§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I think all those who, like myself, have had a long experience of this House must have been profoundly impressed by the spectacle presented when the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Prime Minister, introduced this Bill the day before yesterday. He made, as he always makes, an 2078 interesting and lucid speech which was listened to with profound attention both by those who differ from him, by those who agree with him, and by the House at large; but I got the impression, and I think everybody who tried to gauge the feelings of the House at that time, must have shared the impression that neither on the Treasury Bench nor elsewhere was there a single man in this House who was satisfied with the solution which the Government propose. They may have felt, many of them did feel, the Government themselves felt, I have no doubt, it was the best they could do under the circumstances, but that anybody supposed it was satisfactory, that it settled the question, that it gave any hope or prospect of finality, that it avoided laying down principles which, however convenient they may be for the moment, must be a source of perpetual embarrassment to them and their successors, I myself, looking round the House on that occasion, did not personally believe. The gravity of the situation, the responsibility which rests on the Government, on the House, on the Opposition, and the responsibility which rests upon every man who can influence the course of events, is heavy indeed, for the country has never in all its long and varied history, perilous as are the crises through which it has gone, been face to face with a peril of this character or of this magnitude.
We see the spectacle, the new, the strange, and the portentous spectacle of a single organisation, acting within its legal powers, practically threatening to paralyse, and in a large measure actually paralysing, the whole of the trade and manufactures of a community which lives by trade and manufactures. The power they have got, if used to the utmost, is, under our existing law, almost limitless, and there is no appearance that the leaders of the movement desire to temper the use of their legal powers with any consideration of policy or of mercy. Can anybody quote from history in respect of any of the classes on whom are visited, and often justly visited, the indignation of the historical commentator, a parallel case? Has any feudal baron ever exercised his powers in the manner which the leaders of this great trade union are now using theirs? Has the village moneylender in any of (hose countries where the village money-lender is one of the greatest and most formidable difficulties with which society has to deal, exercised his legal powers as the legal powers are now being 2079 exercised by the leaders of this great trade union? To come to more modern times and to contemporary controversy, is there any American Trust which at any period of its history has used or misused the powers given it by the law to the detriment of private individuals and general trade to the extent which we have seen and are now seeing in this country?
It is a tragic thought to reflect that the very perfection to which we have brought law and organisation and trade arrangements and the mutual dependence and intercourse of persons engaged in different pursuits, the very perfection to which we have brought that elaborate organisation in these modern times has made us more liable than our predecessors in their ruder age ever were to the great dangers and the serious perils with which society is now menaced. However much their previous utterances or their previous thoughts may have made them responsible for any part of it—a subject on which I do not care to dwell, for it is not susceptible of proof—and whatever decision may be come to on that point, I cannot help but feel for the Government brought face to face with a crisis of this kind, because the actual legal powers of a Government in this country have hitherto been confined to keeping order and seeing that the individuals composing the community have the power as well as the right to exercise the privilege of work or the privilege of abstention from work as it may please them. I heard just now from the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. McKinnon Wood) the statement that he was in constant communication with the local authorities in Scotland, and that he recognised to the full—and I have no doubt he spoke with the authority of the Prime Minister in the matter—the duty that falls upon the Government, this Government, or any Government of this country, to protect the rights of those who desire to exercise the rights which in every free country are enjoyed by every free man. But if the Government fully carried out their duty, I agree that beyond that they have no legal power. It is all they can do as the Executive, and by using the powers of the law. They tried to do more, and they rightly tried, and nobody could listen to the Prime Minister's account the day before yesterday of his efforts to bring together the two parties to this dispute and to find a basis of common agreement upon which work might be resumed throughout the mines of the coun- 2080 try—nobody could hear the emotion with which he described the failure of those efforts—without recognising and admitting, if they wanted evidence, how earnest had been his efforts to bring about a settlement. We have, had very few authorised accounts of what passed at these interviews. They were private, and rightly private. I agree with the Prime Minister there. We have, therefore, had but brief and unauthorised summaries beyond what the Prime Minister himself has stated at this Table and on other public and published occasions. Therefore, I have very little to say on these conferences beyond making two remarks which I think are both important. The first is this. I do not wish to misrepresent the Prime Minister, but the general impression which he sought to give and has given to the country is that he might have come to an agreement at an earlier stage but for some 40 per cent. of the employers—employers in Scotland and Wales—who refused to agree with the employers in England in some of the proposals which he laid before them.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I never sought to do that. I very much regret—and I think it is a very important element in the question—that the Scottish and Welsh coal owners did not come to an agreement, but I did not conceal the fact that great difficulties arose from the other side.
I agree that it appeared from what the Prime Minister said that difficulties had arisen from other quarters, and from the leaders of the movement, and that they had proved at least as great an obstacle as the action of the Welsh and Scottish coal owners. What I want to remind the House of only in passing is that the Prime Minister never once mentioned to the public the notorious fact that both the Scottish and Welsh mine owners had agreements with the men. The reason I ask the House not to forget that element in the case is not because I have any desire to defend any class of mine owners or any class of miners. I am not here today dealing with particular interests. I am here to deal with the interests of the community, and there is no greater interest of the community, believe me none, than that when an agreement is come to between parties in these unhappily inevitable trade disputes the agreement during its currency should be regarded as sacred. I am quite unable to understand how we are to get on, how conciliation, how arrangements, how the working of 2081 those antagonistic forces in our industrial system can be made to harmonise and co-operate, if after long discussions, if after mutual concessions, if after arrangements have been come to with every solemnity, one side—I do not care which it is, miners or mine owners—is to be allowed, without public reproach, to break those agreements. I understand that one of those agreements is not merely of a most formal character, but that, having been arranged between masters and men, the agreement was, so to speak, brought up to Westminster and dealt with by the Board of Trade authorities, and that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Churchill), who was at that time President of the Board of Trade, put his own signature to it. Is it not a miserable and unhappy thing, in the first place, that such an agreement should be torn up; and, secondly, that it should be torn up without a word of comment or criticism upon it?
I have one other comment to make on these conferences, and it is not more important, but perhaps more immediately relevant to the character, to the title, and to the scope of the Bill now before us. The right hon. Gentleman, quite early in the discussions in the conferences, came down to this House and said that His Majesty's Government had been looking at the case, and had satisfied themselves that there was a real grievance on the part of those miners working at the face, who had to deal with what are called abnormal places in mines, or who, from some other cause, such as the failure of tubs, or some other analagous cause, were not able to make the best of their skill and industry, and yet were mulcted by the mine owners, or did not receive from the mine owners the amount of wages which they would have received if they had been more fortunately situated as regards the portion of the mine in which they were working. The Government, having satisfied themselves about that, set to work, as I understand the matter, to see whether some arrangement on that point could be arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman not long after made a second statement about the case of the miners, and that second statement was precisely in conformity with the first statement. It referred to these hard cases, and turned upon the fact that those who worked upon piece could not get all for their work that their fellows were getting, and as before, he instanced the case of the abnormal places and the deficiency of tubs. Then comes 2082 the right hon. Gentleman before us for the third time, and he defends the Bill which we are now asked to read a second time. What was his defence of that Bill? It again turned upon some investigation, upon some facts, upon some hardships. Again it was the abnormal places, and again it was the deficiency of tubs. Well, Sir, the title of a Bill to deal with abnormal places and a deficiency of tubs should have been a Bill to remedy some injustice and hardships among those working for piece-work underground. That would have been the title of a Bill corresponding to the arguments by which the Bill was defended.
But what is the title of the Bill? The Minimum Wage Bill. Is there a single word of defence in any one of the Prime Minister's utterances of the general principle of a minimum wage for men working below ground? I listened attentively to everything he said the day before yesterday, and I have endeavoured to make myself acquainted with what he said on previous occasions, and I declare that, so far, this Bill has never been defended by the Minister who brought it forward. He has defended quite another set of proposals, wholly different in their scope, far more innocuous in their character, and carrying with them none of the implications involved in this Bill—none of the implications to which the title of this Bill, considered alone, is going to carry you and all future Houses of Parliament. The reason the Government gave—their arguments about the abnormal places and the deficiency of tubs—was that that was the only case they had. The reason they called it the Minimum Wage Bill was because that was the only title that had a chance of conciliating hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway. There never was surely a greater case of a Government deceiving itself and of a Government deceiving the House of Commons. I am not sure that they do not actually believe they are coming before us to-day to deal with an admitted and special grievance of a particular class of workmen. They are not coming forward to deal with an admitted grievance of a particular class of workmen, and their Bill is not a Bill calculated to do that. We have had no figures given by the Government. Their investigations, though no doubt earnest and prolonged, have not supplied figures of the proportion of men working by piece below ground and the number working for daily wages below ground. The Government 2083 say, "This is a special case. There are incidents in the coal-mining industry that happen in no other industry. Adequate supervision, which is possible in a mill, is not possible in a mine." That has nothing, I think, to do with the case of the large number of men who work in a mine for daily wages. They do not suffer from deficiency of tubs, they do not suffer from exceptional places, and they are altogether outside and beyond the scope of every argument used by the Minister in charge of the Bill in defence of it.
It is no insignificant fact, if I am rightly informed, that in a very large number—I believe a majority, though I speak with no authority on that point—of mines in this country provisions are made with regard to hard cases which are perfectly satisfactory to the men. In those mines there is no grievance, and the only effect which this Bill will have in those mines is not to deal with the class into whose case the Prime Minister has looked some few weeks ago, and whose case he again dealt with on Tuesday, but to deal with another class who have never said a word, whose wages are daily wages and not piece wages, who have no grievance of this particular kind to suggest, and who earn far more below ground than the average workers earn by working in other industries. But we all know what the reason is. The Government come forward, as I said, with a case and a certain set of arguments. They bring in a Bill dealing with a different case and armed with very different arguments; and all this argument about tubs and the abnormal places is really to save their own credit in their own eyes. They are, as it were, in the position of someone who is stopped by a person of dangerous appearance in a dark lane, and hastens, under threats, to give up his purse and his watch, and who then says, "My dear friend, it is not your formidable appearance nor your big stick which makes me give you my purse or my watch. I give it because I think you are a deserving object. Allow me to assure you, before we part in friendly fashion, that I am grateful to you for having given me this, opportunity of doing you an act of tardy justice."
Perhaps it will be said that in crises like this criticism should not be too minute, and that after all the second best often has to be chosen, and that whatever be the excuse given for it, whatever be the cost in legislation which we have to pay, the one thing is to get out of the mess in which 2084 we are. But are you going to get out of it? I dare say that we shall hear more about that later. Certainly, as far as I understand what has recently gone on with one of the two great contracting parties, the leaders of the miners are by no means satisfied with the Government's proposals, and they have laid down conditions not only differing from the Bill, but absolutely, directly, and verbally contradictory of every pledge which the Prime Minister has given to the House of Commons since this Bill was introduced, and therefore I am afraid that even in its immediate object the Bill will fail. But, after all, we cannot, much as we should like to do it, confine our gaze to the immediate necessities of the present moment. We must look around. Is not it a very strong order to come down to this House and say, "You must in a few hours—thirty-six hours or forty-eight hours—pass a Bill which, for the first time, deals with the minimum wage, and you must pass it without consideration, without the smallest regard to its bearings on other industries or other trades"? I think that nobody can have concerned themselves with the arguments dealing with the sweated industries without feeling that even in those cases a Government must have misgivings—I do not put it higher than that—when they say to a man, "You shall either work for such and such wages or you shall not work at all." And to an employer, "You shall either give such and such wages or you shall stop your business." It is a very serious thing. I do not say that in the case of sweated industries it may not be necessary. I do not commit myself one way or the other. I am conscious of the enormous difficulty attending upon it, but, Sir, we are not dealing with sweated industries. We are dealing with an industry that has it special hardships and its special difficulties, but which, in respect of money payments is, I suppose, the most lucrative for the workmen of any in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is a matter of notoriety. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I do not wish to press that point.
I admit that there are special circumstances, but I say that that is the case so far as the pecuniary rewards go [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, however, we need not dispute that. I think that this will be admitted: That there are 2085 a very large number of miners who can live up to the standard of comfort of their fellows, and yet not work anything like the six days of the week which are the ordinary working days of workmen in other trades. They have a perfect right, and if they use their leisure I think it is a great advantage. I have not a word to say upon it. But is that the trade in which we are going to begin to introduce the principle of the minimum wage? It almost seems to me as if those who are dictating the policy of the miners in this case were not content with forcing Parliament and the Government, the reluctant Government, to adopt a principle to which they objected, and which they practically thrust aside themselves only three weeks ago, but they wish to compel them to adopt that principle in its most extravagant form, in a form which would make it impossible in logic ever again to say that the minimum wage is not the system to adopt for everything. There is no justification whatever for the Government attempting to force this colossal revolution through this House within the course of less than a Parliamentary week. There have been many cases in which I have thought that the Government have quite gratuitously trampled upon the rights and the ancient liberties of this assembly, but I admit that this is not one of them. The Government from the very nature of the case, though they are asking us to perform a legislative action, are in reality doing it for a purely executive object. They do not pretend that they are improving the legislative system of this country. They do not come forward and give general arguments in favour of the principle embodied in this Bill. They bring forward this Bill, as they would order out special constables or large bodies of police, to deal with a particular crisis in a particular situation, and it is because they take that view that they are requiring this House and the other House almost entirely, I will not say entirely, but almost entirely, to abrogate their legitimate functions of discussion, debate, and amendment.
I am quite ready to deal with this question and to deal with the immediate problem before us from that point of view. I think that the Government might have managed better with regard to their time. I think, considering that they had months during which they had notice of the coal strike, and they had weeks to consider any special argument put forward by both sides in the matter, that they might have 2086 given us their Bill some hours, some days, earlier than they did. Even granting that the conferences did go on until Friday last, they ought to have had their Bill absolutely in black and white, and it ought to have been finished, with the last dot on every "i" and the last cross on every "t"; and though, owing to the days on which we assemble, they could not have read it the first time on Saturday, I think they might have taken the exceptional course of publishing its contents on Saturday and not have deferred until Tuesday telling us what was in the Bill, which we were to read a second time on Thursday. I do not wish to press that. Compared with the larger issues which I wish to lay before the House they are a mere trifle. What I am now going to say is not a mere trifle, but deals with the very central part of the situation. The Government finds itself, and the House finds itself, dealing with an exceptional situation and supporting an Executive Administration which is responsible for what is done, and this Bill I understand to be only a part, but an essential part, of what the Government in their executive capacity say is absolutely necessary to deal with an immediate crisis. That does not reconcile me to the Bill. That does not in the least diminish the misgivings with which I look at it, and my unalterable opposition to it, and it does not modify the view which my right hon. Friend and the rest of the Members on this bench, and, so far as I know, the party as a whole, would take of the way in which the Bill ought to be treated. Amendments, of coarse, are sure to be moved and must be moved. The Labour party mean to move Amendments, and I believe that there will be Amendments probably from every quarter of the House. But my right hon. Friend, who, unless unexpected circumstances arise, does not propose to speak again in view of the very short space given for this Debate on the Second Reading—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—my right hon. Friend, as he does not as at present advised intend to speak at this stage of the Bill again, unless some unexpected circumstances arise, has asked me to say that in his view, and in the view of his Friends, while we object—our objection to the Bill is unalterable—we do not think that it is a Bill which ought to be treated as ordinary Bills are treated. Full, adequate, and prolonged discussion is, we recognise, impossible, though Amendments must be moved— perhaps Amendments are even going to be 2087 accepted by the Government. Anything in the nature of the sort of Debate which the Leader of the Labour party has told us truly, I think, in ordinary circumstances would be necessary for a Bill like this we do not contemplate. What course, then, ought we to pursue? It is impossible to approve of the Bill. Ought we to abstain, or simply to say, "This is an Executive measure; we do not approve of it. We think the Government have taken the wrong course; but they are the Executive Government, they are the Government which has the confidence of the majority of this House, and all we, the minority, can do is to throw the responsibility upon them, and abstain from taking any action one way or the other, or express an opinion by our vote?" At one time I thought there was something to be said for that course.
But I think my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law) is right in holding—and I agree with him; he has entirely convinced me—that this is a course liable to misinterpretation in this House and out of this House. I do not think it is liable to the misinterpretation that we approve of the Bill; but it is liable to the misinterpretation that we are afraid of taking the responsibility of voting against it; and if, by a Parliamentary impassibility—no doubt it would be a theoretical possibility—if the House by chance said, "This is not the way we intend the crisis to be dealt with," we then, accepting the responsibility, with the assistance of the House, which would have repudiated the Government, would see what could be done to deal with the situation. But you will observe that even in the constitutional sense we are in a very abnormal position. No Dissolution is possible. I need hardly put that case. Let us assume the Government were beaten on the Second Heading or Third Realing of this Bill, no Dissolution could occur. You cannot have the confusion of a General Election added to the horrors of the coal strike. Therefore, whatever be the Administration which deals with this question, it is this House, and this House only, which can deal with it—the present House, the existing House. Therefore, if by any supposition—I am aware of no signs of it at all—the hon. Gentlemen opposite were to say, "This is an intolerable Bill, and we will not support the Government which brings it forward," then they would be bound to support— 2088 until the crisis is over, and no longer—those who take their place. If that be admitted as the constitutional position, and I think it ought to be—I am trying to state it quite fairly—I think we are bound to give the House the opportunity of saying, whatever Administration, it wants to see this matter through. I know, of course, what their verdict will be, but that is not the point. If we stayed away, my right hon. Friend holds, and I think holds rightly, that it would look as if we on this side of the House were not prepared, if this House desired, to do our best with the tremendous problem which lies before us. Nobody can desire to deal with it. I am quite sure that the last people in the world who desire to deal with it are the present Government, and certainly nobody on this bench is so blind to the inherent difficulties of the problem as to wish in a light spirit to take their place.
But I think this is an occasion on which people should speak their minds, and on which they should show no lack of civic courage. I am confident my right hon. Friend has come to a right decision when he says that on the broad principle of this Bill he will do his best to test the feeling of this House, as to whether it will accept this method of dealing with the crisis or any alternative that might be put before it by other Gentlemen sitting on these-benches. That, I hope, makes quite clear both what we are going to do and why we are going to do it. The House will understand that while we do mean to test the opinion of the House as to its view upon the method of dealing with the crisis, we do not mean to use anything, I need not say, in the way of obstruction, but we do mean to do our best to see that the policy of the Government, bad as it is, has its chance. The worst of all things is to have a Government with a policy which is not allowed to have its chance. The policy of the Government, in our opinion, is bad: one thing, and one thing only, is worse—a Government sitting on that bench thwarted in their policy by a House of Commons which nominally supported it. I have, I think, completed the general argumentative task laid before me. Everybody knows—I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, who, many of them, have a very imperfect sympathy with what is now going on, know—that this is the first formidable exhibition or display of a policy and a power which, if it be allowed unlimited sway, will be absolutely destructive of society. I am not talking in the interests 2089 of the rich, I am not talking in the interests of capital. This sort of struggle is always represented as a struggle between labour and capital. That element may enter in, does enter in. You cannot separate struggles of this kind between employers and employed in a particular trade without involving, not the employers in other trades, but the employed in other trades; and the whole of our manufacturing and commercial system is so intimately bound together that these contests are not contests within groups, they are contests between groups. If, as the result of some fight between employers and employed in the coal trade, the whole of society, in the happy phrase of my right hon. Friend, is held up, who suffers most? The poor, the employed, the men, women, and children remote from the scene of struggle, who have nothing to do with the controversy, its rights or wrongs, but who nevertheless see the cost of living rise, the necessities of life becoming more difficult to obtain, employment diminishing, trades driven from the country, mines, it may be, now open closed down for ever, and those who are working them added to the great mass of unemployed. Those are considerations which must make everybody in this House, to whatever party he belongs, feel how tremendous are the issues with which we have got to deal. When you add to that that the immediate pressure of these issues has so warped the policy, so moulded the will of a reluctant administration that they have brought in a measure which, both in its form and in its substance, by its title as well as by its clauses, is intended to give every appearance—and does give some reality—of the victory of those who are holding up society; and when we remember, last of all, that the course we are now taking cannot stand alone, and is not so intended by those who have compelled the Government to accept it; that it has no finality in it, is scarcely even an anodyne for our present sufferings, then I think those who weigh fairly and impartially all these considerations will think that we are not going beyond our duty when we oppose the Bill, but that I am justified on every ground of broad policy and of national statesmanship in moving, as I now do, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
My first and most agreeable duty, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, is to express to him—which I do in the name of the whole House, without 2090 distinction of party or of section—our welcome on his return, and the great pleasure which he gives us to feel that the temporary impoverishment of our Parliamentary resources which his absence has involved is no longer likely to continue. I think I can say for all my friends, and indeed for everybody—I am not speaking in the language of flattery or exaggeration—that the House of Commons is a much less interesting place when he is absent. Nor have I anything to complain of in the tone and temper of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I think, if I may venture to say so, it was in every way worthy, in most respects, of a very critical occasion. One remark he made, and only one, to which I do venture to take exception. He said, in tracing the causes of the unhappy industrial situation in which we at present stand, that it was not susceptible of proof that the Government were responsible for bringing it about. If it is not susceptible of proof it should not be susceptible of insinuation, and I am perfectly certain that whatever judgment may be passed upon the varying degrees of responsibility which are to be attributed to different people and to different interests for bringing about this unhappy crisis, there is not the shade of a shadow of foundation for the suggestion that His Majesty's Government had anything to do with it. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as though we had been subjected, in the course of these negotiations to something in the nature of squeezing or pressure. The proposals contained in this Bill are the identical proposals which nearly three weeks ago the Government submitted both to the mine owners and to the miners. They have not varied in any essential, I might almost say in any incidental particular, during the whole of that time. I claim that we have held, and I am certain that any impartial judgment will show that we have held, an absolutely even hand as between the various interests of the parties concerned. I was rather sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke of the nature and character of the situation. Although I hold no brief for any of the parties concerned, I was rather sorry to hear the analogies which the right hon. Gentleman suggested to the feudal baron and the American Trust. That is not the case at all. I do not say, I am far from saying, that those who reprsent the miners in the course of this dispute pursued a wise or prudent or 2091 considerate course; but I do say that to compare the action which they have taken to the action of purely selfish people who exploit and blackmail firms or persons for their own particular purpose is not a just or a fair comparison. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that this claim, the claim upon which the whole of this dispute has arisen, is a claim for a reasonable minimum wage for underground workers safeguarded, as the representatives of the miners have always agreed that it should be safeguarded, at any rate in point of principle. They have said so with honesty and good faith whenever I have pressed them, and I know a good deal more about it probably than the hon. Gentleman opposite. Whenever I have pressed them, as I have in the conferences we have had day after day and week after week, I have never met any kind of denial or repudiation or qualification on the part of the representatives of the miners that if they were to have a minimum wage the owners should have adequate security for proper output and efficiency. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that in the Bill?"] A claim of that kind put forward in that way, and, mind you, recognised and acknowledged to be just and to be fair in point of principle by a large majority of the coal owners of this country, is not to be put on the same footing as the illegal, capricious, and arbitrary exactions of feudal barons. That perhaps is the only point on which I shall come into anything like acute collision with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The right hon. Gentleman has moved the rejection of this Bill. Does he allege that no legislation is necessary? Is this thing to be allowed to go on as it is without any intervention, except what I agree to be absolutely indispensable, the proper action of the Executive to protect individuals, which has never been refused, which is not being refused, and which will not be refused? Is the thing to go on as it is, this stoppage of work involving, as the right hon. Gentleman has described the consequences in no exaggerated or overlaboured language, involving day after day enormously increasing loss and inconvenience to almost every section of the community? Is it to go on without any attempt on the part of Parliament or the Executive to bring it to an end? The right hon. Gentleman has not suggested, in the whole course of his observations, any alternative policy. He has propounded nothing but barren negations and impracticable plati- 2092 tudes. When you are dealing with a really acute state of national danger we did not think it was our duty to sit here with folded arms, what they call "keeping the ring," while those two combatant parties, not at their own expense only, but at the expense of the whole community, fought out their conflict to the bitter end. We did not so read our constitutional duty. I do not believe that the country, when they read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and find it, as they will find it, absolutely without any kind of practical suggestion for dealing with the most serious industrial situation with which this country has ever been faced, I do think they will say that the people who hold as we do—and I quite agree with him it is a most unenviable position—the responsibility of dealing with such a situation would have been untrue to the traditions of British statesmanship and the dictates of our own consciences, and the legitimate requirements of public opinion, if we had not brought forward something to help, at any rate, to render the situation less acute, to provide a means of escape by which the stoppage should be brought, at the earliest possible moment, to an end, and allow the industries of the country to resume their normal course.
What are the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman—and there is no more acute critic in this House, and no one knows that better than I do, than the right hon. Gentleman—of the legislative proposals made by the Government? What are his criticisms of the proposals we have actually brought forward, and which, as I have pointed out already, are identical with those we suggested to both parties three weeks ago, and which, on point of principle, apart from mere questions of machinery, are acquiesced in by the large majority of the coal owners of the country? What are the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms? As far as I can gather they were two and two only. In the first place he said, "You have made no mention, you have taken no account of agreements already in existence in certain parts of the country between coal owners and miners." Those agreements exist, or exist so far as is relevant to this purpose, so far as I know only in two areas, South Wales and Scotland. In South Wales the agreement had not, as the Scottish agreement had, the express sanction of the Board of Trade, but in South Wales, it was clearly established in the course of our conferences, and I do not think this is 2093 disputed, that the question of payment for abnormal places was expressly held over between masters and men for subsequent settlement. I do not think that will be disputed, in fact I am sure it will not, it is an undoubted fact. As regards Scotland the agreement, as an agreement, had the sanction of the Board of Trade, but it contained a Clause empowering either of the parties to terminate it, and it will be terminated, notice having been given, not later, I think than the end of next July. They have already given notice. Hon. Members, I think, do not understand. I say that this agreement is now under notice of termination, and there again I must point out it is a matter at least of contention whether this particular case of a minimum wage comes within the scope of the agreement.
