§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill embodies one of the most sacred elements in democratic Government—the secrecy of the ballot. But before I address myself to the Bill, I should like to say on my own behalf, and on behalf of those who think with me, there is nothing in this Bill which must be interpreted as in any way unfriendly towards Labour. We hope that our friends on the Labour benches will not misinterpret—innocently I am sure it would be—anything that I or anyone else who may support me will say, because it would not be in accord with facts or our intention to suppose that we wish to do anything that may be considered in the slightest degree hostile or unfriendly towards trade unionism as a whole. We regard trade unionism as a valuable, desirable, and an integral part of our industrial life, and I, and others who think with me, desire to make its machinery as perfect as possible. We know, although perhaps there will be some who do not believe the statement, that trade unionism in this country has been an organisation which has conferred great benefits on the working classes and on the nation as a whole, and for that reason I wish, before I address myself to the Bill, to say that the Bill has been constructed in the interests of the whole community and more particularly in the interests of trade unionism itself. [HON. MEMBERS:"Hear, hear!"] That cheer may seem ironical. It may or may not be. I have yet to know what logical argument those who represent the real, level-headed Labour —the backbone of Labour—can produce against this Bill.
It may, perhaps, suit the convenience of the House if I run through the principal provisions of the Bill. First, we call itA Bill to provide that when a ballot of trade union members is taken on questions relating to strikes it shall be conducted by independent public officials and under a system of secrecy.Before this Bill was published I noticed that one Labour Member is reported in 730 the Press to have said that Labour is totally against independent public officials and the importation of bureaucratic rule into the machinery of the Government of this country, private or public. I shall show in Clause 3 that these officials, who will be independent under the Ballot Act, 1872, are no more than existing trade union officials themselves,: and that no one is taken in from outside. There is, therefore, no logical reason for finding fault with the Bill because bureaucrats are brought in. They are not brought in. The first two lines of Clause 1 contain the whole root of the matter:—In order to facilitate the taking of a true and secret vote of the members of a. trade union,—trade union is defined under the Trade. Unions Acts, 1871 to 1913—on any question relating to a proposal to stop work or arising out of a stoppage of work, a trade union mayI hope the House will note the word "may." That does away with all ground for condemnation on the assumption that it is a compulsory Bill. Some people say it is a permissive Bill, and therefore it has no value. It cannot be both compulsory and permissive at the same time. The moon is either made of green cheese or it is not. The Bill cannot be of both natures.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The permissiveness contained in this Bill existed, it is true, before the Bill was brought before the House, but I ask my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches why they have not put the provision for secrecy, which already exists, into operation. They have in the past—quite rightly, I think—struggled hard to win the secrecy of the ballot in Parliamentary elections. Here is a matter which they may call domestic, and I agree it is domestic. I agree that the internal working of trade unions is a domestic affair so far as taking a ballot is concerned, and for that reason we have used the word "may." There can be no ground for using the word "shall." On the other hand, I venture to say—and I think no one will contradict me—that the true vote of trade unionists is not a domestic affair when a strike is hovering over the country, when we all may be faced with misery and a blow may be 731 aimed at the country's vital interests and existence even.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
That is an equally regrettable and undesirable thing. But, as I say, the imminence of a strike is not a domestic affair, and I think the House and country have a right to do what they can to perfect machinery so that, as far as possible, more power may be given to the staid and quieter-minded men in trade unionism to have an opportunity of expressing their opinion with greater ease than they have at present. I wish, therefore, to emphasise the point here and now that the word "may" must strike away the argument from the feet of those who put forward the objection that the Bill is compulsory, and thus prove there is no interference whatever intended. Therefore, any argument based on the assertion that compulsion is intended will not hold water for a moment.
In Clause 2 we say that a ballot shall be conducted under the supervision of a committee, and this committee shall make and issue rules before putting into operation the desire of a trade union to have a secret ballot. Clause 3 sets out the composition of the trade union ballot regulation committee, which is to be composed of a majority of trade union leaders. There are four of them—the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour party, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, the secretary of the Parliamentary Labour party and one other person appointed by the Trade Union Congress at its annual general meeting. Those four members are purely domestic officials, part and parcel of the trade union movement. We put them in particularly to prove to the minds of those who represent labour that there is not any desire on our part to do anything but leave the conduct of their own domestic affairs in the hands of their own leaders. The President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour are public officials, and make two more. Then we have the Registrar of Friendly Societies, who is to be Chairman. That dons not in any way offend what has gone before. Of these seven members of that Committee we have four officials who are members of the Labour party. We have—I would draw attention to this—an 732 independent gentleman, the Registrar of Friendly Societies. Section (4) of the Trade Union Act of 1913 provides for a similar secret ballot under the rules of any union under this Registrar. So that we have already a precedent in the Act of 1913 for this secret ballot, and also for the position of the Registrar of Friendly Societies The function of the Trade Union Ballot Regulation Committee when constituted shall beThe general superintendence of all ballots taken under this Act with the object—mark well!—of securing a true and secret vote of the persons entitled to vote on the questions submitted to the ballot.What the country wants, and what I say that the country is entitled to have, is machinery which will ensure every one who is a member of a trade union being able to give a true and a secret vote without interference or without any question being raised as to his private opinions in trade union policy when strikes and similar unhappy possibilities are under consideration. Clause 4 is the usual Money Clause. I say here that the expenses connected with the Act are not likely to run to very much—
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Well, I am of opinion that we will not have any charges made here on the ground of extravagance. What is more. I am perhaps too young a Member of the House to give an opinion, and I am probably wrong, but I do hold the opinion that the expenditure will be very small It is only because the rules of drafting must be observed that I have put in this clause. As a matter of fact I think any expenditure will come under Section (4) of the Trade Union Act of 1913 where machinery to do similar work has already been set up. As I say it is merely to be in order that those associated with this Bill have put in this money clause. But, whatever the expense, is not Peace desirable at almost any price and especially in matters where brothers are concerned? Trade Union strikes are war on ourselves and not on strangers. Clause 5 deals with penalties for offences for officials and people who intimidate or threaten or destroy ballot papers or fraudulently make use of ballot papers, or envelopes, or other document issued for the purposes of a 733 ballot to be taken under this Bill. And, as a matter of fact, anything that would contravene the Ballot Act of 1872, under which we all vote at Parliamentary and municipal elections.
Clause 6 provides for the secrecy of the ballot being maintained. Under it no one shall communicate any information to any other person showing how any member has voted. Knowing what charges are made from time to time in this connection, it is of the utmost importance that every precaution should be taken that every officer, clerk, agent, or other person engaged in the taking of a ballot under this Bill—or concerned directly or indirectly with the distribution, collection and transmission of ballot papers, shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of the ballot.Hon Members have a right to know what that machinery means and what it leads to It means that we provide by this clause that any such persons as those to whom I have referred, shall not communicate any information as to how a member has voted. Clause 7 is, I think, a very important Clause, because it provides that if the trade union as a whole does not ask for a secret ballot upon a strike or any other important matter, that it will lie within the power of the district, or branch, or other section of the members of that particular trade union to ask that the Bill shall be put into operation. Therefore, to sum up, the Bill and its purpose, before I come to the Schedules, appear to me, and I submit that to the judgment of the House, to provide trade unions with machinery of organisation by law to enable them, themselves, to make their ballot secret for their union either in whole or in part. That is the substance of the Bill which is a permissive Bill, it gives trade unionists themselves inducement to put into operation if they wish that which is, I believe, ardently desired by tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of trade unionists.
The First Schedule provides that when notice from a trade union as defined in Clause 1 of this Bill—either the whole trade union or the branch or district—is given that they have decided to take a vote by secret ballot, the committee of the seven gentlemen whose names I have read out, the majority of whom are trade union representatives, shall be communicated with, and this committee shall make 734 all the arrangements for the secret ballot without reference to the question or questions to be voted on by the members of the trade union Those who desire to see this Bill passed do not want in the slightest degree to interfere with the domestic questions of the trade unions. It is not the business of the committee to inquire or consider what is the question to be voted upon, and I desire to impress that upon hon. Members who are considering the reason for this Clause All the committee have to do with is the machinery of the ballot, not the merits or demerits of the question at issue. Paragraph (2) of the Schedule says:The Committee shall, subject to the provisions herein contained, decide the most convenient arrangements for the prompt and efficient distribution of the ballot papers …which shall be issued for distribution not later than seven days after the receipt of notice from the trade union of the intention to take a ballot, so that the day and hour when the ballot will close shall not be less than seven or more than 14 days after the issue of the ballot papers.The next paragraph says:"(3) The trade unions shall, at the same time as they give notice of intention to take a ballot under this Act, furnish to the Committee the question or questions on which they decided that a ballot shall be taken …What we mean by that is this, that we do not want, so to speak, to mix four pounds of butter up with 4 o'clock. We do not want a ballot paper to be issued with four different questions all diametrically opposed, or probably mutually exclusive. We do not want four questions to be ballotted upon, "Yes" or "No," as if they were indivisible, but each one to be taken upon its merits. I will deal with this later in a few remarks which I will ask the House to allow me to address to it I think, however, this is a very important point in the Bill, and I hope those who follow me and support the Bill will direct their remarks particularly to it. Note what is said in Paragraph (3)When more than one question is to be decided by the ballot, the ballot paper shall be so prepared that a distinct and separate answer may be given to each question and so that the total number of votes in favour of or against each such question may be ascertained when the ballot papers have been returned and counted.Paragraph (4) is another very important one which we have designed as strongly as we can, and we who support this Bill invite the assistance of those on 735 the Labour Benches here to give us their assistance in Committee so that any improvement gathered from their experience shall be put into the wording. We make the Clause operate in this way:(4) When a trade union give notice to the Committee of their intention to take a ballot under this Act, the general secretary or other chief officer of the trade union shall supply to the Committee a list of the district or branch secretaries, or other responsible officers, of the trade union who will act as returning officers.That means that the "independent" public officials as mentioned in the title will be these returning officers who will be trade union officials
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The public funds It comes on the Ministry of Labour Vote. The amount may ultimately be a public charge of some magnitude, but I do not think that that charge at the earlier period can be more than an extremely small one But consider the cost as com pared with the infinitely larger cost of a strike to the community The point I have to make here is this: that the gentlemen who are district or branch secretaries are the responsible officials of the trade unions, and will be the returning officers, and they, as such, will be sworn to secrecy under the Ballot Act of 1872. To that extent they will be independent public officials. They will not be people taken in from outside. They will be branch secretaries and trade union officials, and there will be no interference whatever from outside. Paragraph (5) provides that every officer so nominated becomes a returning officer for the purpose of the ballot, and he performs these functions as a returning officer appointed under the Ballot Act of 1872, such as we know in relation to parliamentary and municipal elections. I wish to draw particular attention to the phrase "independent public officials" as set forth in the Bill. We are perfectly willing, anxious and wishful to entrust the machinery of this Bill to the secretaries and branch secretaries who know their business, and we want to arrange the machinery so that they may give effect to these secret ballots. In paragraph (7) it is provided thatThe Committee shall print the ballot papers, and shall issue to each returning officer at his address before mentioned the number of ballot papers for the district or 736 branch for which such returning officer is responsible, and the Committee shall furnish with each ballot paper an envelope addressed to their Secretary at the office of the Committee.This gives every opportunity of voting secretly to the supine trade unionist or to the voters who are rather timid or fear intimidation or who object to disclosing their opinions, and it gives an opportunity to a greater body of trade union members to record in greater numbers their wishes upon matters connected with a strike All the voter has to do is to put the ballot paper in the envelope, mark it at his convenience in his own room with no one looking on if he desires, and then it goes to the Committee on the lines of the absent voting at the Parliamentary Election of 1918. Paragraph (8) provides thatEach returning officer shall distribute to each of the members of the trade union of the district or branch for which he is responsible, one ballot paper with an accompanying envelope.It is also provided that he shall complete the distribution of the ballot papers within three days, and send a certificate to the Committee that he has duly distributed the ballot papers, and if any ballot papers remain which have not been so distributed, he has to return them to the Committee The object of that is to avoid the ballot papers falling into improper hands and being improperly used That is common form under the Ballot Act, 1872, upon which this Bill is modelled Paragraphs (10) and (11) have no particular interest for the moment, and paragraph (13) is a further precaution providing that when the counting of the votes has been completed they shall not be disclosed for the examination of any persons except the Committee. Every possible precaution is adopted to render it impossible for any man to know how another man has voted I need not say more, except that under paragraph (1) of the Second Schedule it is provided that the Committee shall be in existence and be ready to summon a meeting at any time, and it is provided that there shall be at least two clear days' notice given of such special meeting, and that there shall be no delay if a demand is made by a trade union to have a vote by ballot in the unfortunate contingency of a possible strike.
