt they thought they could possibly settle the matter better between the masters and the men without any other interference. Since then, however, I have been more intimately brought into contact with the strikers 1109 side of the question. I will not now go into the merits, but from what has been going on I have seen that so far as the employers are concerned they are in the position of winners, and when it comes to the question of when a man is beaten there arises a point whether you are to go on trying to beat him more or get him back into your service again. I hold the opinion that it is very easy for the strongest man to beat the weaker one, but that is different to conquering that man. Personally, I think it is wise statesmanship not to attempt to conquer that man by force but by argument and statesmanship. The same things happened in South Africa because after beating the Boers we attempted to get thorn back to work alongside us. I wish to say to the House tonight that whatever the merits of the strike may be, and whoever may be right or wrong on one side or the other, nearly all those are things of the past now, and I believe that the whole of the men with the exception of one union are now prepared to go back. The whole question of reinstatement and the federation ticket have been dropped by the men and only one point remains outstanding, and that is whether the stevedores and others in the same position in their union are to be taken on outside the docks or not.
We have really got the whole question narrowed down to this one point, and I put it to hon. Members whether it is worth the while of employers and employés to carry on this strike on this one point when the continuation of the strike means absolute misery and starvation to thousands of poor people and shopkeepers in the East End, as well as paralysing the whole of the trade of the Port of London. It does not seem to me that this point can be settled in any other way than that which I suggest. The whole of those trade unions have dropped the question of the federation ticket now, and all those unions are prepared to advise their men to go back to work with the exception of one union. The other unions, however, cannot go back from motives of honour because they feel that they cannot go back until that one point has been settled with the stevedores. I am now speaking more to certain people outside the House, and I ask is it worth carrying on the strike if the stevedores would be willing to go back to work, and the employers would be willing to take them back, and allow that one point to be settled as soon as they have gone back. If the employers would say 1110 that they would hold over that one point for arbitration, I believe the whole of the men would go back to work together. I want to remind hon. Members of the misery these men are in at the present moment. I do not think any hon. Members would say that I am allied to hon. Members below the Gangway, or that I have anything to do with Socialism. I supported the employers at the beginning of this strike, but I think the time has now come when the strike ought to be settled. I feel now that I am not representing either one side or the other, but I am trying to do what I think is fair.
At first the starvation in the East End was not with me a motive so long as there was a fair fight, but now it affects me very strongly. I have been down there amongst the poor people, and this has moved me to a certain extent. I have seen a number of these people. I said to one of them, "When did you last have food?" The reply I received was, "Twenty-four hours ago." I asked "What did you have? and the reply I received was "One pennyworth of bread." I inquired, "How many of you are there?" and the answer I received was "Eight of us." I asked another the same question, "When did you have food?" and "Yesterday afternoon" was the answer. I put the same question, "What did you have?" and the reply was "Twopennyworth of fish amongst seven of us." Those are only two instances out of about a dozen. I am not saying this to move hon. Members, but when I go down to the East End and haphazard find these cases, it shows to me that there is a great deal of misery. May I remind the House that there are 16,000 children coming out from the schools this week on holidays, who have been fed through the rates, and in future I believe it will be impossible to feed them owing to the Regulations. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I ask hon. Members to remember that these children some day are going to become mothers and fathers of the next generation, and if you are going to starve them in this way it will be a very serious lookout. I was speaking of the situation as I have seen it. Personally, I hate the idea of intervention by Parliament, and I would rather see this matter settled by the two sides amongst themselves, but if the two sides cannot settle it there is no doubt that Parliament must. The whole thing is narrowed down to this. I wish to say perfectly frankly that I have no sympathy 1111 with what I may call extremists on both sides, and I have nothing to say to the ravings of Hyde Park agitators any more than I have to those who will not hear reasonable messages from the other side. I am prepared to say this—and I am speaking with a full knowledge of what I say— that the beaten forces would come back on these terms, and I think it is a very good policy for the victor to give terms. Those terms are:—That