HC Deb 24 July 1912 vol 41 cc1152-5

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, at Bow Junction on the Great Eastern Railway, every morning since 12th July, non-union labourers who are being taken to work at the docks exhibit revolvers to other men working in the vicinity, and in a number of cases have discharged the same; and will he say what steps he proposes to take to deal with people armed in this manner and whose actions may lead to serious consequences?


The Commissioner of Police finds, on inquiry, that a revolver was fired from a train conveying workmen to the docks shortly after six in the morning of the 13th, 16th, and 17th July. This had not previously been reported to the police, but their attention has now been drawn to the matter, and they will take any necessary action.

24. Mr. FRED HALL (Dulwich)

asked the Home Secretary what inquiries have been ordered by him in regard to the action of the police in connection with the present dock strike; when the result of these inquiries will be known; and if, in view of the different opinions expressed by him on various occasions as to the existence and extent of intimidation by the strikers, he will order a general inquiry as to the conduct of the strike in order to determine the amount and nature of the intimidation practised, the adequacy of the police arrangements to provide protection to workers, and other germane matters?


A special inquiry has been made as to the conduct of the police in dealing with a disturbance at Rotherhithe on 11th June. The result of this inquiry will be made public in due course, but I cannot yet say when. There have been no other inquiries except such as may have been made in ordinary course by the Commissioner of Police or the Chief Constable of Essex with regard to the action of the constables under their command. My statements with regard to intimidation have not varied except in so far as the existence or extent or nature of the intimidation has varied at different times and different places, and I do not think any useful purpose would be served by the general inquiry which the hon. Members suggests.


asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to the letter of Lord Devonport of 18th July, in which it is stated that certain assurances were given in August, 1911, that the Members of the Government con- cerned would use their endeavours to induce the transport workers' leaders to carry out the spirit of the agreement then signed, and that it was in view of these assurances that the employers then agreed that taking-on places should be chosen by the men's leaders and be outside the dock premises; and if, in view of the pressure since brought to bear by the union to prevent non-union men being taken on, he will state what steps the Government has taken to carry out the assurances referred to?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

I understand that the President of the Local Government Board, under the terms of the agreement, was engaged in discussing with the parties concerned the question of taking-on places outside the dock premises at the time when the present dispute commenced.


asked the President of the Local Government Board whether he will consider the advisability of circularising the local authorities recommending them to arrange or receive relief on an organised basis in the East End of London, in view of the fact that some 16,000 school children will shortly be on their holidays and unable to obtain the relief hitherto given them, without which they will be on the verge of starvation owing to the dock strike?


I and my inspectors are in constant touch with the authorities, and I do not think there is any reason to suppose that they are not fully alive to the situation. No circular letter is, in my opinion, required.


Can the Prime Minister say whether any negotiations are now taking place on the subject of the taking on of the men outside the dock premises, in view of the fact that it has been stated by both sides to be the only outstanding point of difference?


I cannot say. Perhaps my hon. Friend will give notice.


asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to the statement issued by the Port of London employers on 12th July pointing out that the present strike was ordered by the Transport Federation officials without consultation with the men, and that if the men resumed work forthwith they might depend upon their being allowed the freest submission of all grievances and just and generous consideration; and if he will take steps with a view to the unfettered opinion of the men being obtained as to resuming work at once on the assurances given by the Port Authority?


I have seen the statement of the Port of London employers, referred to by the hon. Member. With regard to the latter part of the question I have no means of obtaining such opinion.


Has not the time arrived when a genuine ballot of the men can be taken?


It would require an Act of Parliament.