Why have some of us thought it necessary to introduce this Bill? The answer 737 is that the general body or the country and a large section of trade unionists do not understand why trade union leaders have not—and may not without the spur of this Bill—put into operation the power to secure secrecy which they already possess Has it not often been said after a strike, "Had there been a secret ballot, we should never have had a strike at all." Is it a healthy state of things that such a suspicion should exist? It is not healthy, and trade unionists should take advantage of these facilities in order to show that they are not afraid to submit to the arbitrament of a free and unfettered vote questions which so vitally affect the general well-being of the nation. I was very much struck with a speech which I will quote, because it contains the words of a man whose name is regarded with the greatest respect in the North of England. He is a Past-Master Cutler, and was recently Lord Mayor of Sheffield He is a pro-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, and he has given his life to public spirited work. His name is Mr. A. J. Hobson and this is what he says:The ballot as arranged at present was a mere piece of make-believe in most instances, all the voting was open voting. Even if nominally a man filled up his paper, it was usually handed to him in public with the shop steward and the sub-managers of the union present to watch which box he put it into, and a man required extraordinary courage as a labour man if he ventured to vote against the feeling of the majority in view of the publicity that was inflicted upon him, as a rule, if he did not like what was being done, his only recourse was to abstain from voting and to leave an apparently unanimous vote to those who took part in the ballot.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I fail to understand the relevancy or the use of that interruption. Let me read the other side of the picture as described by two trade unionists I am not going to give their names and have them victimised These have, and many others, have written me unsolicited letters supporting this Bill. I do not know these two gentlemen, and I do not believe they know me. One of these two letters comes from Rugby and the other from Oldham. They are not scholars or vice-chancellors of Universities, but two ordinary trade union members. This is what the gentleman from Oldham writes: 738I have been agitating in the trade union to which I am attached that we are misrepresented to be in favour of sections of arguments which are against the wishes of the general body of workers No general supervision of the ballot is taken This Measure of yours has most surely caused the trade union leaders to become more active Thank you for what you have done.[HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] No, I shall not give the name because you might victimise him. These men have trusted me with their names and I shall not abuse their confidence. Here is the letter from a man at Rugby:
As a worker, I admire your trade union strike ballot and wish you every success We are supposed to live in a free country, but it is far from that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members who jeer at that go back to the time of our fathers they will find that they strove very hard in order to get the secret ballot at Parliamentary Elections, and it passes my comprehension to hear hon. Members now going back on the principle of liberty of thought and action for which our fathers fought in this very House two generations ago This is what this Gentleman from Rugby says:As a worker I admire your Trade Union Strike Ballot, and wish it every success We are supposed to live in a free country, but it is far from it We have, as you say, staid men. It is not this class who cause trouble to labour, but the young hotheads.I have no proof of allegations of intimidation or victimisation But whether they be true or false, I say it is not worthy of the trade union organisations of this country that such suspicions should remain in the minds of the people We know how ballot papers are distributed Is it not true that sometimes when the papers are given out in connection with trade union disputes, men tear off the side of the paper and put it into their hats in order to show which way they have voted, and so save themselves from suspicion of Voting in an unpopular way I have been in a tram and seen workmen tear the paper and put the unused ballot part in their hats in order to show that they have not voted in a way distasteful to the trade union officials.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I personally would like to see secrecy of ballot in this House. I believe we should get in result some 739 astonishing effects. If we had a secret ballot here, we should not have what some of these trade union men allege they have, namely, pressure from outside which sometimes amounts with them almost to intimidation. The hon. Member for Belfast has challenged me, I can only repeat I am a thorough believer in the secrecy of the ballot, and of freedom of action and of conscience, and there is no better way to secure that than under the plan proposed in this Bill. There is another method of voting which has been adopted by trade unionists. In yards and at pitheads, papers are distributed and openly marked by or for voters, and some are thrown down on the ground unused. What, I would like to know, is to prevent those papers being improperly used? What is to prevent other men making use of the papers in a way which the persons to whom they wore issued, or ought to have been issued, never intended? The papers may fall into the hands of some ill-disposed person who may deal with them in a way for which he has no authority from the men by whom they should have been filled up I would like to give an illustration of another point in connection with these ballots There were discussions in March last among the men employed at the Tredegar mine There were 4,000 voting papers to be issued, 27 men voted one way and five the other, and thus only 32 men out of 4,000 voted on a question of vital importance— domestic concern, it is true, but a national question after all, whether direct action should be put into operation in opposition to the constitutional procedure of this country. Had there been a secret ballot the men could have voted without fear of giving offence But as a matter of fact there were only 32 voting out of 4,000.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I will tell the House if I may Four thousand men would have received the ballot papers and franked envelopes.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
How does the hon. member know that they would not have voted if they had had a secret ballot? 740 It may be that the balance of these 4,000 men feared to vote They feared that their votes would become known, and in view of the very strong feeling in certain quarters in favour of unconstitutional action they preferred not to turn up and vote This reminds me of a quotation from Burke which the "Times" Parliamentary correspondent recently published It was as follows:We must not mistake the voice of the insects for the voice of the field because the great oxen are silent.Was 27 the voice of 4,000? All could have voted Here we have the silence of the great body of nearly 4,000 workers, and we are led to mistake the votes of 27 for their voice. Surely it could not be right that the votes of 27 men, perhaps hotheads or lads of 18 eager for an adventure, should be accepted as representing the views of the 4,000 workers upon a matter such as direct action—by no means a domestic matter—and something ought to be done to awaken the notice of the trade union leaders and men to induce them to adopt the secrecy of the ballot, the machinery for which is provided in this Bill. I would like to say a word or two with regard to Clause 7, which deals with the application of the Bill to districts, branches, and delegate meetings. If the whole union does not ask for the Bill to be put into operation, it is open to a district or branch to do so and claim sanction for its votes in the eyes of the public. The result of the decision of the district or branch not to adopt the secret ballot would, on the other hand, give the public ground for the belief that, without such secrecy, there might be valid doubts as to the truth of the decision of a ballot. The public have a right to know, and by the most certain method, namely, secrecy of the ballot, what are the true and unfettered views of their fellow countrymen when great trade union issues are in the balance. The nation is greatly concerned. I want to say a few more words with regard to paragraph (3) of the First Schedule which provides that a distinct and separate answer shall be given to each question put to the members. May I ask those of my hon. Friends who are not acquainted with the procedure of ballotting in mining districts, to pay particular attention to this point. We are trying in this paragraph to prevent a number of different 741 questions being mixed up in the ballot paper I have here a copy of a voting paper issued to members of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain signed by Mr. Frank Hodges. There are no fewer than four questions on this ballot paper, and I suggest that that is a very improper method of getting at the opinion of the members, because there is only one answer, "yes" or "no" to be given to the whole four combined. They are not to be answered in detail The member is simply asked to place a cross against the word "yes" or "no" on the paper, although there are four questions, namely, (1) are you in favour of a 30 per cent, increase of wages, (2) of a six hours' day, (3) of full maintenance at trade union rate of wages for men while unemployed through demobilisation, and (4) nationalisation of mines? All these questions are married together. [HON. MEMBERS:"NO!"] I have the paper here in my hand and there can be no denial, the man is asked to place but one cross against the word "yes" or "no" on the paper There is only one space The consequence is that a man who might very naturally and quite rightly be in favour of increased wages, of a shorter working day and of full maintenance of wages during unemployment through demobilisation, but not in favour of the nationalisation of the mines, would vote "yes" on the paper, because he is asked point blank to vote one "yes" or "no" to the four questions. That cannot go on. We do not think that that is the proper way in which to construct a ballot paper, secret or not, and therefore we provide that when more than one question has to be answered, the ballot paper shall be so prepared that a distinct answer may be given to each question, and the total number of votes in favour of each be thereby ascertained. If hon. Members on the Labour benches object to that, I should like to know their reasons for so objecting.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I am not afraid of them. The only objection, so far as I can gather, is that it is an interference with the domestic concerns of a trade union, but I think I have proved conclusively that there is no such interference. I turn aside and ask this fundamental question again. If a strike, with all its misery, is impend- 742 ing, is it not more than a domestic question so far as the country is concerned? Is it not right that this House, representing the general body of the nation, should provide the country with means to know the true wishes, unfettered and free, of our fellow countrymen who are at the same time trade unionists, when a strike is threatened? I have lived all my life among working people, and I ask my Labour friends to realise that I have no feelings other than of respect for them. We do not say that this Bill is perfect. If the principle is accepted, we shall be only too glad, in Committee, to do anything we can to meet the wishes of the leaders among trade unionists, and to strengthen the Bill and make it more workable—to soften rough edges, to polish awkward sections. We confidently think we can recommend the Bill to the consideration of the House. It embodies the finest element of democratic rule, the secrecy of the ballot; and we think it would operate, not only for the benefit of trade unionism as a whole, and, we believe, of the tens of thousands of trade unionists who desire it, but, in the final event, for the general benefit of the nation. I beg to move.
§ Sir WILLIAM RAEBURN
I beg to second the Motion
I do not intend to follow my hon. Friend into details, nor am I going to commence by saying to my hon. Friends on the opposite side that I support this Bill because I believe it is going to benefit trade unionism. I think I have quite as much right to speak as some hon. Members opposite, because I was returned from a constituency very largely composed of working men, and, had it not been for the support of thousands of those working men, I should not be standing in this House to-day. I do not think that hon. Members opposite should be influenced by the source from which this Bill has emanated, namely, employers. I am only contending for the principle of the Bill. I cannot speak with any authority as to the machinery, but it does seem to me strange that anyone should attack or oppose the principle of the secrecy of the ballot I cannot believe that my hon. Friends opposite are going to attack it from that point of view. If, as I suspect they will, they say they do not like the source from which it has emanated, I may say that 743 I have personally no axe to grind I have always got on very well with Labour, and in all my business career I have never had a strike. Therefore, I am not speaking from any ulterior motive. It may also be contended that the organisation in regard to trades union ballots is so perfect that it requires no alteration. I will show shortly that that is not the case. I have innumerable instances where the voting was absolutely a farce. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham, I have had many applications from working men in favour of this Bill. I cannot speak about these things from personal knowledge, because I do not vote, and am not amongst those who are voting, but these men, who appear to me to be decent working men, and who were altogether unknown to me beforehand, have said, "Do something to deliver us from the hands of the extremists, who are really, in some trade unions, ruling even their leaders just now, and who are preventing the decent men among us from recording their votes. We know it is known what we have voted for, and it is not only ourselves but our wives and children who are tyrannised." The same tyranny prevails in regard to voting as in regard to one of the most disgraceful Acts that was ever put on the Statute Book—the Trades Disputes Act. We know what happens under that Act. We know how men are compelled to strike and to do things against their will. We talk about liberty, but these poor fellows have no liberty.
The thing is perfectly plain, and I do not desire to go over the ground which has been gone over already. This is a good Bill as far as the principle goes, and I am astonished that everybody does not readily agree to it. They may object to the machinery, or there may be other details with which they do not agree. As my hon. Friend who introduced it says, we do not, as employers, wish to put in our oar and interfere. We have no representative on the body that will be set up, but the trade unionists will be represented, and the public interest will be looked after by the representatives of the Government Departments. I could mention a great many trades from which I have had complaints about the way in which the ballot has been worked. In my own trade, shipping, it is very difficult to take a ballot, and I do not remember 744 one ever having been taken. It is so difficult to get seafaring men together. I cannot, therefore, speak of the trade I know best, but only of other trades of which I have a great deal of knowledge. I am going to take my cases from the miners' occupation, and I do so because that is the trade in which strikes are most frequent, at any rate, in Scotland, and I think I am not far wrong if I say in England also. I do not think I ever look at a Scottish paper but I see a report of a strike of four or five hundred or perhaps a thousand men there. We know that, with the price of coal and the cutting off of the export of coal, there could not be a worse thing for the country than these strikes of miners. That is why I take the miners' occupation. I am not going to give the names, but they are well-known names in the mining world. I do not think that any of my Friends opposite would get any man into trouble who wanted to state the truth. I give them credit for that, but the names might be reported in the Press, and I cannot say that the same consideration would be shown by some of their followers in those districts. It might be made particularly hard both for the mine and for those from whom the information has come. I will give a few instances of what is really going on from day to day. They come from all parts of Scotland. I have six samples. The first is:When the miner comes up the pit the check-weigher hands him a ballot paper, copy of which is enclosed, on which he marks his vote. This is very often done in the presence of the check-weigher, as there are no private places available, the paper being slipped into a box which the check-weigher takes home with him. The check-weigher has a bundle of spare ballot papers always on hand. We have seen here on various occasions the boxes with an ordinary tin lid on them which could be opened at will.It appears that a telegram from Mr. So and So was sent out to all the check-weighers instructing men to vote against acceptance. The ballot papers were sent out to check-weighers and handed out by them to workers, male and female, in most cases at the pit head, In one case the men took the papers down the pit and distributed them underground. They were marked by workers and put into the box which was presided over by either the check-weighman and a member of the committee or two members of the committee. The ballot box was kept under the charge of the check-weighman until it was opened.The system of balloting to record the wishes of the workmen is very loosely conducted, and the result of the voting is 745 not an accurate finding. One or two of the officials of the local branch of the Miners' Federation, or men appointed by the committee of that branch, stand at the entrance or entrances to the respective pits with ballot boxes and voting papers. Each workman as he enters or leaves the colliery is handed a voting paper which he may mark and put into the ballot box or may put into his pocket to carry away, as he pleases, as many of the workmen do. No record is kept of the workmen who get ballot papers, and therefore some men may not vote and others record their votes more than once. Boys under 16 years of age, who are not entitled to vote, may get ballot papers by simply holding out the hand in passing to the person giving out the voting papers. It is the irresponsible youths who are more likely to take advantage of the loose system in vogue by recording more than one vote as they are always ready to assist vigorously the issue which will give a holiday. There is nothing to prevent the men with the ballot boxes recording any number of votes in favour of their own particular view, and even the committee may, in counting the votes, be biassed in favour of one particular issue. A more reliable system of balloting should be made compulsory, because at present men and boys can get more than one ballot paper by re-entering the colliery yard and passing out again among other workmen and by using ballot papers received from workmen who did not vote.1.0 P.M.