all classes of the men agree forthwith to resume work, not stipulating their own conditions, but relying upon the assurances given by the employers that they will consider any grievances brought before them either by the men themselves, or by the representatives of the particular unions concerned. It is further understood that there will be no alteration in the agreement in force prior to this dispute with the various unions concerned.That is where they stop. I believe the men will accept this if these words are put in:—But where the agreements mention the word Federation,' it is to be understood that the agreements stand with the unions concerned and not with the Federation; and so far as concerns the special agreements with the Stevedores' Union and others in the same position, with regard to taking on men outside the gates, such will be a matter for consideration after the men have returned to work.I have no reason for supposing that the employers will accept or refuse the above, but I sincerely hope, in the interests of peace and humanity, as well as commonsense, they will accept something of that kind. I do not wish to be dogmatic in the actual wording, but, seeing two Christian communities opposed to each other and the appalling distress existing in the East End, I sincerely hope that the two sides will come together on something like these terms, which, personally, I think are perfectly reasonable.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I very much regret that, owing to an important engagement, the Prime Minister cannot be present to take part in this discussion. I rise rather to enforce the appeal which has been so eloquently put to the House by the Noble Lord (Marquess of Tullibardine) that a last effort should be made by all sections and parties in this House to induce those who are engaged in this bitter and disastrous conflict to bring it to an end which is honourable to both sides. The part which the Noble Lord has taken in this matter is one which is very creditable, and if men on both sides were moved by the same honourable influences and by the same desire to save, 1112 not merely a great amount of human suffering which is now being inflicted, but also a great amount of real permanent injury to the interests of this country, I cannot help thinking an end could be made to this terrible dispute. I shall do my very best to avoid saying anything which will make it difficult for either party to offer or accept terms. I think it will be admitted that the case has been very fairly and temperately stated on behalf of the men in this matter. I would like to say just one word as to what fell from the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Norman Craig), who presented the case for the employers. I could not help thinking that unless the employers had a much better case than the one he presented in the first part of his speech there is hardly a justification for prolonging the strike. He brushed on one side what he called "sentimental humanitarianism." By that he means, of course, the great suffering in the East End. Supposing he brushed all that on one side, there are very solid interests which are being damaged. For the moment the great entrepot trade of London, the greatest in the world, is at an end. Ships which in the ordinary course would come here are going either to other ports in this Kingdom or to foreign ports. No one can contend that is going to be temporary or say to what extent it is going to be permanent. So the real permanent interests of this country are involved in bringing to an end this dispute. I have already pointed out the powers of the Government are very limited. The dispute has been going on for about six weeks.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Member is quite right. It has been going on since 16th May. No one dreamt at that time the dispute would take so long as it has taken. I am sure it was the impression of all the employers, and not merely of the employers but of others as well, that the strike could not possibly last long— that it would soon come to an end, and that it was far better it should come to an end by defeating the unions. I have seen many disputes of that kind, where the sanguine anticipations of parties that they will accomplish and win a great victory in a short time have generally been falsified by the end. I am not sure it was not the case with the miners' strike. I remember a strike down in South Wales, the Tony-pandy strike. I remember a strike 1113 in the quarries which lasted two or three years, a strike which has inflicted a very permanent injury upon the slate trade. There is not one of those strikes in which the employers did not expect an early determination. They reckoned up the funds at the disposal of the union, and they said, "They cannot possibly last." They did not reckon upon the tremendous lasting power of men who are fully convinced they are wronged. I do not think anyone in this House will believe it possible that men would have gone on for nine weeks under such conditions—conditions I cannot describe—the Noble Lord has described them in very touching language, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. O'Grady) described them in language which was not in the least exaggerated—unless they were firmly convinced that conditions were sought to be imposed upon them that no man could possibly, consistent with self-respect, accept unless he was really starved into the position of surrender.