What was the matter excepted from the South Wales agreement. Did it deal with men receiving daily wages underground, or only with places?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Let me not be misunderstood. I am speaking of those who work in abnormal places or under abnormal conditions. The House will, I hope, understand that I am trying to interpret the matter fairly. I have no brief.
§ Sir CLIFFORD CORY
I wish to say the question of abnormal places in South Wales was not reserved. The miners' leaders put forward a clause to deal with abnormal places. It was under discussion for a very long time, and at last they agreed to withdraw that Clause. [Cheers.]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am very sorry to hear those cheers. I have heard the whole of this story from both sides, and I have satisfied myself, and I do not think there was any misunderstanding, that the men deliberately reserved for future consideration, and in the belief that that reservation was accepted by the owners, the question of these abnormal places. I really do not think a matter of that kind—
§ Sir C. CORY
Whatever reservations the miners' leaders may have had in their mind 2094 as a matter of fact they withdrew the Clause and signed the agreement without it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Of course they did. My colleagues and myself went most carefully into the matter, and we are all agreed that the men reserved the question and understood that it was reserved.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
So much as regards the agreements. After all, those agreements only affect those two particular areas. With regard to both of them they are subject to the observations I have made, and I do not think whilst it is a question of making a great national settlement like this, although I am as tenacious as anybody in adherence to the doctrine that agreements entered into ought to be observed, I do not think, particularly having regard to those reservations and exceptions, that those agreements should be allowed to stand in the way of settlement. What was the right hon. Gentleman's next point, and the only other point he made against the Bill. He said, quite truly, that the argument which I have presented in favour of the Bill dealt with the position and case of workers underground who were prevented either through working in abnormal places, or working under abnormal conditions, or, at any rate, prevented by causes over which they themselves had no control, from making the best use, the use they could otherwise make, of their time and their energies. The right hon. Gentleman said, "That may be quite true, but what about these other classes whom you have brought in, namely, the boys and the day-wage labourers?" I quite agree that they stand on a different footing. As regards the boys, it is really one of the smallest questions in the world. After 1st July in this year no boy who is not fourteen years of age will be allowed to be employed underground. I do not believe there are any coalfields in this country—there may, perhaps, be one or two exceptions—where a boy of fourteen years of age is employed at a commencing wage of less than 2s. Certainly it is not so in Scotland. In Scotland they get 3s. I cannot imagine that a point like that would be allowed to stand in the way of a settlement. As regards the day-wage men, no doubt they stand on a different footing. But we have had this brought very clearly before us, that the federated 2095 owners, as they are called, who represent the whole of the coalfields of England, with the exception of Northumberland, Durham and the Forest of Dean—they represent the great bulk of the area of the coalfields of this country and North Wales—were prepared to consider, and they did consider, as part of the settlement of the general question, the case of these day-wage men, as well as the case of the actual hewers, who are paid by piece-work. So that, speaking broadly and generally, but I think quite accurately, one may say that, although the real stress and difficulty of this question of the minimum wage arose with regard to the hewers at the face, who, for one reason or another, by some form or another of abnormal place, are prevented from earning their full wage by causes over which they have no control, the whole thing could not be cleaned up without taking into account also the case of the boys and the day labourers.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I cannot admit that the federated owners did allow that they could concede this claim. I am not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman went so far as that. If so, I cannot agree that the owners of the federated area did admit it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. I am not suggesting for a moment that they admitted the claim of 5s. I agree that they did not; but they were prepared to discuss and negotiate the question of the day labourers as part and parcel of the general settlement. I do not put it higher than that. That is sufficient to dispose of the objection made by the right hon. Gentleman. I am sorry to have had to occupy the time of the House with these comparatively small matters. Let me come back now to the main point raised by the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman. What is the position? We have tried, as I think everybody now agrees—and no one has admitted it more handsomely than the right hon. Gentleman in the speech he has just made—by every form of persuasion, argument, negotiation, and dialectical pressure to bring the two parties to an agreement. We have failed to do so. The stoppage exists; the stoppage continues; the stoppage threatens to continue still longer. As I said the other night, and as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said afterwards, we cannot allow the population and the industries of this 2096 country to be starved for want of supply of coal. It is impossible that we should allow the whole life, industrial and social, of this country to be brought to a deadlock and a standstill. There we are agreed. Having that common end in view, are we not right, indeed are we not bound, to obtain from Parliament a legislative declaration of the reasonableness of the claim for a minimum wage, subject to adequate safeguards for the employer? [A laugh.] I am quite prepared to discuss in Committee on this Bill any suggestion that may be made, either on one side or on the other, in regard to the sufficiency of its provisions. I am speaking now of its general principle. I say, are we not entitled, and, indeed bound, before this matter goes further, with a view, if possible to putting an end to it, to obtain from Parliament a legislative declaration in favour of a reasonable minimum wage, accompanied by adequate safeguards, and accompanied also by perfectly fair and impartial machinery, both as to the ascertainment of the wage, and the definition and application of the same? We believe that that is—I will not say an indispensable, but a most politic preliminary to any further steps that may hereafter be necessary—God forbid that they should become necessary—to settle the dispute. If this House is prepared, as we ask it to do by passing the Second Reading of this Bill, to agree to those two propositions, not as a part of the permanent machinery of the law, but as a provisional and temporary expedient to deal with a special emergency, we see in that way, by proceeding along that road, the best means of escape from this industrial crisis—a means of escape which, without any sacrifice of principle, without any abdication or abnegation on the part of the Government of its primary and elementary duties to society, will enable peace to be secured in this great industry, in which there is no real bitterness between one side and the other. I speak with some experience both as regards the owners and the men. They have shown the most admirable temper in the whole of these negotiations. I go further and say, as regards both owners and men, they are, in respect, at any rate, to a very substantial proportion, agreed both as to the principle and as to the machinery. Is it not the fundamental duty of this House to assist us in bringing that stoppage to an end without any recourse to or contemplation of further and ulterior means? That is the position which His Majesty's Government have taken up from 2097 the first, it is the position they hold to-day, and it is the position to which they ask the House to give its assent and sanction by passing the Second Beading of this Bill.
§ Mr. ENOCH EDWARDS
I have no doubt the House will extend to me the opportunity, after a long, weary struggle, to defend the position we have taken up on behalf of the miners. I stand here, almost a wreck, after six months' hard work, in the interests of peace in a great struggle to settle this question. I claim to know a little about it. I have no great faith in strikes, and never have had. During a long career I have tried to avoid strikes. I have, through many anxious days and sleepless nights, tried to avoid this strike. I stand before the House as one who feels great regret that this Government or any Government should have had to bring in a Bill to settle any dispute between employers and workmen. Personally, I resent any such interference. I have not asked the Government to bring in a Bill, nor have the federation with which I am connected. But the Government have found out, as everyone must realise now, that any Government would be wanting in its duty to the nation if it did not grip this question and strive to settle it. I regret that it has become a question of political rancour between one bench and the other. To me, personally, the miners' position as to his wages and his trade—let me say I honestly believe in it and have believed in it—is far more important than a more difference between political parties. In that sense I rejoice to think that the Government has taken steps now, when the two chief combatants, if left alone, would in some portions of the coalfield have carried on the struggle for a long time to come, realising that the resources of the employers—the House will not be offended at my saying it—are sufficiently strong and powerful to enable them to continue the strike to the detriment of the crowd of people who have nothing to do with mining. We do not start fair. We regret we ever started at all in that sense. Right away back, on the last day of December, I ventured to remind the coal owners of this country, at a large crowded meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel, that unless this abnormal difficulty were met, and honestly met, there would be trouble. The right hon. Member the senior Member for the City of London 2098 made use of this expression: "Provision is made in abnormal places satisfactory to the men."
§ Mr. ENOCH EDWARDS
In many districts. I agree with that. I have never stood on a platform in a miners' conference, or in this House or out of it, and set down the coal owners of this country as being men who had no consideration for their workmen. There are a number of firms in this country who have made such provision; I have always recognised it; and because they have done so it has rather suggested to us that others could do it if they wished. It is not a great thing they are asked for. Allow me to put it to the House. Most of the coal-pits in this country are worked by contract, or piece-work. The man gets so much per ton. We have said that if a man fails to earn fair wages from causes over which he has no control—and they are many—that he shall be paid a day wage. Is there any criminality about that? We have asked for it, and, let me say from my place here, we shall insist upon it. The question of safeguards has been spoken about. I can go back a long way in recollection as a pitman, and I resent these frequent references to the necessity for safeguards as applied to colliers.
There is no more industrious and heroic class of men under the sun than the colliers. It is inherent in their nature to work. I put it to the House in all seriousness that you may tread on this point a little too far. You may provoke the men, who may feel that it is an insult to their pride to be constantly reminded about the necessity of guarantees. Our society has offered in the fullest manner to consider any scheme in order to meet this issue. There is no difference between us—none whatever. But to suggest that because ordinarily the average wage paid to pitmen runs to 7s. or 8s. that the rates we have asked for are by no means the average rate at the colliery is foolish. It is pure idleness to suggest that if a man by his exertion can get 3s. or 4s. a day more he is going to laze his time away in a coal-pit. The men have not been brought up to that. The miner has been trained to hard work all his life. He knows from youth the prospect before him. I have noticed in this House the peculiar expression that comes over the face of some hon. Members when they are talking about the collier's habits. Colliers are quite as 2099 industrious as Members of this House. Let me say that sometimes if we express ourselves a little hardly on this matter it is because largely many of us do not forget in a hurry that we are associated with a trade in which our nearest relations and the best of our friends have paid the great penalty. I have never sought, in discussing this question, to ignore that element. It is because of that that I feel our class is being slandered when I find that peculiar smile when talk is going on about the possibility of the men refusing to do a fair day's work.
We have sought to settle this question. I defy contradiction from any quarter of this House that we have not sought to settle it on reasonable, fair, and rational lines. We might have asked for 10s. a day for every man that goes down a pit—and little enough for him. Most hon. Members have examined the Schedules. The amounts in them vary from 4s. 11d. to 7s. 6d. Surely that is not an extravagant wage ! We have discussed this again and again and again with those colliery owners who would meet us. It is suggested that the Federation has made a mistake, because they say that there must be a national settlement, and not a settlement locally. Opinions may differ on that. We, inside the Federation, believe that our cause is a worthy and just one, and we believe that it will be impossible to procure a national settlement if we take a settlement piecemeal. That attitude brought us up against two Federations that, it was said, had entered into agreements. I have entered into many agreements in my time, and I would like to say one or two words about these agreements. Take, in the first place, the Scottish agreement. It is based upon a 6s. day. That is all the miners have asked for. Surely hon. Members should make themselves aware if there is any discrepancy between the present wages and the amount asked for in the Schedule.
The South Wales case I shall leave with the South Wales men, and shall not say further than that they have there a Board of twenty-four on each side, I think, and they have agreed to a code of rules to regulate wages and conditions. Wages have gone up 51¼ per cent. on the 1879 standard. My point is here: Any number of men—after the discussions they have had on abnormal places—working at these collieries in South Wales have found themselves, through difficulties over which 2100 they have no control, with a wage on the Saturday equal to 25s. a week, when their wage should have been 40s. These men, first of all, had a special case irrespective of the agreement, or inside the agreement, which is a special agreement to enable wages to be 51¼ per cent. above the 1879 basis. You cannot explain to a collier who has worked hard to earn this money that there is anything at all fair about his case. You tell him that he is getting 51¼ per cent. above the standard of 1879, and he points to his 18s. in his hand, his week's wages. Some of us have to face men of this class, and they are accustomed to tell a few truths. I know of no class of men who can tell them better, in their own way, than these men. To suggest to a man of this class that he has not and cannot have a grievance, seeing he is working at 51¼ per cent. above the '79 standard, is farcical, for he points to his wages and says, "How will you balance this?" We say the same Board that entered into that agreement is bound to see to it, if the agreement is to be faithful, that at any rate a man's wages approximate to an amount of money that can be based on these rates. If it is found that the man had failed to earn a fair wage, owing to the place, or because he could not get tubs, then steps should be taken to level it up. Everybody who knows anything about mines knows that there are plenty of mines where there are not proper facilities given, and where, let me say, if they were called upon to pay a day's wage, the management would take good care that difficulties were put in the way. It is because of that that this trouble has been accentuated from one end of the country to the other. All colliery proprietors, and all colliery managers are not alike. There are a few good people in the world, or I do not know what would become of us. They take good care that what we are asking for is paid, has been paid, and will continue to be paid.
Colliery owners are very much like our side; there is good and bad among them. Some there are who will manage to see that the men working there shall have every facility for their work; but unfortunately pits get overcrowded and companies are unable to get business, and the result is that the men have short wages; hence this trouble. We take one uniform course—and I say here it is a perfectly honourable, perfectly fair, and perfectly just way—that is of asking that each man who goes down a pit to work shall be paid a fair wage. That is all we ask for. That 2101 is all we claim. We have never gone beyond that so far as I know, at any rate so far as the present Federation are concerned. We quite realise that we should fulfil our contracts, and that the men must render service in the same spirit and with the same willingness when a bargain has been made that gives satisfaction. I do not mean to say that the men will give satisfaction to everybody, but in the main there is not much in this question of what is called malingering, of a man lazily standing about. For a man of this description a coalpit is no place. I want to assure this House that there has never been at any time any slackness on the part of the Federation to meet this question. What we have started out for, and what we are insisting upon, what we are claiming as a Federation is, that a man should be paid his wage when he goes to work, and that there shall be no dispute about it. Really between us there is not very much difference, because the claim put forward is based largely on what is a day's wage now. Only hon. Members should recollect that at many of the collieries we have a price list, the result in some cases of years of experience, a price list agreed to, and that on this price list there is a fixed rate of wages for difficult places. In nearly all of them there is what we call a field rate, or a day rate, for collieries. We have tried to approximate to those particular rates, but not in all cases. It may be fairly said, however, that the Schedule rates do not in the main exceed what has been the common practice and custom in those districts for a good many years. I admit there may be here and there an exceptional colliery, just as there will be here and there an exceptional colliery with very much higher rates. There are collieries in this dispute—and to the credit of the men, let me say it—where the men have nothing to gain themselves out of this strike, but they gave their notices and they cease to work because they are anxious for a solution in the interests of those men less well favoured than themselves.
I may say here that, as far as the Mining Federation is concerned, we will vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. We should like to see the Government including our Schedules even now; but we do think at any rate that 2s. fixed for boys is not too much to ask. Surely in this day a boy of fourteen years of age spending 2102 his life underground is worth 2s. a day. In very large areas this is practically conceded, and there are hundreds of collieries which pay these rates, as under other laws and regulations we seek rather that the employer who is in competition with other employers should pay the same wages. We have not taken these steps without full and serious thought and many hours of anxiety. There is no man in this House or out of it who regrets more than I do that it has been necessary to bring this question on to the floor of this House and to try and find a solution. But two main features stand out outside the Schedule and rates for collieries, and these are the day work or day men not on contract whose wages should be 5s. a day and the boys 2s. I am putting the House in possession of what is felt in the Federation that this is one of its planks. Whatever feeling there may be about 5s. a day, I am not going into that now. Surely this House will not deny the contention that 5s. a day is little enough for a grown man who works underground all day, and the only point between us appears to be whether the Schedule rates of so much should be inside or outside the Bill. From our side we say these Schedule rates have had a very full test and do express not only what are the wishes of a great many miners, but the judgment of the Committee after careful consideration, and I put it to this House and to the country there is nothing excessive in those two rates, but, on the contrary, that they are fair, just, and reasonable, and we should like to see them incorporated in the Bill.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I am somewhat surprised that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down should have devoted so much of the speech he has just made to the discussion of the question of abnormal places, especially after the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) the Member for the City of London. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, made it perfectly plain to the House that the "abnormal place" question could not be, and was not, the point at issue, but that a far more important principle is involved in the Bill which is before the House to-day. The "abnormal place" question was mentioned very largely in the discussion which took place when the coal strike was foreshadowed some weeks or, I may say, some months ago. I believe I am right in saying it was the original proposition of the Mining Federation to base this strike absolutely upon the "abnormal place" 2103 question, and that it was only subsequently that the whole question of the minimum wage was tacked on to the "abnormal place" question. Had the matter remained at the former stage and been confined to the "abnormal place" question, I do not suppose there is a single man who does not believe that it would long before this have been settled and that the strike would never have assumed the dimensions which it has to-day. It seems now that, in spite of the efforts of my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin yesterday, in spite of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston, we cannot Debate this question to-day as if it were merely whether or not a fair rate of wages should be paid to the workmen in the collieries. There is nobody in this House denies that a fair day's wage should be paid for a fair day's work. There is nobody who would not gladly see machinery set up for the purpose of deciding what is a fair day's wage for a fair day's work, but that is a very different thing from the principle of the minimum wage and a very different thing from the policy which a great many of us on this side believe underlies the whole of this strike.
I do not know, I am sure, in what way we are to regard hon. Members on the Labour benches opposite. I find it difficult to believe that the speeches they make in this House, such as we have heard, for instance, from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and from the hon. Member (Mr. Stephen Walsh) last Tuesday, really represent all that is in the mind of Members of the Labour party opposite. If that is all that is in their minds, then all I can say is they have shown an extraordinary short-sightedness and they have exhibited, it seems to me, a wilful blindness, as to the forces which at this moment are controlling them just as they are endeavouring to control the whole of this country. I think we all recognise the moderation of tone which hon. Members representing labour in this House use upon this question. Really, listening to them, one would imagine there was no difficulty at all, and one would think that the whole machinery of the general strike, the whole machinery of the federated strike, was being engineered for the purpose of attaining what they would have us believe are such very reasonable objects. It seems to me that the House should recognise that the methods they are employing are very 2104 peculiar for the purpose, and we have to look to what is behind the movement, the result of which we see to-day.
I do not think any reasonable man who follows the course of events in Europe, in the Colonies, and in this country, can deny that we are suffering from the first fruits of a deliberate conspiracy on the part of certain labour theorists to undermine the industries of the country and to transfer the profits of these industries from those who at present hold them to the needs entirely of those who, according to their doctrine, which I utterly deny, are the sole producers of these profits. It is upon this ground that I desire to look at this Bill. The minimum wage question when presented as merely a demand for a fair day's wage for a fair day's labour, is nothing, but when you realise that in their publications those who are behind this movement show why they want a minimum wage, then I say so far from there being nothing in it it becomes everything to this country:—The Irritation Strike depends for its successful adoption on the men holding clearly the point of view, that their interests and the employers are necessarily hostile. Further, that the employer is vulnerable only in one place—his profits ! Therefore, if the men are to bring pressure to bear, they must use methods which tend to reduce profit. One way is to decrease production while continuing at work. Quite a number of instances where this method has successfully been adopted in South Wales could be adduced.And then a number of instances follow.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
It is not issued by the Miners' Federation, but avowedly it is circulated to all the lodges of the miners' trades. It is unofficial, but it is notorious, and is in the knowledge of everyone who studies the labour movement that these are the forces which are behind the movement and that are pressing upon the Labour party, and I would say are forced upon the Labour party. If that is not so, then I ask how they account for the peculiar coincidence that what has happened in other countries is happening 2105 here to-day, and that the course of the proceedings here are following exactly the theoretic course which it is laid down they should assume in such propaganda as this. The coincidence is too marked, and the House and the country would be foolish if they did not realise that the coincidence is intended and that it is designed. These steps are being taken perhaps without the knowledge of hon. Members opposite, perhaps they are merely the dupes.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
Is the Noble Lord aware that I myself and many Members besides me have publicly repudiated that pamphlet?
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I am quite aware the hon. Member has repudiated it. I thought he did so in his speech on Tuesday. All I say is that hon. Members, whether they like it or not, are being driven by the pressure of the public opinion among the miners, which public opinion is in its turn being created by people such as those, they are being driven by them, although I think it is quite likely they know quite where they are going. I am not going to be put off by criticisms of this pamphlet from showing the effect of another paragraph in its recommendations:—Lodges should, as far as possible, discard the old methods of coming out on strike for any little minor grievance and adopt the more scientific weapon of the irritation strike by simply remaining at work and reducing their output and so contrive by their general conduct to make collieries unremunerative.I quite recognise what the hon. Member said about this industry and the heroic conduct of the ordinary pitman. I believe that to be perfectly true, but it is equally true if you give the minimum wage with such illusory paper safeguards as are proposed by this Bill, if you stir men up with such agitation and propaganda as this, you put into the hands of the mining communities the opportunity to cripple industry wherever they desire. Do they desire it or not? The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day, when this Bill was introduced, speaking about Syndicalism and Socialism, argued they should be left to themselves, because the one is destructive of the other. That is possibly true, but I should like to make this observation that the same method is effective for preparing the ground for Socialism and Syndicalism, and that either of these two noxious growths of the body politic can spring from soil prepared by constant propaganda, of which we know on this side very well, and which no one can deny, because day after day, night after night, 2106 week-day and Sunday, it is agitating the working men of this country and making them believe—and that is the fundamental point—that the ownership and profits of industry is robbery upon the community, and that sooner or later the workers must rise and take for themselves those industries and those profits. Can anybody deny that that propaganda is being spread right and left broadcast throughout the whole country? Does anybody deny that that must have had very considerable effect upon the minds of working men, and, if so, can anybody be surprised that, when they are themselves worked upon by the Socialists and by the Syndicalists, who are even more clear-sighted than the Socialists, whichever of these two mutually destructive systems are brought into operation the first effect will be to deprive the existing owners of their profits, and to ensure that the workers of the country, as they describe them—as if they were the only workers—should not only get a fair day's wage for a fair day's labour, which nobody wishes to deny them, but the whole of the profits of the industry, sooner or later, in which they are engaged?
There could foe no greater fertiliser of this soil to prepare for Socialism or Syndicalism than that of hunger, and those who are behind the labour movement are deliberately endeavouring to fertilise this soil, which they have so carefully prepared, by inflicting hunger and starvation upon the workers of the country. That is their deliberate attitude at the present moment, and, putting aside all smaller questions, it seems to me that we ought to consider what are the fundamental rights which belong to us as the Parliament and executive authority of a civilised community. They talk of the right to strike. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the introduction of this Bill, seemed to think that it was perfectly monstrous to suppose that anybody could be forced to work. That was the same thing as saying that there was a sort of inherent right to strike. The two things, however, are not the same. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that you cannot force anybody to work; you cannot drive a workman down into the pit, and you cannot make any individual engage in any occupation which he does not desire to engage in. That does not by any means include the proposal that there is an inherent right to strike regardless of the consequences to the rest of the community. A strike in a section of the community which does not deal with a 2107 necessary commodity is an evil which has long been tolerated in this country. It is a barbarous method of settling disputes, and nobody ever contended that it was so monstrous that the whole force of the community must be used to stop it; but when you come to a strike on such a scale as this, which is on a federated scale, comprising the whole of the workers in the whole of that industry throughout the country, compelling by intimidation men who do not agree with you to strike with you, then I say that the question of the right to strike deserves consideration, and that the community must assert its rights above the rights of those who claim the right to strike.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the Noble Lord aware that in 1887 and 1888 the whole of the engineers were locked out throughout the country?
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
Anything I say about strikes applies also to lock-outs. It would be as monstrous for the coal owners to lock out the workers as it would be for the miners to refuse to work. Therefore anything I say applies equally to strikes and lock-outs when they are spread over a large federated area comprising the whole workers in any given industry. What are the rights of the community? They are far greater than the right of any body of men to strike, and they are rights which we in this House are bound to consider and bound to give effect to, and back up with the whole force of our civilisation. The right of the community is nothing more nor less than the right to live. It is that right which is being denied by the strikers at the present moment. You have your federated board, closely organised, asserting itself and putting nominal views before the country with the real views behind them which they endeavour, by every means in their power, through their dupes in this House, to conceal. We have that body of men saying to the rest of the community, "Your industry shall be stopped, you may starve your wives and children, your trade may be driven from this country so as never to return, but we nave the right to strike, and we are going to resist any proposition for a settlement being made." [An HON. MEMBER: "What is your view?"] Perhaps the hon. Member will let me make my own speech in my own way. That is a proposition which the State and the community cannot tolerate, and ought not to tolerate, and if 2108 we tolerate it this time it will grow worse and worse, and you will find that every time the State yields to this pressure that pressure will be increased the next time. Once having trodden the paths of submission, this country will never be able again to obtain its freedom, and it will always be at the mercy of any band of workmen engaged in any industry sufficiently well organised who may choose to say they are going to strike until they get terms which are satisfactory to them. That is an intolerable proposition, and it is because the Government Bill does not deal with that point one bit, and because all it does is halting between two things, and gives a sort of vague assent to the principle of the minimum wage, although not fixing the amount which, I agree with hon. Members below the Gangway, would be the logical course; and at the same time because it does not provide means for compulsory arbitration, that I oppose this Bill as strongly as ever I opposed anything in my life.
