§ (1) If any alien attempts or does any act calculated or likely to cause sedition or disaffection amongst any of His Majesty's Forces or the forces of His Majesty's Allies, or amongst the civilian population, he shall be liable on conviction on indictment to penal servitude for a term not exceeding ten years, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
§ (2) If any alien promotes or attempts to promote industrial unrest in any industry in which he is not bonâ fide engaged in the United King- 153 dom, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out the words "or amongst the civil population."
At the present time this Clause may be read so as to make it impossible for any person of well-known Socialistic politics in any of the countries of Europe or America to remain on these shores without grave danger to himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Evidently, in the opinion of some hon. Members, we are to reverse the policy of Britain which has carried us on for three hundred years. After the Revolution of 1848 M. Blanc, who was a refugee from France, and who was connected with the '48 Revolution, sat in Hyde Park one day, so the story goes, and saw the fine equipages driving up and down the Row, and next to him was a down-and-out tramp, eating chipped potatoes. M. Blanc said to him, "Look at ze equipages, and ze fine horses, and ze fat coachman driving ze fat women!Does it not make your blood boil?" The tramp turned round and said, "You're a foreigner, ain't you? You don't see horses like them in Paris." What would happen to M. Blanc if he were to come to England to-day and to make such comments to a down-and-out tramp in Hyde Park? If those remarks were overheard by a policeman he might be run in for attempting "to cause sedition or disaffection amongst the civilian population." It is obvious that any foreigner might say something which was calculated to show that he had a certain contempt for the present Coalition Government. I have heard such things said by foreigners within the last six months. Of course, we all stick up for our Government in these circumstances; but if that sort of thing goes on, and in the National Liberal Club it was overheard, it might mean six months' imprisonment. If you had a Socialist Conference over here, attended by all the Internationals, every man who came to that conference would render himself liable over and over again to be run in on this charge. Let us remember that England in the past was the one country which maintained the right of asylum and the right of free speech, and here you are in a moment of panic passing an Act which makes every speech by a Socialist foreigner impossible or dangerous in this country. In doing that you are 154 travelling rapidly in the wrong direction. I hope this Amendment will be accepted, at any rate by a considerable number of Members. It is hardly possible that the, Home Office will go so far as to accept it under their present leadership.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I hope that this Amendment will not be pressed. I do not think that it is quite seriously meant. I can quite understand the peculiar nature of the hop and gallant Gentleman's speech, but no proposal of this character was ever taken in the way lie says. I am quite sure that no foreigner, whether Socialist or Conservative or whatever he may be, is likely to stir up disaffection in this country in the way that has been mentioned. The ordinary preaching of political doctrine is not the spreading of sedition. Nobody knows that better than the hon. and gallant Gentleman. This provision aims at people who come over here to make mischief from their own selfish political purposes in their own country. We do not want that. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, having indulged in his gibes at the Government will let us have his prognostications of what is going to happen to decent respectable people who talk politics—which he knows are all wrong—will not press this Amendment.
Mr. J. JONES
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really means what he says? What is an alien? If we are going to conduct propaganda what is going to be said against the number of men in this country who are associated with the trade union movement and who cannot prove that they are Englishmen? Some of you would have difficulty in proving your nationality. During the railway strike all sorts of people volunteered. Why did they not keep on volunteering and take advantage of the opportunity of earning an honest living for the rest of their lives But they have not done so, which proves to me that they are parasites. They have got time on their hands, but they will not do anything else but pretend to work for everybody else who is out of work. But in this case what is an alien? I happen to be an alien. I am an Irishman. I remember the time when "no Irish need apply" was posted outside the factory gates, and consequently, according to the new philosophy laid down in this 155 Act, a man who is suspicious from the standpoint of those who consider themselves in authority is not allowed to work. I am a trade unionist, but as a trade unionist I believe that no non-unionist ought to be allowed to exist, and the people who tell me this are doctors and lawyers. They are not trade unionists, but they are the best trade unionists I ever knew. I want to know what is meant by the Clause you are now putting into the Bill? Does it mean that no workman because of his nationality is allowed to land in this country and is not allowed to take part in any propaganda in this country? There is a number of men who are Germans by descent. Are they going to be debarred from taking part in trade union propaganda? If so I shall object to Princess Mary coming down to open bazaars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order !"] I shall say no more, but if the descent of people is going to be taken into consideration before they are to take part in public work, then you shall go to the highest in the land and demand the inspection of a certificate for the purpose of proving that they are British. I object to this Clause, and I ask all our Friends in this House to protest against it.