I need not elaborate it. We are surely all anxious to get an honest result of the ballot. I cannot believe hon. Members opposite wish anything else, and it may be that the opposition to this is entirely because of the source from which this emanates. I am very sorry to think we are so often on this side thought to be void of conscience or opposed root and branch to trade unionism and all the like of that. Why cannot we sometimes get credit for being honest and disinterested? It is not only in these matters that I think there are evils in regard to the way ballots are conducted, because I have seen it in other spheres of life altogether, and very often in this House we should arrive at a different verdict if it were not that our names are published in the voting lists. If the employers had a ballot no one would urge more strongly than I that it should be conducted on proper lines so as to prevent any dishonesty or compulsion of a wrong character. I appeal to the leaders of trade unionism. It is no use blinking the fact that it requires a good deal of courage to deal with the very unruly and extremist section amongst the workmen. Many of the miners are convinced in their own minds that sometimes 746 when the issue is between a strike and no strike it would be very much better if they could get the opinion of their more moderate and responsible supporters. Nothing would lead to a reduction of strikes more than a ballot conducted on proper principles. I believe this Bill is a step in the right direction. There is no desire on the part of the introducers of the Bill in any way to interfere with your internal economy. I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, as its whole tendency is in the right direction.
§ Mr. BRACE
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
Labour leaders in general and members of the Labour Party in this House in particular are bound to take a serious view of this kind of irritation. One would have thought that hon. Members with experience as employers of labour would have hesitated very much before taking action which cannot fail to disturb industry. I quite agree that the speeches we have heard have been most apologetic in character. This is only one instance out of several. This very week we have seen the same spirit in operation in the Committee on the Unemployment Insurance Bill, a spirit which cannot fail to engender bitterness if it is persisted in. We saw there that hon. Members were desirous of clothing capitalistic insurance companies with a competing power with trade unions for the administration of a law which is peculiarly the work of the trade unionists. So incensed were the Labour Members on the Committee that they came out as a body as a protest against this kind of irritating policy. I would very seriously ask the House of Commons to give no encouragement to this kind of policy. When any question comes up of the productivity of the industries of the country there are certain members of the community and of this House who feel called upon to place all the blame for the loss of output upon the workers when they ought to know, and would know if they knew anything of the subject, that the real cause of the lack of productivity in these days is not so much a desire on the part of the workmen not to produce to the best of their capacity as the lack of material and of opportunity for development consequent upon the war. All these things come in as disturbing elements, and 747 now comes this precious Bill which is designed not to advantage anyone else but the trade unionists themselves. We would much prefer to save ourselves. We are very suspicious indeed about the source from which this Bill has come, and what a Bill! What good does the hon. Member think that this is going to do? Is it going to work? It is all in the permissive sense. Take Clause 1:In order to facilitate the taking of a true and secret vote of the members of a trade union, being a trade union for the purposes of the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1913, on any question relating to a proposal to stop work or arising out of a stoppage of work, a trade union may decide that a ballot vote of its members shall be taken under this Act, and thereupon the provisions of this Act shall be observed by the trade union and the members thereof.Do you think that they will take any ballots under this Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill ought to know why not. There is a psychology among trade union members which only people who know them can understand. They resent greatly this butting into their business by people who ought to refrain from so doing. These words "may be" condemn the Bill. It will not work. The trade unions will not use this machinery. If I believed what the hon. Member who proposed and the hon. Member who seconded believe, I should have brought in a Bill making it imperative on trade unions. I should have compelled them to take a ballot under the auspices of Government officials or officers appointed by the Government. That is Clause 1, the governing Clause of the Bill, and the use of the phrase "may be" puts the Bill out of court entirely, because the moment you introduce the words "may be" the Bill becomes inoperative, for the simple reason that the trade unions will not use it. I was very interested to hear the hon. Gentleman expound the Clauses of the Bill. Clause 4 is a most interesting clause. I looked round with some anxiety for the right hon. Gentleman the member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). I should have thought that he would have felt it his business to be here, if only because of Clause 4, which says:The Minister of Labour may, on the recommendation of the Committee, appoint 748 such officers and clerks as may from time to time be required for the purposes of this Act, and the salaries and expenses of such officers and clerks and the other expenses of the Committee shall be paid out of moneys to be provided by Parliament in the Vote of the Ministry of Labour.I want to put a question to the Government through my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara), whom we congratulate most warmly upon being appointed Minister of Labour. Are the Government prepared to give a Money Resolution to this Bill? The Bill cannot go any further than this House unless the Government are prepared to give a Money Resolution. Therefore, I am going to ask the Government not to give a Money Resolution to such a Bill; at any rate, until they have surveyed the real meaning of Clause 4. The hon. Gentleman talked most cavalierly of this being a very cheap Bill. Trade unionists are not noted for working for nothing if they can help it, and Clause 4 will give them the opportunity for which they have been waiting a long time. Does the hon. Member realise that to take a ballot in a trade union like the Miners' Federation of Great Britain costs thousands of pounds? There are over 800,000 members. We have, in my own South Wales Society, more than 400 separate lodges already. You will have in Wales nearly 500 returning officers, and they will not be prepared to place their services on the altar of the State for nothing. You will, therefore, start with a substantial item of expenditure for the returning officers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to put the postage up to 2d. If these papers are to be franked, someone will have to carry the letters, and, while this ballot is going on, business people must be prepared to cancel business and go for a day's shooting, golf, or fishing, because the post cannot be used for a ballot of this character and the ordinary business of the country still go on. That is a practical difficulty which the hon. Gentleman entirely overlooked.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I agree that there are expenses attached to the taking of a ballot, but Section (4) of the Trade Union Act, 1913, already provides for similar ballots, and, if the right hon. Gentleman cavils at it now, why did he not cavil at it in 1913?
§ Mr. BRACE
The hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken. Under the Trade Union 749 Act, 1913, we carried the expense, whereas he proposes that it shall be a charge upon the National Exchequer. We are engaged upon the consideration of a Bill which must mean a very great additional charge upon the National Exchequer at a time when one would have thought that everyone would have been concentrating upon preserving or conserving the national funds. We now come to Clause 7, which says:This Act, with the necessary modifications, may be applied to the taking of a vote by any district or branch or other separate section of the members of a trade union or by a meeting of delegates representing one or more trade unions.Please observe that not only does the Bill call for the taking of a ballot upon a general matter for a great or small trade union in its complete entity, but for any separate branch of a trade union. They may use this machinery, they may have a returning officer appointed, they may have their letters franked, and they may have the expenses of taking a ballot charged upon the National Exchequer It is absurd; it cannot be done. It is wholly impracticable, and anyone having any knowledge of a trade union in its working would never have put in such a Clause in addition to Clause 4. Let us look at the Schedule. Paragraph (3) of the Schedule says:The trade union shall, at the same time as they give notice of intention to take a ballot under this Act, furnish to the Committee the question or questions on which they decided that a ballot shall be taken, and the Committee shall prepare a suitable ballot paper on which the said question or questions shall be stated.Is that a simple proposition? Only the other day we took a ballot of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. We have a small executive council of about a dozen I happen to be on the executive, and it took us the best part of a day to mould the proposals, so that they might be put in a proper manner to the Members and we could get a clean vote.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Was not that a ballot in which four questions were put, and only one answer, yes or no, was to be given.
§ Mr. BRACE
No, the ballot was taken for or against, and the result of it I should have thought would be welcomed by the hon. and gallant Member because the majority accepted the Government's offer. 750 Whatever may be our shortcomings we were dealing with a question which we understood, and yet when we got down to draft the ballot paper it was a most difficult thing to draft, and to put upon it really what the Government offer was, in order to get a clean vote. If it was difficult for men who had been in all the negotiations, and who had knowledge of the administration of trade unions, how is it possible for an outside committee who will not be invited to have knowledge on the subject until the questions are to be set down by someone who may use any language they like. That particular paragraph alone makes it impossible for any such Bill as this to have a Second Beading. Paragraph (4) of the First Schedule says:When a trade union give notice to the Committee of their intention to take a ballot under this Act, the general secretary or other chief officer of the trade union shall supply to the Committee a list of the district or branch secretaries, or other responsible officers, of the trade union who will act as returning officers.The real genesis of this Bill is a belief that trade union officials are not to be trusted. That is behind the feeling of resentment which my hon. Friends and myself have about this kind of thing, when the opinion is held that we responsible officers of trade unions are not to be trusted to undertake a ballot of our members. Yet when the machinery comes to be prepared for a ballot of this character, the very persons who are under suspicion now are the very persons to be appointed under this Bill to do the work.
There is no necessity to make a long speech in order to riddle this Bill. It riddles itself. It is unworkable from top to bottom. The whole thing is unworkable, and it ought never to have been introduced. This sort of thing leaves in the minds of the working people and their leaders the impression that they are not trusted. Generally a man lives up to his reputation. If you want confidence from the men you must trust the men All this suspicion is simply driving this community into opposite camps. I am opposed to class war, and have been all my life. Class war has never appealed to me to be the proper thing or the proper principle to be introduced into an old democratic State such as this; but if there is to be class war I know of nothing to make it more acceptable to the minds of the people of this country than the kind of principle which is em- 751 bodied in this Bill. It ought to cease. There are enough difficulties in the country at the present time without adding to them. As a result of the War we are all faced with serious trouble, and if this Commonwealth is to be re-established upon sound lines, and we are to have prosperity, it can only come, not by dividing this nation into warring sections, but through a great co-operative effort towards which everybody, irrespective of class, will make his contribution. I hope my hon. Friends will realise that we have made a really fundamental blunder in introducing this Bill. Such a Bill does nothing other than irritate. It is all maybe but it never will be. If this Bill is given a Second Reading, trade unionists will come to the conclusion, and who will not say it is not the right conclusion, that other people's arms are opposed to them, and that if they are to defend their interests they must do it by adopting the doctrine of class war. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It is because hon. Members do not realise and understand the mentality of the masses of the British workers that such a Bill is introduced. I am saying strong things because I feel strongly, but I hope I am not saying them offensively.
The House of Commons is the best sounding board in the country, and it is well that this House should be used to offer a word of caution against the continuance of this kind of impression, which leads to irritation. Instead of having a tendency to prevent strikes a Bill of this kind would create an atmosphere in which strikes are made easy. I hope the Government will realise that they have a duty to organised labour, and that they will not ally themselves in any degree to this kind of policy, but that they will make a declaration which so far as the Government are concerned they can have no part or lot in any such Bill as this, which cannot avoid irritating not only the trade union leaders but the members of trade unions. I am far from saying that our system of ballot or ballots is perfect. I am far from saying that the ballot paper which the hon. Member read is the type of ballot paper which a clear-minded lawyer would draft. But we are not all illiterate people who make up the trade union movement, and as a result of our experience in matters of that kind we shall not, if there is a blunder, 752 commit that blunder again. All we want is a clean-cut vote which will give to us the views of our members. I am against lightening strikes. I am against stoppages brought about by any system which does not allow workmen, members of trade unions, to have a full voice in determining whether the stoppage should take place or not. I am against a strike being brought about except after conference has failed. After all, strike is war, and if war is to be undertaken it ought to be undertaken only after those who are going to engage in it have had a voice in saying whether war shall be undertaken or not. I am in favour of ballots, but I resent most strongly any attempt from outside to impose disabling conditions upon the administration of trade unions.