If the Bill contained other provisions recognising what I have ventured to describe as the real situation, if the Government had said, "We represent the country, and, regardless of the votes in mining constituencies, we mean to maintain the rights of the country, whatever may happen," then I think the Government could have appealed to us on this side with some prospect of getting our support. However great our differences may be with hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, we on this side would be only too ready to support the Government in taking a strong and adequate line which would prevent a recurrence of these evils in the future. It is not as if we had no precedent to go upon. I deny that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was accurate the other day when he said that compulsory arbitration had been tried and failed. I agree that where compulsory arbitration has been introduced it has been of a tentative character, but in the case of a great strike like this the only way out of it is to have compulsory arbitration making both strikes and lock-outs illegal, and especially in the case of a necessary commodity, such as coal, you must have compulsory arbitration to fix what a fair wage would be. We have been told that you may have compulsory arbitration, and a man may refuse it; and that you cannot make strikes and lock-outs illegal, but the State can do a great deal. It has great forces at its command, which should be 2109 used on every occasion to enforce the law; and if, as I have tried to prove, this is a law that should be made in the interests of the community, then the community will find a way to enforce its will. There are provisions in the Act of New South Wales which, as the House is well aware, make strikes illegal. It is true that there has been reluctance to put some of its provisions into force, but in the report to which I have already alluded it is stated by a director of labour that the opinion is fast gaining ground in industrial circles that greater benefits are likely to accrue from the operation of the Act than could be expected from strikes, and the workers succeed in obtaining all that they would have demanded in the nature of a compromise by reference to a Wages Board. The provision which exists there for preventing strikes and lock-outs, if extended to this country and elaborated upon the experience of the New South Wales procedure and other States, would form an effective instrument for stopping this strike at once, and prevent any recurrence of any such thing, at all events in regard to a commodity which is a necessity for the people of this country. Until the State does some such thing and passes some such law, so long will the State be liable to be tyrannised over by labour and starved into submission, and we shall have this perpetually recurring industrial unrest.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The Noble Lord, who has just completed a very impassioned and eloquent speech, has, I am afraid, not carried the House much further in its consideration of the extremely important question how to vote on the Government Bill. I think the arguments used by the Noble Lord ought to compel him to vote in favour of the Bill rather than against it. Like many hon. Members opposite, the Noble Lord seems rather upset by the terrors of Syndicalism and the hysterical condition in which the Conservative party finds itself. Representing, as I do, a Constituency where we are more accustomed to this kind of thing, and where we have to meet it in our political fighting, and where we are used to the people who are apt to express violent opinions, we take these things a little more calmly, and when we are dealing with a great national crisis and emergency, which the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) said was without parallel in our history, we do not consider that in dealing with a Bill to meet that emergency it is necessary for us to stop by the way to read every ridiculous 2110 pamphlet published by every ridiculous person in the country, even though those doctrines are being propagated and may make some impression on the people. You will not stop the propagation or the acceptance of such ideas by passing the Second Reading of this Bill. You have to convince the people on these points, and show them that such ideas are futile, economically unsound, and that there is hope that their adoption will be disastrous. Therefore I think we should proceed with advantage by ruling out these mysterious people behind the scenes who are pulling unknown strings. I do not believe that the million colliers in this country are being pulled by unknown people. Neither do I believe that the leaders of the miners, who are very sturdy people on the whole, are either being duped or fooled in this matter. It seems difficult for a great many people to realise this is not a great conspiracy against the State, but an attempt by a certain section of workmen to improve their industrial condition, a thing they have been trying to do for a long time, and a thing they have failed to do because the coal owners have refused to agree to their terms. When I hear of labour holding up the trade of the country I think it might be justly retorted that the coal owners are holding up the trade of the country. I am not saying that either side is wrong, but, as far as the result to the country is concerned, the country would be quite happy if the coal owners would accede to the men's terms, so that the men could go back to work on Monday. The country would certainly be pleased, though the coal owners might not. There is nothing very new about this agitation, and there is nothing new about a coal strike. Hon. Members opposite seem to have just discovered the coal strike, but some of us who are engaged in industry remember other coal strikes. There was nearly a national coal strike in 1893. It embraced the greater part of Great Britain, and it certainly incommoded certain industries in the North rather more than the present strike. I am the last person to deny that the strike is paralysing the whole of the industry and life of this country. That is the root fact we have to face to-day, and all discussion on theory, on Syndicalism, and on the future seems to me out of place for the moment. We have to deal, not only with the paralysis of industry, but with a position which is daily getting worse, a 2111 position where misery is daily increasing, and where starvation is almost facing us !
I do not believe there is a desire on either side of the House to interfere in the matter of wages by legislative enactment, but the principle is not exactly novel. When the House, in 1909, passed with very little discussion the Trade Boards Act it laid down this principle by giving the right to outside Boards to tell employers what rates of wages they must pay. I may be told that those are the sweated industries, but that does not affect the principle in the slightest degree. Either this House is in a position to legislate on fixed wages or it is not. The question of what motive compels the House to do it is quite a different matter. You may call it compulsion, but it is a national necessity. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or electoral compulsion."] I think that is a most foolish interruption. This is a great national disaster which has to be faced, and is sufficient motive for adopting remedies of a character you would not adopt normally. It is not a case of electoral compulsion at all. I should have been glad if we could have had more time and more opportunity of considering both the principle and the details of the Bill. I must say I do not think we have been very well treated by the Government. The Bill ought to have been introduced at a much earlier date, and we ought to have had much more time to consider it. We ought also to have had more information before us than we have to-day. We are not only asked to pass this Bill, but we are asked by a certain section of the House to fix rates of wages, and none of us have expert knowledge, nor have we any expert report on the subject. The Government have been seeing these gentlemen and have had many conversations with them, and they have made up their minds; but we as Members of the House have got to make up our minds as well, and yet we have not any Report from the Board of Trade or any official documents of any kind. We have no statement of any experts at all giving us the average rate of wages in the various districts.
§ Sir A. MOND
I do not think the report of the conferences is quite sufficient. I should like to have had independent expert opinion on the figures put before us. I must say this strike ought in the future 2112 to make us reflect more seriously on the way we handle labour disputes. The Government appointed an Industrial Council, and it might have done admirable work. It is no use when a house is three-parts down putting out the fire. You ought to look after your fire appliance before the conflagration. Everyone knows this coal strike has been coming on for a long time, and there is no reason why the Industrial Council should not have investigated the whole of the conditions, and why, before the strike broke out, there should not have been an impartial opinion expressed as to the merits of the case. That, at any rate, would have put us somewhat more on a line, not with compulsory arbitration, but with the Canadian plan of arbitration, where, without adopting compulsion, they have adopted a method in which Government Departments have the power to investigate into the merits and nature of a dispute, which in itself must have a very large and important influence on the course of any dispute. I think it is more than a pity we are in this position, that to-day we are beginning almost in the middle of economic distress. This Bill has been blamed by a good many because there is so little in it, and I quite agree. It is very difficult for us sitting in this House to try and fix a schedule of minimum wages. It is almost impossible. It is a duty we cannot be asked to undertake. We have endeavoured under the Bill to set up machinery, and the machinery is not compulsory. Arbitration is very much nicer to talk about than to carry out. I do not wish to shut the door on any method in the future of dealing with, industrial disputes, but, having carefully studied and read the information submitted to us on the working of compulsory arbitration, I must say the results are not so encouraging that I would advise any Government to undertake it until absolutely obliged. In his report to the Home Secretary on the Wages Boards and Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Acts in New South Wales, Mr. Ernest Aves says as follows:—The Act contains stringent provisions forbidding strikes, but, as it is temperately put by a correspondent, 'these have been found not to be effective.'We could, in this Bill, introduce very stringent provisions which would occur to most of us, but the result would be to raise a very much bigger issue than we have before us. Why should that be necessary, and why should we do it? I believe myself that when these awards are made they will be carried out. I have sufficient confidence in the common sense of those who 2113 are asking for the minimum wage that the agreements will be kept. We have been told, with much emphasis, that the agreement made in South Wales in 1910 has not been kept. I have obtained a copy of that agreement and I have studied it, and I have failed to find any clause in it, and no one has yet pointed out to me any clause which debars the miners of South Wales in any way from asking for a minimum wage. If I make an agreement with anybody, and we do not come to terms on a particular clause and leave it out, that does not debar mo from raising that point. It actually gives me liberty to raise it. It seems to me, as I read the agreement—and one who was not a party to the negotiations can only deal with the document itself—there has been no breach of agreement, nor can I see any counsel advising that there was a ground of action if the owners wanted to bring one for damages. I do not think it is fair to say there has been a deliberate breach of agreement. It is at any rate an arguable proposition. If this Bill passes, and the miners accept it—as I hope they will—I do not see why it should not solve this question and the points on which they have been fighting for a long time.
I am somewhat disappointed at, I will not say the arbitrarily, but the highhanded attitude taken up on this question by those who represent the miners. I recognise their difficulties. They may have promised to obtain more than they can get, and they may find it difficult to get the men to understand a Bill which does not represent £ s. d. They may also say they did not ask the House of Commons to interfere, which is perfectly true, but, considering the position of the country at large, and considering their own fellow workmen are suffering and will continue to suffer, is it a wise thing for anyone on any side to say, "Let us fight to the bitter end"? There are always plenty of people who think it a great and glorious thing to brace themselves up to fight to the bitter end. It is a great, and a magnificent, and an idiotic thing. You always find you have to compromise at the finish, and you wonder why you did not come to an agreement sooner. That seems to me the position to-day. If this Bill passes, I hope all those in responsible positions will use all their influence, which is great, to get those they represent to accept it and to give it a trial. The fact that there is no compulsion in it argues, not weakness, but a confidence in the common sense of 2114 the people of this country and of the miners. I should be very sorry to think that confidence was misplaced. I should be very sorry to think, as hon. Members opposite seem to imagine, that squadrons of dragoons or battalions of men, dragooning people and trying to compel them to do things which they feel is unjust, is the best way of remedying our industrial difficulties. I think it is a great pity that the discussion should even go at all on these lines.
There is no reason for a panic-stricken feeling that something is happening which has not happened before. In industrial disputes capital and labour join. They are useful and necessary to each other for the purpose of making a profit, but there may be a divergent interest in the apportionment of that profit, therefore these disputes, unpleasant and disastrous though the consequences may be, naturally arise from our industrial and economic system. You can no more compel a married couple to live in amity than you can compel people who are discontented to become contented. There is no finality—there can be no finality in these matters, and there is no reason why there should be, either in the province of capital or in the province of labour. There is a strong idea that if wages increase some terrible calamity will happen, but my theory is that the more wages increase the greater will be the prosperity of the country. The fact that there is no finality and no compulsion in the Bill constitutes therefore no reason for anyone voting against it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London made an able and eloquent speech this afternoon in moving the rejection of the Bill. He advanced a series of weighty arguments, but they were all addressed to principles. He naturally dislikes the endeavour to fix a minimum wage in a large and important industry. Of course, we would all have preferred that this industry should have settled its own trouble in the old way between masters and men, without calling for any interference on the part of this House, but even the fertile and ingenious mind of the right hon. Gentleman apparently failed to find any alternative to the course we are taking. I was very anxious to hear from him what possible alternative there was. Of course, we know there are two alternatives; we can stand aside and allow the struggle to go on with a view to exhausting the miners into submission, with the result of breaking up many homes, causing 2115 the loss of millions of money, and running the risk of something approaching civil war. That would be a simple and easy course to take. If we do not take it, what else can we do except to interfere by legislative enactment, and what form can that enactment take except it be that of a Minimum Wage Bill?
We want, in the first place, to end this strike as speedily as possible. That is the essential and practical thing the country asks for, and I think, in view of the disasters that threaten, we ought to take any steps which would have that end. I do not believe that this Bill would be disastrous to trade. I am convinced that this principle, if it were admitted, and if it were carried even further, would have no very disastrous effect on the industries of this country. We ought not to run the risk of wrecking the present for fear of the future. The danger of paralysing the action and energies of the country should not deter us from taking this action. Such conduct would be unworthy of a great legislative assembly, and unworthy of the attitude which this House has always taken up. I must confess to a feeling of profound regret at the action of the Opposition in moving the rejection of this Bill. We had hoped that in this emergency there would be no dispute on the matter of principle; we had hoped we should have had a practically universal agreement of both parties so as to carry public opinion with us. No one wishes to make party capital out of a national disaster. We would have liked to have secured to-night a unanimous vote—not a party vote, but a unanimous vote—affirming the principle of this Bill. I am afraid it is too late for this. The Opposition have taken upon themselves a very grave responsibility. They have no policy which they propose as an alternative to put before the country, and they have invited this House to reject the only method which can be proposed to attempt to bring to an end a great national disaster, which is paralysing our trade and causing widespread misery and ruin throughout the country. I do not suppose that any appeal on my part to hon. Members opposite will induce them to change their attitude, but I venture to think that many of those who vote against this Bill to-night will, on calm reflection, regret that they have not followed their first and more generous impulse to support the Government during a time of national emergency.
§ Mr. HEWINS
In the very few words which I propose to address to the House I trust I shall say not one which will add at all to the bitterness, which may be felt in this or that quarter. There are two or three points in the speech of the hon. Member who last addressed the House upon which I should like to comment. I do not think my Friends, on this side are at all afraid, as he seemed to think they are, of the development of Syndicalism, because they feel we are competent to put that down. But we do realise on this side the very grave national and Imperial problems which arise from the enormous growth and extension of the combinations of labour and, perhaps, I may add, of capital. These combinations bring us face to face with a problem which the country has not had confronting it in the past, and we may have to revise many of our economic theories before we can bring about a settlement of the present unrest. The hon. Member taunted the Opposition with a lack of alternative, and suggested that we had come to the conclusion that there was no other alternative except that which the Prime Minister had proposed.
§ Sir A. MOND
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but I did not say there was no other alternative. I said the other alternative was national disaster.
§ Mr. HEWINS
We do not not consider that a national disaster is the only alternative. Some of us have had a little experience of labour problems, and the experience of business firms in dealing with working men is certainly not confined to the other side of the House. Our experience leads us to believe that really there are many alternatives that can be put forward, and I say with confidence that if by any chance the Government were defeated this evening, and the responsibility of dealing with the situation were thrown on the Opposition, the Opposition would be equal to the task, without accepting the Bill proposed by the Prime Minister. But I do not want to spend the time of the House in commenting on the observations of the hon. Gentleman. I wish to devote myself, if I may do so, to the more prominent facts of the situation. I sympathise, to a very large extent, with Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. I sympathise with them because, whatever else this Bill is going to do, it is absolutely destructive of that which has animated their policy for a very long period. Perhaps I may remind the House that most historians who deal with this question date the commence- 2117 ment of these troubles to the refusal of the opposite party to put into operation the old Statutes regulating wages by Government authority. It is a very interesting point that the Prime Minister, the head of the Liberal party, should now propose a Bill from that bench, turning back on that, and introducing a proposal which in its extension must lead to a very large regulation of wages by the State. Some hon. Gentlemen on the Labour benches question that statement, but I would ask them to consider the force which is behind this movement of the working classes. Trade unionism, they will agree, began, to a very large extent, in an agitation for the enforcement of the laws regulating wages. I speak under correction when I say that trade unionism in this country came into operation when the old Statutes regulating wages became obsolete and were not enforced. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I may refer hon. Gentlemen to the Journals of this House. They will find there a Report, to which I will give them a reference with the greatest pleasure, setting forth what I say. It is accepted by the greatest students on the subject—for instance, by Mr. Sydney Webb. Moreover, trade unions, throughout their history, have been very constant in maintaining that position. I am not complaining of it.
I wish hon. Members sitting on the Labour benches could realise that I regard these efforts of the trade unions with the greatest sympathy. I think that to a very large extent trade unions and trade union objects represent the ancient and traditional policy of this House. They do, at any rate, coincide, in many of their fundamental principles, with what I have always been brought up to believe was the historical Conservative principle. I am not criticising them at all adversely. The trade unions have clung to these traditions, to these historical principles, and they have clung to them with singular faithfulness. The legislative minimum has been one of the objects of trade unionism for a great period of time. Right through their history—and they take great credit for doing it—they have from time to time forced upon Governments measures tending to carry out and establish a legislative minimum standard. That being so, I think we must accept the fact that we are not going to alter the working-class position. I remember that on the day on which the Prime Minister introduced this Bill, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) asked whether hon. Gentle- 2118 men on this side of the House were against collective bargaining, and against trade unions, and so on. He asked a number of pertinent and most interesting questions. We do not propose—I am sure I do not propose—to attempt to abolish a great institution like trade unionism. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but may I remind them that it is more than twenty-five years since I began to speak, and to speak sympathetically, about the history of trade unions. I do not believe anyone will find that I have ever put forward a single remark against trade unionists, and I have had, I am proud to say, innumerable trade unionists amongst my friends. I was complimenting the trade unions, and was pointing out that all these fears are ill-founded.
The essential point is the danger that occurs to the country through modern developments, which I do not ascribe, certainly in the first instance, in any way to the agitation of one man or the other. These developments are the natural and inevitable outcome of economic forces, which we cannot very well control. Here you have these great combinations of workmen, and also combinations of capitalists, who carry on their operations quite irrespective of national or Imperial interests, and solely with a view to what are considered to be the sectional interests of the parties concerned. So long as twelve years ago I personally anticipated, and I put it on record, that the extent of these combinations and the dangers to which they would lead might force the country back upon considering the kind of policy which would make such combinations of an anti-national kind more subject to the national interests and national ideas. It is perfectly obvious that a strike like the one from which we are now suffering not only inflicts the greatest inconvenience and distress on great numbers of the population, and it not only holds up trade, but it threatens, or might threaten, the greatest disaster to other departments of public welfare which might arise afterwards. It is a matter, I will not say of chance, but supposing you had not adequate coal supplies for the Navy, what would be our situation with a great strike like this going on? We should be perfectly helpless.
My point is that we cannot deal with this great question as if there were seperate and sectional interests. The Labour movement has to be considered with regard to all the other departments of national activity, and the first fundamental quarrel 2119 I have—if I have a quarrel—with the present demand that is being made is that it is a sectional demand. The policy suggested is a sectional policy. In fact, the Prime Minister has rather insisted upon the manner in which we should narrow the discussion to the coal trade, and deal with his Bill as if it is going to be confined merely to dealing with the present strike, whereas, as a matter of fact, it is certain to lead to all kinds of changes. I remember that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) entered upon a crusade to change our public policy in one particular direction, there were strong criticisms from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House as to the rapidity and the suddenness of the change, and the impossibility of making up one's mind, in these circumstances, as to what should be the course we should pursue. A change in the tariff system is an unimportant detail compared with adopting the principle of the minimum wage. I am not speaking against the minimum wage. I merely wish to point out the tremendous consequences that might follow from the adoption of this principle. It is a far more revolutionary principle than anything that has been suggested in this country during the last sixty or seventy years at least. Where is it going to stop? It is going to profoundly affect every department of our social and public life. There is not one single department of our public and social life which is not going to be affected when you introduce the principle of the State regulation of wages. Take its effect upon trade unions. Are trade unions going to stand where they are when the minimum wage is adopted? I say it means the legislative fixing of wages. Then what is going to happen to trade unions? That must be absolutely clear. You cannot change wages and leave the power to strike where it is. Trade unions may, and probably will, remain as important advisory expert bodies if you have a scheme like that which the Prime Minister proposes, but you are not going to have trade unions surviving in their present form with the full powers of entering into industrial activities that they have at the present time. That is impossible.
My complaint about the present situation is that we are asked to adopt this principle at such short notice. Three weeks ago there was certainly not the slightest reason to suppose that the Government would intro- 2120 duce this Bill. What is the situation? Why have we not a Memorandum upon the subject? Looking at the wonderfully able officials of the Board of Trade, I am perfectly certain it would have been possible for them to draw up a proper statement of the case, giving particulars of wages and of persons employed, and showing what the whole problem is. Suppose I were willing to adopt the principle of the minimum wage, suppose I generally favoured that principle, how am I to know, upon the evidence supplied by His Majesty's Government, whether I have reached the stage in which that important principle could properly be applied to the coal trade? We do not know at all. We have no information about it. And it is because of the revolutionary character of the change, because it involves sectional legislation of a most important kind, because it is certain to be applied in the future to other trades, which have not been consulted, and who do not know what the attitude of their unions will be about it, because we have no information, and because we cannot tell what the actual problem is that we have to deal with, that I shall vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. BRACE
If the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will forgive me, I would rather not travel with him into a kind of academic discussion of the very interesting points which he has raised. The situation is much too serious for that. I am bound to confess that I have listened with some disappointment to the lack of suggested helpfulness in some of the criticisms that have been levelled against the Bill of the Government. This is a day when we do not require destructive criticism. [Laughter.] If you want to go on with the strike, continue in that policy. The miners have not asked either this House or the Government to interfere. If the stoppage of the miners is to come to an end, then some kind of scheme will have to be formulated which will give promise of a settlement upon a fair and reasonable basis. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) raised the question of compulsory arbitration. I do not propose to discuss that phase of the situation, other than to say that so far as the miners are concerned, and I believe I may say the same on behalf of the trade unions of Great Britain, that we cannot accept either the principle or the proposal of compulsory arbitration as a means of settling 2121 disputes between capital and labour. The Noble Lord opposite (Viscount Helmsley) was really eloquent upon a circular which has been repudiated by every man who has the right to speak officially on behalf of labour.
§ Mr. BRACE
I am speaking as one of the officials of the South Wales Coal Miners' Federation, and I am speaking for the vast majority, if not the whole of the members of the executive council, when I say that we repudiate that circular or manifesto, call it what you will, as not being in conformity with the wishes of the leaders or the desires of the men. If any hon. Member of this House is under the impression that Sydicalism is likely to gain a foothold amongst the miners in particular and the workers in general, he is not paying much of a compliment to the innate common sense of the British working man. When we come to reckon up the situation as a result of this strike, I think we may well come to the conclusion that Syndicalism will have its death blow. This miners' strike, partial as it is, and not general as the last speaker would presumably have liked to have seen it, is a demonstration of the valuelessness of Syndicalism to the working classes to aid and help their position. What is it that is embarrassing us miners at present? It is the amount of poverty, sorrow and tribulation that is felt in the homes of the people among our own flesh and blood. If a partial stoppage such as this will work such enormous consequences upon the working classes, how is it possible for any reasonable man, who has the welfare of this nation at stake, to support any policy of Syndicalism, which would lay idle the whole of the industrial and commercial undertakings of this country? It is pandering too much to the conceit of a few people for this House to place such importance upon such a circumstance. It is not in the power of a man or men to move this enormous miners' army into action by any agitation unless that agitation is based upon grievances deep-rooted in the hearts of the men. I am disappointed that the Government has not included the Schedules in the Bill. Parliament has no right to withhold from labour the power to defend itself unless it is going to place something in its stead to defend its interests. If Parliament is going to use the power of the State to prevent striking in 2122 defence of labour interests, Parliament must give to labour what its own power will win for it. Therefore, inasmuch as it is felt that in the best interests of the State this strike should end, we come along and say: Very well, if Parliament is going to use power to prevent our defending our interests by the power of striking, mention in the Bill the wages that we think we can win left free to fight for ourselves.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Does the hon. Member say that this Bill will prevent strikes, and that he will undertake if it passes not to strike again?
§ Mr. BRACE
If the Noble Lord had followed the very carefully reasoned speech of the Prime Minister he would have seen that, at any rate, the object of this Bill is to prevent the strike. If the Bill is accepted as an Act of Parliament, and the miners and coal owners accept the machinery for the settlement of the dispute, this Bill as an instrument will settle the strike.
§ Mr. BRACE
Without the Schedule if we accept it. I am not called upon to defend the Bill—that is the business of the Government—but I may be allowed to give an intelligent explanation. If the workmen and the employers accept the machinery provided by the Bill for the settlement of the dispute the dispute will be settled, but we are asking Parliament to give us something more than is in the Bill. We say that the 2s. for the boys, the 5s. for adult workers, the 7s. 1½d. in Wales and the 4s. 11d. in Bristol, and the other items in the Schedule should be incorporated in the Bill. That is our view. If Parliament will accept that, the strike ends at once, and we commence work at once, and it is because the Bill falls short of doing that that I am endeavouring to put the position of the miners before the House with the view of getting the Government to see that our demand is a reasonable one. There was some little controversy earlier in the Debate as to the position of the South Wales miners and coal owners.
I listened with much pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) and I was impressed by the argument. I am never happy, not if we break agreements, but if we find ourselves unable to carry out agreements in spirit and letter. I prefer to be in that position, but it does not lie with the coal owners to 2123 complain of a very technical breach of our agreements, for the South Wales coal owners have made themselves responsible for more than a technical breach of agreement. What is the genesis of this trouble? It is in connection with abnormal places. I have been a paid official of the South Wales miners for twenty-three years, and during the whole of that time, while there was no written agreement, there was a working understanding between the management of the respective collieries and ourselves, that if a man was working in an abnormal place he should have his wages made up to an amount generally recognised at 4s. 9d. plus percentage. This went on for many years, but in 1908, for some reason or other, some colliery firms contested this custom, despite the fact that there is a distinct clause in the agreement, both in 1908 and in 1910, which says that the customs and conditions existing in 1899 at the collieries respectively shall be observed. Despite that, they came to the conclusion that if they defended an action in Court in a particular way, they would be able to break down that custom. The judge said:—Here there is no obligation provided for in the contract to pay at a different rate for abnormal or disturbed ground from what is being paid in different grounds. There being no obligation, it becomes a pure matter of gratuity. In my opinion what can be done is this, that the workmen, or persons representing them, should insist that there should be a clause for different payment for disturbed ground, and that should appear in the price list. I think it ought to.[An HON. MEMBER: "Who was the judge?"] Judge Bryn Roberts. I would rather not have mentioned the judge in a place where he could not defend himself. When we came to make our agreement we asked the employers, in the face of this judgment, to give us a clause in our price list or in our general wage agreement which would give legal sanction to a custom which had been observed for all these years, but the employers refused to give it. We were faced, then, with the problem whether we should refuse to make an agreement, and fight a battle or whether we should make an agreement, and then, when there was peace in the coalfield, endeavour to fix up this difficult, disturbing, and perplexing problem. We tried with our employers, and they refused. We also tried at that time to settle a wage for the lower-paid wage men. We went to the Federation of Great Britain, and we found that what was our problem over the abnormal place question was a problem in every coalpit in the kingdom, and they therefore told us, "Sign the agreement, and we will deal 2124 with this abnormal place problem nationally, inasmuch as it is a question which affects the workmen, whether they work in Scotland, in England, or in Wales." Time went on, and we had a conference with the employers—a national conference, representative of the coal owners and of the workmen. We tried to settle with the coal-owners there this abnormal place problem, but the coal owners refused to settle, and we were driven back home, and we met in national conference, and we came to the conclusion that, inasmuch as we could not have a settlement by consent, and co-operating with the coal owners, there was nothing left for us but to go for a settlement upon the basis of the minimum wage. That is a short review of the situation.