Mr. T. WILSON
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
I moved a similar resolution in Committee. The omission of the Sub-section would be in the best interests of the Bill. The Sub-section states thatIf any alien promotes or attempts to pro--mote industrial unrest in any industry in which he is not bonâ fide engaged in the United Kingdom, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.That means that a Pole who is a member of the Miners' Federation can say what he likes in connection with the mining industry, but if he says the same from the platform of a meeting of railway servants or of any other industry he is liable to prosecution under this Act. It means that -or it means nothing. The same thing would apply to a Swiss painter or an Italian barber who is a member of a British trade union. He could say what he liked at a meeting of his own members, but if he said the same thing at a meeting of, say, the engineers, he is liable to prosecution. A man may say what he likes In his own union, but he cannot say it in 156 Hyde Park, or on Parliament Hill, or in Stevenson Square, Manchester. That is an anomaly. I appeal to the Home Secretary to give the matter sympathetic consideration. The omission of the Clause would be in the best interests of the State and the community, and it would tend to allay industrial unrest.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I beg to second the Amendment.
In America to-day you have Labour representatives from practically all the Allies attempting to frame a Labour charter. If a Clause like this became law, what would Samuel Gompers think of the British House of Commons? We will assume, for the moment, that there is an agitation in progress for the nationalisation of mines. Our leaders here would be going about the country educating the miners. Gompers might come here and deliver practically the same speech as our miners' leaders, though in slightly different language. Under this Clause here he is liable to be sent to prison for three months. That may happen if he uses different language or if he uses the same language; and the Home Office can interpret anything to suit their own convenience. You may have the same thing happen in the case of a Frenchman or in other instances. I am certain from the experience of trade union leaders that language is very often used where people do not think of the meaning of what they say and they make mistakes. You may have a Jew tailor in the East End who perhaps uses some language he does not understand. We know that very often they use words they do not understand, and simply because they do so you are going to send them to prison for three months. Mr. Asquith pointed out to Lord French when you make a mistake it is a misfortune, but under this Clause it is made a crime. I hope the Home Secretary will have the Clause deleted in the interests not only of the trade union movement here but also among the Allies and all the peoples of the world.
§ Mr. SHORTT
This Sub-clause is really a most important Sub-clause, and is essential to the Bill, and the attack upon it, judging from the speeches to which we have just listened, is based upon a most inaccurate reading of the Sub-clause and a whole misunderstanding of it. This Clause provides especially that an alien who is charged with stirring 157 up industrial unrest can only be so charged if he is doing it in an industry in which he is not bonâ fide engaged, so that in the case mentioned of the Jew tailor Who is filled with industrial disturbance and makes a speech, not in his own language, and in which he may mis-express himself, he would not be touched by this proposal. My hon. Friend made the most astonishing statement that the Home Office could twist things as they liked, and he apparently included the judges and magistrates who try the case, because after all the emissaries of the Home Office can only prosecute and make the charge. It is the judge who convicts and not the Home Office. Therefore, if there is any possible defence to the action the judge acquits the man. You may get in this country a Pole or an American or anybody else who has come to reside in this country and who is part of the industrial life of the country and who has become a person of repute in the trade union movement, and he may be called on to take part in a dispute in a trade not his own because -of his position in the trade union movement. That may very well be so. But why does he not get naturalized. Why if he wants to take such a leading part in English industry, does he not get naturalised?
Mr. T. WILSON
Why should he be prosecuted because he is not naturalised if he would not be prosecuted for making the same speech if he were naturalised?