I am not going to examine the grievances in this case. The only thing I point out is this: There has been an inquiry; it was an inquiry by a person whose impartiality no one has challenged, and the result of that inquiry has been undoubtedly to condemn the action of the men in one or two particulars, but it has also criticised and censured the action of the employers in other particulars. That report stands. If it was not a sufficiently exhaustive report—if the employers thought they had not been fairly represented there, or that evidence which ought to have been heard had been excluded, and if they had pressed for a reopening of the inquiry—I think no one would have resisted the demand; but they have done neither one thing nor the other. They have neither accepted the report, they have neither shown the inclination to act upon it, nor have they asked for or shown any readiness to accept any other inquiry in any other form. Those are the facts in so far as the Clarke Inquiry is concerned, and they are not facts that can be ignored altogether. The Government can certainly not go behind them. In setting up that inquiry, we were acting under an Act of Parliament passed in 1896 by our predecessors in office. The inquiry was an official inquiry, set up under one of the Sections of that Act of Parliament, and we cannot, in the absence of any other inquiry, possibly go behind the findings of that report. The hon. Gentleman the 1114 Member for Leeds said we ought to act upon that inquiry. We have acted upon that inquiry to the extent of our powers. We have exhausted every legal power which is vested in the Executive at the present moment. We have no power beyond the power of inquiry and of conciliation. There is no other power vested in the Executive in a case of this kind, none.
The hon. Gentleman may say, and I think it is said, "Then you ought to seek further powers"; but I should rather like to point out to the hon. Gentleman and his Friends the fact that no further powers are vested in the Executive at the present moment is not the fault of the present Government, and it is not the fault of their predecessors. It is because up to the present public opinion has not demanded fresh powers. On the whole, public opinion has been opposed to the granting of fresh powers. That is not confined at all to the capitalist class. That opinion is shared, to a very large extent, by the labour representation of the country. If you proceed with conciliation, the next step is compulsion; and if you have compulsion it must undoubtedly be compulsion not on one party merely. It is far better that labour should realise and face that. In this case the leaders of the men did face it. But, after all, you cannot legislate for each particular case. You cannot have an Act of Parliament to deal with every special dispute that arises in this country. I know hon. Members will say that you did not so regard the miners' dispute. The miners was a case of one trade which covered the whole of the country; this is the case of a trade in a particular town. If you are to deal with problems of this kind they ought to be dealt with thoroughly and after mature consideration. My own opinion is that the public are beginning to feel, and feel very strongly, that there ought to be some means of determining a dispute of this kind, that those means ought not to be means on the one hand of driving the one party to starvation, or on the other hand of ruining the industry. The merits of the case have very often nothing to do with the result. That depends upon other conditions. The strength of the union, the funds they have at their disposal, the question of whether the industry can stand it for the time being, how far they can go, the risks they can run, are all questions which have nothing to do with the merits of the case, and therefore it is a thoroughly barbarous method of settling the dispute. I believe the public is rapidly coming to the general feeling that some 1115 means must be taken to put an end to a situation of this kind which is doing so much harm to the trade, commerce, and industry of this country. That is a question to which hon. Members below the Gangway have to make their contribution.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
On that point may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that was considered when the special Act was passed by this House? We ask that the Port of London Act should be amended.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In the first place that is a question which deals with legislation passed some years ago. That legislation had an entirely different object. We were not setting up an authority for the purpose of settling disputes in the Port of London. We were setting up an Authority for a totally different purpose—for the purpose of purchasing all these private undertakings and federating them in one rather on the lines of the Liverpool Board of Trust. But we are dealing with the past. The question is: What is to be done for the future? What is the position here? We have a dispute which has arisen, and that has taken about nine weeks, and there is no immediate prospect, so far as I can see, of it coming to an end. It cannot come to an end, I understand, until the lightermen surrender. The vast majority of those who are engaged at the Port could not return to work unless the lightermen gave in. From all I hear, the lightermen are in a position to hold out for a good many weeks. No one knows the amount of suffering that may inure during those weeks. No one knows the amount of permanent damage which will be inflicted upon the trade of this country in the meantime. We have had appeals made, not merely by the Government; we have had appeals made by the House of Commons; we have had appeals made by the Members of the Opposition; we have had appeals made by, I think, the bishops of the dioceses concerned, and they have all come to naught. I am firmly convinced that the time has come for a reconsideration of the whole problem of the settlement of trade disputes. The Government have set up an inquiry into the matter. The Industrial Council are considering the best method of dealing with matters of this kind. I do not believe it is possible to deal with them without some form of 1116 legislative sanction, because you always come up against some employer or some union who will listen to no appeal, and who are perfectly indifferent to public opinion, and there mere methods of conciliation must be a failure. In a case of that kind there must necessarily be legislation, the sanction of some legislation which can be enforced. But before any legislation of that character can be carried, it does necessarily involve that there shall be a guarantee, not merely upon one side, but upon the other, that the decisions not merely shall be enforced, but can be enforced, otherwise I am perfectly certain that no Parliament would ever sanction legislation which would be barely one-sided. It would not be fair, and would not commend itself to the judgment of the public.