We are therefore not responsible for this situation. We wanted to settle, and we want to settle now. We are engaged in a struggle, not because we desire to inflict punishment upon the country, but because we are left with no alternative, to get a settlement, of this question which is fair between the employers and ourselves. What stronger demonstration could there be in favour of the workmen's position than the fact that the majority of the coal owners of Britain adopt our attitude and say this is a matter which ought to be settled? What stronger demonstration could we offer to this House of the reasonableness of our case than the fact that the Government, acting impartially, felt there was an unanswerable case for a minimum wage for the miners of this country? When I argue for a minimum I approach these different classes from different standpoints. Take the 5s. lower-paid wage man. His position is entirely different from a man in a normal place earning 7s. 1½d. I argue this 5s. lower-paid wage man's case from the standpoint, not of service rendered, but of human necessity, and I do not care what work he is doing. He may be unloading rubbish or doing any other kind of work which is classified as unskilled in the colliery. Assuredly he is entitled to 5s. a day. We do not ask wages for men who do not work. The Federation may have many imperfections and many faults, but it does not exist to defend or protect men who will not render service for wages. In the case of the wages of the 5s. man, we are faced with this situation. The, cost of living has gone up enormously in the last ten years, and rates have gone up because of the 2125 increased demand for a better neighbourhood to live in. All this has added to the wages as well as to the necessities of life. Wages have gone up, but inasmuch as the wage of the lower-paid wage man starts at 2s. 10d. and 3s., his position, compared with what it was before, or with the man who starts at 4s. 9d. or 5s., is worse, and therefore we approach this 5s. man from a different standpoint from the 7s. 1½d. men, and we say that the necessities of himself and his family demand that we shall have this wage, and I am putting it to the Prime Minister that he should include the boys' 2s. and these men's 5s. in the Bill at any rate.
I have no complaint to make about the Government. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have my profound gratitude for the way they have worked upon this problem in a very difficult atmosphere. The employers say, "We are prepared to pay a man who works in an abnormal place a fair wage for fair work," but the unhappy part is that under the present system we have no machinery, and the manager, or his official, is the judge and jury and prosecutor and all the rest. How does this work out in practice? A man may be working in an abnormal place or a stall to-day, and to-morrow something will come across the face that will make the coal soft or mixed with stones, or there may be a thread of some kind in consequence of which he is unable to earn his living, not because he is a less capable man, but because nature has interposed in a way he could not foresee. Let me associate myself with the expression of my hon. Friend the Member for Hanley (Mr. Enoch Edwards) that a vast number of our colliery owners are decent and reasonable men who desire to do what is right. We could settle with these men, but we come across instances where it seems to be the fashion immediately a collier finds his place goes from normal to abnormal that man, who has been regarded as a decent man, is classified as a dishonourable man. That is why we are seeking a settlement on the basis of a minimum wage. It is not that we want any monetary gain for the man in a normal place. We do not. But if we have a settlement on the basis of a minimum wage, given that the price list is fair and that reasonable facilities are given to the collier in the normal place to earn his living, he will always be above the minimum, and the establishment of the minimum will only 2126 mean that the man in an abnormal place, instead of having brought against him the charge of being dishonest, will be entitled to the minimum under the general principle which we wish to establish.
It is when we come to deal with the man in the abnormal place that we have our difficulty. Some people say, "Oh, as soon as the miner gets a guaranteed minimum he will not try to earn more." That is the wonderful way people have of looking at it through their own spectacles. I always think that a man who says that has got a dishonest twist himself. We do not say it, and we do not want it. If we had the minimum fixed next week and started work, it would not mean any monetary value to the man in the normal place if the employers carried out their part of the contract. What are suffering from at the present time? As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) said, the men have a shortage of tubs. They have. In the tubbing of a colliery the official staff work upon a kind of generality. It is necessary to produce a given output, and in calculating for that they make allowances for the shortage of tubs, tramways, wagons, or anything else. Therefore, if the output is kept up to the standard, they never care whether a man has a shortage or not, because the result is that it neither affects the whole of the men in the pit, nor themselves when they find that a man cannot fill as much coal as he ought to fill and earn his living as he ought to do. There are a score of things which prevent the men in normal places from doing their work. It would place an obligation financially on the official staff to give to the men the facilities they are entitled to.
What is the problem? We ask for 2s. a day for boys. This House will say that is a reasonable wage. We ask 5s. a day for all classes of men in the pit, not merely because of service rendered, but because it is the lowest wage which will allow them to live and to rear their families with anything like decency. Why should not these figures be embodied in the Bill? We find common ground there. Why not embody them in the Bill and take these men and boys outside of the controversial question. I would ask that the 2s. and the 5s. should be put in the Bill, so that we may go back to the men with the hope of finding in these figures the means of coming to a settlement. We want a settlement, and the miners want a settlement. Our men are making enormous 2127 sacrifices. But the miners will want to have an assurance that this minimum wage is not going to have a paper value only. I believe that if this minimum wage question were settled by this Bill, or in any other way, we shall have permanent peace. The miners are not a fighting people unless they are forced to it, and then they take a lot of stopping. We prefer to settle our questions by conciliation and negotiation with the employers. We have come up against a deadlock and cannot make headway. Parliament is asked to assist. In connection with this matter I feel that we have a right to make a moral claim upon this House. It is only at a time like this that miners get full recognition of their value to the State. At the time of disaster we get a great deal of sympathy—practical sympathy—for which we are much obliged. When the miners are appealing to the House they are appealing, not to give them something for nothing, but to give them protection for a wage commensurate with the service rendered to the State. Every week the colliers work twenty-three men and boys are killed, and 3,000 men and boys are injured. Talk about their wages, and compare them with the wages of men who work on the surface ! The positions are not comparable. I marvel that the miners do not ask payment not merely for their labour, but for the risks they incur. The miners are of value to the State, and the State is asked to give them protection.
We know that in connection with mining life there are difficulties which no one can understand unless he has been through them. In other industries a workman goes to the factory or the bench and finds his tools there when he commences in the morning exactly as when the shift was left over. In the case of mining, tools may be left over at the close of a shift, and before the miner returns to work nature may have been in one of her terrible moods, and things are smashed to pieces. That being so, the miner is often called upon to do work for which he gets no pay. This is never reckoned in his labour, but he is bound to do this to win coal. Let me say, with all the sincerity of one who believes in the establishment of a minimum wage, that we are asking it because we think it a fair and reasonable proposition for men who do so much to make the wealth and prosperity of this country. The men cannot be driven into work unless some reasonable settlement is come to. It has gone too far for that. We do not want 2128 to fight one day longer than can be avoided. We know we are inflicting danger on this nation. Why will not the Opposition come and meet the situation? What is the use in a great national crisis like this of moving "That this Bill be read upon this day six months."
Is not the House of Commons under an obligation to the nation? Surely because the Government happens to be the Executive in power all the responsibility is not with them. Their responsibility can only go to the point of guiding this House in a great national crisis such as this. There is responsibility upon every Member and every party in this House to bring to the common stock every ounce of counsel which may assist in the settlement of this question. What would we do in the case of a great war? We would forget party. We hear sometimes of patriotism on this side or on that side, but it is not always the men who are shouting about the flag who are the best patriots. We would forget about party in the case of a great national crisis which involved war. This is a war that is being fought not on the high seas or in foreign territories, but in the homes and hearts of our people. I say to the House of Commons that the miners' demand is a fair one, whether taken on the basis of 2s. for boys. 5s. for men, or the schedule for men in normal and abnormal places. In any case, we are faced with a national crisis, and it is because I do not think this Bill meets the situation as it ought to meet it that I appeal to the Government to strengthen the measure in the way we have asked them to do. We shall vote for the Second Beading of the Bill, and to-morrow we shall move our Amendments. We ask the House to rise to the occasion and realise that in a great national crisis they have a great national responsibility. We ask them to bring about the stoppage of this strike, which is carrying disaster and devastation into many homes in the country.
§ Mr. DUKE
No man in this House can have listened with deeper sympathy or more sincere admiration than I have done to the most persuasive speech of the hon. Member. He assumes that the House is here to decide whether 5s. a day is a proper minimum wage for a man, and 2s. a day a proper minimum wage for a boy. If this House were going to provide the wages that would be a relevant question to address to it, but this Bill, which is called a Bill to provide a minimum wage, 2129 is not a Bill to provide a minimum wage. It is a Bill to introduce a new principle into the industrial life of this country, so far as I can understand. The probable operation of this Bill, unless there is a latent possibility of agreement between the contesting parties in this great dispute, will be that the miner will be as far off next month as this month from the provision of the minimum wage. The Bill, when it sets out with the title endorsed upon it, "A Bill to Provide a Minimum Wage"—I do not say it in any offensive spirit—starts out with false pretences. It is a Bill for regulating the affairs of coal mines by a body of Gentlemen sitting here who do not know much about them. I protest against it on economic grounds, but I also protest against it because of its futility as an economic proposal. The hon. Member who spoke last appealed earnestly to the Government to put into the Bill something which would give the miners 5s. a day for men and 2s. a day for boys. I could understand a Bill which did that. Probably I should not vote for it, and I do not believe that anybody who had a regard for the permanent interests of the mining industry in this country or any other industry, would vote that the wages should be fixed by one body which was not competent to fix them, and should be paid by somebody else upon pain of not being able to carry on their business. I should not vote for such a Bill, but if it became law then for such mines as could be carried on under its terms and for such colliery owners as could afford to employ on these terms it would be a settlement which would not do any harm.
But so far as the miners are concerned at present with the enormous power of the mining industry, with their enormous moral force, their force of argument, and the force of combination which a million organised men have, when you cannot get any isolated instance of those wages, what is the meaning of it? It is because they could not be got out of the industry, and not that they are refused by the churlish spirit of the men who carry on the industry. It is because there are conditions in the industry itself, and the terms of the men's employment, which make those rates, low as they seem to men sitting in the House with the comforts which all of us are accustomed to enjoy, and the different modes of occupation which are so much easier, not economic in the industry where those great powers exist for the getting out of the industry the highest terms 2130 that can be had. When we find that the position of the miners of this country, with their skill and organisation, their brilliant representatives, and the profound knowledge which many of those who labour on their behalf have of industrial affairs and of the means of coercing employers, if not of persuading them, to do the very best that can be done in the industry, then to my mind what has taken place, and the impossibility, in face of public discussion, of securing these payments is the strongest possible evidence that they are not payments which can be economically made. The Government does not know whether they can or not. The Government is not ready to put them into their Bill. If they are not payments which can be economically made they never will be put into a Schedule, and how much further forward will the country be towards the settlement of the real question before them?
This Government, which three weeks ago treated the question of the minimum wage with the most practical contempt by putting up an Under-Secretary to dismiss it out of the House, does not come here to-night to propose a change, which the Prime Minister presents in a speech containing more lamentable expressions than I have ever heard from a great Minister of State, because it loves a minimum wage, or because it was ready of its own volition to propose a minimum wage. It is quite on the other part of the proposals of the Government that this Government is really moved to do what it is doing here. The Prime Minister, when speaking on the subject, after expressing the profound reluctance and regret which the Government felt, after paying testimony to the conditions almost of despair in which we stand, after speaking of the inducements which had driven them, as he said against their will, to the proposals which they intended to make—I quote the expressions from a note of them which I have here—after that the Prime Minister said, "If these parties are not able of themselves to agree upon a settlement we must provide a settlement." A settlement of what? Why a settlement of the strike that is paralysing the life of the country. That is the settlement which is to be got at, and it is not because the Government believe in a minimum wage, it is because the Government could not fail to take some action in the present revolutionary condition of public affairs without absolutely abrogating its title to be regarded as a Government.
2131 What is the position? A million of men are instigated by persons whom we do not see. We know and respect the hon. Gentlemen who sit there. There is not a man of them who is guilty of the crime against humanity which is being committed at the present time—not one of them. The instigators of this movement are outside, and the hon. Gentlemen there who are doing what they can in face of peril, as far as their representative position is concerned, and with courage and consistency, to try to rescue the country out of this difficulty, and to restore the country to a normal condition, are swept along by the forces which are also sweeping along His Majesty's Ministers. We know those hon. Members too well to believe that they are capable of what has been done, in face of the country, to the discredit of humanity during the last two or three weeks. There are sectional differences of certain bodies of one of the most powerful and prosperous of the industrial classes in the community. That industry is stopped to the last man, so far as one can see. What else is stopped? The coal supply of the people, the coal for the poor man's house, the food for the poor man's table. And it is bringing home a degree of punishment to people outside of the mining industry in all parts of the country, which draws expressions of regret and lamentation from hon. Members who have to stand up and try to bring this strike to a successful conclusion. That is the position in which we are standing.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has said, society is held up. It is conspiracy which could not have taken place but for the absolute freedom which has been conferred by successive Governments for the prosecution of totally different objects in Labour movements. But His Majesty's Government is confronted with that situation, and this country apparently, so far as one can judge, is within weeks of disaster. This country is exposed practically naked to every foreign foe, and hon. Gentlemen come down here and talk about this Bill as if it were a Minimum Wage Bill. This is a Bill to sanction the first step in the social and industrial revolution. That is really what it is. If one could not look back over six years of the methods by which right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench have dallied with this movement since they have been in power, one would be amazed at the step they have the courage 2132 to take now. Why, not to dwell in any detail, but to justify what I say, there was a better course and a worse course at the time the Trades Dispute Act was before them. Every man who has read Mr. Arthur Cohen's letter in the "Times" of yesterday will see what I mean. The Government accepted with its lips by the words of some of its most capable members, the principle that if a man or a body committed a wrong they must remedy it, yet they do not carry it out. They had to withdraw from it, and they had to declare that a trade union could do no wrong, and they have stood to that for six years. Have the trade unions done wrong during the last three weeks? They have inflicted misery and threatened ruin. That was the first instance. From that time to the present this Government has been regarded as the patrons of advances in wages by means of strikes. Their policy has given colour to the belief that the best means of securing change was not agitation or appeal, but a strike, and that if there was a strike something would be got. And now we have had a railway strike, which proved abortive last autumn, but which was a warning of the position in which we are to-day, and of which any Government which regarded the signs of the times must have taken note. It was written large upon that agitation that we were face to face with some organisation which was ready to throttle society. His Majesty's Government took no notice of it except that the Prime Minister told us on Monday night that for a long time they had been considering what their legislative proposals should be if legislative proposals were required. Is this the result? Parturiunt montes. That was the late summer of last year. Now we are threatened with a repetition of the same strike, when this has succeeded.
We are warned that in May perhaps traffic in this country will be held up until a Government is found which is ready to put into the Schedule of a Bill terms to which it cannot pledge its own belief, terms of which this House have not sufficient knowledge to form any judgment, but terms which are dictated by people who are able and who are ready, pitilessly and powerfully, to bring out on strike a million of men at the present time, and another million if need be in May next, and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, to hold up society until society submits to their demands. That is the real position 2133 in which we stand, and how is this Government proposing to deal with it? It proposes to do what it has done before. It proposes to make the appearance or the reality of the smallest concession to those who are engineering this movement which it believes will bring an end for a time to the difficulties in which we stand. Is that statemanship? Why, it is trifling with the greatest danger that has confronted any community in the history of modern civilisation. If this Government will pledge its responsibility to a minimum wage, I can conceive that numerous Members on this side, who would want to be satisfied that the conditions of labour call for such an enactment, would be ready to go a great distance to support them. But it is not a question of minimum wage. The real question is: How is society to be protected against the constant repetition of these attacks upon its life? There was one in August and September which failed. There is one now which appears likely to get a measure of success; another is given notice of for May, and there is a Government which is ready to produce at five days' notice a Minimum Wage Bill.
If this Bill had been a real proposal dealing with the matter His Majesty's Government knew well how to safeguard themselves and the Legislature against the reproach of seeing this danger in which we are without even marking its sense of the means by which we are brought to the position in which we stand. One cannot fail to admire the skill of the draughtsman of the Bill, and the acquisition he had of the method by which a great change could be effected with the most economical use of words. No skill has been wanting in His Majesty's Government if they really felt the pressure of this crisis. If they have a real desire to protect the community, why have they not the courage to include in this Bill a Clause which shall declare that when the tribunal has fixed upon the proper wage, any combination to prevent the operation of the Bill, or to procure or compel the withholding of employment or the withholding of labour from or to those who are within the terms of the Bill shall be an unlawful combination. What is the objection? Why, I doubt whether His Majesty's Government dare do it. I will tell you why. There are still bodies of men, some of them consisting of hundreds of thousands, who are moved by inducements which are not fully presented to this House—controlling resources of 2134 mental ingenuity, of organisation, and of money to the tune of millions, and it is intended by those who control this movement—if I rightly understand its symptoms—that no settlement shall take place which cannot be progressively carried on until it has involved in its results every one of the industries of this country and every man who works in them. Can any man doubt that it would be a reasonable proposal to include in this Bill such a term as I have stated? It is a proposal that would withdraw all the motive power from cruel and coercive combination, such as that from which the country has suffered during the past three weeks. To my mind the Government denies its elementary duties when it offers the reward of success to the persons who have brought the country to the plight in which it is, when it refuses to the country any safeguard for its future security, and when it refuses to the worker any protection for his individual liberty. For these reasons, I shall heartily support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend.
§ Sir JOSEPH WALTON
The speech of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) cannot be described as one throwing oil on the troubled waters in this grave national crisis which confronts us, and when we are met together to consider whether we cannot do something to put an end to the situation which has arisen, and which day by day, as it is so prolonged, will bring increased hardship and suffering to millions of homes in this country. We have the proposals of His Majesty's Government after they have made most determined efforts to come to a settlement by negotiations between the two parties. Personally, I regret that we are driven, to Parliamentary interference between miners and their employers. The miners have the strongest and greatest trade union organisation, led capably, and I believe that they are quite able themselves to protect their interests and better their conditions. But on this occasion it is not only a question of how the combatants on both sides are affected, it is a question that touches the whole nation, and it is, I apprehend, because of the infliction of so much hardship and suffering, and because the coal production of this country is a vital necessity to its industry and social life, that the Government have been compelled to intervene, even to the extent of legislative enactment, in order, if possible, to terminate the terrible situation which now 2135 confronts us. To my mind, the proposals of the Government are most moderate in their character, and I am amazed, when the nation is in the position in which it finds itself, that the Opposition should take the line that they do in regard to this matter. What are the Government's proposals? Many of us think that the minimum wage is a thing that we are entitled to. Does not the hon. Member for Exeter enjoy a minimum wage when a certain sum is written across his briefs? Do we not in this House enjoy a minimum wage of £400 a year which we voted for ourselves? We do not even compel the Members as a condition of receiving that amount to work with "regularity and efficiency," as is provided in this Minimum Wage Bill.
I must state against myself that, owing to illness, I was unable to give much service in this House during last year; but when I arrived home from Africa I found three cheques of £100 each awaiting me for work that I had not done, but in respect of which they were paid. I submit that in proposing the minimum wage we are really doing no more than we already have done for ourselves. What does the Bill provide? It provides that the miners of the country, having regard to the dangerous character of their employment, should have that to which they have a perfect right—a minimum wage. The Government Bill provides that each miner who cannot earn an average wage through no fault of his own shall have his wage made up to what it ought to be. The measure provides that the minimum wage shall be fixed by District Council Boards, under an independent chairman, and on which there shall be equal numbers of representatives of both masters and men. I firmly believe that, if this Bill is passed, with or without the Schedule that the miners desire as to the minimum wage in each district, it will effect a settlement, and a just and equitable settlement. Personally, I do not think anybody in the House can begrudge 2s. a day for a boy, nor do I think anyone would contend for one moment that 5s. a day is at all too large a sum for those who go down to work in the mines of the country. We have now realised how much we depend on miners for our national and industrial life, and I believe that everyone in this House is at heart desirous of ending this terrible struggle and having the miners back at work, our national industries going on again, enabling us to take advantage of the good time 2136 in trade that we have before us and which has certainly been interfered with by the struggle which is now going on. As a representative in this House of 12,000 miners in the Barnsley Division, and also as a coal owner to a small extent, I have no hesitation whatever in supporting the Government Bill.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. Brace), in an interesting speech, made some observations in regard to which I should like to put a question, and perhaps the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), in the absence of the hon. Gentleman, may be able to give some reply. The hon. Member for South Glamorgan, whose speeches are always pleasant to listen to, seemed to me to raise a very fundamental question, namely, whether this Bill passed in the form in which it stands is going to end the strike. I did not understand from the hon. Gentleman whether, in the event of the miners' Schedule, which I understand is going to be moved in Committee, not being accepted, the miners' representatives would then advise their constituents to accept the Bill as a settlement of the strike. That is a point of fundamental importance, because, if it is the case that the Bill without the Schedule is not going to settle the strike, then all the discussion which has taken place now is useless. If, on the other hand, the Government are going to give way on this question—I very much hope they will not give way—then there will be an end to executive responsibility in this country, notwithstanding the statements we have hail from the Prime Minister in this House on this Bill. That is really a fundamental question. I am sorry that neither of the two hon. Members from Wales who spoke this afternoon are not for the moment present, but it appeared to me that their observations dealt rather more with sentiment than with the main facts and circumstances of the situation. Nobody denies that the mining industry is open to more risk than the majority of trades in this country. That point was very much elaborated by the hon. Member for South Glamorgan, but we know that as a result of that danger the miners are paid far higher wages than are those engaged in other industries. There may be one or two trades in which higher wages are paid. The real question is whether this Bill as it stands is going to be a settlement of the strike after it is passed. I do not believe 2137 it will effect a settlement, and I think that before the Second Reading is over, some hon. Gentleman with authority to represent the miners, should answer this fundamental question, Will the Bill settle the strike if accepted in its present form? The opinion is growing in the country, and I believe on both sides of this House, that what will settle the strike more quickly than the Bill, is the fact that the miners' funds are being rapidly depleted.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not suggest anything of the kind. Bad as I believe the Bill to be, I do not think it would have stood the ghost of a chance with the miners' representatives a fortnight ago. I think the attitude of the miners has been modified by circumstances. On that point we have the statement which was made by the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) last week, when he said that if the strike lasted six weeks in all it would mean the bankruptcy of the trade unions of the country. We have had no answer to the question—Will this Bill provide a settlement of the crisis? What guarantee have we, if it is passed in its present form, that a greater demand will not be made in a month or two? We see what I think is the very amazing announcement on the part of the representatives of the railway trade union that a new national programme would be put forward in May. How do we know, if it is not accepted, that the miners will not also make another demand for an increased rate of wages? So far as one can judge, it is doubtful whether the Bill will produce a settlement of the present strike. It is deeply to be regretted that, in the course of this Debate, we have not had from any representative of the Government, or any Member of the Labour party, any answer to the case presented by the representatives of the South Wales mine owners. A pamphlet, which has been sent to every Member of the House, has been issued authoritatively on behalf of the South Wales mine owners, in which it is pointed out that if this minimum wage is adopted it will mean the absolute ruin and ending of many of the mines in South Wales. We have had no answer to that point, as to whether or not this Bill will prejudice in the future and destroy many of those mines. The pamphlet is issued on behalf of the South Wales mine owners by a gentleman who was formerly a Member of this House, Mr. D. A. Thomas. Although many hard things have been said about 2138 him—and I hold no brief for him—I have the honour of knowing him, and I ask, Have we any reason to suppose that he is the enemy of labour he is represented to be? Was he not formerly a Member of the party opposite?
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. Gentleman has not, but some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues have spoken of Mr. D. A. Thomas as an enemy of labour.
§ Earl WINTERTON
By Mr. Hartshorn and Mr. Stanton, and by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the country, as to which I shall have something more to say. It has been said over and over again by the more go-ahead among the miners' representatives that Mr. Thomas was an enemy of labour. Leaving aside that argument, I say that what Mr. Thomas has stated in this pamphlet generally is entitled to the consideration of this House. We were never told when he was sitting on the benches opposite that Mr. Thomas was an enemy of labour. He voted for the "People's Budget," and I do not think it is contended that anyone who voted for that is an enemy of labour. Since the pamphlet has not been answered the case for a minimum wage in South Wales must be a weak one. To refer to the far more serious aspect of this question, the Syndicalist aspect, we were told by the Chanceller of the Exchequer the other day that no men of real influence and power in the Labour world had committed themselves to Syndicalism. I do not think that that statement is correct. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke, who is always very prominent in his questions, will agree with that statement. I do not think he will deny that men like Mr. Mann, and Mr. Tillett and Mr Hartshorn are prominent men in the labour world. There are men of influence and power in the labour world committing themselves to Syndicalism.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am sure the Noble Lord does not want to misrepresent people 2139 who cannot reply here for themselves? Mr. Vernon Hartshorn is a Member of the Independent Labour Party. Mr. Tillett is a member of the British Socialist party, and both of those are opposed to Syndicalism.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The point I was making was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that no men of influence and power in the labour world supported this policy of Syndicalism, and I said Mr. Mann and Mr. Tillett did. I will quote what they have said, and in which they most distinctly supported it. I thought there was no question about it that Mr. Mann and Mr. Tillett believed that the general strike was a most potent instrument for benefiting labour. At a time when labour criticised in far stronger terms than I can do the doings of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think they said they were sick of all Parliamentary action, and that any action that was to be taken must be action taken in the country by means of a general strike and by means of the irritation strike. Mr. Hartshorn is a very important man in this controversy. He is a man of real influence, and his name has constantly figured in the question. Speaking in Wales, he said that this was as much a war against the present social order as the Chinese revolution. Is that not a speech in favour of Syndicalism?