§ Mr. SHORTT
For this reason. You must consider what is the mischief aimed at. We know perfectly well that there are aliens, more especially coming from the enemy alien countries, whose object would be to come here and stir up industrial unrest for their own home purposes. If we allowed any aliens that chose to come here and take part in stirring up unrest and strikes in which they had no real concern, it would be a most valuable thing for our trade competitors and for those who want us to have nothing but disturbances and unrest in this country, and it would be an invaluable instrument in the hands of our enemies. That is the mischief aimed at, and when you are aiming at a mischief by an Act of Parliament you are bound to hit some people, or you may hit some people who are innocent, but in this case you need not hit a single innocent person. The remedy is in their own hands; they can become naturalised, and they do not 158 come under this Clause. If they do not become naturalised, they must stick to the industry in which they are ordinarily engaged. The mischief is a real mischief; it is one that must be dealt with, and we have attempted to deal with it and to put in safeguards for those aliens who arc bonâ fide parts of the industrial life of this country and are merely taking their ordinary place as trade unionists in their own trade union, but if there is any alien who is of such repute, as I have said before, in trade union circles that they want to use him for general trade union purposes, let him become naturalised, and then he will not come under this provision at all.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The Home Secretary has stated that this Sub-section hits at some position which is present to the public mind at the moment. What we have to do, and I say it with all respect to him and to the House, when we are passing legislation is not merely to consider the passing moment or the immediate problem, but the fact that this goes on the Statute Book and will necessarily cover many other circumstances which are not present at the moment in the mind of the Home Secretary or of anybody else. It is just as well that we should know, so far as we can, what this must really be held to cover. What are the words that the House has already passed to cover the case of the alien being in this country and doing acts or taking part in operations which are calculated to be of damage to the peace of his Sovereign Majesty the King? Sub-clause (1) of Clause 3 says already:If any alien attempts or does any act calculated or likely to cause sedition or disaffection amongst any of His Majesty's Forces or the forces of His Majesty's Allies, or amongst the civilian population, he shall be liable, etc.The House has already consented to that. Take Sub-section (2) and see what that means. If words mean anything, so far as I know anything of the construing of plain words—and these are plain words—they mean this: There is industrial unrest in this country at the present moment. It might be at any time, as we know, accentuated by a strike. There may be—there certainly will be—international conferences of Labour delegates from friendly countries sitting in London or in other parts of the United Kingdom, and quite naturally the question of the immediate unrest, which is exciting the populace at the moment and taking up a large portion 159 of the public industrial mind, will be present to such a conference as that. You may have there Mr. Samuel Gompers; you may have one of the leaders of the French Labour Conference, or the Belgian Labour Conference, or the Italian Labour Conference, or any of our Allies and our friends. If these words mean anything at all, they mean that if the words of any one of those gentlemen, representative of the friendly countries, and, indeed, of a friendly international development of the well-being of cosmopolitan labour, in the opinion of the magistrate sitting in a particular town, promote or attempt to promote industrial unrest in any industry in which that gentleman is not bonâ fide engaged—does the Home Secretary really mean that he wishes to protect the country against that kind of thing?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Industrial unrest does not necessorily mean a strike. It might mean threatening a strike or all sorts of things. Does anybody say there is not industrial unrest rampant in the country to-day? I want to urge on the House to be more careful of the kind of legislation it is passing, and to be sure that when we are passing these words we are not handing on an instrument which might only be used for purposes which are not present to the minds of His Majesty's Ministers at the present time, but might lead to very serious international complications. I do not think the arguments of my hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Amendment are to be dismissed so lightly as the Home Secretary thinks. He will believe me, I am sure, when I say that I take no mere narrow view of this. I am looking far beyond the conditions which the Home Secretary and the Government apparently have got in mind, and I beg them very seriously to consider whether they really mean to press this Sub-section in view of the arguments, which I think were of very considerable weight, advanced by hon. Members, without some further consideration. If they do, I shall most certainly vote for the deletion of the Sub-section
§ Mr. SHORTT
Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that, supposing there is a dispute in an industry in this country between masters and men for example, Mr. Samuel Gompers would either dream of coming and interfering, 160 or ought to be allowed to come and interfere? And what would happen in America if there were a dispute there, and either of my hon. Friends went there and tried to interfere?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
