HC Deb 18 August 1919 vol 119 cc1993-4

Labour demands an understanding as to the future, and, I think, the nation must come to an understanding with Labour. What Labour says is—I have made a good deal of direct inquiry from those who are in a position to know—"We realise all that you tell us about production. We are not holding up society. We do not believe in direct action"—I believe that is true of the vast majority of the working classes—"but we are as human as anybody else, and we do not work well, any more than does anybody else, unless we work with a will; and we cannot work with a will unless the conditions of our work are fair and satisfactory." The advice I give to all those who are concerned in the future of British industry— and we all are—is to look that statement honestly and fearlessly in the face, to examine it and see what there is in it. We must examine it in no spirit of challenge, in no spirit of resentment, but in a spirit of justice and fair-play, and, I may say, in the new spirit of comradeship which has been created by the War—that spirit of comradeship which arose from a common sacrifice. Let us examine the claims, the grievances, and the complaints of Labour, not merely anew, but in a new spirit. Until that be done, and until a satisfactory answer be given, I do not believe we shall get a real answer to the problem of production. I make the appeal, not merely to Employers, but to Labour. I ask the employers to examine the claims of Labour in that new spirit, but I ask Labour to press their claims in the same spirit. Then, I think, an understanding will be arrived at. Let us demonstrate to the world once more that Britain, beyond all lands, has the traditional power of reaching a solution of her most baffling problems, without resort to anarchy, but by appeal to the common sense of most, and in a spirit of fair-play.