§ Earl WINTERTON
He said, if the owners cannot afford to pay a minimum wage and make profits, the profits must go. There are many others of the same kind. I have here another quotation from Mr. Morrison Davidson, who is a writer on Labour subjects in "Reynolds's Newspaper. [The hon. Member quoted from the article to which he referred.] That is the kind of article written by those men, and there are hundreds of similar statements to be found. To say, therefore, that Syndicalism is not supported by prominent men in the Labour world is inaccurate and becoming more inaccurate every day. 2140 Those men to whom I have been referring, Mr. Hartshorn, Mr. Mann, and Mr. Tillett, fill a considerably larger place than hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, and I have no hesitation in saying that they could command larger audiences in the country. The people we have to deal with in this controversy are not the Parliamentary representatives. In 1906 it is perfectly true that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite represented the main scheme of labour, and had considerable influence, but for the last two or three years, and all through this stress and crisis, power has been more and more wrested from them and given to those leaders in the country, about whom we do not hear so much, and many of whom are obscure men, but with larger power and influence than the Parliamentary representatives. It is for that cause, I believe, that the Leader of the Labour party never ventured to press for a Debate to put forward the men's case during the sixteen days this House was doing nothing, and during which it never considered the coal crisis at all. Hon. Members opposite were not sure of their authority, and have not been all through the crisis. The people who have had the authority have been men like Hartshorn, Stanton, and others. It is grotesque to say we have not to deal with what is in effect a Syndicalist conspiracy. Nobody says that this present strike is Syndicalism, but the point is is it a step towards Syndicalism, and are the Syndicalists using this general strike for the purpose of carrying out their opinions? We have every reason to believe they are. It is a significant fact that no hon. Gentleman opposite, so far as I know, has fully repudiated in this House that pamphlet which was issued in Wales and which is known as "The Miners' Next Step."
We have had no explanation why it is that both Scottish and Welsh agreements have been torn up. We have had an attempt this afternoon to prove that certain questions affected in this crisis were excluded from the operation of those agreements. We have had no evidence which would convince any impartial man that those agreements were not torn up in the most flagrant way by representatives of the South Wales miners.
§ Earl WINTERTON
There was a working agreement in force as to bow the mine 2141 should be worked for three years. By going out on strike the miners have deliberately broken up that agreement. They no doubt did it because after the agreement had been drawn up they agreed that there should be either a national strike or no strike at all, but that does not detract from the force of the agreement which they have destroyed. If you make an agreement, although you may think afterwards that it is bad, in ordinary life you keep it.
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
Is the Noble Lord aware that before the men gave notice to strike, that the owners had broken the agreement by introducing new terms of wages not in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is not so. That is denied by the owners. There is no evidence to support it, no evidence whatever. In any case the hon. Gentleman is referring to South Wales, and in the case of the Scottish owners they never refused to meet the miners' representatives. That agreement was countersigned by the then president of the Board of Trade. Why was it that it is only to-day, when the point was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City (Mr. Balfour), that reference was made by the Government to the scandalous breach of agreement. If they wished to be impartial why did they not, at the very first opportunity when a statement was first made, get up and repudiate in the strongest possible way the action of those miners in South Wales and of the Scottish miners. They did not do it, because all through they have not fully and fairly kept the ring in this matter. They have inclined to what they thought to be the side with the larger number of votes. In regard to the minimum wage, the case put forward by the South Wales owners that it would mean ruin to the mines and a much smaller output of coal has never been answered. On that point I would quote some figures which have been supplied to me as absolutely authoritative. Prior to the last sectional strike in Wales the colliers working at Ebbw, at the Bute seam, earned 6s. 9d. a day under the guaranteed wage. After the settlement on piece-work they earned an average of 9s. 5d. per day, after the payment of the boys, and they got 75 per cent. more coal than under the old arrangement, although the allowances and the conditions were the same. In the 2142 colliery in New Zealand where the minimum wage was tried, in the first year there was a difference of £200, in the second year £700, and in the third year £1,200. It is all very well to say that the colliers are an honourable class who do not wish to shirk their work. I am sure they do not wish to do so any more than any other class of His Majesty's subjects. The point is that there will be every inducement for them to do so if this Bill passed into law. In the only places where the minimum wage has been tried the effect has been to reduce enormously the output of coal and the amount per man.
In the face of such facts can we honestly say that a case has been made out for the passage of this Bill without safeguards; of any kind? I believe that if the Bill is passed as it stands, and still more if it is passed with the Scheduled rate included, it will lead to the ruin of many small mines, and possibly eventually severely damage the mines as a whole. It will be a most dangerous principle, which the men in other trades will endeavour to get introduced. Such a Bill would have been introduced only by Ministers in the weak position occupied by the present Government, namely, that of being a Government, not of one party, but supported by three parties with different views and aims. It was once said by a great man that dependence always produces faults which pass into a man's character. The dependence of the Government on hon. Members below the Gangway and from Ireland has passed faults into their character which render them incapable of taking up a strong line in a case of this kind. Why did they not propose a Bill which would have met with general consent on both sides of the House? It would have been possible, and would probably have turned out much more of a national settlement than this is likely to be. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) said that he did not think there would be much risk to the general industry of the country from this Bill, or that it would lead to Syndicalism. He is a fortunate partner in a firm which as yet has suffered very little from labour troubles in this country, but the time is not far distant when Brunner, Mond, and Co. and other firms will rue the day on which the House of Commons passed this Bill without safeguards, the provisions of which members of other trades will press for, and which I believe will end in killing-the industrial supremacy of this country.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
Although I am neither a miner nor a mine owner, I have had a very long and intimate association with the miners, not merely in the North of England, but in other parts of the country. I have no particular ambition to speak on this topic, but I think there is almost a duty imposed upon me to say a few words in a frank and free expression of my opinion. During my long Parliamentary experience, now approaching thirty years, there is nothing I more regret in Parliamentary action than the conduct of the Opposition in relation to this crisis. I speak with the greatest deference and respect both for the party opposite, for their present Leader, and for their late most distinguished Leader. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech made a very happy and apt reference to what he termed civic duty. Surely there has been no occasion in not merely the economic, but also the political history of this country, when there was more necessity for laying aside all party considerations and for both sides of the House to endeavour to approach in a spirit of conciliation and of reasonable concession the solution of this most serious question. I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as their individual feelings are concerned, I believe that hon. Members opposite are quite as ready as we on this side of the House to meet the just claims of the miners in respect to any real grievances they may have. Are there any real grievances? The Noble Lord, in his somewhat amusing speech, suggested that this was some gigantic conspiracy—a new form of disease affecting the economic condition of this country, called Syndicalism. No more erroneous idea was ever held. I am speaking now of a coalfield in which the relations of employers and employed are singularly happy, and where, if you take the mine owners and their managers as a whole, there is a mutual endeavour to make the conditions of labour as fair and as reasonable as possible. But even under those conditions there are a very large percentage of men in most of the mines in Durham who, through abnormal places, or through some unfavourable conditions, are unable to make a reasonable wage, although they are both able and willing to work.
In the mines of Durham, and, I believe, also in the mines of Northumberland, an endeavour has been made by the management of the mines to meet that state of things by paying what is called consideration money. It is very creditable to the 2144 miners and the mine owners that comparatively little friction has arisen in respect to difficult places or disadvantageous conditions, such as the non-provision of tubs, the defective condition of the haulage-ways, and so forth. Ever since I have been a Member for that county complaints, though not violent, have been continuous as to the disadvantage suffered by a considerable percentage of the men in every colliery through one or other of the causes which I have indicated. That evil, comparatively slight in Durham, is aggravated in other parts of the country. In Wales and in Scotland these difficulties take a singularly acute form. The hon. Member for Glamorgan (Mr. Brace), in his eloquent speech, set forth the origin of this unfortunate dispute. He told us how a little black cloud on the horizon, an apparently trivial misunderstanding in South Wales, grew into the great storm which is now menacing us. I will not attempt to deal further with that aspect of the case, except to say, that the real motive of this strike had nothing whatever to do with Syndicalism, but has been the recognition, not merely by the Miners' Federation, but by miners generally, that it was time some drastic step was taken to put an end to the injustice from which they suffered.
There is another misconception which I think one ought to attempt to remove. It has fallen in somewhat violent strains from the lips of one or two speakers on the other side. The Leader of the Opposition rather hinted than actually suggested it. It is said that the Government have not performed their duty as a Government in enabling those workers who were willing to work to go to the mines. That is a very serious charge, and it is a charge which, every Member of the Cabinet, every Member of the Ministry, should be held responsible for—if true. But, again, I am perfectly persuaded of this—and I think my hon. Friends around me will bear me out—that supposing the miner could go with as much freedom into the mine as hon. Members can go from here to Westminster Abbey, that but the smallest proportion, an infinitesimal fraction, of the miners of Durham would return to work. Their sense of loyalty to their organisation and of genuine sympathy with their fellow-workers, whom they believe are entitled to what they are asking for, would prevent them. Those, then, are the conditions which we have had to deal with.
What could the Government have done? That is the question. I am not saying I 2145 am not against Government intervention as a rule. I think Government intervention, unless it can follow a denned administrative course, or unless it can pursue a legislative course through the action of Parliament, is generally mischievous. For that reason I deplored, I regretted, Government intervention in the early stages of the transport dispute. But this crisis was so acute that it was obvious that the Government were bound to intervene. This is a question I propounded to myself—and I think every hon. Member on the other side is under an obligation to answer—"What would you have done if coercive methods were impossible?" What power of coercion is there against a million miners? "What course would you have followed if the responsibility had been thrown upon you?" I heard the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, when directly challenged from these benches as to what course he would adopt, answer, "I am very glad the responsibility does not rest upon me." The late Leader of the Opposition, in the admirable speech from another point of view which he delivered this afternoon, never ventured, for the best of all reasons—because he could not—to suggest any solution to this question. What do we propose? I hope such remnants of the Government as remain on the Front Bench will, Arcades ambo, follow what I have to say, speaking with absolute frankness. The Government are not dealing with this matter with, as it is called in the jargon of the law, an ad hoc Bill. The Government do not attempt by this Bill to deal at large with the general question of regulating the economic relations between capital and labour. They find that there is an Agreement. I do not want to cast any imputations upon my hon. Friend, Mr. D. A. Thomas, in regard to the course he has taken; he is an honourable man, and actuated, I have no doubt, by the highest motives in the matter; but with the exception of Wales and Scotland the whole of the mine owners of Great Britan have committed themselves to an Agreement with the miners—that is to say, there was an assent given by them to the principle of the minimum wage. If Wales and Scotland had also come in probably there would have been no necessity for this Bill. But Wales and Scotland did not come in.
All that the Government have done is to reduce to the form of a Statute the agreement which was entered into by the mine owners of England. That is the whole 2146 thing which has been done by the Government. I agree that you have carried it a little beyond the difficult places, the abnormal places, in the limit in regard to datal men at the collieries. It was recognised that when you were dealing with underground workmen generally it would have been highly inconvenient to have excepted one class of workmen—a minority in number—from the operation of this rule of the minimum wage. Further, so far as I can follow, although the figure was dissented from, and no figure has been assented to, the mine owners recognise that these classes should be brought within the purview of the agreement, and have never raised—at any rate during the later stages—any objection to the inclusion of the datal men, provided always that the rate of wages subsequently should be fixed on a reasonable basis, and proper safeguards given. Therefore, there again is an answer to the charge somewhat lightly preferred by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. There again the Government were only reducing into the form of a Statute that which was agreed upon by the mine owners of Great Britain, with the exception of Scotland and Wales. Let us look a little closer. I am not sure that the Government have not gone to unwise lengths in endeavouring to define under what conditions the minimum wage shall be paid. I would have avoided all words of limitation myself, because I should much sooner have left that to the ordinary remedy of the colliery manager. I think it would have prevented confusion and friction. But still it is to the credit of the Government to point out that they have included in the Bill a provision for regularity and efficiency of the work performed by the workmen. I know it is perfectly fair to hon. Members—and there are one or two coal owners present—to point out that that does not cover their difficulty. Their difficulty undoubtedly is involved in the economic provision of what is called the minimum wage; that is to say, so far as the burden of expenditure on the colliery that produces the commodity for sale goes; and secondly, the more human element involved, namely, whether there would be malingering. May I point to my own county. I can only speak with authority for that county, and not with authority for other counties.
In my own county we have at present what is in substance a minimum wage, that is 6s. 1¼d. or 6s. 1½d. Is it a scheduled 2147 wage? It is the scale of wage concerning which such controversy arose. But what is the average wage? According to the figures of the Coal Owners' Association, and certainly according to the figures taken out with great care by the Miners' Association of Durham, the average wages is 7s. 4d., plus house and coal. Therefore you have a margin constituted by the difference between 6s. 1½d. and 7s. 4d. I think it hardly needs demonstration to negative the possibility of malingering when the difference between honest work and dishonest work would be a difference as between 6s. 1½d. and 7s. 4d. It seems to me trivial to argue this question. I have spoken to a good many English coal owners, who take that view of these matters, and to men who are not above regarding their own interests and almost every one of them agrees that it is not in the nature of the miner, whether it be the miners of Yorkshire, Durham, or South Wales, it is not in the nature of the miner, who is absolutely obliged to be in the pit for a statutory number of hours, and who cannot come out when he likes, to shirk his work. Therefore the whole idea of malingering is gone.
With regard to the economic matters, that is expenditure in co-relation to profits, I admit that is a question upon which very few of us are competent to speak with authority; but I have been at pains to examine the figures of large groups of collieries in the North of England and in several parts of Yorkshire and Wales, and without making any suggestion of inflated capital, although undoubtedly as hon. Members opposite are well aware, after the periods, notably of 1873, a good many years ago, it is true, collieries belonging to private individuals and private companies, were very often somewhat extravagantly capitalised, with the result that in normal years of production the remuneration of that capital was insufficient; but even allowing for all those cases of inflated capital of which some exist, and I am making no imputation, even allowing that, from the cases I have examined, and cases which were given me by a very able Member of the Labour party in respect to certain collieries in Durham, I am satisfied, speaking with great humility, that the collieries, unless you choose to form this idea of intentional and malicious malingering on the part of the workman, which I scout, are quite capable of bearing, with comparative immunity, the slight extra 2148 charge that would be involved by the establishment of a minimum wage.
I am not so enamoured with the idea of a minimum wage, because I believe, and I think some of my coal owner Friends opposite will not be indisposed to agree with me, a minimum wage, although it will undoubtedly assist the workman at the bottom of the scale by raising his wages, will have the ultimate tendency of bringing down the average wage by reducing the big man at the top to a level more approximate to that of the man at the bottom. That, I think, is an inevitable economic process. I make bold also to say this, that I regard with grave apprehension the exclusion of the aged and infirm miner. In our pits at Durham a very large number of these people are employed—I believe I am speaking a little against the policy of the Federation now, but it is a little invidious to say to a man, "You are too old to come under the statute." It is very cruel, and it will have an undoubted tendency to drive out of employment a considerable number of men who now earn at least the wage when they go into the collieries. Is this Bill going to pass? I confess, from a purely abstract point of view, I do not like legislation of this kind, but do not let us forget this, that it has been the unfortunate tradition of our policy in respect to coal mines that we had to interfere frequently in the economic relations between employers and employed. Let me give an instance.
We have over and over again legislated to deal with the great injustice, and I am sure my hon. Friends opposite will not quarrel with me for using that expression—as to the way in which miners were treated in respect of the mineral they sent out of the pit. Their tubs were challenged because they amount put in was too short or because they contained what in the view of the manager was an undue quantity. Parliament stepped in and said, "We will regulate the manner in which wages are paid, and the conditions under which they are paid. I mention this as a caveat against the argument of the risk of descensus a[...]ernus. That this will be an extension of the application of the doctrine of State intervention in regulating wages between employers and employed. I do not think so. I think the circumstances in regard to coal mines are so different that even apart from a great emergency this step may be taken without any fear of further legislation. I listened with 2149 interest to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Duke) opposite. I understood from him that if we were transported back to the days when we were repealing the Combination Laws, which forbade a workman to combine with another to get a little advance in his wages, he would be prepared to re-enact those laws in substance if not altogether.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
And my hon. Friend suggested that the State is regulating the rate of wages here, and that therefore that as a natural corollary we ought to apply the powers of the State to prevent combination or strike with a view to raise wages. Let me remind my hon. and learned Friend of this, that every political economist, from Adam Smith down to the modern and very excellent political economist, Mr. Walker, the American, tell us that a strike, or the threat to strike, is the only effective instrument in the hands of the worker. Mr. Walker tells us that capital is always in tacit combination to reduce, wages. Let us recognise this fact, and I speak now as one acquainted with the conditions of the coal trade industry in the North of England, that, so far from trade unions being against capital the trade unions of Durham have worked in harmony with the employers and have been the means not of promoting, but of preventing strikes. This is an emergency. Are we to support this Bill? We do not like it, perhaps, according to our economic theories, because we do not like the intervention of the State in attempting to regulate the wages of labour. We might like it from other causes and for other reasons. But it is an emergency. We have been told by men who can speak with some authority that this Bill in its general principle is acceptable. They say the men have waited long and they have set their hearts upon the confirmation by Parliament of that which they have been otherwise unable to obtain. We hare been told that the figures in the Schedule are fair and just, and although so far as Wales and Scotland are concerned they may require adjustment, yet with those owners there must be an ample margin 2150 between the minimum wage and the average wage. The men look forward to Parliament giving them that Schedule. I think the reasons which were advanced by the Prime Minister—I do not mean in the House, but elsewhere—were such formidable reasons that it is not right that we should jeopardise the settlement of this question by insisting upon the enactment of the whole of this Schedule.
I do urge upon the Government, through the only Member of the Cabinet who is present, that what will weigh with some of us, and certainly with me, is that we are supporting this Bill in the face of a great emergency in which we are confronted by a great disaster. It is not the punishment of the miners, but the punishment of those who belong to the dependent industries, and the punishment in a larger or smaller degree of the whole population of this country. I do suggest to the Government that they should follow the advice tendered by the hon. Member for Glamorgan (Mr. Brace) and the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Enoch Edwards), and I hope the Postmaster-General will convey to his colleagues that we believe that if this strike is brought to an end and an immediate conclusion and not prolonged to a death agony it will be a right and a wise course. I am not looking at this question from a high doctrinaire standpoint, but simply from an ordinary practical standpoint. If the Government will make this concession I think it will perhaps prove the solvent of this extremely difficult problem, and it will get us out of an entanglement. I do not think, even if you do violate any canon of economic law, and even if you do shock the business consciences of commercial men, I say we must strain our consciences and not weigh this matter in golden scales, because it is too big, important, and grave a question for that.
I cordially associate myself with the appeal which was made by the hon. Member for Glamorgan and the hon. Member for Hanley that the concession which they indicated should be made. I regret having dealt with this matter at undue length in view of the fact that a number of other hon. Members wish to speak, but I desire in my humble way to help in a solution of this difficulty. I am going to address my Constituents in Durham next week. I know the miners there are anxious to get back to their work, but they are also anxious to be loyal to their fellows and their leaders, and there is no more 2151 gladsome message I can take to them than to be able to say that the Government have taken a step, I think I may say a final step, towards the solution of a controversy which has been a disturbing element in the economic relations between the miners and their employers, in my own experience, during the last thirty or forty years.
§ Mr. HARMOOD - BANNER
I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, because I know that for many years he has given special attention to this subject. I listened with some astonishment to the illustration of his views, facilis descensus Averni. The hon. and learned Member first told us how he objected to this measure. He told us that he accepted the Bill; then he showed an inclination to accept the labour suggestion of no Bill without a Schedule; and afterwards he proceeded to modify that view by saying that he accepted the Bill with the 5s. and the 2s. in it.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I never suggested the legislative enactment of a Schedule only so far as the 5s. and the 2s. was concerned.
§ Mr. HARMOOD-BANNER
I would like to express the hope that the Government will keep to the suggestion that they have made, and that they will neither accept a Schedule with a minimum rate nor a Schedule which deals with 5s. and 2s. I can assure the House that the inequalities of the 5s. and the 2s., when they come to be expressed under the provisions of the Third Clause, will be found just as much in need of separate and distinct discussion as the question of the minimum wage. Besides the question of the wages there are endless other questions connected with this matter which ought to prevent the Government from dealing with them except under the Third Clause. I was in entire agreement with the hon. Gentleman when, referring to the minimum wage, he said it would be extremely likely to bring down into the coal mine the bigger men who work well and with ability and have great knowledge of their handicraft. In his view, and I thoroughly agreed with him, those men will certainly be as capable. Yet the minimum wage will have the effect of producing less intensive labour and will mean 2152 a reduction of their output. It is hardly a right expression of the view of the coal owners to talk about "malingerers." It is not a question of malingerers, but of want of ability to do the same amount of work as another man. I would like to give one illustration within my own absolute knowledge. A man working in a pit with which I am connected complained that, owing to the coal being hard, he was prevented from earning more than 3s. 9d. to 4s. per day. He asked for an increased rate and it was refused, and he left his situation. His place was taken by another collier who had a maimed hand, having only thumb and one finger on one hand. He went into the same place, and his first day he got thirteen boxes, his second day fifteen, and his third fifteen, and, after paying his drawer, he was left with 10s. 10d. per day. There is no accusation that the first man was incompetent, but the second man, though he had a maimed hand, was able to produce more. I would ask whether it would not be iniquitous to take those two men or a hundred men and fix a minimum wage which would lift the man who is not a malingerer but incapable from 4s. to 10s., whilst the other man remained at 10s. 10d.? That would not only impose a very heavy expenditure on the colliery, but I am sure the House will admit it would be a most improper thing to do. In the first place, you do not want to turn the less capable men out of the pit; and, in the next place, it is quite on the cards that if you did so the checkweighman might take the whole of the men out of the pit unless the less capable ones were reinstated.
Another question which wants very closely looking into is what I should venture to call the attempt to cloud the issue as regards the abnormal and the normal wage. The abnormal wage is a very different thing from the normal wage. It is a tribute to their ability and cleverness that the miners' representatives are putting forward this question of the abnormal wage. They have got the Prime Minister to take it up and to deal with it as a question which was affecting all this Bill, but, when you came to deal with the minimum wage, you would be making the abnormal wage applicable to the normal wage. I can give several instances to show how that affects the question. The owner is quite ready to pay an abnormal wage of from 7s. to 7s. 6d. a day, but, when you come to deal with the normal wage as distinct from the 2153 abnormal wage, if you take a minimum of 7s. per day, you will find that while the average man will earn 7s. 5d. per day—many of them earn as much as 8s. 8d. per day—there are 46 or 47 per cent. of them who do not earn 7s. per day, and who would have to have their wages raised at the cost of the price of coal and at the cost of the colliery proprietor in order to bring them up to Vs. Is it fair that we should be asked to put the abnormal wage in the Schedule and then take that as the normal wage when there are 47 per cent. of the men who do not earn that normal wage, and who would have to have an addition to their wages in order to bring them up to the minimum. That is the crux of this question as regards the objection to the Schedule. You will find even if the minimum was down to 5s. there would be a proportion of men who did not earn it. I would like the House to have the position with regard to the abnormal and normal wages clearly before it when it comes to deal with it to-morrow.
I think the Prime Minister was a little bit hard upon the Federation areas. I belong to that portion of the coal industry, and I have from start to finish done my best to bring about a conciliation without the Bill in order to get rid of the terrible consequences of the strike. A great many reasons adduced for the strike are not quite so obvious as one which I would give, and that is the effect of the Eight Hours Bill. I believe there has been an absolute departure from economic doctrine which has produced its effect upon the industry. Ever since the Eight Hours Bill has been in existence there has been a reduction in the collier's wage. He has not been able to do what he did before, work hard three days in the week and play the other three. That has produced a state of unrest which has undoubtedly tended to bring into existence the demand for a minimum wage. I should like to say that in September last I prophesied there would be a strike. I told everybody to fill their cellars, and, if I did not do it with that intention, I found myself put down as the best advertiser of the colliery trade for some years. But still there was the fear that there was then such unrest that anybody could look forward and see that a strike was coining on. I rather blame the Government that they did not watch it more closely, so as to deal with the question when it came forward.
As regards the minimum wage, as affecting the federated areas, I regret the Prime 2154 Minister did not give those areas the consideration they deserved. He spoke of Durham and Northumberland as representing 60 or 65 per cent. of the whole colliery area. Very soon after the Prime Minister had formulated his Resolution the federated area, after considerable discussion, accepted it. They have been spoken of as approving it. I would like to say at once there was no question of approval. There were times when they were tempted to say, "Let us take a ballot of the colliery proprietors." But that idea was scouted, because it was known that, if a ballot were taken, it would be seen that they were not in favour of a minimum wage. The reason which induced them to the proposals of the Prime Minister, although they were not in favour of the minimum wage, was they considered it advisable to accept the Resolution because the crisis was so important, and the injury to the trade of the country might be so immense. I should like to call attention to the fact that when they did accept the Prime Minister's Resolution, they did so with this proviso:—The coal owners accept the proposals put forward by the Government, but in accepting them the owners expect the Government to make such arrangements as will enable them to look forward with confidence to the due performance of agreements entered into in the future, and to secure that such agreements shall be binding on both sides for some reasonable period.I think the House will agree with me that that was not an improper proviso to put in. In the first place, we had the fact that in South Wales there had been a breach of agreement. In Scotland the same thing had occurred. As regards some of the suggestions put forward they also involve breaches of agreement, and this request that there should be something to secure that such agreements should be binding on both sides for some reasonable period—and I fully admit the courtesy, tact, and perseverance of the Prime Minister in endeavouring to put an end to the difficulty—was a point which was entitled to attention. The Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has put before us, while carrying out his Resolution in every other way, fails in making any arrangement to secure that such agreement shall be binding on both sides.