In supporting the Amendment, I would like to say that I have no illusions about trade unionism myself. I shall not be able to stop to vote, because I have to go North this afternoon, in order to meet certain trade union delegates to decide with them whether a further summons against me for employing disabled soldiers is to be heard or not. I think that the House will agree with me that if I ever had any illusions about trade unionism, I have every reason at any rate to have lost them. In the first place, I hope that hon. Members, before giving a vote with regard to this Bill, will pay attention particularly to the first Clause. That Clause lays down that a trade union may decide to take a ballot under certain conditions. If the trade unions decide a point, it seems to me that the first thing is to take a ballot as to their decision. The whole basis of the Bill and whole argument of the Bill is that trade union ballots are not conducted properly at present, and I quite agree. The right hon. Gentleman himself (Mr. Brace) has as good as given his agreement to that theory. But it stands to reason that it is not of the least use setting up permissive machinery for taking a true and honest ballot when the decision as to whether that machinery should be used depends on a ballot which ex hypothesi has been condemned as dishonest and untrue. So, apart from any other consideration, I do hope that this House will not let this Bill go through, at any rate in its present form.
The alternative was to make the Bill a compulsory Bill. On reading the text of 753 it I am inclined to think that originally the draftsman did not insert the word "may," but inserted the other word "shall," and that on reconsideration the promoters came to the conclusion that that was going a little too far. And so the word was altered accordingly, and the whole purpose of the Bill immediately fell to the ground. The right hon. Gentleman has put forward the plea that it is extremely unwise to do anything to cause irritation. Speaking as an employer of labour, I would like to add my support to what he said. It seems to me that a Bill of this sort, originating from, employers of labour in this country, cannot fail to give rise to very great irritation indeed. The comments of my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches during the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Second Beading are ample proof that that irritation is very keen indeed.
Let us take an analogous case to show that that irritation is not altogether unjust. It might be alleged by my hon. Friends here that the ballot for the election of members—let us say to the Carlton Club—was not conducted on proper lines, and that it was therefore desirable that this House should pass an Act by which the ballot of the Carlton Club should come under the supervision of a Committee such as that which it is proposed to set up by this Bill. It may be argued that a ballot of the Carlton Club is not a matter of extreme public importance. I will show of what extreme public importance a ballot of the Carlton Club may be. Suppose a lawyer with political ambition for some reasons or other best known to himself decides in the first instance to be a Conservative and gets his name put up at the Carlton and that he is blackballed. What does he do? He immediately gets himself put up at the Reform Club. So the Carlton ballots are of public importance for that reason that they decide whether a man of great forensic ability shall sit on the Opposition or the Government side, and if this great principle that the Bill seeks to impose on trade unions as to the proper conduct of ballots with regard to their own private business is adopted you may expect almost immediately to see such a Bill as I have indicated brought forward by my friends on the left.
754 One may jest at matters of this sort, but at the present time it is perhaps an invidious thing even to oppose a Bill of this sort by a. reductio ad absurdum because members of this House, as I know very well, if only they think of the present position of the leaders of trade unionism in this country would not do anything whatever to put any sort of difficulty in the way of those leaders guiding these unions into a policy such as the more advanced and extreme members of these unions dislike intensely. The habit of thought has grown up in this country and in certain organs of the press of regarding trade unionists as a set of wild, desperate, dangerous men. Ever since I was quite a boy I have been an employer of labour. I have been in constant touch with trade unionism, perhaps some of the most extreme unionists in the country, and I quite fail to see that great body of wild desperate men who in the Press are painted so vigorously by the imaginations of journalism. What I see as trade unionists to-day is a number of men who perhaps have not that wisdom and that experience which their high position would render so useful, but a number of men who are doing their best, within the capacity that is given to them, to guide the members and the whole trade union movement into paths which may be for the benefit not only of their own members but of the whole population of the country. I disagree with much of their policy. I disagree much more with their methods. But it would be unbecoming of me as an employer on a question of this sort not to say that I do believe thoroughly that anything that employers can do to assist rather than hinder is the duty of every man whom Providence has put in a position to be an employer of labour, and a Bill of this sort, framed, I have no doubt, with the best intentions and with no intention whatever to irritate, cannot fail at the present time to take away the very ground from under the feet of those men who are at present striving in every way to put the trade union movement on a proper and public spirited basis.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I desire to support the Second Beading of this measure, on the ground that the principle which it involves is most important and ought generally to be accepted by every section of this country. If we should have secrecy in the ballot for Parliamentary 755 and municipal elections it is certainly right that in this important matter, which affects so much the people of this country, the same secrecy of the ballot should be observed. I only wish to speak of the trade in which I am interested, and I am sure that it will be most difficult for any trade union leaders to justify the manner of voting in that trade. Let me describe the manner in which the Weavers' Union take a ballot. The Weavers' Union divide the towns into districts. The union appoints a collector for each district. This collector makes a weekly collection of the union levy, and whenever a vote has to be taken the papers are distributed by that collector at the same time as he gets the levy. He calls for the papers a few days later. There is no suggestion of secrecy in the distribution of the voting papers. They are open, they are left at the house, and, the member having filled them up, they are collected, and it is possible for any collector to record absolutely the manner in which any particular weaver has voted.
It can hardly be right that a scheme of that sort should continue, and it can hardly be said that if you are going to alter that system you will create a class war. The machinery by which the ballot is taken within the union cannot be put forward as something which is permitting outside interference in a domestic decision. The discussion to-day has brought out one interesting feature. It has brought the admission from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace), who represents the mining interest, that the vote upon nationalisation which was taken by the miners was not taken on a correct voting paper which gave adequate information to the miners. I hope the House will give a Second Reading to this measure. Improvements can be made in Committee. Let it be a Bill, not to create a class war, not to disunite sections of the community, but to give greater security and the preservation of secrecy, and let there be perfect freedom of thought and vote for any person who is connected with any trade union.
§ Mr. JAMESON
May I, in the first place, congratulate the opponents of this Bill, though I rise to speak in favour of it, on their choice of an advocate? I could not possibly imagine a more astute 756 choice than the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace). Everyone knows that if ballots in trade unions were conducted under auspices such as his and by the methods which he would like, this, indeed, would be a better world, and a Bill of this sort would be superfluous. Unfortunately it is not ever thus. Those of us who support this Bill do not do so in any spirit of hostility to trade unions. I should deprecate any sort of idea of irritating trade unions or trade union leaders. I regret very much the sort of over-sensitiveness that is claimed for trade union leaders in the matter of irritation and suffering from pin pricks. I am sorry that gentlemen like Mr. Cramp should be so sensitive as to what is termed pin pricks, as gentlemen of that kind evidently are just now. No one should know better than they the effect of such things, though perhaps pins are a weapon which they would disdain. There is no sort of idea of irritating or disturbing the complacency of trade unions or trade union leaders in a Bill of this sort. I agree with the hon. Member for Farn-ham (Mr. A. M. Samuel), that probably the place where ballot voting is most needed in this country is the Lobby of the House of Commons, and in order to point the moral, I say that ballot voting in the Lobbies of the House of Commons would again make this House a really deliberative assembly, which it is not at present, and would restore the dignity and prestige of this House at once. We would be delivered from the tyranny under which a great many of us now groan.
In the first place, this Bill would certainly, if adopted by trade unions, give enormous authority and prestige to any vote by ballot taken under the provisions of the Bill—an authority and prestige which too often just now a vote by ballot in a trade union has not got. It is, of course, simply permissive. I think that is wise and proper and it avoids altogether the argument used by the right hon. Member for Abertillery, namely, "Mind your own business.' I think that argument is very popular with the opposition to this Bill, but such an argument, in my experience, is not very often used if there is any better argument to use. Strikes are not only the business of trade unions; they are a very vital business for everyone in this country. Mammoth [strikes are admittedly not strikes against employers but 757 strikes against the country as a whole I think the country would have a right to say that if it is to be fought, it is at least to be fought with clean weapons This Bill does not go that length at all. It simply provides permissive machinery which the trade unions may adopt or not. That is no objection to the Bill, because the hope of all supporters of the Bill is that when machinery of this kind, which is so pure and so clean, is available for trade unions, public opinion will force trade unions to adopt it. If they do not adopt it they will be exposed to very severe comments from the general public and from their own members. Trade unions nowadays admit that a strike conducted against public opinion at large is a strike which has not the best chance of success. Accordingly, the compulsator that hon. Members who support this Bill think will be on trade unions to adopt this machinery, is the compulsator of public opinion. At the same time, I am very glad that full opportunity is allowed under this Bill to trade unions to adopt this machinery or not, as they please. The machinery is supposed to be costly. The right hon. Member for Abertillery said it would cost thousands. But these great strikes certainly cost millions. I think it is worth the expense to see, if these strikes take place, that they do so on the initiative and by the desire of the workmen who are supposed to be authorising them. This Bill provides machinery free of charge to the trade unions, and in Committee it may be turned into a very perfect instrument. Why is it rejected so scornfully by trade unionists? Why do they refuse this beautiful gift horse which is offered to them? The horse is warranted free from vice, it is quiet in harness, and, what is more, it is kept at the expense of somebody else, and, what is still more, they need not take it out of the stable if they do not want it. I fail to see any valid argument against this Bill. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) referred to details more suited for Committee. He displayed great enthusiasm for economy, which I am sure we all share, and appealed to us not to irritate trade unions. I do not think that was really substantial criticism of the Bill, which is only permissive and is intended to help trade unions and make the ballot more advantageous. In that spirit of 758 help to the trade unions I shall certainly support the Bill.