With the permission of the House I will reply to the point put to me by the Home Secretary. These words are very wide words. Just let me read them:Promote or attempts to promote.There are a large number of hon. Members of this House proceeding to Washington to engage in an International Conference, and they will be sitting here again. The danger is that you will put into the hand of the executive of the day a power which the country never intended to give the executive over a friendly visitor—never! I say the point which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me in no way affects my position.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Home Secretary made great play with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Pontypool that the Home Office officials might twist cases in a sense adverse to justice and to the right of those concerned. I do not really think that the hon. Member for Pontypool has overstated the case, because the immediate result of this suggestion has already been seen in the East End of London. I understand that there are numerous officials of Jewish trade unions in the East End, most of which unions are affiliated with the local trade and labour councils, and these officials are already resigning their posts as secretaries, and from the trade and labour councils because they are afraid that, by being on the trade and labour council, they may involve themselves in a charge of promoting or attempting to promote industrial unrest. Of course the trade and labour councils are connected with any trade dispute, and if aliens either sit on the board, or are connected with the trade union represented there, they may be brought within the purview of this Act. I do not for a moment say that the Home Office will do as is suggested, but that it might do it is the fear that is causing these people to resign their positions. This point has not hitherto been considered at all. Any alien will, so far as I can see, have to clear out of any union associated with the trade and labour council. This is even more apparent in the case of an alien miner, for he is 161 thereby debarred supporting either of the three members of Triple Alliance. Any action he may take to support the miners in a strike or a threatened strike would, or might, apply quite well to the other two—the railway workers and the transport workers. There it would be inciting industrial unrest amongst the other unions. In view of the enormous amalgamation of unions at the present time, it is very difficult to say whether the man is inciting industrial unrest in his own or in a trade with which he is not concerned. The amalgamation of the unions, or the union of trade and labour councils, would appear certainly to bring the man within the scope of this Act, or at least to suggest such a danger that those of whom I have spoken believe they are wise in clearing out of any responsible position in the union, or any work connected with industrial organisation at all. A Clause like this would appear to make it all the more desirable that there should be some sort of stipulation in the Bill that an alien does not include a citizen of the United States. It would be really lamentable that by passing legislation like this—which, I think, is panic legislation—that we should make international relations between ourselves and America worse than at present. Would it not be possible even now when the Government are recommitting this Bill in view of Clauses like this to recommit it also with the instruction to expressly exclude Americans from the status of aliens within the meaning of the Act? Think what it will mean? There are all sorts of extremely advanced Labour men in the States. S. Gompers I look upon as somewhat Conservative. [An HON. MEMBER: "Trotsky!"] Let the House realise that a speech from Trotsky is likely to do the party for which lie speaks much good in this country !
There are all sorts of people like that in America who if they come over here might make speeches in connection with some strike, and they would only be too likely to jump up if they were likely to be imprisoned here in order to get kudos out of it. We shall have trouble of that sort. What happens if we go over to America? If I went over to America I might be tempted to have an interview or say something about the strike in the steel works at Carnegie's works—
§ Mr. STANTON
I have not had dinner. Sonic of us cannot afford dinner as well as you can. I ask the hon. Member to withdraw that remark.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member appeals on a point of Order, he should set a good example by keeping order himself.
§ Mr. STANTON
I did not start the business. It was the hon. and gallant Gentleman who made the statement.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The point I was trying to make is that if we pass this legislation it applies to America, and I think we should be very likely to have reciprocal legislation over there which would apply to English people. You might have serious international incidents over a measure such as this. We have had trouble before from statements made by British Ambassadors in America. Once you imprison people who like it for the advertisement, they will take advantage of this legislation, and I hope it may be possible in the first instance to make it quite clear that trade and labour councils are exempt, and that membership of those councils does not bring an alien within the ambit of this Bill. Secondly, so far as American citizens are concerned they should not be considered as aliens under this measure, and the cementing of English and French relations might very well begin by an Aliens Bill exempting them from its provisions.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
This proposal is undoubtedly broad in its scope, and I am not at all moved by the suggestion which has been made. There are three circumstances in which a prosecution might take place. I do not think it will be doubted that if an alien came into this country and attempted to promote unrest in an industry in which he was not bonâ fide engaged he would be liable under this Clause to prosecution. I do not object to it, but I say that it is one of the results of the Clause. Therefore, you have to 163 contemplate that the Clause will so apply, and also have to contemplate the effect of it so applying.