As a matter of fact, this Bill is only a pious expression of opinion. It is not a pledge; it is a suggestion which may or may not result in peace. It certainly will not result in peace, if its provisions are carried further than they now stand. But it is possible, with the goodwill of the owners, 2155 and with the goodwill of hon. Members opposite, to secure a reasonable end to our divisions, and start work in order to revive the prosperity of the country. The Bill is only a pious opinion, but we have to take it, such as it is. I feel in rather an awkward position. I have worked for conciliation, but to some extent I shall feel I desert my party in supporting the principles for which I sacrificed my belief in economic doctrines, that there should be no interference with wages. I am somewhat surprised that an attempt is made to put the fault for the breach entirely on the South Wales coal owners and Scotch owners. I do not think that is the case. Those who know the facts must realise that the insistence on the inclusion of the Schedules is the real point of the difficulty, and if it had not been for that the miners might have been at work ten days ago. It is, therefore, not right to put the whole blame on South Wales and Scotland. Had the miners accepted the suggestion of the Prime Minister as regards the federated area, we should have now been at work, and my firm belief is that Scotland and South Wales would have fallen in with the arrangement. It is suggested that Syndicalism stood in the way of the miners agreeing to our proposals. I am glad to have heard that idea scouted in the speeches to-day. I think there must be some resemblance in Syndicalism to the lady who, in the days of old, betrayed Jericho to Joshua. Syndicalism, in like fashion, will betray Socialism. I am sorry that Syndicalism prevented the agreement in the federated areas. The federated areas ought to have agreed, and the industry ought to have been resumed. So far as our proceedings to-night are concerned, I feel that the action I have taken will compel me to separate myself to some extent from my hon. Friends on this side and to vote for the Second Reading. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I really do not want that applause, because I do not want a minimum wage, but I live in the midst of a business community, and I see the miseries of Liverpool. In Runcorn, the Alkali Union Works are closed, and I see the men who are suffering from that; and in Warrington I see the same thing. It is impossible to be in these places and not appreciate what an awful calamity this universal strike is, and without feeling that this offer, if loyally accepted by the miners—and I would 2156 appeal to them to loyally accept it—would put an end to the troubles we are under. There is no reason why we should not even start on Monday, because on Friday we shall have finished these proceedings, and the miners' leaders should instruct their men to recommence work. There is no reason why that should not happen, and we should then go back to those times of prosperity which we had before this calamity, and which I hope the nation will again enjoy.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The crisis with which this Bill is introduced to deal is not a matter of sudden growth. I do not think the miners can fairly be charged with rushing it, either on the coal owners or on the country. A number of factors for years in operation have produced this state of affairs, which, if a satisfactory solution is not found in the near future, threatens to involve the country in industrial ruin. In the first place, the minor is not paid on the same basis as the workman in many of the other sections of our industrial system, namely, at so much per hour or by a weekly wage. Sixty per cent. of the miners are paid by results, which means that unless he is able to produce a certain amount of coal a miner is short of a certain amount of his wages at the end of the day. In the second place, mining is not like any other of the industries. There are geological and other difficulties almost continually arising, which prevent the miner from producing his normal output, and consequently prevent him from earning his wage. These difficulties are numerous, but I will only mention a few of them. We have what are known as faults in the strata, when the miner is faced with stone instead of coal in his working place. We have bad roofs, hard coal, and—strange as it may seem—soft coal, which also produces an abnormal set of circumstances.
While I am dealing with the difficulty of soft coal, may I say that in the Constituency which I represent, and in the county of which I am one of the miners' officials, and in South Wales, we have a peculiar method of dealing with the output, known as the "Billy Fair Play" system. By that system the coal is sifted of the dross, or the small coal, and a different rate is paid to the workman for that part of it that is taken out under that system. As a matter of fact, when I heard so much being said about broken agreements, I could not but think of the position in South Wales, where at the collieries where this system is in operation the men are not paid any- 2157 thing at all for that portion of their output. Taking advantage of the economic weakness of the men at a certain period in their history, the South Wales coal owners actually forced upon them a position which means that both the workman and the employer are committing a breach of the law by having, as part of their agreements, no payment for dross. The coal owners in my own particular part of the country, with the usual Scotch caution, have got round that difficulty by a different method. They pay us in some cases for this portion of our output at the handsome rate of 2d. a ton. In addition to these difficulties that I have mentioned, there are others, such as a miner encountering water in his working place, badly kept roadways, and breakdowns in machinery. In many cases when the miner, or those who have been acting for him, ask the colliery official for payment for these abnormal conditions, they are met with one or other of three stock reasons why the miner should not get any extra allowance, namely, that he is malingering, or not doing a full day's work, or that he is too old, or that he is not a practical man, and accordingly he is refused payment for these abnormal difficulties, which means that at the end of the week or of the fortnight—whichever is the method of payment—that man has to go home to his wife and family with half wages instead of with a full week's wage.
The dissatisfaction that a condition of affairs like this has brought about has been growing year by year, until the vast majority of our men have made up their minds that they are going to do all that they humanly speaking can do in order to end a state of affairs of that description. Consequently the desire for the establishment of a wage on the principle of the individual minimum has been growing, until, as every hon. Member is aware, it has taken concrete shape, and we are face to face with the present difficulty. Accordingly, after due deliberation, after full consideration, after looking at this question from every standpoint, the miners and their officials put forward a request to the colliery owners of the country for the recognition of the payment of wages on the principle that I have named. In almost every part of the country we were met with a refusal and accordingly, after a considerable amount of careful sifting, we presented the Schedules to the employers. The claim that we have made so far as wages are concerned on behalf of the miners in Scotland is, first, for the 2158 hewer, a minimum wage of at least 6s. a day, for colliery firemen, a minimum of at least 6s. a day.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
If the hon. Baronet will restrain himself he will discover that I am not going to run away from any point which has arisen. For roadsmen we have claimed a minimum of 5s. 10d. a day, and for the ordinary worker a minimum of at least 5s. 9d. a day. We are asking for our boys, when they start at fourteen years of age, 3s. a day. This may seem a large wage compared with other parts of the country, but in Scotland we work under different methods from those which obtain in nearly every other part of the coalfield. Our lads are taken straight to the face when they begin work, and consequently they are paid a higher wage, and many boys starting at fourteen years of age are now paid 3s. a day. We propose that the boys, after serving an apprenticeship of four years, will be entitled to the full wage of the particular grade in which they are employed. Anyone looking at these figures will be convinced of the fact that they are of a very modest character. I do not think the federation can be blamed for putting forward an exorbitant rate on behalf of the Scotch miners. I think if Members will examine the figures from the standard of the average working time of the miner, they will discover that it is a very small wage. According to the Board of Trade figures the average working time of the miner, no matter how anxious he is to obtain work, is only four and a half days a week. That means that the weekly wage of the highest of these various grades of workers will be an average of something like 27s. a week. Surely that cannot be said to be an exorbitant claim that we are putting forward. The colliery owners have met that demand by the statement that we are in breach of our agreement. I want, on behalf of myself and my colleagues on the executive of the Scotch Miners' Federation, to repudiate the idea of being in breach of our agreement. There is not one of us who has not steadfastly withstood any attempt to get us to break our agreement with the employers. Our wages agreement is 50 per cent. on the 1888 rate. The coal owners themselves admit that our 1888 rate was 4s. a day. Fifty per cent. on 4s. a day brings the wage to 6s., and that is the claim we put forward as an individual minimum. If proof of that was 2159 wanted we have it in. the statement that has been circulated by the Scotch coal owners among Members of the House. They say that the average earnings of every person employed underground, men and boys together, will be over 6s. a day, which shows that the claim put forward by the Federation on behalf of the Scotch miners is well within the wages which the Scotch coal owners themselves say is paid to their men under existing conditions. Some of our men were anxious that we should claim a higher individual minimum than we have claimed, but we pointed out that, as honourable men, we wanted to keep faith with the agreement that we had entered into on their behalf with the colliery owners fully two and a half years ago. I do not think that the colliery owners in Scotland, like the colliery owners in South Wales, should say too much about breaking agreements. During the past two and a half years that our present agreement has been in existence, we have spent more than £30,000 in compelling the colliery owners to pay the wages that they agreed they would pay in July, 1900. In their printed statement, the coal owners of Scotland say that the new demand means that every workman at or near the face shall receive an individual minimum wage of 6s. per day whether he works or not. That is an unfair statement, a statement which will not bear close examination in the light of the statement that I am about to read from the print of our Conciliation Board proceedings which took place a month before this statement of the owners was printed. At that meeting, the Chairman of the Scotch Miners' Federation made the following statement:—We are asking a guarantee that workmen, when they are at their work and are willing to work and are denied wages through no fault of their own, should be made up to a certain rate of wage.I do not think that statement in the pamphlet will bear close examination alongside this statement which was made fully a month ago. That matter has been explained again and again to the colliery owners in Scotland, and they have been told that if the men only work a quarter shift, all we will claim on their behalf is a quarter of a day's wage, that is to say, if they are prepared when anything goes wrong to allow the men to ascend the shaft and to be at liberty. We have stated clearly and specifically that if, as is at present the case, they keep the men down below and do not let them to the surface 2160 when they cannot get on with their work, we will look to them to pay the minimum wage. The colliery owners go on to state:Not only is the minimum wage system economically an unsound principle, but in working impracticable, and, if put in operation, must inevitably lead to a reduction of output per man and consequent increased cost.I can assure the House that we are well accustomed to arguments of that description. On every occasion within my experience, extending over twenty-two years, when we have asked an increase in our wages or an improvement in our working conditions, we have been met with the argument that we were taking steps which would be detrimental to the interests of the trade, and in one case we were told that we were taking steps which would ruin the coal trade, or mean the closing down of a considerable number of pits. Well, notwithstanding these prophecies, the trade has gone on increasing. The number of men has been increasing year by year, and not only has the trade gone on increasing, but we have seen men engaged in the coal trade, one by one, building up colossal fortunes—some of the very men who were painting these doleful pictures on every occasion when we were asking an increase in wages or improvements in working conditions. Some of them are reputed, after they have "shuffled off this mortal coil," to have left a fortune of no less than £800,000. This statement goes on further to deal with the difficulties that are sure to ensue if the principle of an individual minimum wage is granted. They say it will lead to the unwilling or inefficient miner, no longer having an incentive to work his best, his 6s. a day being assured. I do not think that that is in conformity with the ideas of the Leader of the Opposition. The other night the right hon. Gentleman told us that men did not work for the love of work, and that they did their best in order to earn a reward for their work. My reply to the statement that the recognition of a minimum wage will lead to malingering—without taking the question on the narrow basis on which the Leader of the Opposition dealt with it the other night, and which was the most selfish basis that anyone can deal with it—is that there is no-danger of the miner, if the principle is accepted, losing his incentive to work so long as he is paid by results. We seek to change the method by which the miner's wage will be brought about, and we ask that it should be secured by so much per ton or wagon. So long as we have that principle in operation, judging 2161 on the narrow, selfish basis on which the Leader of the Opposition dealt with it, men in order to earn more than the minimum will do their best. I think there is very little danger indeed of malingering. Dealing with the unpractical workman, the Scottish coal owners' statement, I say that if the Coal Mines Act were carried out in its entirety they should not have this class of workman in the mines at all, and that they should have these men for a certain time in charge of a skilled person before putting him into the work of the mine.
The colliery owners further say that the work is carried on in a wide area, and that adequate supervision cannot be given, and even if attempted full supervision would entail very considerably increased cost. In reply to that, I say that if the Coal Mines Act were carried out in its entirety the question of supervision would not be such a difficult one after all. We have the fireman, who is supposed to go round the working faces three times per shift. If the fireman, in addition to the other officials, were to go round three times each shift, surely there would be sufficient supervision to secure a full output from the men. The colliery owners also state in this document that the miners' claims would mean a considerable addition to the wages of the on-cost men and the boys. I wish to say, in reply, that there are many of our on-cost men at present receiving higher wages than we have claimed in our schedule. I hold in my hand the wages list of one of our Scottish collieries, dealing with the wages of the class of workmen referred to in the colliery owners' statement. The list shows that firemen are paid from 6s. 4d. to 6s. 6d. a day, on-cost men are paid from 5s. 10½d. to 6s. a day, drivers are paid 5s. 10d. a day. I have further to state that even in the thin-seam collieries in Scotland we discovered that on-cost men's wages are as high as the scheduled rates we have claimed for them.
I come now to deal with the part of the statement to which the hon. Baronet, the Member for the Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) drew my attention—namely, "Further demands." In that part of the statement the colliery owners draw the attention of the public to the fact that the miners have given notice that at the end of the existing agreement they will claim an increase of their minimum wage. I do not want to disguise the fact that we have given the requisite notice to terminate our 2162 existing agreement for the special purpose of increasing our minimum wage, and had it not been for the fact that we had that agreement our claim would have been a higher one at the present juncture. If this statement is closely examined, I think it will be found that the colliery owners are in a position to pay an increase in the minimum wage of the Scottish miners. I find in one part of the statement that the colliery owners say that during last year their average selling price was 6s. 8–35d., or 9d. a ton under the figure which is held to enable them to pay the existing minimum of 6s. a day, which means that they will get 9d. a ton of increased profit before the miner can get any advance in his wages, and after that figure has been reached they can only get another 3d. a day according to the terms of the agreement, when there is another 8d. a ton increase in the selling price of the coal. If they have been able to earn a profit during the past year—
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Some of the colliery companies in Scotland have paid 12½ per cent. during the past year. Where they have earned a profit, I do not say they have in all cases—I want to be fair—but they have in many cases, and if they have to get 1s. 2d. a ton on the selling price of coal and the miners only get another 3d. a day, then I say that they can well afford to pay an increased minimum at the end of our present wages agreement. From some of the arguments used by a previous speaker one would imagine that the miners of the country, in putting forward this claim, did not care whether they ruined the mining industry or not. I want to say strongly that my colleagues in English, Scotch, and Welsh sections agree with me that we are as much interested in the continued prosperity of the coal trade as are the coal owners themselves. When one realises that everyone of us is living by the trade, we are bound to be as much interested in it as the coal owners are. What we are anxious about, and set our minds on realising, is that our wage shall bring us a higher reward, a freer reward, than we have been accustomed to in the past. I know that a number of Members in this House hold the opinion that the miners have no right to hold up the other sections of the community. They have no right to hold a pistol, as someone has put it, to the head of the remainder of the community to demand any terms they desire. What I 2163 want to say in reply is, if that is a fair proposition this is also a fair proposition, that the other sections of the community, realising that the miner is day after day going down into the mines and facing danger in order to win the product so essential to the well-being of our commercial prosperity, these other sections of the community surely should be prepared to pay the miner a reasonable wage in return for their valuable services which they have rendered. In conclusion, I hope that hon. Members of this House will see their way to give us a Minimum Wage Bill that will be satisfactory to the mining section of the country.
§ Mr. CLAUDE LOWTHER
This Debate is drawing to a close, and there are very few arguments now to make which have not been re-echoed and reiterated over and over again, but, though I have listened most attentively to all the speeches which have been made, there is only one which stands out as a real human, sympathetic speech. That was the speech made by the hon. Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. Brace). I thought while he was speaking that he ought to have spoken with more responsibility. I will tell hon. Members why: because he was one who had suggested that a person must be mad who believed in Syndicalism. When he made that remark I wondered what the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil thought. I wonder whether he will deny that statement?
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
If the hon. Member wants to know my opinion, I would have gone much further and said much stronger things about Syndicalism if I had been in my hon. Friend's place.
§ Mr. C. LOWTHER
I am glad to draw that valuable denial from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, because the difference between his utterances in this House and his utterances on public platforms can hardly be imagined.
§ Mr. C. LOWTHER
I wondered also what the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley thought, seeing that in his speech a few days ago were the words, "Revolt, revolt, revolt."
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would ask the hon. Gentleman what that has to do with Syndicalism? The right hon. Member for 2164 Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) has advised the people of Ulster to "Revolt, revolt, revolt."
§ Mr. C. LOWTHER
I have not had a denial from the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that he is in favour of Syndicalism.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. Member is not entitled to interrupt in that way. I may remind the House that we are now discussing an urgent Bill, and I will not allow either speakers or interrupters to deal with matters that have no connection with the immediate business before them.
§ Mr. C. LOWTHER
I will bow to your ruling. The point I would like to make is this. The opposition which comes from this side of the House to the Government measure is not an opposition against higher wages or against the freedom of labour, but it is an opposition against a combination of labour, against a trust of labour. Surely the whole country will object to any combination of capital which by coercive methods puts up the price of the prime necessities of living. [An HON. MEMBER: "They do it,"] If that is so, the country also objects, and strenuously objects, to any combination of labour which throws the whole machinery of the nation out of gear. Both trusts are inimical to society, both the capitalist trust and the labour trust; and both of these trusts should be suppressed by drastic measures. There is no doubt that we are face to face with a great, unprecedented crisis in the industrial history of this country, and in order for any Government to legislate effectively it is necessary that they should understand the whole political situation, I confidently suggest to this House that this is a purely political strike. The House knows that there are two sorts of strike, perfectly separate and distinct. There is the political strike and the economic strike. The economic strike is forced by the men upon the leaders. That seems to me a right and a wholesome strike. The political strike is forced by the leaders upon the men, and that strike surely is as unwholesome as the other strike is sound. I say that this is a purely political strike.
This is not the product of any particular discontent. This is not an 2165 outcry of a combined huge industry for better social conditions. This strike, which has brought misery to thousands of homes, has been conceived, engineered, and manipulated by Syndicalist-Socialists, whose openly avowed object is revolution. Syndicalism unchecked spells industrial suicide. The Prime Minister to-day asked what he ought to do. Was he to stand twiddling his thumbs doing nothing, when face to face with revolution? These were not his words, but he used words to that effect. What has he done? He has introduced legislation which, in my opinion, is perfectly futile. This is not the time, when in the face of a revolution, to introduce measures which only put off and patch up. [An HON. MEMBER: "What would you do?"] What would we do? We would introduce legislation which would destroy and eradicate the poisonous growth. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a very interesting speech, though I think rather a flighty speech considering how serious the situation is, on the First Reading of the Bill said he had no fear of the Syndicalist movement because it was the very antithesis to Socialism, and he informed us that the best policeman for the Syndicalist was the Socialist. Let me improve his simile. The Socialist is the policeman and Syndicalism is the truncheon he uses. Syndicalism is the greatest weapon of Socialism to-day, to be abandoned only when it has served its purpose. Syndicalism is not a creed, it is a manifestation. It is one of the most active weapons of the Socialist, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in comparing Socialism and Syndicalism to two mutually destructive microbes, was as inaccurate as he usually is. The men who are at the head of this movement are Socialists in the first place and Syndicalists in the second. They have declared war upon society, and society must hit back. They have captured the machinery of trade unionism, whose whole spirit and purport they have altered to serve their own selfish ends. They have turned the trade unions of this country into hotbeds of political intrigue. The genesis of trade unions was a laudable desire to obtain for the worker better conditions. The trade unions of this country were established to settle fairly and equitably all disputes between master and men—to close the breach, and certainly not to widen the gap which exists between capital and labour.
2166 I contend that, properly administered, the trade unions would be a mighty force for the good of the workers, but the labour leaders have sacrificed both industries and men on the altar of politics. Instead of explaining the real grievances of the worker—and I do not deny there are grievances—instead of pointing to any real injustices in the capitalist system—and I doubt not that there are injustices—they have made ruthless and vicious attacks upon it which have caused millions of pounds to flow into foreign countries. If this strike is not the outcome of a Syndicalist conspiracy, why was the coal industry, which is undeniably one of the best paid industries in the country, chosen as the battle-field between capital and labour? Because these revolutionaries knew very well that a strike in the coal trade would paralyse every other industry in the country. They knew that it was a strike directed at the very vitals of the nation. These men have used revolutionary weapons, and revolutionary methods require to be met by counter-revolutionary methods. I speak in this House only for myself, but I feel I am voicing the opinion of thousands of people outside it, when I call upon the Government to govern—to govern without fear and without favour, and not to be coerced by the Miners' Federation or any organisation in the land.
We listened on Tuesday to a speech from the hon. Member for Leicester. I always like to hear the hon. Member for Leicester speak, and there is generally something to learn from him, but on this occasion his remarks contained neither light nor leading, although this is the gravest crisis that has ever arisen in the history of labour in this country. The hon. Member did not even suggest how recurrences of strikes, involving ruin and misery to thousands, might be prevented; indeed, he seemed to look forward with a certain amount of complacency to periodical disturbances of this nature. There was only one moment of fervency in his speech, when he solemnly warned the House against adopting compulsory arbitration. There is one thing to remember that, when the hon. Member claims to be the Leader of the Labour party, he is first a prominent Socialist. Surely the vast majority of this House, who regard Socialism as a deadly danger, will recognise the reason for his fear of Arbitration Courts. He realises that the substitution of compulsory arbitration for the 2167 strike would remove the most effective weapon for promoting that social and industrial upheaval which is so necessary to the Socialists for the triumph of their principles and the fulfilment of their ideas. Fear for their own cause is the sole reason for the opposition of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite to compulsory arbitration. It must be so. Surely, they are the very people who cry out most loudly for arbitration between the nations of the world to avert the horrors of war. They are keenly solicitous for the welfare of humanity when nation is ranged against nation, yet they shriek loudest when it is a war of class against class in their own country.
But if arbitration is an honourable and humane solution when nation is ranged against nation, why is it not an honourable and humane solution in internecine strife? Arbitration which is not compulsory is nothing more than a farce. To tell two groups of inflamed combatants that they may arbitrate is futile and ridiculous. To tell them that they must arbitrate is another thing, and a good thing too, good for the men, good for the masters, good for the nation, good for everybody except the Socialist wirepuller, who, like Othello, will find his occupation gone. No one can deny that a strike is a relic of barbarism, and that the substitution of Arbitration Courts in its stead is a progressive and not a retrograde step. It is time we agreed on something less archaic to take the place of the primitive strike—something more in accord with the spirit of the time—and that something is compulsory arbitration. The principle will not interfere in any way with the principle of collective bargaining. Round tables may still pursue their conciliatory methods—nothing at all need be altered of the present conditions. The compulsory Arbitration Court will be the complement of the present system—it will exist to prevent strikes, not to arbitrate upon them when in being. Behind the Arbitration Court will be the nation giving weight to its decision. Its ruling will be final and irrevocable, because it will be the reflection of the nation's will. I call upon the Government to govern without fear or favour, not in the interests of any particular party, not in the interests of any particular industry, but in the interests of the nation as a whole.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
As the House has listened to the speech we have just heard and indeed to the whole Debate, I think 2168 they will have understood the vigorous disclaimer which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London gave us in his opening speech to-day of any desire on his part or of his colleagues to take the place of the Government at the present time. In all the speeches that have come from the opposite side, with the single exception of that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, I do not think we have had one helpful suggestion towards the solution of the crisis. We have had nothing but such counsels of panic and despair as have come from the last hon. Member. It is left to the Government and the supporters of the Government, without any help whatsoever from the Opposition in this House, to do what they can to get the nation out of the difficulty in which it finds itself. The object of the Government, and the one object which they and we have in view, is to end the strike, and I venture to think that the wider issues which the Opposition have tried to raise are really irrelevant to the immediate object which is before this House and the Government. If we are to end the strike it is necessary to understand it. I submit that the speeches which have been made by the hon. Member who has just spoken and the Noble Lord who spoke on the First Reading—and it is surprising how many Noble Lords have taken part in this Debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because I cannot expect from them any great understanding of difficulties in the industrial world. Past experience has led me to form that opinion. Those hon. Members and those Noble Lords have found a great Syndicalist conspiracy behind the present strike. They have supported that view which they put forward with very little evidence. The only evidence that has been brought forward is an anonymous pamphlet which has been circulated in South Wales. They have endeavoured to place the responsibility for that pamphlet on the Federation, and yet the very object of that pamphlet is the reorganisation of the Federation.
§ Mr. L. JONES
The pamphlet on which the case has been made is an anonymous 2169 pamphlet, which is actually directed against the Miners' Federation, and which really points out that the first business of those people, if they are to be successful in the direction of which attention has been directed, is to destroy the organisation of the Federation as it at present exists. Therefore it does seem unfair, absolutely unfair, to try and fasten on the Federation responsibility for the utterances of men whose avowed object it is to break up the Federation and start it on new principles. There is no body of men in the country who are less likely to be misled by violent Syndicalist teachings than are the miners of this country. We have listened to a Debate in which there does seem to me to be singular ignorance of the character of the men engaged in this dispute. I do know something of the mining population. I was brought up in South Wales, and lived a great part of my life in Cumberland, and I am sitting for a constituency in which there are many thousands of minors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for those cheers. I know of no men whom I would sooner represent than a body of miners. I can understand the touch of envy there is in the cheers of hon. Members opposite. Certain I am that no mining constituency would return Members who have spoken as hon. Members opposite have spoken.