§ Mr. SIMM
The hon. Member has told us that the sponsors of the Bill are presenting a new and most valuable horse to the Labour party. The real reason why they do not accept it is because they are firmly convinced that it is not a. horse at all but a donkey, and I entirely agree with them. I think the idea of this Bill is that trade unionists in casting the Vote are influenced by some outside body, or, in other words, that the officials of the union are dictating to the members what they ought to do. There is not a single trade unionist on the back of this Bill, and every official knows that he stands more in fear of the dictation of the members than the members stand in fear of dictation from him. I object to the Bill because it is not compulsory. What I would have liked to have seen would be a Bill to compel large trade unions to insist on a ballot before a strike could take place. This Bill does nothing of the kind. The hon Member who brought it in assumes that members of trade unions are afraid of their leaders, and that secret ballot would give an entirely different result. I would ass him to look at the results of the recent miners' ballot. The miners in South Wales voted for a strike and the miners in Northumberland against. What makes that difference? It is not the officials, but the mentality of the men who live in those districts. The miners in Northumberland are not so volcanic as the men in South Wales, and you have different results. You have a different result in Scotland from possibly that of the Midlands and again those results are due to the mental development of the people in those areas. I suggest this Bill would not touch what is aimed at. It is assumed by some Members that the machinery is a small matter, but I do not think so. If you had the trade unions affected such as the triple alliance, the railwaymen, the dock workers and the miners you would have to take a ballot all over the country. There is some complaint now against the number of officials, but for a ballot of that kind you would require an enormous number of officials. You would require a Government official in every village and scores of them in every town and all would have to be paid. The branch secretary would be the repository 759 of your ballot papers and they would have to be addressed and sent by post office. That would have to be paid for and so would the returning officer. The State would bear the expense, but the expense would be there. In the case of agricultural labourers the voters might be four or five miles away from the branch. They would have to walk into the town and cast their votes. The postman might have to go miles out of his usual track to deliver the papers. The shepherd in the Cheviots might not normally receive a letter more than once in two months, but in his case the postman would have to go miles out of his course to give him the ballot paper. This machinery is not only most cumbersome, but most costly and the whole Bill will be ineffective for its purpose even if applied. I am quite certain what we want to get is not so much a change in machinery but if you will to have machinery so that no large strike be undertaken unless the members of the union have been properly consulted, and by all means by a secret ballot, if you wish. So far as the miners are concerned it is not a question of coercion. There is no body of trade union officials who dare stand up against the will of the men, and whether the ballot be secret or not the general will will always prevail. I feel quite certain those responsible for this Bill are not familiar with the trade union world, and if they had been their Bill would have been entirely altered. The Bill would cause suspicion and friction, and if it were carried would simply be a dead letter.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. REMER
The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to the work thrown on the Post Office, and drew a picture of a man in the Cheviot Hills who might only receive a letter once in two months. I do not really think it would be a serious hardship if the postman has to go to him thrice in one month instead of once. In that respect the remarks of the hon. Gentleman and also of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) simply dragged something across the Bill which was not at all justified. I am sure that the Opposition selected the member of this House who most appeals to the members of the House to move the rejection. We are always delighted to hear that right hon. Gentleman, because of 760 the reasonable way in which he puts his case, and the able way. He has put his case to-day in a way which, if we come to analyse it, has not dealt with the Bill at all. He started by referring to the bitterness which the Bill would cause, and he alluded to a Bill upstairs which had nothing whatever to do with this Bill. The Amendments to the Bill upstairs to which he referred and the bitterness which they may have caused, were not the work of employers of labour, but entirely the work of the friendly societies, and I think that ought to be made clear. He told us a great deal in the course of his speech about the psychology of trade unions. It has puzzled a great many people to know exactly what that psychology is. He did not explain it himself, and, in fact, I listened carefully to the whole of his speech to know exactly what he was referring to. He told us the trade unions would not use the machinery which this Bill sets up. I wonder, if there is a national strike after the passing of this Bill, whether we will find public opinion will support the trade unions if they have not used the machinery of this Bill, and I venture to say that the effect of public opinion on strikes during the past autumn has been very great. To show the irrelevancy of his remarks, he told us that as a result of this Bill passing we should all have to go fishing or golfing. I am not one of those hon. Members who happen to be very fond of fishing, but I have been looking forward ever since I became a Member to being able to get a little golf. It used to be a game of which I was very fond, and I used to play two or three times a week, but I have only played six times since I became a Member, and if that prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman comes true, it is one argument, at any rate, why I might vote for the Bill. To come to the more serious arguments which were used by my right hon. Friend, he told us that if the Second Beading of the Bill was passed it would bring a class war, but he did not tell us why. Is it reasonable to suggest that because machinery is provided, which no trade union need use, that in itself is causing a class war? I am sure that if we come to analyse it will have exactly the opposite effect. It is because I believe it will prevent class wars from arising in this country, that it will prevent the hatred which unfortunately does exist between some working 761 men and some employers—not by any means all—that I am a strong supporter of this Bill. I believe, as I have expressed several times in this House before, that industrial peace is one of the first necessities of our nation, and I believe that this Bill deals with one phase of that problem. In my opinion, one of the problems we have to solve in the trade union movement is the difficulties of the trade union leader, who, while negotiations are proceeding between employer and employed, too often has wild men screeching through the keyholes. Many times we see leaders who are trying to be reasonable and fair handicapped because some extreme men are saying wild things round the corner. There is always some man in the trade union movement who is waiting to pinch somebody else's job. I think I can name half a dozen trade union leaders, with whose personal acquaintance I have been honoured, who have told me time and time again that the great difficulty with which they have to contend is the fact that there is some small man in the union of whom they are afraid, who is always trying to outbid them for popular favour in the union. He too often finds that when he is driving a hard bargain there is an agitation in that union to prevent the bargain from being carried out. It is not the trade unions I am afraid of, but the small men in the movement, who agitate at street corners and in the various lodge rooms of the unions, and always try to upset bargains which have been come to.
§ Mr. REMER
Because that trade union leader can put his question to the trade union member, and the member can vote in secret, without any influence from the small man in the union. I say without a shadow of hesitation that the trade union ballots are conducted under a system of terrorism. It was my privilege during the moulders' strike to meet a great many men in my constituency when one of the most vital ballots was in progress, and they told me that they did not want to vote for a strike, but owing to the intimidation which was going on in their ranks they were afraid they would have to do so because of being black-balled in the decent society of the works. 762 I would like once more to emphasise— and I do not think it can be too strongly emphasised—the point which my hon. Friend made in introducing this Bill, that there is no compulsion attached to it. It is quite optional and permissive. If the trade unions desire this machinery, the machinery is provided for them here. The hon. Member who spoke last said that the machinery would not be used and that if it was used it would not make any difference, but that is not the experience of the Parliamentary ballot, which did make a difference and a very vital difference. It might have been quite open for those people at that time to have said it was just the concern of this House or the particular class who happened to be in power. That would not be a view which I should express, but I can imagine the reactionaries of that day saying exactly the same as the reactionaries on the Benches opposite say at the present time. I say that it is not because Trade Unionists happen to get elected to this House as members of the Labour Party that they are elected because they are necessarily Labour candidates. Too often they are elected, not because of their principles, which everybody knows are Socialistic, but because they are Trades Unionists, and I say that if we had a sceret ballot in the Trade Union world in the same way that we have in the Parliamentary world, we would find, as we have found in this House, that the result of those ballots would appear in about the same ratio as they appear in the parliamentary elections.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I am very astonished that my usually astute hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) should have brought in this Bill.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Am I entitled to assume from that that I am sometimes astute and sometimes not astute, but always dishonourable?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
My hon. Friend is usually astute and always honourable, but I think on this occasion he has been neither astute nor wise. What right has he to bring in this Bill to interfere with Trade Unions? I am not a Trade Unionist. I am a member of a Naval Officers' Society, which discusses matters of interest to Naval Officers, but it is not a trade union at all. I am a 763 member of a party which does not particularly pander to the Trade Unions in any way, and, in fact, on recent occasions has been bitterly fighting their nominated candidates for Parliament; but I really wonder at my hon. Friend bringing in this Bill. It is not backed up by any single recognised leader of Labour; in fact, it is only backed by hon. Members who, in addition to being conspicuous for their great abilities in this House, are conspicuous by their opposition to organised Labour. I see the hon. Member for East Bradford (Captain Loseby) has backed this Bill. I do not know that he is closely connected with Trade Unions. I know he belongs to a party which, generally speaking, is rather opposed to the Labour party.
§ Captain LOSEBY
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman has represented the party to which I am a member as being opposed to the Labour party, I should like to point out that 90 per cent of that party are trade unionists.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)
I think the hon. and gallant Member had better reserve his remarks until he is called upon to speak.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I judge by the Division Lobbies. If this Bill had the backing of any recognised leaders of organised Labour—I do not wish to be in any way offensive to the Members of the party to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bradford belongs—I would have looked upon it with rather more favour, but why my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham should have introduced this Bill to interfere with the rights of trade unions to conduct their own business in their own way passes my comprehension. I am sure it was not done with mature consideration, but was simply brought in from a class point of view. It was brought in as a rather elaborate form of propaganda, in order to give publicity about his views on trade unions and strikes and the right of men to work together, and, if I may say so, I would say that his views on that matter are about 150 years out of date. If trade unions want to hold a ballot in this way, surely they have sufficient power among their members to insist on it. As a spectator of a great representative meeting of trade unionists, I must say that the 764 rank and file were by no means docile, and I am sure if they wanted to vote by' secret ballot they would have introduced a resolution to do so years ago, but I have never seen any resolution asking for a ballot, and why my hon. Friend should wish to interfere in this way passes my comprehension, unless it is a very subtle, skilful and clever piece of propaganda. In speaking of trade unions, the ordinary public naturally calls to mind great organisations like the Miners' Federation, the Railway Men and Transport Workers, but they are not the only trade unions in the country. The manual workers are not the only class who are organised. The most ancient and closest trade union, probably, is the union of lawyers.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
In mediaeval times gentlemen with long robes, clerks learned in the law, were sweated, despised and rather oppressed workers. The nobles who ruled the country could not write their own names, but employed these clerks to do it for them, and to be learned in the law, and they were paid about the same wage as day labourers on the estates. By combination the lawyers—I respect them for their astuteness in this matter—have raised their profession to a high position in the State, and their combination and organisation have been not only to their own advantage, but to the advantage of the community. They have raised the whole status of their profession, and attracted the best brains in the country to it. They are a very close trade union. No lawyer is allowed to practice at less than certain charges. Why does not this Bill apply to them How do we know their leaders do not terrorise over the rank and file. May I take another greatly beloved—and deservedly so— profession, the medical profession, which is almost as close a trade union as that of the lawyers. I do not object to it—in fact, I welcome their combination. I think that at present those professions play an insufficient part in the councils of the nation. How do we know that in the councils of the medical profession there is not any 765 such intimidation? I am told that the actual management and direction of policy of the medical profession is in the hands of an aristocratic clique which has risen to the top, and they rule the medical profession with a very autocratic hand. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Well, that is my information, a benevolent autocracy I allow, but I do not know that the medical profession generally complain of this. For many years I have had the opportunity of being in close touch, on board ship, with one or other members of the medical profession, and I have been able to form, I think, some sort of an idea of various aspects of the profession, and I have never heard complaint made as to these matters. Members of the profession, as I understand, say that the position now has been obtained by organisation, and, generally speaking, they are proud of that position. Why, if he is so much in love with democracy and democratic sentiment, does not the hon. Member for Farnham not mention in the course of his argument the case of the professional organisations? I have dealt with the legal profession and the medical profession, but there are others. There are the architects, the accountants, and a number of others.
Again, there are the great capitalist organisations—the Federation of Employers, say. Why not bring in some Bill to ensure that they may be able, if they so desire, to vote by ballot? I take it that the object of this Bill is to give some lead or protection to the rather quiet person who possibly, according to my hon. Friends who have backed this Bill, is in danger of being, I will not say blackmailed—I do not want to use an objectionable word—but overborne by the eloquence, say, of one or other of the more forward members of his union. This is to give him the right to demand a ballot. If that is the case, I think the principle might be applied all round. There may be certain employers of labour in the Employers' Federation who would very much like to have a ballot vote at meetings at which policy is decided. If such a Bill were brought in, and I could have some assurance that it would receive very general support, I should certainly vote for it. If this Bill expressed the demand of organised labour, I should certainly support it, but I have heard nothing to that effect where one might expect to hear of it—nothing of any such demand by organised labour. Members here who re- 766 present organised labour seem to be opposed to this Bill. No recognisesd leader of organised labour backs the Bill. That might be a matter of accident or oversight on the part of my hon. Friend (Mr. Samuel), but the fact remains. I have not heard of any kind of demand from trade unionists for this great charter of liberty, which, I suppose, is what my hon. Friend would describe it as. I therefore look upon it as a gratuitous interference with the private affairs of the trade unions. I hold no brief for them, but the trade unions made themselves. They had a great fight to establish themselves before they were eventually legalized. They suffered much persecution, They were not created in any way by the will of the governing classes of this country. That being the case, they are quite capable of looking after their own interests in their own way. The usual procedure, if trade unions desire greater powers, rights, and privileges, is not for those demands to be made by those hon. Gentlemen who back this Bill, but by—
Notice taken that Forty Members were not present; House counted, and Forty Members being found present,
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I was opposing the Bill on the ground that the trade unions are able, by their position in this country, which they have obtained in face of fierce opposition and vested interests—for they received little except at long last and after much struggling of recognition from the governing classes of this country—to look after themselves. When this Bill, which is offered as a gift by hon. Members, who as regards their votes and speeches here incline more towards the governing classes than towards the interests of the trade unions—I do not wish to be in any way offensive, but they do naturally form an opposition to the representatives of organised labour in this Parliament, when this Bill is offered as a gift I advise my hon. Friends on these Benches beside me, and who speak for the trade unions, to consider the gift a Greek gift and to look twice at it. I am certain of this, that it has been introduced in the way it has with the idea of breaking the ranks of organised labour. It has been introduced from a point of view of class, which is actuated by a measure of dis- 767 truss and suspicion for present-day organised labour. I think that will be admitted by hon. Members themselves, because this Bill has not been asked for by organised labour, not to my knowledge anyhow. It is not applied to other of the great associations, guilds, or organisations of this country, as for example, the legal, the medical, architects, accountants, the other great business organisations, and the federation of employers. Seeing it is not applied to them, I shall certainly oppose this Bill. I hope, when the spokesman of the Government makes the position clear, we shall hear that the Government is also opposed to this Bill, which seems to have been brought in more as a means of propaganda—
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Than as a seriously meant Bill to improve the organisation of the labour associations in the country
§ Captain LOSEBY
In view of the fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken made a passing reference to the party of which I have the honour to be a member, I think it is my duty, in ordinary fairness, to commence by stating that the views to which I shall endeavour to give expression have not, at any rate, the official sanction of my party. I do not claim that. In spite of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, the party to which I belong is composed, I believe, of quite 90 per cent, of trade unionists, and I should be making a great claim, but unfortunately I cannot make that claim, if I professed to be speaking for them. I am, however, only speaking for myself alone. The object of the hon. Member who introduced this Bill was to establish the principle of secret ballots in industrial disputes where they affect the interest, comfort, and safety of the community as a whole. I take it that he is out to establish the right of secrecy, and that alone I do not for a moment suppose that he would propose drastic Amendments if they were considered necessary in Committee, provided that that great principle were maintained. I do not know that he would eventually agree, if necessary, even to withdraw this Bill, if given a Second Reading, provided the Government undertook to intro- 768 duce their own Bill in which the principle. I have enunciated were established and consolidated. I want to examine very briefly the main arguments against this. Bill brought up against this Bill. We have been told that it is unnecessary, but is that so? This measure affects grave matters which concern the community as a whole in a most vital manner. It has been alleged this afternoon, and I support the allegation, that those ballots are not above suspicion. If there is any allegation of that kind, whether it be true or false, surely the Members of the Labour party, who are most of them trade union officials, are putting themselves into a false position when they get up here and say "We will resist, and resist to the death, the right of trade unionists to give their votes in secret."