The Government have come to the conclusion that it will be necessary to deal with this problem. It is not merely this dispute; there are disputes constantly cropping up. The weapon with which the executive is armed is absolutely futile beyond a certain point. I am not criticising the Act of 1896, because I do not think public opinion would have justified the Government of the day going beyond that legislation at that stage. But since then a good deal has happened. Attempts have been made to carry that Act into effect, and have failed in a good many cases. This Act was utilised in the great Penrhyn dispute in 1898 and 1899. It answered no purpose. For three years the dispute went on, after the Board of Trade had intervened under this Act of Parliament. This is another case, and there have been several in the course of the last few years. Therefore the Government have come to the conclusion that it will be necessary to deal with the whole problem, and to deal with it in the immediate future. The hon. Gentleman has asked us to deal with this particular strike. I think that would be exactly the wrong way to deal with the problem. To pass a Special Act dealing with this particular strike, when the problem is a general problem, I think would be a mistake. I shall be prepared, when the time comes, and if criticism is made, to show that there is a great distinction between the case of the miners' strike and the present one in that respect. This raises the general issue, which constantly arises, of agreements being entered into, and of charges being made on both sides that the agreements are not enforced, because the charge is by no means a charge by the employers 1117 against the men. It is a charge which the men brought against the employers, and Sir Edward Clarke, sitting in a judicial capacity, has found both of them guilty of the accusation brought against them, and yet there is no means of redressing the grievance.
There is an old adage of the law that there is no wrong without a remedy. Here undoubtedly is a great wrong, and there is no remedy. It is admitted first of all that the men were wrong in the particular circumstances that precipitated the strike. It has been found that the employers were wrong in two or three other respects. There is a wrong and no means of applying a remedy, and it is the case in every dispute between employer and workman that takes place in this country even if the Government find after investigation that one party or the other is in the wrong, that there is no remedy which can be applied. All we can do is to employ the machinery of conciliation and persuasion, and I am sure the public has come to the conclusion that that is inadequate. Labour disputes are becoming more and more serious. They are becoming more and more a challenge to our commercial supremacy. We can less and less afford them, and under these conditions I think it is an imperative necessity for a great commercial country like ours engaged in formidable competition with foreign countries that we should have some machinery which will prevent these great trade disputes developing to a point which will drive trade away from the country. It is no use imagining that it can be done by mere agreement, conciliation, and persuasion. The Executive must be armed with more formidable powers than those with which they are entrusted at present. The Executive in a case of that kind must have the power to deal, not only with one party, but with the other as well. In this case I must say that the transport workers have shown an example which would have been well worth the trade unions taking into account. They made an offer—I read the offer to the House of Commons—that they were prepared to deposit a sum of money as a guarantee that their part of the agreement would be discharged. That has been done voluntarily in several of the trades of this country. It has been done with very great effect. It has been done, I think, in the Bristol docks, in Leicester, in the boot trade, and I fancy there are two or three other cases; and I think it 1118 would be the testimony of all those who watch the operation of these agreements that it has had an excellent effect upon both parties. With regard to this particular case, I am still, after the very reasonable, fair, and temperate Debate we have had, hoping that counsels of wisdom will prevail. The hon. and learned Gentleman who presented the employers' case, and presented it I assume with some measure of authority, said that the Federation ticket was the only thing that stood in the way. I have one word to say about that. Speaking in this House on 5th June last, I said:—It would appear that the recognition of the Federation ticket as a condition precedent to the resumption of work by the men is not pressed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1912, col. 134.]I want the hon. and learned Member to remember that. That is the statement I made then, and I made it with authority. I made it after seeing the men, and I informed them that it would be my duty to state to the House of Commons that the Federation ticket was not, pressed by the men as a condition precedent to the resumption of work.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
I doubt not that the right hon. Gentleman said that, and I doubt not that the men's leaders said it. My difficulty from the point of view of the employers is that what is said is not always observed, and that they cannot get any definite pledge in reference to this dispute that the Federation ticket is not a reality. If that could be done, I think it would dispose of a great part if not the whole of the difficulty.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will see that if there had been a real desire at that time to settle, and if the Federation ticket had been the only circumstance that stood between the employers and the settlement of the dispute, they certainly would have accepted the assurance I was giving after an interview with the men, and the least they could have said would have been this: "Very well, you can place that into the terms of an agreement." Is there any doubt about it? The men would have said that the condition would not be pressed. They definitely stated that they did not want the men to stand in a white sheet. No man could say what were the conditions they would press in future. All they could say was: "For a settlement of this dispute we are not making this a condition." They were prepared to say so. I communicated that to the employers, and 1119 so it is really not quite fair to say that the fact of the Federation ticket being pressed has been the only cause for the prolongation of the dispute.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