These mining men are not extreme men. I admit there are not many Conservatives amongst them. They are men moderate in opinion, hard headed, and hard worked, and they are the last class of men who are likely to be misled by such wild teaching as has been referred to by the Opposition. The miners in my own Constituency, I believe, to-day would not be out if it was a mere question of settling a dispute with their own employers, and if there was not in it an element of the sympathetic strike with their less fortunate fellows. Why not? For they, with their experience, believe in the minimum wage and they see no reason why arrangements that have successfully worked with their own employers should not be equally successful worked by their fellows in other districts. I admit also that they are very loyal to the organisation of which they form a part. After all, the crisis is here. It is not of the Government's making or of ours. We have to face it. I am glad that the Government, having to deal with the matter, have not listened to the appeals from the other side to take drastic and extreme measures, but that they have 2170 brought in what is really the minimum measure possibly offering any hope of a solution of the difficulty in which we find ourselves. I think they have chosen the course of wisdom.
I may be told, and we have been told, that in bringing in the Minimum Wage Bill the Government are violating economic principles, and that such a revolution ought not to be done in such a hurry as this. I am not sure that we have not had something like economic cant in regard to this question. What is the tremendous difference between interference in the matter of wages and the other interferences which we have been making year by year in regard to the coal trades and other trades. Is there any real difference which hon. Members opposite can point out between interfering to regulate wages and interfering to regulate hours. You may say they are both wrong, but this is not a new departure in principle. It is an additional interference I admit, but I do not admit that in this small measure the Government are going far beyond all previous interferences or introducing a tremendous revolution in a hurry. The one question I ask myself is, will the measure end the strike? I do not think that anyone can say with certainty that it will. We are suffering from a grave disease. Is there any doctor who, in dealing with any disease, will say with certainty that the remedy he proposes to administer will cure the disease? The most he can do is to prescribe what he thinks is a hopeful remedy, and I claim for the Bill of the Government that there are hopes of a settlement, and an early settlement, if that Bill is passed. I am glad to believe that the Bill is going to pass. I welcome the return of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. I watched carefully what signal was to be given to another place in regard to the passing of this Bill, and I am thankful to note that there is every prospect that, when this House has passed the Bill, the other House also will pass it, and the Bill will become law. I think that the Government in dealing with this question have shown themselves patient, they have kept their heads, they did not intervene before intervention was necessary, and they have not asked for more drastic legislation than the minimum which they think will settle the strike. The Bill is an appeal to the common sense of the miners and the mine owners of the country, and in my belief the appeal will not be made in vain.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Leif Jones) began his speech by saying that, after listening to this Debate he could well believe the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) that we on this side of the House were not greedy to take the places of the responsible Ministers of the Crown. That is true. It is an obvious truth. But it is also true that, if as the result of our action we are called upon to do so, we shall not shrink from the responsibility involved. We have not sought that responsibility. As long as the Government believed that they were in a position to settle this strike by their own action, and without involving the responsibility of Parliament, we put no pressure of any kind whatever upon them. We asked for no statement that they were not willing to make. We made no criticism and no suggestion that would embarrass them in the course of the very difficult negotiations in which they were engaged for a purpose which is common to the whole House—the purpose of bringing a lamentable dispute to a speedy conclusion. The position is now changed. The Government, by their own admission, are no longer in a position to settle this matter by Executive action. They invoke the action of the House of Commons and the responsibility of every Member of the House of Commons is thereby involved. We can no longer sit silent. We must take our part in the responsibility one way or another. We do not hesitate to do so. After weighing all the considerations on one side and on the other, we have come to the conclusion that the Bill now before us is not a right or proper solution of the difficulty with which we are confronted. I wish to speak not only of the responsibility of the Opposition: I must say a word or two on the responsibility of the Government.
I want to say as little as possible of a critical or condemnatory character, but I must express the regret that I felt when I heard the Prime Minister this afternoon deal so lightly with a breach of a solemn engagement. I am not here to decide whether or not there has been a breach. I do not think that any of us, from the information placed before us in this House, or as Members of Parliament, are competent to decide that issue. There has hardly been a statement of supposed fact, honestly made on one side or the other in the course of this Debate, that has not been challenged almost as soon as it was 2172 made. I am not here to say whether a breach has taken place or not. That was not the Prime Minister's point, or, at any rate, it is not the point with which I am dealing. He said that in the case of so grave an emergency as the present no agreement, however solemn, ought to be allowed to stand in our way. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They were comparatively small matters in relation to the great issue with which we are confronted. To my mind, and to the minds of my hon. Friends, the breach of an agreement, if it takes place, is one of the most serious factors with which we can be confronted in our industrial unrest. The best hopes of workmen and of masters for industrial peace during these past years has been in the growing willingness of both sides to resort to conciliation, to arbitration, and to abide by the agreements so made. It may be that in these particular cases the agreements were made for longer periods than was wise. It may be, and I think it very probably is the fact, that no man on either side would ask again to have an agreement binding over so many years. But I think it is a serious thing that the Prime Minister should treat lightly the breach of an agreement as such, for it is on the success and the maintenance of these agreements that our industrial peace and the avoidance of the interference of Parliament alike depend.
One other observation I will make of a directly critical character. The Prime Minister stated that my right hon. Friend had said that it was not possible to prove that the action of the Government had contributed to the present difficulty. I think that is true. It is true that you cannot bring positive or absolute proof, but when the Prime Minister says that there is not a shade or a shadow of proof that the Government have contributed to the present unrest by their past action or speeches, I say there is such proof as that on which you hang a man. To use the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the speeches which he made in the course of a political campaign was to drop matches on parched stubble, and the conflagration we are trying to put out to-day is in part a result of those inflammatory utterances. I do not pretend that that alone would be sufficient. I do not pretend that you might not drop these matches safely when the ground is not parched, or when there is not so much inflammatory material about. I do not pretend that any agitator, by what- 2173 ever violent language, could have produced the situation as we see it to-day. There is a graver cause in the industrial world, not only in this country, but in other countries, only it has come to a more critical point here than elsewhere. The unrest is not confined to this country; it is not a thing due to any one cause. I must in this connection call the attention of the House to one feature of recent legislation, and of recent Executive action, which, with many advantages, has also some difficulties which we perhaps have not wholly recognised. Here I am not making a special criticism against the Government. The House has encouraged the interference of the Executive in industrial disputes. Beginning tentatively—I am not here on party ground, for this legislation took its rise under a Unionist Government—we have educated public opinion and the disputants in trade disputes to expect that if their disputes, if sufficiently serious, sufficiently widespread and sufficiently long, that the Board of Trade would, sooner or later, deal with them. The Board of Trade have intervened. They have intervened with singular skill and with signal success in producing an immediate settlement of many disputes. But I am not at all sure that the long course of interference tends to prevent further disputes breaking out. Let the House consider for a moment what is one of the necessary consequences. Each side has in its mind in a dispute of a sufficiently grave character that sooner or later the Government would intervene, that sooner or later great pressure will he put upon them to go before an arbitrator or a conciliator in some form or another. Accordingly, neither side places its cards upon the table when they meet one another. Each side feels that the arbitrator will probably divide the difference in some way, and accordingly, until they go before the arbitrator, they are afraid of diminishing the difference. That is the wide consideration. I think that has a bearing on this dispute as on all disputes. It is not a party consideration at all, but one which I think the House must bear in mind as it proceeds along this line of ever-increasing interference between the different parties to industrial disputes?
I come now directly to this dispute. May I say as a comment on a good number of speeches which have been made, that I conceive it is not our business here to-night to judge of the merits of the miners' claim or of the mine owners' answer. We are not competent to do it. If that were our 2174 task we ought to have much more information than we have at the present time. Our business is not with the merits of the miners' or the employers' case. It is not to defend one or the other. I speak of the House generally. I recognise that there are individuals who have special claims to express the views of one side or the other. But for the general run of Members of the House it is not our business to take sides. It is not our business to sit in judgment upon the claims. It is our business to consider the national crisis, to consider the matter in the interest of the nation, and the only excuse for our interference is that the interests of the nation are gravely at stake. Even so, I agree with the hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond)—I do not often, agree with him—that we have grave reasons to complain that the Government have not given us much fuller information. They ask us to pass this Bill. Upon what ground? They announced to the country that they had satisfied themselves, by private inquiry, that the case is made out for a minimum wage in abnormal places and in abnormal conditions in the coal trade underground. They have never disclosed to the House one atom of the information upon which they came to that judgment. It is an obiter dictum by the Government; they having sought to prove that the time had come for granting it, we should all concur, having given us no means of forming our own judgment upon it. That is not all.
My right hon. Friend has already pointed out they put that forward as their ground for legislation, they go far beyond that. Their Bill has ceased to be a Bill for a minimum wage in abnormal places and abnormal conditions, and becomes a general Bill for a minimum wage for all work in the coal trade. That is not the end of it. Does this not strike the House as at least indicative of the danger for which we are asked to legislate? There is a provision in this Bill affecting a great industry about which not one word is said, as far as my observation has gone, by any speaker in the Debate, and certainly not by any speaker for the Government. This Bill is called the "Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Bill," but when you come to the Definition Clause you find the expression "coal mine," includes a mine of stratified ironstone. Not one word is said by a single speaker to show that, if it be necessary or desirable to pass this Bill in respect of coal mines, there is any 2175 reason for doing so in respect of iron, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who is, I understand, going to follow me, why the the Government has so extended the definition to a trade in which, as far as I know, there is no dispute, and whether it is not a fact that in that trade, by the common admission of employers and employed, the conditions prevailing materially differ from those of the coal mines, and that the rates of pay prevailing, by common agreement, differ from those of the coal mines for reasons attendant on the difference in the way in which the two operations are carried out.
If the Government had this Bill in view, as the Prime Minister tells us, from the beginning of the dispute, then from the moment they had this Bill in view they ought to have been preparing information for the House as to the consequences of this Bill, and the reasons for it, and they ought to have been prepared to supply the House with memoranda, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford said, in the remarkable speech with which he made his entrance into our discussions to-day, and they ought to have been prepared to give the House information which would enable it to form at least a reasoned judgment upon their proposals. We know nothing. We do not know the truth about the facts in dispute. We cannot check every statement made to the House, and we do not know what the result is going to be on the coal trade. We have no sort of estimate of the increased cost of getting coal which may be involved. Although the most contradictory statements have been made on this point, the Government make no statement at all, although on that depends not merely the prosperity of the coal trade, but in geometrical proportion the prosperity and even the existence of other great trades. I have no means of judging what the increased cost may be. That it must increase the cost of coal I take as certain from the speeches I have heard from the Labour Benches. Take the speech of the hon. Member for West Fife. He said their claim was for a higher reward for their labour. We are to rush into a Bill of this kind without any calculation presented to us by the Government as to its effect, not only on the industry immediately concerned, but upon other great manufacturing and exporting industries of the country.
2176 I was at the Treasury when Lord St. Aldwyn put a shilling Export Tax on coal. I continued that tax while I was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I received deputations from miners, and owners, and I was told that a shilling on the cost of a ton of coal meant driving them out of many of their foreign markets. [An HON. MEMBER: "You did not believe it."] Do the Labour Members who pressed that on me then deny it now? Ought we not, with such a warning before us, to have some knowledge of the effect of this proposal before we take such a course as that which the Government are now inviting us to take, which will indefinitely commit us to it? Many of those who spoke from the opposite side of the House said we are face to face with a great national crisis, and the Prime Minister said that the Government must provide a remedy, and that it would not do for them to sit by and simply keep the ring, but they must make some proposal. I view with suspicion legislation produced in that spirit or for that reason. It is panic legislation, and if it is not precisely that it is legislation under duress, and that is very dangerous and very bad. Granted the Prime Minister's statement that he must produce some proposal, anybody who listened to his speech will know that I say no more than the truth when I assert that not in one line of that speech was there any argument for this Bill. I find it very difficult to reconcile the views expressed on the opposite side. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) said there was no occasion for hysterics, and in the next breath he told us that we were face to face with a crisis already most menacing, and growing greater every day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a light and jocular mood, which I thought was singularly inappropriate to the grave circumstances in which we find ourselves, said in the course of his speech the other day:—There was no occasion for alarm or disturbance. This demand for a minimum wage was no new demand, for we have been accustomed to it.That is perfectly true. It is not the demand which is new but the surrender of the Government. A Government, which three weeks ago laughed a Motion for a minimum wage out of court, and did not think it worth while to put up a Cabinet Minister to speak on it, to-day comes down, because the Prime Minister says we must do something to grant the demand for a minimum wage. It is not the demand which is new; it is the surrender of the 2177 Government. It is something more: it is the method by which the demand is presented and enforced. We have had great labour disputes before. They have caused those engaged in them much pecuniary loss and much suffering, but this dispute stands out from them, not merely in its magnitude, but in its character. I do not think the miners can complain that the public of this country has lent an unsympathetic ear to their grievances. I do not think those of them who have spoken in this House will complain that from any quarter of this House there has been anything but sympathetic attention when they have spoken of the arduous nature of their work and of the dangers to which miners are subjected, and when they have pleaded for fair consideration for the grievances from which they think they are suffering. But, if public opinion has changed and is changing, it is not because public opinion has given a final decision on the reasonableness of the original demands; it is because those demands have been lost in a far wider claim, and, above all, because that claim has been pressed, with all the methods and the sacrifices of war, not against the employers who have withstood it, but against the masses of the public who are the victims.
The right hon. Gentleman says the proposals which the Government have put in this Bill cannot be considered unreasonable, because the federated masters have accepted them. What this House has to consider is not what the masters are willing to accede or what the men are willing to take. What this House has to consider are the immediate but also the permanent and enduring interests of the community. We all wish to bring the strike to an early end, but we wish also to, and it is at least as important that we should, preserve that other condition laid down by the Prime Minister: that there should be some finality about the settlement that we establish, and that, above all, the settlement we introduce into this trade should not provoke unrest in others. The right hon. Gentleman, rightly from his point of view, tries to persuade the House that this is—I use his own words, I think—but "a provisional and temporary expedient to end the immediate crisis." He says it is the best means of escape from the present crisis; it is a Bill purely ad hoc. I do not know, but I believe both the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs were in the House when the Hon. Member for South Glamorganshire (Mr. Brace) 2178 spoke. I hope they heard that speech. Can they pretend any longer this is an ad hoc settlement—that this is, in fact, as it appears in form, a purely temporary expedient or means to escape from an existing crisis which does not leave us committed to further trouble in the future? What did the hon. Member say? He spoke of the demand of the minimum wage of 5s. to the day wage men. He said, "I do not argue this 5s. from the standpoint of services rendered, but of human necessity."
Yes, Sir, if that is the standpoint from which he argues it is a standpoint which may apply to every trade. How hollow is the position of those who support this Bill. The Prime Minister tells the House it is a purely temporary expedient confined to this particular case and not to be repeated and not to lead us a step further—not to affect another trade. But hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway avow that it is only a first trial of strength in one trade, to be followed by a similar advance in other trades, and a further advance in that trade. That brings me to what, after all, is the real crux of the question. I am not prepared to say that, having regard to the altered circumstances of which my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford spoke earlier in the day, Parliament can maintain that attitude of indifference to the great combinations of labour and of capital which it has sought to preserve in the past. But I do say that the consequences of interference are so serious—so dangerous, and may lead to results so impossible for us to foretell and so profoundly affecting the welfare of the nation, that it is the very last weapon to which we should resort. Above all, if a great trade on which the nation depends cannot settle its own disputes without bringing the national life to a standstill, and without involving countless thousands of unconcerned people in the deepest distress and misery—if one side or the other forces the interference of the State it ought to be made plain to them that they can only do so at the sacrifice of some of these rights which those who conduct trade disputes without holding up the nation are not called upon to make. They cannot have it both ways. Be they masters or be they men they cannot have the rights and liberties which other citizens enjoy, and at the same time invoke the interference of the State to settle terms. The hon. Member for South Glamorgan said Parliament had no right to deprive labour of the power to defend 2179 itself by striking. But labour must not come here for protection in particular cases, and demand that a minimum shall be laid down by Parliament for its remuneration and at the same time expect to retain the privileges it has hitherto enjoyed. In my opinion it is the height of folly to encourage either side to these disputes, be they masters or be they men, to believe that they can carry matters so far that Parliament is bound to interfere, and that if Parliament has interfered, they lose nothing of the liberty they have hitherto enjoyed. They are free to accept or reject the award which Parliament has made, and they are free to recommence to-morrow on the same or on other grounds, the very struggle to stop which necessitated our interference. If I believed that this Bill could be confined to this case, if I thought that this Bill was necessary to settle this case, I would settle it, and would go no further, I should not speak as I have done; but I believe that a Bill like this, which allows the miners deliberately to hold up the whole country with a view, not of putting immediate pressure on the owners, not of fighting their battle with the people with whom they are immediately engaged, but of so starving the community that the community is bound to interfere—to allow them to bring matters to that pass, and then to allow them to remain as free as they were before to accept or regret the award, and to continue or renew this dispute, is not to settle this controversy or to settle any controversy, but is to make it certain that if we purchase peace at all at the present moment, we purchase it at the cost of certain recrudescence of trouble in this or in other trades, and teach the lesson to every trade that it has it in its power to hold up the country, and that, if they use that power, the Government will be weak enough to yield to that force, although it declined to yield, even three weeks before, to any arguments.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down made in some parts a very interesting speech. In some parts he made criticisms upon the Government with which I do not agree, and which we are naturally supposed to refute. But I do not wish to spend time in party controversy. There was a remark made earlier in the evening by the. hon. Member for Hanley 2180 (Mr. Enoch Edwards) that this was no time for banter between opposite benches. It is different from any Debate I remember in this House. The question of whether a man makes a good speech or a bad speech, whether the one party gains or loses, whether the attacks from one side go home or are well answered on the other, have no force in this Debate. I would not mind how much damage the Government suffered from this Debate, provided that out of it we could get something that would settle the strike without permanent damage to the interests of this country. The right hon. Gentleman, in a part of his speech which I did not altogether follow, but in which, nevertheless, I was interested, seemed to me conscious that the House was face to face with new problems. In so far as his criticism against this Bill was directed to the fact that it does not solve those problems, I admit that criticism. What I do not admit is that by this Bill we are courting and inviting future trouble which we might otherwise have avoided. The trouble we are face to face with to-day is for Parliament a new trouble. It has not been created by this Bill. I do not believe that if we had said we will do nothing to meet this trouble, we will make no attempt, however tentative, however provisional, we should have avoided future trouble. I do not believe we are making future trouble which would not otherwise have come but for the Bill.
The problem to which we have to address ourselves is one which, I think, is fairly well understood by the House. They must be familiar with the question of abnormal places in mines. The demand of the miners, roughly is that a hewer pail by the piece should be paid in all cases the wages he would earn by a fair amount of effort under not unfavourable conditions where failure to secure the wage by actual output is due to causes not under his own control. That is the origin of the present trouble. The right hon. Gentleman asked me how did the minimum wage come into it. Why, if that is the case, do we call our Bill a Minimum Wage Bill? The minimum wage came into existence primarily to meet that particular trouble, and before we came upon the scene the principle of the minimum wage had been accepted by the largest union of owners in the mining districts in this country. They had discussed it and they were not so far from agreeing with their men in the 2181 federated area on the basis of the principle of the minimum wage being accepted. It was there before our Bill, so far as the federated area was concerned. When we came upon the scene we took up that question as we found it in the federated area. It was the consciousness of the progress made in the federated area which underlay the proposals which we have made from the first days of our intervention in the dispute. Almost at once the principle of the minimum wage was accepted by some 65 per cent—a majority—of the owners. If we are to introduce legislation at all, it must be legislation on the principle to which we had already secured the acceptance, so far as the principle is concerned, of the majority of the owners, as well as the principle which is demanded by the whole of the miners. That is why this Bill is called the Minimum Wage Bill.
The owners who accept the principle ask that there shall be safeguards to secure that if the principle of the minimum wage is conceded there remains a due incentive to each miner to give an adequate output for the minimum wage which he is bound to receive. All through our discussions the miners made no difficulty about that. They accepted it frankly, and they accepted it, I am convinced, and everyone who heard the discussions was convinced, with no mere lip service, but with a genuine intention and desire to meet frankly and sincerely, the owners on that point as far as safeguards are concerned. The men on the other hand demand a minimum wage as an incentive to employers to take every possible pains in organising their industry to secure to each collier working at the face a fair opportunity of earning a reasonable wage by his own exertions. Those are the two principles, and they are both in our Bill. The principle of safeguards is in our Bill, not the details. The details are left to be worked out in the districts. The principle of minimum wage is in our Bill, not the actual details, which are left by the Bill to be worked out in the districts. That is a perfectly consistent attitude, so far as the Bill is concerned. It is said, why do we include in the Bill those who have nothing to do with abnormal places—labourers and boys? Why are they included in the principle of the minimum wage? If we had excluded those from the Bill, the Bill would have been even more open to the objection of 2182 being provisional and not final than it is at the present time. It would have been fatal to make an attempt at a settlement which did not include those as well as the others.
So much we have done in our Bill. What we cannot do here and now without inquiry, without investigation, without experience, and without knowledge is to put the scheduled figures for hewers in the different areas into the Bill. I know that the miners have very carefully considered that Schedule of the minimum wage for hewers. They themselves, I believe, would admit that they have fixed those prices without knowledge of the cost of production and without knowledge of the profits of the trade, because those figures were not available to them. It was no remissness on their part; it was that they had not those materials at their disposal. That being the case, how is it possible for Parliament to put those prices for the minimum wage into the Bill at the present time? I do not believe that you can safely arrive at it without much more material as to the cost of production and as to the profits of the trade than the miners could have had before them. Under our Bill it will be possible for the independent chairman, with whom the decision may eventually rest, to have before him much more material, or if that material is not forthcoming, it will be at the risk of those withholding it. It will be only in the districts that inquiry can take place, and that the matter can be satisfactorily determined. Supposing that Parliament did accept this schedule of prices, supposing it put it in the Bill, supposing it were even after all possible—I do not say in every district, but in some districts—that the schedule of prices was more than the trade allowed. It is not as if the coal trade was a pure monopoly of this country. If the owners could recoup themselves in every pit for the increased cost of production by an increased price for coal, though the community might be penalised—might be unduly penalised—[Laughter.]—well, the whole question depends upon "unduly penalised." I can conceive it might be possible that an industry which had a monopoly in the country might be carried on with such low-paid labour that the community ought to be penalised.
My point is this. I am not taking the injury done to the community. It might be that the community might be unduly penalised, or it might be fairly asked to 2183 pay a higher price in order to enable owners to afford better terms. That is not my point. My point is that the coal trade is not a monopoly, and that though a large part of it no doubt supplies people in this country for household purposes who must have the coal, and who would be bound to pay a higher price for it even if the cost of production were raised, there is the exporter, and there is also the supply of coal to our great industries which depend upon cheap coal; and if the price of coal is unduly raised the demand for coal would be less and the coal industry would suffer. It is not the desire of the miners themselves that their demand should result in a great shrinkage in the coal industry. So then they ought not to ask Parliament to take upon itself, without the possibility of full investigation and inquiry, the fixing of the schedule of prices for the minimum wage which we cannot be sure would not to some extent have that result. That is our position with regard to prices. But the intention of the Bill, and I believe the result of the Bill, will be not to damage existing rates of wages, not to fix an unduly low minimum, but on the contrary, to ascertain and to achieve the highest minimum wage which the coal trade can bear.
We have had no suggestion from the other side as to what they would do. We have had criticisms on our doing anything or on our doing this particular thing which we are doing. Why do we legislate at all? It is urged upon us that we should protect those who are willing to work. That is an elementary duty of the Government in which we have not failed, and in which we shall not fail. And we are urged to do that which I do not admit it is the duty of any Government to do, to let things go on to the bitter end. Are we to do nothing else but that? Have people considered how bitter the end will be? This is no ordinary trade dispute. Coal is essential, or else the State must perish. The strike has already done damage to trade, damage to the coal trade and damage to other trades, especially perhaps the iron and steel trade. The longer it goes on the greater will be the ground lost, not only in the coal trade, but in trades which depend upon it. The longer it goes on the larger will be the proportion of the ground lost which may not be recovered—at any rate, not soon. I will ask those in whose hands primarily this dispute is to bear in mind that if they 2184 have something to gain by the dispute, or if they think they have something to gain, there is also much that may be lost.
But were that all, or were it merely a matter of inquiry to these trades, there might not have been any case for legislation or for the Government going beyond the limits which it has observed in other cases. That will not be all if the dispute continues. The next thing—indeed in some cases it has begun already—will not be merely commercial loss, but starvation in other trades besides the mining trade, starvation for want of wages, for want of money to buy food, and, if the strike continues longer, there will be starvation, not because there is no money to buy food only, but because food cannot be conveyed to our great cities; and the end of it, carried to its extreme and bitter close, must be the destruction of national life, including, of course, the miners themselves, and in the end the community as a whole would be fighting for its life. That leaves the Government in the position that they are entitled to say that they must neglect no means at their disposal to secure that coal must not and ought not to be withheld from the nation, and that, not on behalf of any particular trade, but on behalf of the community as a whole, and, if need be, every resource at the disposal of the Government must be used to secure it. But you cannot adopt that attitude without also saying that the community, for whom the Government is responsible, on behalf of whom it acts, must take the responsibility of securing fair conditions for those who work in the trade. The miners say that here and now Parliament must fix the actual prices in the Schedule of the minimum wage. That is not reasonable nor fair. It is not giving Parliament a chance; it is not treating Parliament fairly. They have neither the knowledge, nor, with the strike continuing, the time to investigate it. They can but set up machinery to do it. By taking the line we have taken we must set up such machinery, we must admit the responsibility, and we must prove, whether it be to the community as a whole or to the miners, that we are in earnest, and intend to secure the principle of the minimum wage which forms part of the proposals of the Government. Since the Government intervened in this dispute the whole ground of it has shifted. What is the struggle to be about if it continues after the Bill is passed? It was originally about the principle of the minimum wage. 2185 The minority of the owners accepted the principle originally, and the majority did not accept it. After the Government intervened the majority of the owners accepted the principle of the minimum wage, and by this Bill we shall make the principle of the minimum wage universal. Therefore it is no longer the principle of the minimum wage that is in dispute.