§ Captain LOSEBY
It has been suggested that the machinery of this Bill in regard to this particular matter is objectionable. I will suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite a possible Amendment. If it be shown in any trade union or any professional union that a given percentage of members in a certain case demand that the ballot shall be secret, then assistance shall be given by the Government to ensure that end. If my hon. Friends will get up and say that it is only the machinery they object to, I have no doubt that the mover of this. Bill will meet them on that point. Do hon. Members opposite really object to that suggestion? Surely they must be most anxious to allay the suspicions even of a minority who say they are afraid, and many of them are—
§ Captain LOSEBY
I will endeavour to show the hon. and gallant Member that it is nothing of the kind, and I will make good every argument I am adducing. I hope my hon. Friend will not be allowed to throw dust into the eyes of hon. Members. The demand made by this Bill is of the most modest possible description. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery stated that the hon. Member who introduced this Bill wanted to wound but was afraid to strike. I am prepared to strike without the gloves. There shall be no doubt as to my view on this point. Let me be perfectly clear. I am going to voice the 769 case of those who do fear intimidation, coercion, and victimisation. I will put their case, and I will show why they fear these things. Three main factors must be borne in mind when considering this problem. The first is that the main positions in the trade union world have been captured, owing to their zeal, by the members of a certain political party whose policy is, in the opinion of many of us, diametrically opposed to trade unionism as a whole—I refer to the Independent Labour party. They have captured the main official positions in the trade union world and I believe that is indisputable.
In the second place, these same officials, for whom I have the greatest respect as politicians, have not hesitated to use their power, which is a very great one, in the direction of coercion, intimidation, and victimisation, in the pursuance of a policy in which I frankly acknowledge they honestly believe, but I cannot imagine anything more utterly undesirable than that these gentlemen should be allowed to hold those positions where their interests are so obvious, and at the same time should be allowed to deny the right of individual trade unionists to see that the ballot is conducted in absolute secrecy and absolute silence. My third point is that I do not care what individual trade union officials may say, and I make this allegation that this Bill, with the facilities it offers for secrecy, would be welcomed by the vast majority of trade unionists, because those facilities would give them democratic control. I am going to give a case of victimisation. An hon. Member of this House owed his victimisation to the political bias of a body of trade union officials. The hon. Member I refer to valued his membership of this House more than his membership of his particular trade union, the Miners' Federation. [HON. MEMBERS:"NO, no!"] I do assert that. I know him well. He committed the great offence in the eyes of those gentlemen—of joining the political party of which I am a member. In fact he committed three offences in the eyes of those officials. First, he sent four sons to the War, and his attitude during the War was entirely patriotic. Secondly, and possibly quite wrongly, he believed that it was in the best interests of his fellow miners, and of his fellow trade unionists in Yorkshire, that they should not choose a certain psychological moment to strike, and he said so. His 770 third offence was that he associated him-self with the National Democratic party That man had worked for trade unionism for thirty years. He is devoted to his fellow miners and I will say nothing of the vested interests he had, but he was kicked out; he was deprived of his rights under a ballot which I suggest was corrupt. The matter was not fairly put and when such a thing as that is possible I assert it is of vital importance that this House should not shirk its responsibilities, but should provide the machinery and the means of administering it to secure the proper secrecy of ballot It is the same old story. Tyrants in all times have objected to reform because they say it is not necessary. My hon. Friends opposite are only repeating the arguments which were used when the secret ballot proposal was first introduced into this House. From the benches which they now occupy it was asserted that secrecy of the ballot was necessary because there was coercion and intimidation, and no doubt the reply on this side of the House was to ridicule and laugh at any such suggestion. The boot is now shifted to the other foot. The charge of intimidation, tyranny and coercion is being brought against the very people who were the first to support the secret ballot.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I say the case made against my hon. Friends opposite is as strong, if not stronger, than that which was ever made against those who resisted the secret ballot for Parliamentary elections. I would venture to impress upon hon. Members once again that nothing of the nature of coercion is suggested in this Bill. We are out for emancipation and not coercion, and I am certain, however much my hon. Friend may object—and they have been very kind to me in the course of my few remarks—they will not charge me with wishing to damage, trade unionism, in which I am a most profound believer. What I do wish for is the removal of doubts and suspicions that intimidation does go on—doubts and suspicions which have a very bad effect and will continue to have a serious effect on trade unionism until they are allayed I hope the Government will show courage in this matter and accept this Bill, or, at any rate, will accept the principle, just and equitable as it is, and give facility 771 for the Bill to be considered further by this House. I have the deepest sympathy with the policy of the Government in consulting hon. Members opposite on all matters pertaining to the labour world. That is a wise policy, and it is most necessary to have this co-operation between the benches, but at the same time, I do think it would be bad policy to accept the representation of my hon. Friends opposite alone and to treat with semi-contempt the representations of those who speak on the other side. I realise the difficulties which underlie this Bill, but we are attacking what I am convinced is a great evil, and we have an opportunity to-day which might not recur for a long time. I therefore hope the Government will give its support to the measure.
§ Mr. JAMES BELL
I have listened very carefully to the speeches which have been delivered, and I want to say at once that I have heard no expression from these benches, at any rate, that we do not welcome a ballot vote, and that it should be conducted in secret. We are not opposed to a ballot vote. We are not opposed to its being taken in secret, but we are opposed to this Bill because we do not think it is necessary. Some of our trade unions make provision in their rules for a ballot vote. I have seen some of these votes taken, and they have been taken on exactly the same lines as votes for a Parliamentary election, with polling booths and all the other machinery.
§ Mr. BELL
If we do not always welcome that method, if we do not always take advantage of it, it is not our fault. We sometimes adopt other methods because we want to get our members to vote in larger numbers than they do when we set up polling booths, and when we are told this Bill is going to do something for trade unions which trade unions cannot do for themselves, or will not do, then I at once join issue. One part of this Bill says that a Committee shall decide under what arrangements and by what method a vote shall be taken, but later on it goes on to say that it shall be fixed by Act of Parliament, altogether apart from the Committee having any discretion in the matter, and that it shall be taken by post. I was rather amazed to hear the mover of the Bill say that the envelopes would be franked. There 772 is nothing in the Bill about that. I am very much of the opinion that behind this Bill is an attempt to teach the trade unions their business. We can manage our business for ourselves.
If it were a matter of trying to teach us something about intimidation, or about interfering with the rights of individuals, I daresay there are Members in this House who could give us lessons. When I was elected to the committee of a trade union by a ballot of the members, the first thing I suffered was dismissal from my employment because I had been elected a member of that committee. When employers of labour want to interfere with the rights of the members of trade unions, we are very suspicious as to the motives that may be behind any such attempts. It has been said that abuses creep into our present methods. Something was said about distributing ballot papers at pit-heads, and in other ways. This Bill provides for the distribution of the ballot papers to the members' homes. I do not know any system that would lend itself more to abuse. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent members from taking their ballot papers to their mills or mines or anywhere else. There is nothing to prevent anyone else in their homes—their father, mother, brother, or sister—from marking those papers for the members who are supposed to mark them. There is no one but the members themselves to look after their own interests, and they can do that now. If there is anything wrong in the system by which the members now register their votes, they can put it right for themselves. No matter what method we adopt for allowing our members to register their votes, every member may now vote in secret if he so desires, whether the ballot papers are distributed at the pit-head or by our own officials in the members' homes.
This Bill is absolutely unnecessary, and will not do what its advocates say it will do. I suppose it is desired to show that the officials of trade unions interfere with members in the registration of their votes. I happen to be an official of a trade union, and I know that if I or any other official of my trade union, or any trade union, were found out, either in forging ballot papers or marking them or any other thing that is referred to in this Bill, it would not need an Act of Parliament to shift that official; the members themselves would soon do that. Nothing 773 Would ever happen, either under this Bill or any other Bill, until such practices were found out. When a Bill is brought before the House which seeks to prevent things like forgery, fraud, destruction of votes, manufacture of votes, threats, and intimidation, I begin to wonder what our trade unions and their officials are going to be charged with next. I have sufficient confidence in the power of the members of our trade unions to prevent anything of that sort happening among their officials. There has never been the means, even with the best of systems ever invented, of preventing anybody from interfering with people expressing their votes, or attempting to interfere with their freedom of expression and the marking of their ballot papers. Some of us represent rural constituencies, and we know that voters are still told what will happen to them if they vote for a Labour candidate. When we are told that members of trades unions do not always know what they are voting about, I want to remind the House that members of trades unions are not the only people who do not always know what they are voting about. There are other associations which take votes, and even members of this House do not always know what they are voting about.
If this Bill were going to give to members of trades unions anything that would improve their present position we should welcome it; but we know it will not. I believe one hon. Member said something about wild men screeching through key-holes. If you set up a system of canvassing for votes similar to that which obtains in parliamentary elections, you will give the wild men the opportunity of screeching through key-holes. We do not want that. We do not want canvassing for votes, either by wild men or tame men or any other kind of men. We want and claim the right to manage our own association in our own way. Sometimes associations of employers take votes of their members, and I have been surprised to hear hon. Members whom I know to be employers of labour speaking in support of this Bill, when I know that, if their association takes a ballot vote of its members, it is known, when the ballot votes are returned, how every firm in the association has voted. It is not proposed that this Bill shall apply to associations of employers, but only to associations of working men and women. I have more 774 faith in a vote taken of the members of my own trade union which will give something like 80 per cent of votes, than in any vote which may only give a result of 20 per cent I claim the right of our members to take their vote in the way in which they think most of the members will record their votes. We are as much concerned in doing what is right and fair as any other Members in this House. It is because we know that we can and do conduct our affairs in a fair manner, and that we take our vote with a sincere desire to give every member the right to express his opinion freely and openly, that we resist this Bill, and we hope the House will support us in our opposition.
§ Mr. JESSON
In supporting the Amendment I wish to make it clear that I am speaking only for myself At the same time I appreciate that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Loseby) is very honestly concerned with the Bill and I appreciate his good intentions. I am rather in doubt that this Second Reading is going to be given. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) is supporting the Amendment, and that in my opinion is going to be sufficient to get it carried. Hon. Members make it a point that whatever the hon. and gallant Gentleman supports they will be safe to oppose it.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Hear, hear! That is a great compliment. May I remind the hon. Member that I have supported the Government on many occasions.
§ Mr. JESSON
I never yet had the doubtful honour of being in the same division lobby with the hon. and gallant Gentleman as I know I shall be pretty safe in the opposite one. I believe, although there are faults in our trade unions, it is for trade unionists themselves to put their house in order and not for anyone outside to interfere. The Bill has already been riddled by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace). I do not think there is anything more that can be said in that direction. But I want to deal with practical experiences of my own as a trade union official. It is because of these experiences in my opinion that a Bill of this kind has been brought to this House. One or two instances I want to give are of recent occurrence. I have been connected with the trade union movement for 30 years. I severed 775 my connection with them over the War, and I still find myself in opposition to them from the political point of view. I do not believe it is right or proper that we should mix politics up with our trade unions. That is my difference between my colleagues and myself I am with them heart and soul for the worker getting everything he is justly entitled to. I will work with them in every direction in attaining that end. But when it comes to a matter of politics where there are differences of opinion, I claim the right to express my opinion in my own way.