The right hon. Gentleman misrepresents me. I did not say that the fact it was being pressed was the only cause of non-settlement. I said if it were definitely withdrawn, it would lead to the settlement of the dispute. I was dealing with it not negatively, but positively. I said that in my opinion—I did not speak with authority—it would lead to the settlement of the dispute.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
What the hon. and learned Gentleman says now is that he wants the men to get up and state, "We withdraw absolutely everything we have said about that." The employers—I say this to their credit—never asked that at the time I put this to them. I said that they should not make it difficult for the leaders of the men to come to an arrangement so long as that condition was in fact withdrawn. They accepted that, and it was after that I made the statement to the House of Commons, having informed the leaders of the men that I would make it. I think if the employers had any doubt at all as to the adequacy or sufficiency of these words, they should have said, "Well, we want just a little more than that." They did not do so, and therefore I think it is rather late for the hon. and learned Gentleman to get up and say, "That is the only subject which stands between us and the settlement of the dispute." He cannot mean that. However, it is very hopeful that the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke with apparent authority, and that he should make that statement, and I trust that he may do something in the course of the next day or two, because he must realise that it is very important not merely for the men, or for the trade of London, but important for individual employers, because it must be inflicting very serious damage upon their business, and they themselves cannot say the extent of that damage at the present moment. I am certain of that. I therefore merely trust that it will be possible for the hon. and learned Gentleman not merely to present the case of the employers to the House, but to use such influence with them as to get a statement of the terms which it would be possible for the men to accept in order that they might resume work and put an end 1120 to this very terrible dispute in the Port of London.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I have no desire to criticise all the words that have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. I agree entirely with what he said about the need which is facing us in the future of finding some other method than is possible now for dealing with industrial disputes. Of that I think there can be no doubt in the minds of anyone who has been studying, as we all have been endeavouring to study, these questions during the past year; and I am sure nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman how difficult any method of dealing with these disputes is. All that I can say, and I think I can say it on behalf of my Friends behind me, is that if the Government with its many other obligations really does find time to deal with a matter so important as this, when he does bring forward proposals in this direction we shall be ready to receive them with the single desire to find out that system which will best secure the result, we all desire. I agree also with the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure the House will agree— that it would be the worst possible thing for the country in the long run to attempt to deal with big problems like that as a means of settling the particular dispute that is now before us. That is altogether apart from the issue which we are discussing to-night, and I desire to say at once that I do not think that there is any difference of opinion on the part of the House as to the desire that this strike with its terrible consequences should come to an end in the quickest, possible time. I am sure that my hon. Friend behind me who was criticised by the right hon. Gentleman for saying that this was not a question which should be settled by sentiment realises these evils just as much as any of those who may criticise him. There is no one who does not desire to sec them ended. But there has been to a large extent an impression created by a good many of the speeches made that there is only one party to this dispute, and that if that party could be brought to agree to reasonable terms the matter would be settled to-morrow. That is not the view of the other party to the dispute which has not been represented with this discussion to-night. The hon. Member did not pretend to speak on behalf of the employers. The hon. Member for Leeds reminded me that I said with reference to a previous dispute that I should be as 1121 sorry as he to see the masters take advantage of a victory like this to attempt to ride roughshod over trade unionism in this country and damage it. I said that sincerely, and I repeat it now. And more than that—though, of course, it has happened that I have seemed to speak from the employers' point of view, as is inevitable, I suppose—I have really looked at this question precisely in the same way that I should have looked at it if I had sat on that bench opposite. I have looked at it with the same sense of responsibility; and if I believed that the masters in this dispute were being vindictive over it, were trying to get, not only victory, which anyone who enters into a fight is entitled to do, but to get victory on terms which were humiliating in the last degree to those opposed to them, then I should have done nothing to support them in such circumstances. I ask the House is it not at least certain that there is another side to the matter. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. O'Grady) has spoken of the special grievance that the Port of London has taken a leading part in the dispute. But is not there another side? Remember that the Port Authority has no sort of pocket interest in the dispute. They are there as representing the interests of the Port of London only.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member has not followed me. The hon. Member for Leeds spoke of the special grievance of the Port of London Authority acting as they are doing. Another moral is to be drawn from it. They have no selfish interest in it. They are men who have been selected to represent the interests of the Port of London; and I venture to say, from my knowledge of them, and from what I saw of Lord Devonport in this House when he was opposed to us, that I do not believe that these men are less favourable to the legitimate demands of working men than are those who sit on the other side of the House. That is my opinion. Let us assume—and I ask hon. Members to do it—that they have good grounds for the attitude they have taken up. What is the position of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite? I am afraid it amounts to this—they will not admit it, but I think it is true—that they are trying to get the best of both worlds. They first of all try to get all they can 1122 by a strike, and then, when they fail, they come to Parliament and ask Parliament to get for them what they have failed to get for themselves. Let us take what was said by the hon. Member. He said that this strike was a foolish strike, yet in order to avoid anarchy they are to call out all the other men. If a trade union is run by its leaders in this way, then trade unionism can be nothing but bad for industry. If the men engage in a strike which the leaders believe to be foolish, let them tell the men it is foolish and tell them to go back, and then try to get rid of the grievance of which they complain. What said the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)?— that if they prove that a general strike is not effective, then they must show what Parliament can do.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
But if a general strike is not effective, and you must prove that Parliament can do it better, then precisely the same thing again happens. You first try a general strike and then come to ask Parliament to do for you what you have failed to do for yourselves. It is precisely what the Prime Minister himself said, that they have too much got into the habit of indulging in these disputes foolishly, with the belief that when they make mistakes they can get their mistakes corrected for them by the House of Commons. If there is to be industrial peace, or the possibility of industrial peace, that feeling must be got rid of on the part of those who are leading the men. The real point at issue—and the right hon. Gentleman did not touch it—is not what was the cause of the strike, or how it arose, but what are the difficulties now and how are they to be overcome. It is assumed that these employers are very obstinate about it. I am not going to speak on behalf of the employers. I have tried to follow this thing from the beginning, because I recognise the responsibility of the Government, and I am judging by the letter which was published in the "Times" from Lord Devonport. That stated the case in the clearest possible way. What is the point of dispute at this moment. The men say, "We are willing to go back provided all the old agreements are adhered to." That is their position. Lord Devonport's letter, which I have in my pocket, and which I will read if what I am saying is disputed, is this: "I met Mr. Gosling, the leader of the men, and went over all those 1123 agreements in detail, and showed in what respects we were not willing to accept them" — in substance that is Lord Devonport's letter—"and the only real difference between the agreements and what we are willing to do is "—as was mentioned by my Noble Friend—"that the ship owners insist that the men should be engaged in future not outside the docks but inside, as was the case last year."
If that is the whole point in dispute between them I think it is a very small point to keep a great strike like this going—I quite agree— but what right has the House of Commons to assume that one side should give way more: than another. I decline to go into the merits of it at all, but obviously there is another side. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley said if you do that there will be a scramble, and men will be stepping over each other's shoulders to get work. I do not follow that. He spoke of some opportunity of men competing and of jumping over each other's shoulders. I do not follow that. Perhaps there may be some reason I do not understand. The employers' contention is this: They say they only agreed to that condition last year on the strongest possible pressure being put upon them by Members of the Government, and they put in a protest against it last year, and upon what ground? On the ground that the position in which the men were engaged would be used to exercise intimidation over those who did not come with the Federation ticket. That was the ground of the employers' objection. They say now that has happened, that actually did happen, and with that statement they are not willing the strike should end without reverting to the old order of things which prevailed for twenty years.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Twenty-three years ago it was agreed that the men should be taken on outside and the employers broke that agreement.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Twenty-three years ago is further back than I mentioned. Lord Devonport said that that arrangement had gone on for twenty years.