We have gone further than that in trying to settle the dispute. We have put Parliament to the unprecedented inconvenience of asking it to pass so novel a measure in so short a space of time. I acknowledge most fully that reasons of public interest, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London admitted in his speech this evening, would make it impossible for the House to give that full and adequate discussion under the pressing circumstances of the case that it might otherwise obtain. We realise this, and I think that those in the trade in whose interest this Bill has been brought forward wall also realise the present pressure and limitations under which Parliament is bound to act. The Bill is provisional and not final. Of course I admit it is the beginning of an attempt to deal with large and novel questions which are being forced upon Parliament, and which it could not under any circumstances avoid. I admit it is possible that Parliament may have to meet other attempts from other trades. We could not have avoided that even if this Bill had not been introduced. We would have had to deal with them on their merits. A door has been opened with regard to the minimum wage which cannot be closed again. It could not have been prevented. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Parliament had to face the question. It was no good Parliament attempting to put its head in the sands and hide from it. It will have to be faced. If demands are made upon it which are unreasonable, it must resist, and resist to the bitter end, but it is not going to make these great struggles easier to avoid facing the question or by not attempting to do what is reasonable. It is no good our being deterred from doing what we believe is reasonable, possible and practical from the fear that that may lead to demands which are unreasonable. If we are to be on strong ground in resisting what is unreasonable in using the resources of the State in these labour disputes, we must go to the limit of what is fair and reasonable. That, I believe, as near as it can be put in a sentence, is the difference 2186 between the Government and the Opposition. But when this Bill is passed it ought to be borne in mind that the struggle, if it continues, will not be for the principle of the minimum wage, as it was at the beginning; it will be against giving the State, the Government if you like, but I would say the State, the time and the opportunity to investigate and settle what the amount of that wage should be. In no Socialist State, even if the State was completely Socialist, would it be possible for one trade arbitrarily to fix itself what its own remuneration would be. And so I say, as we are to-day, if the struggle continues after this Bill has been passed, it will be a struggle, not against the owners for rejecting certain particular demands, but it will be a struggle against the right, or against the duty of the exercise by the State of the right, if you like to put it so, to investigate the conditions in order that it may do what is fair and reasonable. I hope I have spoken, as far as the trade with which we are concerned is regarded, with fairness and not without sympathy.
I have spoken seriously, and I want to say a few serious words in conclusion. I do not want it to be supposed, because I speak seriously and gravely, I do it without sympathy. We have in this Bill, speaking of it as far as the Second Reading is concerned; speaking of it generally—that is without prejudice to considering certain details in Committee—speaking of it generally we have gone as far as we could go, and certainly as far as we or any Government could go in the time at our disposal and with the strike at our doors. I say that without prejudice to the consideration of details. But they must be details. It is not from one side of the House alone that Amendments will be put forward, and I do not wish arbitrarily to close the door upon the consideration of any of those Amendments. But, speaking generally, we have gone as far as we can go. In a few weeks, a very few weeks, it may be in a few days, we shall as an Executive Government, if the strike continues, be occupied in dealing, not with the causes, but with the consequences. To-day there is good feeling. Nobody could have been present at the conferences between owners and men during the last two weeks and felt that there was bitterness between them. There has been no sign of class hatred in the conduct on either side. From all we hear in the 2187 country there is not that bitter feeling which has been evidenced in some places. The feeling is good. That is so to-day. If the strike continues, the bitterness of suffering will be such as nothing can exceed. That is why it is so important that there should be an early settlement. Everything that is hopeful and of good augury in the absence of bitterness to-day may disappear in a very short time. An early settlement is imperative if we are to avoid that danger. It is to promote and secure, if we can, an early settlement that we have introduced this Bill. We have done the fairest thing we could devise in the time. We have made the State responsible for securing a fair minimum wage for everyone who works underground. We cannot do more than that to promote a settlement. If it is insisted that the prices for hewers in the Schedule should be inserted in the Bill, if the Bill is to be absolutely rigid with no elasticity, it will be going beyond what it would be fair for us to ask Parliament to do. If the Bill fails to promote a settlement, we must devote ourselves to protecting the nation by every resource that the Government has in its power. [Opposition cheers.] Yes, but the utmost that we or any Government can do will not be able to avert terrible loss of trade, great suffering to wage earners in other trades than mining, and, in the end, to the miners themselves. That is why we are not satisfied merely to do that which evoked those cheers when I said we would use the resources of the State. That is why we wish to be on stronger ground than that afforded by a merely negative attitude. That is why we wish to make it clear that if the struggle continues it is not for want of effort or of determination on our part and on that of Parliament to secure fair conditions in this industry. If we fail in that, whatever resources we use we cannot avoid great suffering in the country before the dispute is brought to an end. Of the gravity of the prospect before us right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite have shown themselves as conscious as we are here. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London spoke of the gravity of the prospect in words which could not be exceeded, but which were not too grave for the truth of the case. I cannot but believe that the gravity of the prospect, which is being increasingly realised in the country as suffering is beginning, and will be realised 2188 still more as suffering develops if the dispute continues, will unite Parliament, owners and miners in common sense, responsibility, and reasonableness.
§ Sir ARTHUR MARKHAM
May I ask the indulgence of the House while I make a personal explanation before I address a few remarks to the House. It has been charged against me in the Conferences that have taken place between the coal-owners and the Prime Minister that I have advocated the minimum wage because I was personally interested in certain deep mines in which coal could be cheaply won. I believe that the first man that publicly advocated a minimum wage in this country was myself. I advocated it ten years ago—and since. In July, 1904, I wrote an article in the "Iron and Coal Trades Review," in which I said that the principle of the minimum wage was a sound and just one. I stated to my Constituents about the same time that the miners were entitled to at least a minimum wage, commensurate with the labour and risk to life entailed in their work. During the last ten years, long before I was connected with the present mines with which I am associated, I have advocated a minimum wage. May I add that since that period and before I have always paid a minimum wage in the mines which I own or in which I have a controlling interest. I have paid in one mine particularly over £1,000,000 in wages, and never received a dividend from that mine after paying the minimum wage.
I do not know in which way I shall be able to give my vote to-night. First, let me say, from knowledge of the negotiations, on behalf of many with whom I am associated, and who are in favour of the minimum wage, that the action of the Prime Minister and his colleagues has been one throughout of impartiality and fairness to both sides, and whether what they have done is successful or not, they have endeavoured to do what is best in the interests of the nation as a whole.
The whole of this question really turns upon a very simple issue. It is: Is this industry able to give to the people who follow the occupation of mining a fair remuneration for their labour or is it not? The Noble Lord opposite stated in his able speech that no one objected to the principle of a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. It is in the application of this principle that we have all the trouble. There are many mines in this country where the men have done a fair day's work and where they have not in the past 2189 been paid a fair day's wage. The Noble Lord admits that that statement is true. But in a very large number of mines in this country, in many of the federated areas, a large number of mines, particularly in the counties of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire, have been worked under the minimum wage for years past, and in the counties of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, where the highest wages are paid. A minimum wage of 8s. 3d. per day is paid in Nottinghamshire for many years. We hear talk to-day about malingering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide."] I have every intention of addressing the House; the time has long since gone by since I began to take any notice of cries of "Divide." This is a serious matter, and we have a very limited amount of time for its discussion, and although hon. Members opposite have been scoffing at every proposition put before them by the Government, they have not put forward one single suggestion of their own to endeavour to assist in meeting what is a national crisis. All they have contributed to the Debate are cheap sneers at the expense of the Government. What was it that was said by the Leader of the Opposition? He told us he took three weeks to consider this question, and having considered it he handed it over to his former leader, who has done nothing whatever to help the Government. When I say the Opposition have utterly failed to render any assistance in a time of national crisis I am speaking the literal truth.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs said in this country we have no monopoly of coal. I venture to say that statement is inaccurate. What are the facts? According to the latest statistical abstract, we produced in these islands 264,000,000 tons of coal at an average cost of 8s. 2d. per ton. That production is larger than all the coal produced in all the countries of Europe put together. More coal is produced in this country than all the countries of Europe combined. Germany produced 168,000,000 tons at an average cost of 10s. 3d. She produced 168,000,000 tons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide."] France produced 37,000,000 tons at an average selling price of 12s. 8d. [HON. MRMBERS: "Oh, oh," and "Divide."] That is the levity with which hon. Members treat this question. You say you are anxious to deal with it in the interests of the nation, but you really care very little about it except to make party capital and you will not listen to the 2190 remarks of one who has had far more experience in underground work than hon. Members who are jeering me. I have been down coal mines in all parts of the world, and you have not and you know nothing of the economic conditions. You are ignorant. The economic question the House has to ask itself is whether a living wage can be paid to miners. May I ask hon. Members opposite what is considered to be a living wage under Protection? When you have established Protection in this country what do you say would be a decent living wage? You tell the people from the platform that they will have better wages, but when it comes to the question of a decent living wage for miners you are not in favour of giving it to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Is that statement not within the measure of truth. After all, the origin of this dispute may be traced to one fact and one fact only. The miners labour in a most dangerous calling in which three men are killed daily and 500 are injured daily, and not one miner but thousands go home weekly with not more than 2s. or 3s. a day after a hard week's work. Are these men not entitled to strike for a decent living wage?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Owing to the interruptions of hon. Members I have not yet arrived at that point. It is rather difficult to deal with the cost of production. The output of this country is larger than the whole of Europe put together, and it is produced at an infinitely lower cost. What is the cost of this minimum wage going to be? I am going to give the House my opinion upon this point. Speaking from some practical knowledge of this industry, I am going to give what. I believe is the true solution, because I do not believe this Bill is going to settle the matter. The cost of this minimum wage which the House is now asked to accede to is going to be no undue burden. An hon. Member said this measure would entail an annual extra wage bill of £2,000,000. That is ridiculous. The proposal I am going to lay before the House will entail an extra cost in the production of coal of somewhere about 4d. per ton, and will, I think, give permanent peace for many years in the coal trade. My complaint against the Labour party is that they have not put all the cards on the table before the Government, and the Government think, when this question of the 2191 minimum wage for miners is settled, the men are going back to work. They are going to do nothing of the kind.
The whole origin of this movement is a desire on the part of the men in the mines to obtain better wages. When the miners' demands have been settled, the surface-men are not going back to work on the wages now paid. Let the House be under no misapprehension. When this Bill, which deals only with underground workers is settled, the surface-men have then got to be dealt with. What the House has to consider is this: Is this Bill in the form in which it has been introduced likely to settle and end this national crisis? The whole question turns on whether there are adequate safeguards to ensure that the people who pay the minimum wage will get an adequte return. The House does not know what the Miners' Federation have put before the owners in the way of safeguards or it would be astounded. What are they? They were agreed to by a Committee of the Miners' Federation and a Committee of the owners in the Federated area, and they provide that where a man presents himself for work at the pit top and is informed that something has happened at his working-place to prevent him doing a day's work, he shall not be entitled to claim any wages in respect of that shift; that if, in the case of accidents or a breakdown of machinery, the workman is informed of that fact, he is not entitled to a day's wage from the time he is informed; that if, owing to the shortness of wagons, the pit has to knock off he shall only be entitled to his wages from that time; and that an agreed number of tubs and trams of coals should be recognised as the measure of work which shall be sent out of his stall working under normal conditions in propertion to the number of men working in each stall. There are many others. All these exemptions which have been granted by the Miners' Federation do not exist in those counties which are to-day working under a minimum wage. Why is it that the charge is made against the miner that he will malinger and not do a fair day's work? If you take the large mines in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire you will find many men have worked there for a minimum wage. Why should they not go in for having the general principle applied to the whole country? Miners seems to be regarded by the Press and possibly by some hon. Members opposite 2192 as a rat-catching, rabbit-coursing set of ruffians?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Why do you charge them with malingering and with not doing what is right as between man and man. You cannot have it both ways.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Wait and see. I want to deal briefly with the Bill. It has really not been dealt with by any one to-night. We have had a lecture from an hon. Member opposite on Socialism and Syndicalism, subjects which are absolutely remote from the question before the House, but if that hon. Member had applied himself to the Bill his remarks would have been more relevant than his address on anti-Socialist Unionism. No self respecting Government could take the terms of one party to this dispute and thrust them into this Bill. No civilised or self respecting Government could without investigation, owing to their enormous ramifications, take the terms the Labour leaders asked them to take and incorporate them in their Bill. Seeing that the Labour party insisted also on the schedules being attached to the Bill, I say they were asking what even a Socialist or a Labour Government could not do, namely, incorporate terms in an Act of Parliament without full investigation and without complete knowledge of the facts. What are the remedies that I propose? The miners ask that owing to the character of their calling, and to the reduction of their wages in consequence of the Eight Hours Act, which hon. Members opposite said would put 1s. 6d. a ton on the price of coal, but the loss on which has fallen on the miners, excepting perhaps in some mines in Lancashire and a few old mines, and the increased rents now being paid by the miners, amounting to 6s. or 8s. a week, and the increased cost in living, the men ask that they should be paid for their labour in this dangerous calling a decent wage commensurate with these things. Is that an unreasonable request? If that can be accomplished at a cost of 4d. a ton—and we must remember that during the last twenty years shilling after shilling advance has been made in the price of coal—is that going to injure and kill the trade of this country? Whenever the demand has been one-half per cent. 2193 greater than the supply, shilling after shilling has been placed on the coal by the coal owners, and when they say that the extra 4d. is going to injure the trade, I say it is perfectly ridiculous to argue that in connection with this highly protected trade.
My remedy is this: If a ten per cent. advance in wages was added to the wages on the best rate of all day men and surface-men, and in addition provision was made for meeting abnormal places and abnormal management—which means want of tubs, bad roads, and the like conditions—I believe the men in the United Kingdom would accept, without reservation, those terms. I told the Government they would not settle the matter without legislation because the root discontent in England, and largely in Wales, has been due to the men not participating in that great wealth which is produced—great wealth on the one hand and poverty on the other. There is a desire on the part of all right-minded men to bring nearer together the great millionaire—[Interruption]—I am a poor man.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Relatively, of course. If this crisis is not settled, where are we going to be? The reason I have put down a motion for the rejection of the Bill is this. The Bill is based on differentiation between district and district. I have always been opposed to differentiation, but I wish to ask whether these arbitrators when they come to settle these different rates will have regard to the day rate paid to the majority of the men in each district. If the Prime Minister can give any assurance whatever that the arbitrators would have regard to the existing rates which are being paid to the majority of men in any one county or association, my objection to the Bill would largely disappear, and, I believe, the objection of the men as well. As it is at present the wages that the men are to earn under the Bill may be lower than existing rates. Is it the object of either party in this national crisis that the wages of any of the men should be reduced? Does any one seriously suggest that 2s. a day for boys of fourteen years of age, many of whom get killed in mines, is an unreasonable rate? I ask the Prime Minister therefore to give his earnest and careful consideration to the acceptance of the 2s. and 5s. rate because that is a 2194 rate so low, so out of all proportion to the danger involved in this calling that I think the Government would do well without any hesitation to accept these two particular rates, and if he could add to that that the arbitrator shall have regard to the district rates paid to the majority of the men, that would, I think, overcome the whole difficulty.
I want to say two words to the workmen in conclusion. I have fought the battle of the miners in this House for many years past. At all events they do me the honour of returning me to the House with the largest majority in the United Kingdom. Parliament has given to these men engaged in this industry the right of combination, and particularly a privileged position in respect to their funds. Parliament has repealed the laws which made combinations illegal, and it has placed them in respect to those funds in a position that no organisation of masters or any other body of men ever enjoyed. But if these weapons which the State has forged are to be used against the State unreasonably, the nation must always come first before any section of the community, and if any triumph is gained by the men at the expense of the suffering and misery of the poorest section of the community, who are injured primarily by this dispute, the men who gain that triumph are gaining it in a way similar to this privileged class of landlords who used their privileged position to enforce unreasonable and unjust claims. Therefore, I trust that the miners will use, even at this late hour, sound common judgment and a measured reason. I believe that the great body of the miners of this country are God-fearing men. (Laughter.) Hon. Members laugh, but there is no man on these benches who can deny it. I have lived with these men and worked with them. I have been with these men when bringing up the dead bodies of those who have been killed, and a braver body of men—(Laughter). Hon. Members laugh who do not know the men. In spite of the cheap sneers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I say they are a God-fearing and brave body of men.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I desire to raise a point of order. The title of the Bill is as follows:A Bill to provide a minimum wage in the case of workmen employed underground in coal mines, and for purposes incidental thereto.2195 You will find in Clause 5 these words:In this Act—The expression 'coal mine' includes a mine of stratified ironstone.The point of order I wish to raise is this. A mine of stratified ironstone is outside of the scope of the title of the Bill, because the title only applies to coal mines. Therefore, the Bill goes beyond the title as expressed on the first page. I understand that the proper time to raise this objection is on the second reading, and I therefore submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Bill is out of order and cannot be read a second time because it goes beyond the title.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Perhaps the Prime Minister will be able to explain why the words to which the hon. Member has called attention are in the Bill.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, this is a limiting definition and not an extending one. Under the Coal Mines Act of 1911, coal mines were not limited to mines of coal, but included stratified ironstone, shale, and fire-clay. We have limited the definition under this Bill by omitting mines of shale and fire-clay.
May I ask whether a reference to another Act really defines what is a coal mine. I do not know whether it is relevant to the point of order, but if it is relevant, I may say without impropriety that not a single word has been said about ironstone mines in the whole course of the debate.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The definition "coal mine" is the statutory definition which has been given not only to a coal mine, but to mines of stratified ironstone, shale, and fire-clay. If we were to use the words "coal mine" without any limitation, the Bill would apply to all the other mines included in the definition given in the Coal Mines Act of 1911.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask whether the definition which the right hon. Gentleman has just cited is the same as the definition in this Bill because what we have to consider now is not the definition in another Act, but the definition which is in this Bill? Although the right hon. Gentleman says that if he did not put in 2196 this Bill the words he has put in "Coal mine" would mean something different from what it is supposed to mean, that could be dealt with by a definition in this Bill.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In the absence af a definition of coal mine in this Bill naturally it would be necessary to look for the definition of coal mine as contained in other statutes relating to coal mines. I think that, the explanation of the Prime Minister makes it clear.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
On a point of Order as to what is in fact a question of law, perhaps we might have the guidance of the Attorney-General. Assuming that coal mines are defined in another Act to include many things besides coal mines, is that definition incorporated in this Act by silence on the subject or would it not mean a special reference in this Bill to incorporate the previous definition embodied in the other Act?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
The definition of coal mine in the Act of 1911 is a definition which follows former statutes, and when we come to deal with this Bill if we had no definition of coal mine any court which would have to interpret the meaning of coal mine would naturally have to look to other statutes, if there were no definition at all in this particular statute. In this particular statute it is provided that the expression Coal mine includes any mine of stratified ironstone.
§ Sir ROBERT FINLAY
Does the Attorney-General tell the House that there is in the statute to which he has referred any provision that "coal mine" in future shall have the meaning to which he refers? My right hon. Friend has not said that. He has said nothing at all which is in the least relevant to the matter under discusion.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I understood from the Prime Minister that this was a limiting expression. The, words in the Bill are "the expression coal mine includes any mine of stratified ironstone," whereas according to what we have been told stratified ironstone would be included already. If it is a limiting definition, it ought to be rather by the exclusion of what is to be omitted than by the inclusion of a thing which naturally comes under the definition.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."2198
§ The House divided: Ayes, 348; Noes, 225.2201
|Division No. 48.]||AYES.||[12.0 m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Doris, W.||Jones, Lief Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)|
|Adamson, William||Duffy, William J.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Adkins, Sir w. Ryland D.||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Joyce, Michael|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Keating, Matthew|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Alden, Percy||Elverston, Sir Harold||Kelly, Edward|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Kemp, Sir George|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Esmonds, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Armitage, Robert||Essex, Richard Walter||Kilbride, Denis|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Esslemont, George Birnie||King, J.|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Falconer, J.||Lamb, Ernest Henry|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Farrell, James Patrick||Lambert, Rt. Hon G. (Devon, S.Molton)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Lansbury, George|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Ffrench, Peter||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Barnes, George N.||Field, William||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Fitzgibbon, John||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Barton, William||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||France, G. A.||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Furness, Stephen||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Lundon, T.|
|Bentham, G. J.||Gilhooly, James||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Gill, Alfred Henry||Lynch, A. A.|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)|
|Birrell, Rt. Han. Augustine||Glanville, Harold James||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Goldstone, Frank||Maclean, Donald|
|Boland, John Pius||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Greig, Col. J. W.||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Brace, William||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Griffith, Ellis Jones||M'Callum, John M.|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||McGhee, Richard|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Manfield, Harry|
|Bryce, John Annan||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Hackett, J.||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Hardie, J. Keir||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Cameron, Robert||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Martin, Joseph|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Meagher, Michael|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hayden, John Patrick||Middlebrook, William|
|Clough, William||Hayward, Evan||Millar, James Duncan|
|Clynes, John R.||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Molloy, M.|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, East)||Mond, Sir Alfred M.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Helme, Norval Watson||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Montague, Hon. E. S.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Mooney, J. J.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Higham, John Sharp||Worrell, Philip|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Hinds, John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Crean, Eugene||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Muldoon, John|
|Crumley, Patrick||Hedge, John||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon R. C.|
|Cullinan, John||Hogge, James Myles||Munro, Robert|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Holt, Richard Durning||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Neilson, Francis|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Hudson, Walter||Nolan, Joseph|
|Dawes, J. A.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Norman, Sir Henry|
|De Forest, Baron||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Norton, Capt. Cecil W.|
|Delany, William||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Devlin, Joseph||John, Edward Thomas||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Johnson, W.||O'Brien, William (Cork)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Dillon, John||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|O'Donnell, Thomas||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|O'Dowd, John||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Ogden, Fred||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|O'Grady, James||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Wadsworth, John|
|O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|O'Malley, William||Roe, Sir Thomas||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Rose, Sir Charles Day||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Rowlands, James||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|O'Sullivan, Timothy||Rowntree, Arnold||Wardle, G. J.|
|Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Waring, Walter|
|Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Warner, Sir Thomas Couretnay|
|Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Samuel, S. M. (Whitchapel)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Scanlan, Thomas||Webb, H.|
|Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Pollard, Sir George H.||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Sheehy, David||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Sherwell, Arthur James||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir T. P.|
|Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Shortt, Edward||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook||Wiles, Thomas|
|Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Smith, Albert (Lancs, Clitheroe)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Primrose, Hon. Neil James||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Snowden, Philip||Williams. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Radford, G. H.||Spicer, Sir Albert||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Raffan, Peter William||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Sutherland, John E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Reddy, M.||Sutton, John E.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Swift, Rigby||Winfrey, Richard|
|Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Richards, Thomas||Tennant, Harold John||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cecil, Evelyn, (Aston Manor)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Goulding, E. A.|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Mitchin)||Grant, James Augustus|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Greene, Walter Raymond|
|Anstruther-Gray, Mayor William||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Gretton, John|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Clyde, James Avon||Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S. Edmunds)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Cory, Sir Clifford John||Haddock, Geeorge Bahr|
|Baird, J. L.||Courthope, George Loyd||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)|
|Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.)||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hamersley, A. St. George|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Craik, Sir Henry||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cripps, Sir C. A.||Harris, Henry Percy|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Croft, Henry Page||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.|
|Barnston, H.||Dalrymple, Viscount||Helmsley, Viscount|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Denniss, E. R. B.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.>|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Dixon, C. H.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Doughty, Sir George||Hickman, Col Thomas E.|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Duke, Henry Edward||Hill, Sir Clement L.|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Hill-Wood, Samuel|
|Bigland, Alfred||Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney|
|Bird, Alfred||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Hohler, G. F.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Falle, Bertram Godfray||Hope, Harry (Bute)|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Fell, Arthur||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Boyton, James||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Horne, W. E (Surrey, Guildford)|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Hunt, Rowland|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath)|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Fleming, Valentine||Ingleby, Holcombe|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Fletcher, John Samuel||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Campbell, Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Forster, Henry William||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin, Univ.)||Foster, Philip Staveley||Joynson-Hicks, William|
|Campion, W. R.||Gardner, Ernest||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Kerry, Earl of|
|Cassell, Felix||Gibbs, George Abraham||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gilmour, Captain John||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford|
|Cator, John||Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K.||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Cautley, H. S.||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Cave, George||Goldsmith, Frank||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Lewisham, Viscount||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Lloyd, George Ambrose||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Perkins, Walter Frank||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Lowe, Sir F. W. (Edgbaston)||Peto, Basil Edward||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo., Han.S.)||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Touche, George Alexander|
|MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Pretyman, Ernest George||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Macmaster, Donald||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||Valentia, Viscount|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Ratcliff, R. F.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Malcolm, Ian||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Ward, Arnold S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Remnant, James Farquharson||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Williams, Col R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Ronaldshay, Earl of||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Royds, Edmund||Winterton, Earl|
|Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Sanderson, Lancelot||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Neville, Reginald J. N.||Sandys, G. J.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Newdegate, F. A.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Newman, John R. P.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Newton, Harry Kottingham||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Spear, Sir John||Younger, Sir George|
|Nield, Herbert||Stanier, Beville|
|Norton-Griffiths, J.||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Sanders.|
|O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
Resolutions agreed to.