Some time ago, a certain branch of a trade union in my constituency, which has some 2,500 members, took a vote as to whether or not they should join the Labour party. They called a special meeting and out of 2,500, 35 turned up, of whom 20 voted for joining the Labour party and 14 against. That meant that the whole of the members of that branch were committed to the policy of the Labour party. I asked some of the members why they did not take an interest in their trade unions and turn up and vote. Their reply was that whenever they attended a meeting there were always a few people there who made themselves so obnoxious that they came to the conclusion that it was not worth while troubling about it at all, and therefore, they stayed away. During the last general election members of trade unions, who knew my record as a trade unionist, came to me and said, "We are showing your opponent's bills and cards in our windows. Do not take any notice of it. We are going to support you." If anyone had seen my constituency a couple of days before the general election they would have said my opponent would be in by two to one, but it was I who got in by two to one over my labour opponent. Not that I disagreed with him from the trade union point of view, but he held views with regard to industry generally with which I totally disagreed. The vast majority of the electors in my constituency are trade unionists and I claim that I am voicing the views of trade unionists when I speak as I do. I am very greatly concerned about the future of the trade union movement. Sooner or later some understanding has got to be arrived at between employers and employés whether our employers are finally 776 the State, public bodies, private employers or even the co-operative movement. The best machinery for that that I know, and I am strongly advocating it, is the Whitley Industrial Council. I believe that in the next five years practically every industry in this country will have its Whitley Industrial Council. That means that practically every worker will have to belong to his trade union and every employer will belong to his association.
Something has been said with reference to the Unemployment Insurance Bill. Anyone who carefully studies that Bill cannot help coming to the conclusion that, if it becomes law, it will practically force Whitley Industrial Councils in every industry. There are a good many extremists who realise what it is going to do, and they are very much opposed to it. They are opposed to Whitley Councils for exactly the same reason, because if you lift industrial matters out of the political arena and settle them by round table conferences, there is going to be no need for a political Labour party on a class war basis. The Industrial Insurance Bill is going to bring about a revolution in industrial affairs. At present any member of a trade union which is affiliated to the Labour party, who does not carry out the wishes of the majority of the Labour party from a political point of view, is regarded as a traitor to his own organisation. That is not right. It is not proper. I am out to see that the worker gets justice, not only a proper rate of wage, but a share in the prosperity and the increased production of his own industry as well. I want him to have every penny piece that he is entitled to. We can get that by industrial councils, and without political action, and that is my only difference between my colleagues opposite and myself I want to see this brought about, and I want the House to realise that something, sooner or later, will have to be done with regard to our trade unions when it comes to dealing with these great industrial matters. They have got to be lifted out of the political arena altogether, otherwise there is going to be friction all along the line. It is for that reason that I am supporting the rejection of this Bill, because I want the trade unionists and the employers to get round a table to deal with these matters for themselves, so that there will be no 777 necessity for Parliament to interfere in this matter.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I rise to support the rejection of this Bill, for a series of reasons. The first reason is that I understand this Bill was born in Belfast. It is an emanation of the Chamber of Commerce of that city, and the Chamber of Commerce of Belfast is the hierarchy of reaction in Ireland. Anything coming from the Chamber of Commerce of Belfast—of which city I am proud to be a representative—aiming at benefiting the masses of the people is open to grievous suspicion as far as I am concerned. My second reason is that this Bill has caused a split in the Democratic Labour party. I am opposed to dissension in all shapes and forms. I belong to a small party myself, and I view with a certain amount of pathos the rather tearful position of those mighty advocates of labour who boast that their chief reason for existence is that they should always be ready to walk into the Tory Lobby. Therefore, it would be a great pity to break them up. If they are to march at all they should march in serried and united array. It is hardly worth while for the noble Tory who introduced this Bill to spend a whole day of Parliamentary time in the sorry task of breaking up the National Democratic Labour party, for without occupying Parliamentary time that most admirable purpose can be duly carried out at the next General Election. I was struck by the remarkable simplicity of the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesson) who has just sat down. He was in a reminiscent mood, and I trust he will not object to my again calling attention to it. He spoke of his experiences in his election at Waltham-stow.
§ Captain LOSEBY
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. May I remind him that the hon. Member who has just sat down is on the same side as himself in this matter.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
It is not necessary for the National Democratic party to tell me that. I have some intelligence. Even to a party of such limited capacity that ought to be obvious. The hon. Gentleman in the series of reminiscences told us what happened. He spoke about election papers or cards or, I suppose, photo- 778 graphs. I do not know whether the photograph constitutes an ingenious form of electioneering in England. For obvious reasons I have never encouraged it in my constituency.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Yes, we are both in the same boat. We get votes on our principles and not on our faces. The hon. Member told us that if every voter who had put a card of the Labour party in the window had voted for the Labour party he would have been wiped out of existence. He did not tell the whole story. The coupon is better than a photograph. He did not get in by Labour votes; he got in by Tory votes, and by a section of Liberal votes. Therefore, I do not think that he can call himself a Labour man.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I would remind the hon. Member that the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. Jesson) got in by the secret ballot.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I understand you also got in by the secret ballot. You have the secret ballot and, therefore, you have a chance of being returned to Parliament. My point is this, that the hon. Gentleman is not a representative of Labour I do not rate his intelligence very high, but at all events, I cannot conceive it possible to regard as a Labour representative any man in this House who, in the time I have been in the House, is rarely found, if ever, in the Lobby with the Labour party. He argued in almost terms of sacrosanct philosophy that he is a Labour man up on the high mountains of Labour perfection, while these other gentlemen are down in the valleys of political controversy. Is the hon. Member living in mediaeval times? Does he not know that you cannot divorce democratic ideas from politics? He cannot deny that he, too, is a politician. I read the other day, or perhaps I was blind—(The hon. Member (Brigadier-General Croft) interrupts)—I can deal with two or three parties. I can deal with Tories, I can deal with Liberals, 779 I can even afford to differ, if I like, from the Labour party, but I thought I had finished your party long ago. I finished them first and then the electors finished them afterwards. Therefore, I do not desire to go back to that.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I did not interrupt, in spite of the fact that the hon. Member has no supporters behind him.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Do you think I want any supporters here? Why should intelligent Irishmen come here? Nothing of the sort. They are sensible enough to stay away.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
If I may be allowed to get back to my point, it is this. I do not know whether the hon. Member (Mr. Jesson) was a member of that picturesque itinerant procession which left London a short time ago to make a political visit to Belfast.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
He was there, and he says he is no politician. Is not the Irish question a political question? Is it not the gravest and most pressing question before the British Empire to-day? The hon. Gentleman went over to Ireland, a country to which he does not belong. So far as I know it was his first visit to that country.
§ Mr. JESSON
In the early days I was in Ireland and did my bit when the Moonlighters were doing much the same as they are doing now. I went out night after night and never knew whether I should get home again or not.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am glad you have made that admission. He went over to do his bit with the Moonlighters.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
In the interval there has been a period of magnificent Irish peace. The hon. Member goes over to Ireland 780 again and peace no longer prevails. Yet he is a peaceable looking gentleman. I do not think he would hurt a fly. And yet he wants to take the responsibility of the abnormal conditions that exist in this country at the present moment. What was that but a political visit? What is the good of saying that you are not a politician? You are a politician. Every member of the National Democratic party is a politician. You are politicians who answer the Tory bell and troop into the Tory Lobby.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Certainly, I would rather address you, Sir, than the National Democratic party. They are not labour men; they are not democrats. Imagine labour men and democrats engaged in hysterical Ulsteria on the 12th July sup porting the capitalists, the reactionists, the ascendency party, the forces of Toryism, and those who deny the very fundamental principle of justice to a nation and then saying that they are not politicians, but that they are labour men and democrats. I now see why the hon. Gentlemen opposite are supporting this Bill. This Bill was concocted in the Chamber of Commerce in Belfast. It was brought over here and given to a Tory. By all means let Tories propose these Bills if they honestly express the purpose and intent for which they are introduced—I have no objection to that at all—but when I listened to the speech of the hon. Member who stood up as the defender of the rights of the working classes, I thought that it was one of the Lord President of the Council's Coercion Acts that he was reading. All the conventional expressions which are to be found in every Coercion Bill ever passed for Ireland occur in the clauses, sections, and sub-sections which were read here by the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. The working classes in this country and everywhere know their own business and know how to do it. If they have the power to elect Members to this House and if in the trade unions they have the power to elect leaders to guide the destinies of the trade union movement it is their business to say by what methods their business shall be carried out. Therefore, as a Home Ruler and a real democrat, I resent the introduction 781 of this Bill altogether. It is insulting and humiliating in the source from which it comes and in the character of its proposals, and for that reason I shall go into the Lobby with the representatives of the Labour party who have attacked this Bill and proposed the Amendment, and I trust that the House of Commons in the few opportunities that are given to private Members on Fridays will in future occupy its time with something more legitimate than such a frivolous discussion as has taken place on this measure to-day.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I share the hope of my hon. Friend who has just sat down that not only the Labour party, but a very large proportion of Members from other parts of the House, will go into the Lobby against this Bill. I also agree with him, in slightly different phraseology, in suggesting that this measure is a frivolous and irresponsible one to bring in even on a Friday afternoon. It is claimed that it is going to do something for the trade unions of this country. I know something about the trade unions, having been handsomely supported by trade unionists of the best type, and I know that, if anything be wanted in the direction of improving the machinery of the trade unions, the trade unionists themselves are well able to come forward and suggest for what it is they wish to have the sanction of Parliament I confess, when I look at the names of my hon. Friends on the back of the Bill, that I cannot find that they are other than mainly the champions of lost causes, and Members who by no stretch of imagination—I am not speaking disrespectfully of them—could be hailed as genuine friends of trade unionism or any other form of trade organisation. It is a bad Bill, and it is very essential that this House, which I believe is a national House of Commons in the sense that it represents in great majority the life and goodwill of all classes, should refuse to give it a Second Reading, because we stand at a time when the trade unions of the country have just emerged from a period of magnificent war work. Notwithstanding the various troubles that have occurred in industry, every Member who looks at the matter fairly and honestly must admit that the trade union leaders have done their level best among their followers to steady opinion, and for the House to proceed with this Bill to day would be absolutely fatal in the direction 782 of making the great bulk of the trade unionists throughout the country believe that this House is out to interfere with that which they legitimately believe to be a matter well within their own control. I shall certainly oppose the Bill
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Whatever may be the fate of this Bill, the discussion has been a valuable one. It has shown that the system of voting in trade unions is not a good one. It has been practically admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) that the system by which one most important vote was taken was not a good one, and therefore, even if this Bill be rejected, the discussion will have helped to show that some change is necessary either by voluntary effort or by some other means. Trade unionists cannot contend that this Bill creates a new precedent. They are well aware that the Act of 1913 brought into operation compulsory machinery for taking the secret vote. When a trade union wants to join up and take political action they have to submit to compulsory machinery for taking the secret vote. Whatever happens to this Bill—if in Committee it be very much changed or modified—it will still be a permissive Bill. No trade union is compelled to adopt the machinery Therefore, my hon. Friends opposite are putting themselves in a singularly false position by the strong antagonism which they are taking to the principle of secret voting. My hon. Friend, the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. Jesson), spoke of his own election. I know Walthamstow, and I know that intimidation was rampant there. I feel certain, if my hon. Friend had to submit to the old system of balloting in this country, he could not, at any rate, in 1910, have got elected for Walthamstow It was the secret ballot which enabled him to be elected.
I cannot see the objection to the secret ballot. The smallness of the vote which is taken whenever most important issues are submitted to the votes of trade unions is an indication that under the system of secret voting they would probably get larger votes. For that reason last Session, in a question which I addressed to the Prime Minister, I suggested that secret voting should be established I cannot but be struck by the fact that the trade unions of this country are no longer simply trade unions, but are great political forces trying to deflect and 783 determine the policy of this country. One reason why I have no doubt my hon. Friends opposite are enamoured of the present system is that, by a minority vote in the trade unions, some 5 per cent., or at most 20 per cent, in different cases, so that 80 to 95 per cent, abstained from voting, the bulk of the trade unions were, affiliated to the present Labour party. I would like to give a few instances of the small numbers who voted on different occasions. I would remark in passing that I have been told that there are cases of lodges in which more voted than there were members of the lodge. [HON. MEMBERS:"NO!"] I have seen the assertion, and in any event a, little publicity given to the fact that the statement has been made may lead to clearing up the issue.
In order that the publicity which the hon. Member desires can be given, will he tell us the name of the particular branch?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I cannot tell you; I have seen the statement made. Ballot papers are scattered around, and if there is not great care taken it may very well happen that they will get into wrong hands. I will take the vote on the 47 hours' week. It was carried on the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and only 12.2 per cent of the members voted for it.