§ Mr. W. CROOKS
For fifty years the stevedores were taken on outside the docks. This is quite new and never came up before.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not profess to have personal knowledge about it. I claimed only to be stating what was said by Lord Devonport, and Lord Devonport did make the statement which I have made to the House. This is the position. Apparently the dispute is limited to this one point. All that I say about is this. I do think that that is a very small point on which to continue a big dispute like this, but I do say the House of Commons has no right, with the knowledge which it is possible for us to have, to say it is a point on which one side should give way rather than the other. That is what we are asked to do by the speech of the hon. Member. That is the whole case. The hon. Member for Leeds made out that in this letter of Lord Devonport there was something which implied that the men were not to go to trade unions. It was not a question of preventing men from belonging to a trade union; it was a question of preventing trade unions from making it impossible for men to work who do not want to belong to a trade union. That is all. The employers may say that this is a matter of principle with them. They may say, as I should say: I should like to see trade unions become stronger, because I think that, as a rule, they tend to the diminution of disputes. But I say, also, that they must become strong by persuading their fellow-men to join them, not by compelling them. You have no right to impose, and the employers have no right to submit, to conditions which mean that they cannot employ men unless they join unions, whether they wish to join them or not. I think the Government take the same view as I take in this matter as regards the particular issue before them. They think, as I think, that the House of Commons cannot usefully intervene in this dispute. But I am certain that everyone in this House, not only desires that the dispute should end, but thinks that it ought to. That does not mean that we take sides as to which party to the dispute we are going to put, pressure upon.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
To-night the House has listened to an interesting discussion between the parties to this dispute, and we have had, as we had last year, an attempt made to settle a great dispute across the floor of the House. This House has been turned into a Chamber in which the parties, or those who put forward the various cases, have attempted to come to terms. This House is not the best place in which it can be done, but it is certainly 1125 the place where power should be given to the Government of the day to end a dispute of this sort. The very fact that it has been possible that there should be an attempt between two or three people to settle the strike in this way shows that on both sides there are great organisations growing up in this country, and it is necessary that the Executive of the day should have power to deal with a situation which arises out of them. The Noble Lord opposite referred to a child of thirteen, who, in the course of twenty-four hours, had had only a one-eighth share of a pennyworth of bread. We are asked not to deal with the matter on the ground of sentiment. But that child ought to be able as a matter of right to come to this House and say, "I want an end put to this position." It is no good saying to that child that her father is a member of a union, that there is a strike, and that, the leaders on both sides are unreasonable. It is the duty of this House to protect that child, and the wives of the men. It is the duty of this House to protect the Port of London from the results of such a dispute. I am not going into the merits of the case. I simply say that it is another striking instance of the necessity of putting into the hands of the Government of the day some powers which will enable them to prevent such calamities. Far be it from me to say that these great organisations do not serve a useful purpose. Whether you think they do or not, you cannot prevent them. You cannot prevent the great organisations on the masters' side. You cannot prevent the men or their unions uniting. If that is so, you have to face a new state of things in the industry of this country. I am glad to hear from the Government that they intend to seek from this House powers which they do not already possess. I hope they will be able almost immediately to get those powers, because there is very little we can get on with if this House is turned into a kind of conference room month after month, unless we have such powers as these. There is another point which I think is important to members representing trade unions on these benches. They are doing what they can to check the growth of syndicalism. The syndicalists say, "Don't have any faith in Parliament." To-night you are putting a weapon into the hands of the syndicalist. In my own Constituency the walls are covered with notices of this description: "Go to the workhouses and apply for relief. Do not go in yourselves, 1126 but insist that your wives and children shall have food. You may lose your vote. Never mind. It is no good, you only use it to vote for Liberals or Conservatives. Bring about a crisis in this way." What does that mean. It means that the workmen of the country are to be taught that they are not to have faith in the political power of the House of Commons. I think it is about time that the Government possessed the power which the people have a right to see exercised in matters of this sort.