The next is this, suppose an alien in this country promotes or attempts to promote an industrial dispute in any occupation in which he is not bonâ fide engaged, he is liable to prosecution, and probably deservedly so. Then, as was pointed out, au alien in this country may promote any amount of industrial dispute in any industry in which he himself is engaged without being liable to prosecution. You therefore have these three different categories, in two of which the man is liable to prosecution and in one of which he is not. There does certainly seem to be some inconsistency in saying that a man may make any amount of trouble in the particular industry in which he is bonâ fide engaged as an alien but that if lie steps across the road to discuss a matter of a similar character in another industry in which he is not bonâ fide occupied he is to be liable to prosecution.
§ Mr. STANTON
I have listened quite the biggest part of the evening to several speeches by my hon. Friends, who soon shouted out when I raised my voice. I have listened to all sorts of things, and I think I have the right to say, having been a Labour man all my life, and having in no instance betrayed my fellow-workers, that I protest in the most vigorous way against statements made in this House in the sacred name of Labour, real Labour. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) talks very knowingly about the trades and labour councils. I wonder how much he really knows of that movement! The trades and labour councils originally were a very healthy, progressive movement, but I declare here that now they are used as an instrument for the very sort of person with whom this Clause is supposed to deal. We have had many foreigners at Merthyr Tydvil. Some German came down there, and he was welcomed with open arms. Somebody was holding out great hopes for the future and preaching national brotherhood. At the same time this German was spying. We discovered that the man who was addressed as Brother So-and-so, and who was addressing the Trades and Labour Council, was really a German spy. The evidence of that has been submitted for the local police to consider. I know 164 much better than the hon. Member for Lincolnshire—you know who I mean—what it really means. I am as friendly disposed as ever to all that is progressive and honest in the trades and labour councils, but I do say that the Clause is one worthy of consideration. We know very well that voices are raised on that side of the House really to re-echo, so that somebody in the Gallery representing the Bolshevist section may report to their meeting. They dare not speak the truth. You arc enslaved by the Bolsheviks in this country. Ramsay Macdonald, Snowden, and the others who have been turned out of this House are now holding their fingers up and you dare not kick. Sonic of you do not get up to speak. Do you know why? Your conscience dictates such conduct to you. Others feel that they had better speak or it may mean damnation to them at the next Trade Union Congress or sonic other meeting. Therefore I say you should not pay attention to that side of the question. It is only re-echoing the voice of the Bolshevik movement outside that has dominated the movement for direct action, and while pretending really that they are out to help labour and bring about better conditions they are playing into the hands of the enemies of this country and betraying its best interests. You may jeer and sneer, but I have been straight in my work in the Labour movement. In my time I was a rebel but I was never a Bolshevik, and I repeat you are betraying your consciences in order to keep your jobs.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I have been thinking while my hon. Friend (Mr. Stanton) was speaking of a little trip we took together nearly twenty years ago into Germany.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Yes; and we saw there in operation the kind of legislation that is proposed in this Clause. One of the delegates had addressed that congress. He was not a German, he was an alien. The hon. Member for Aberdare and myself were both aliens. We dared not in that country have expressed ourselves in language which we would have used in this country. One of the delegates had addressed that congress, and when we got back in the afternoon after luncheon we were told that his speech was not to be interpreted and that the person who had delivered it 165 had been conducted across the [...] I asked our interpreter what he h[...] been saying, and he said it was a most innocent inoffensive sort of speech but it was a speech which had been barred by legislation of the kind proposed to-night. I am sure my hon Friend opposite would not support legislation if he believed that at a Miners' International Congress in this country a Belgian or a Frenchman might not only be conducted across the frontier but even imprisoned for three months for making a speech which he or I might be entitled to make, and which it would be perfectly legal for me to make. Yet that is the position in which as I understand this Clause an International Miners' Congress would be placed in this country—if that is the correct interpretation of it—of course if the Home Secretary or any other lawyers on that bench say it is not—well, of course, they know better than I. But I think it is a very dangerous precedent to embody in legislation in this country, 166 and I hope that in response to the appeals which have been made the Clause will be deleted from the Bill.
It being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of this day, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Adjourned accordingly at Two minutes after Eleven o'clock.