§ Mr. CROOKS
I rise to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should form themselves into an arbitration board and settle this strike. We all want a settlement, and in this proposal there can be no suggestion of a party move. We know the horse is out of the stable, and we want to get it back again. I am sure the two right hon. Gentlemen could settle the matter in twenty-four hours.
§ Mr. PETO
I do not want to import any bitterness not hitherto developed in this Debate, but I desire to point out one thing which seems to have entirely escaped notice in the speeches from both sides of of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that every legal power vested in the Executive had been used, and public opinion had not demanded greater powers, but some measures of determining disputes of this kind was absolutely necessary, and the Executive must be armed with more formidable powers than it now possesses. I ask why should we pursue a dispute of this nature in the same manner as warfare is conducted between two opposing nations. Is it not possible to realise that the interests of both parties to the dispute are absolutely identical, instead of arming the Executive with fresh and stronger powers? I echo the remark of the hon. Member for Woolwich that somehow or other we should recognise that there is one fund to be shared, and that is the profit which is derived from every industry, and the one thing necessary is that that fund should be fairly divided between the parties.
§ Question put accordingly, "That this House do now adjourn."1127
|The Committee divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 255.|
|Division No. 157.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Alden, Percy||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Sutton, John E.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hodge, John||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Barnes, George N.||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Hudson, W.||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||John, Edward Thomas||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Brace, William||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Jowett, F. W.||Wadsworth, John|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Walsh Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lansbury, George||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Crooks, William||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Wardle, George J.|
|Dawes, J. A.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|De Forest, Baron||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Pirie, Duncan Vernon||Winfrey, Richard|
|Gelder, Sir A.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Glanville, H. J.||Richards, Thomas|
|Goldman, C. S.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Hancock, John G.||Rowlands, James||O'Grady and Mr. Goldstone.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Delany, William||Hickman, Col. Thomas E.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Denniss, E. R. B.||Hill, Sir Clement L.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Hills, John Waller|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Donelan, Captain A.||Hill-Wood, Samuel|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Doris, William||Hinds, John|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Duffy, William J.||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Armitage, Robert||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Hope, Harry (Bute)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Elverston, Sir Harold||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Essex, Richard Walter||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Esslemont, George Birnie||Jones, Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick)||Falconer, J.||Joyce, Michael|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Farrell, James Patrick||Keating, Matthew|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Fell, Arthur||Kelly, Edward|
|Beck, Arthur||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Kilbride, Denis|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Ffrench, Peter||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton)|
|Boland, John plus||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Boyton, James||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Fleming, Valentine||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Furness, Stephen W.||Law, Rt. Hon. A Bonar (Bootle)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Gibbs, George Abraham||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Gilmour, Captain John||Leach, Charles|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Greene, Walter Raymond||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Greig, Colonel James William||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Griffith, Ellis J.||Lundon, Thomas|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||McGhee, Richard|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Clough, William||Hackett, J.||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Haddock, George Bahr||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Harcourt, Robert H. L. (Rossendale)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Lelcs.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Meagher, Michael|
|Crumley, Patrick||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Cullinan, J.||Hayden, John Patrick||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Hazleton, Richard (Galway, N.)||Molloy, Michael|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Pretyman, Ernest George||Summers, James Woolley|
|Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Mooney, John J.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Pringle, William M. R.||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Morison, Hector||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Muldoon, John||Reddy, Michael||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Munro, Robert||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Newdegate, F. A.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Newton, Harry Kottingham||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Webb, H.|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roch, Walter (Pembroke)||White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Norton, Captain Cecil William||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Nuttall, Harry||Roe, Sir Thomas||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Ronaldshay, Earl of||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Rose, Sir Charles Day||Wiles, Thomas|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|O'Donnell, Thomas||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Williamson, Sir A.|
|O'Dowd, John||Sandys, G. J.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Ogden, Fred||Scanlan, Thomas||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|O'Malley, William||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Sheehy, David||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Shortt, Edward||Younger, Sir George|
|O'Sullivan, Timothy||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Spear, sir John Ward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Stanier, Beville|