Mr. J. JONES
Will the hon. Member give us the numbers who voted for the 44 hours' week which was also in question at the same time?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I am sorry to say that I have not the other figures under my control, but I have taken the particulars as to the 47 hours' week. It is open to the trade unions to publish the figures and then we shall have them at our disposal. In the building trade the 47 hours' week was carried by the Carpenters, Cabinet Makers and Joiners' Society and only 13. per cent. of the members voted for it. In the painting trade only 23.1 per cent, voted for the proposal. In the Workers' Union, where the total numbers are not known exactly, about 10 per cent., probably less, voted in favour of the 47 hours' week. Then we had the incidents at Tredegar given by the hon. Member who introduced the Bill The first to give publicity to the statement was Mr. Littlejohn. He 784 pointed out that the total number belonging to the union at Tredegar was 4,000. Thirty-two assembled, 27 voted in favour and only five against. That meant that those 32 practically controlled the whole lot of the 4,000 men.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
It was stated in Mr. Littlecraft's speech, which was made on 10th March this year.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
An extreme leader of the labour movement, Mr. J. Murphy, speaking at the National Conference of Working Class Associations which was held on May 30th, 1919, under the auspices of Ruskin College—[HON. MEMBERS: "We never heard of him !"]— he was great enough to lecture at the National Conference of Working Class Associations. He is an important shop steward. One of your own Members, the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. R. Young) presided at the lecture, and said that he agreed with the paper. Mr. Murphy said:"I have done just as much work in the trade union branch as in the workshop, and I find that what you have there is exactly what I have been trying to describe here. Time after time you simply get a small group inside a branch which can make that branch do just as they like. You may find a dozen in attendance out of 300 and they govern the branch.What I hope for out of this Bill, as amended in Committee—and I hope that it will be amended considerably in Committee—is that we shall get more members of trade unions, especially when they are voting on an issue which affects the policy of the country, to take an interest in the affairs of the union, if they adopt this Bill I put it to hon. Members opposite that you cannot look upon trade unions as a private concern any longer. We are giving them powers. One of the complaints of the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) was that this House actually had taken away some of the power from the trade unions and given it to the friendly societies. Hon. Members opposite when they claim these 785 powers for trade unions must realise that, with 6,500,000 trade unionists as against 4,500,000 four years ago, and 2,500,000 ten years ago, they have become great public bodies, and that the public have an interest in seeing that when they vote, their vote is a free vote and a majority vote.
§ Mr. R. YOUNG
The hon. Member who has just sat down has referred to the fact that I took the chair at a meeting in Coventry at which a well-known shop steward was the lecturer. That shop steward was undoubtedly pointing out that there was a small attendance at branch meetings on various occasions, but while I agree that that is so, it is not true to infer that I agree with the conclusions of that particular shop steward That particular shop steward was arguing against our method of branch voting, and arguing in favour of voting in the workshop. I am as much opposed to that kind of voting in the workshop as I am to the voting under this Bill I have been trying during the course of this discussion to find out why this Bill has been introduced. I can find no valid reason. The hon. Member for Bradford East (Captain Loseby) gave us a reason which was quite contrary to all the reasons put forward by previous speakers. The majority of the speakers in favour of this Bill are anxious to safeguard the trade union leaders against the extremist section in the societies, but the hon. Member for Bradford East told us that it was the extremists who have captured these organisations, and, therefore, it was absolutely necessary that we should have this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow, as an argument in favour of this Bill, gave us two very queer instances of the kind of people he desired to protect. He told us that at a meeting in Walthamstow of some society with 2,500 members, a few members dominated the branch. All I have to say is that if the 2,500 members were so cowardly and inane as to allow 250 other members or 32 members to dominate a branch, they are hardly worth looking after in any direction.
He also added that a very large number of labouring men put into the windows of his constituency the literature of his opponent, but indicated at the same time, that while that literature was there he might rest assured that they would vote for him. With all due respect, I must 786 take that with a great grain of salt. I can hardly believe that in these days of even elementary education such a thing is possible to any large extent. I am almost certain that no member of a trade union is so cowardly as to put into his window the literature of a Labour man with whom he disagrees. He may find it economically good policy to put in the literature of his employer He would not be so cowardly as not to put in the literature of an ordinary Labour man who would have no power to penalise him This kind of legislation, introduced by people who do not understand the trade union movement, cannot do more than create irritation. I am one of those who, rightly or wrongly, has been described as a moderate Labour Member. I can assure the House that I resent this Bill enormously, and even more intensely than I am able to say I resent the fact that men who think they understand the trade union movement should put forward a Bill to interfere with the working of the trade unions in relation to the exercise of their franchise. We are not supposed to be able to legislate or govern on this side of the House. If this is an indication of the ability of people on the other side of the House to legislate or govern, all I have to say is, Heaven help us in the days to come! They evidently do not understand that if this thing is necessary in the nation's interest, all that is required is to make it compulsory through an amendment of the Trade Unions Act.
Those who sit on the Labour Benches are not opposed to secret ballots in relation to industrial questions. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) referred to various things in relation to the voting in our trade unions. This Bill does not lay it down that there shall be a majority vote; it does not in any way infringe on any other vote than that which is going to create, or is supposed to create, a stoppage of work. All his illustrations have no bearing at all on the particular subject before us. This Bill, even if carried, will not disturb me in the least. It is an altogether impracticable Bill. I guarantee that no trade union will undertake to operate it, and that no trade union will look at it. The members themselves would deny the right of their executive to put it into operation, because in the majority of trade unions the 787 rules of those organisations are made by the members. At delegate meetings the rules are drawn up and they go before the Registrar for confirmation. I am somewhat astonished that the society to which I belong has not been more or less pulverised this afternoon in relation to what it does. I do not believe that those who have been talking know anything at all about the methods of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. We undoubtedly have our ballot, when necessary, by open voting, but on questions which are of a vital character, even to the extent of selecting officials, it is all done by ballot, and in a secret manner. If anyone were caught interfering in any way with the secrecy of the ballot, that member would undoubtedly be penalised severely. May I indicate to those who have been talking generally of the trade union movement, what the Amalgamated Society of Engineers does. I will read the rule which is applicable to the elections in the Society:Tellers shall in ballot voting see that all members of their branch who enter a branch meeting room receive a ballot paper, on which shall be placed the names of the candidates and the branches to which they belong. The secretary shall supply them with a list of names and the number of members of the branch. One teller shall hand out the ballot paper and fix the branch seal thereto. The other shall keep a record of sheets supplied by the secretary of those voting, and such record shall correspond to the number of ballot papers given out. Members having voted must place their paper in the ballot box which shall be under the strict supervision of the tellers. After the close of the ballot box the tellers in conjunction with the President shall count the votes. Ballot papers must be kept in the possession of the branch for one month after the returns are due at the general office. Any violation of this rule shall render the vote of the branch invalid. Any member intimidating members voting or circulating false or malicious statements in order to influence elections shall be fined according to the gravity of the offence.Perhaps the House will be interested to know that in relation to trade disputes in general no strike can be entered upon in any district affecting the whole of the members unless carried by a majority of three votes to two of the members voting of the said district, and no settlement shall be decided upon unless accepted by a majority of three votes to two. Consequently, it is within the power of the trade union rank and file, whom hon. Members are out to defend, to secure 788 themselves against intimidation, and to suggest alterations in the rules, and to have a vote, not merely as to industrial disputes, but even in relation to minor matters. At the latter end of 1917 and beginning of 1918 the society which I represent was in great difficulty with the Government of the day. The Government's proposals were under discussion in the country. I and other representatives had come back from France not so long before, having been sent out there for the purpose of bringing back skilled engineers out of the trenches, and the rank and file could hardly understand how in face of that men should be immediately "combed" out to be sent back to the trenches. Consequently, there was a good deal of controversy and difference of opinion that almost threatened industrial dislocation. The representatives of the organisation met hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite and proposals were made by the Government. What did the society do? It took a postal ballot; somewhat similar to the ballot laid down in this Bill. It was perfectly secret. The result of that ballot was that the Government's proposals were voted down by a majority of 93,255; the figures being for 27,416, and against 120,675. It could not be laid to the charge of officials of extreme views that they were responsible for that vote. As a result of that ballot the difficulty increased. We again met the representatives of the Government and again we put our machinery into operation. After hearing the Government's position, and knowing the position in which the country at that moment stood, the representatives of my organisation at a delegate meeting manfully determined, although the vote had only recently been taken, that the general secretary and one or two others should draw up a ballot paper which would be of an impartial character, stating both sides of the case; though there were some things we could not state at that time owing to the country's need that they should not be made known. We issued ballot papers and the members by vote reversed the previous vote.
All those things can be done without irritating us in this fashion. It is rather unfortunate when the Government comes down to this House and introduces legislation of a character to bring employers and employed together by their Industrial Courts Bill and other 789 Bills of that character, that private Members should act in this sort of fashion, and throw amongst us that which is likely to create suspicion and prejudice which we are all anxious to allay. Even those who drew up this Bill do not understand the constitution of the Labour party. They lay it down that the Parliamentary Chairman and the Parliamentary Secretary shall be two of the persons concerned, but they need not be trade union members, so that under those circumstances only two out of the seven to see the ballot carried out might be members of trade unions. It has been suggested by a supporter of the Bill that if you have a secret ballot those who are supposed to wield influence in the trade union other than officials would be found to represent the trade union movement in proportion to their numbers, as he said we in this House represented labour in relation to our numbers. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman who said so is not in the House at the moment as I would like to "remind him that even that is not satisfactory because, as was pointed out in the early stages of this Parliament, if you take the votes cast at the last election for Labour and for Coalition, instead of Labour having only 62 Members we should, according to the votes given by secret ballot of the country, have 100 more Members and the Government should have that 100 less. There is no need for this Bill and I trust the House will in their judgment condemn it, and that it will not be necessary lotus to go down to the constituencies and produce this Bill and add to the unfortunate feeling which does exist in many quarters by showing what this House is trying to do to impede the trade union movement in its activities by trying to take under their wing those who do not desire to be under their wing, namely, that portion of the trade union movement who do not take the trouble to record their votes when the opportunity is afforded. Therefore I trust the Government will indicate that they will not give a Financial Resolution for this Bill which is, I trust, the last of these measures to be introduced and which create ill-feeling at a time when it is absolutely necessary for the representatives of labour and the representatives of the employers to get together in order to bring about satisfactory methods to prevent strikes, lockouts and industrial disputes.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I should be very sorry indeed that anything should be done by any Member of this House that might be irritating or embarrassing to the leaders of trade unionism, because their task is very hard and difficult. We know that the leaders of the trade union movement in this House are actuated in the main, and in fact, I may say the whole of them by a desire for industrial peace and natural progress. But it occurs to me as very extraordinary why a simple proposal that the members of trade unions should have the vast benefit of secrecy in voting in industrial matters should cause the Member for Newton (Mr. R. Young) and the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) so much heat and indignation. As one who is not an employer of labour but a member of the oldest and most conservative trade union in Scotland, I do not see why this very simple proposal should annoy them so much. I quite admit it may be right they should say, "Now that you have given us the hint we will go and do it on our own account." It appears to me that they are simply resuscitating all the old dead arguments that were used generations ago against the secrecy of the ballot. If you will look back at old political speeches in bye gone times, you will find that the big landed proprietors and the dry-as-dust old Tories of those days offered the most eloquent arguments against the secrecy of the political ballot and said it was unbecoming for an Englishman not to have the courage of his opinions and vote openly for the candidate for whom his conscience dictated that he should vote. It was all very well, but there were occasionally scandals got up. There was one in the county in which I happened to be born, that I have heard old men speak of, where farmers were ejected from their farms because they voted for candidates who favoured the Reform Bill of 1832. All these arguments are now being resurrected against this simple proposal.
I cannot follow the psychology of the trade union leaders who object to it. If they really believe they are getting votes according to the minds and consciences of their own members, then they should have no hesitation in welcoming this proposal. I do not believe there is much intimidation. That, to my mind, is not the point. The real point is different, and it is often forgotten by employers of labour, and manufacturers, and the like. 791 The workers take the view put forward once by Dr. Johnson, when he said it would be a sad thing for this country if it was ever to be guided by the purely mercantile classes, because they were not capable of taking broad views; they looked at things purely from the point of view of balances and ledgers and profit-and-loss. They forget that the British working man is not inspired by their views of profit-and-loss. He is essentially a fighter and very pugnacious, and thank God for it, he has always got the heart of a boy in his bosom, with the result that when you put it to a British working man: "Are you going to strike or are you not going to strike?" he always says to himself:"It is on the striking side that the hardship is, and, therefore, I will vote for that." This is because he is essentially pugnacious and does not want to have it said of him that he voted in favour of peace and quietude. That is not his nature. We are not a military, but we are a fighting people, and the British working man wants to go with the band and to be on the pugnacious side. Garibaldi said to his followers: "You can remain at home in peace and quietude. I can never offer you anything but wounds and death; will you follow me?" And they followed him, and that is the temper of the British working man. When you say, "This is the fighting side," he wants to go with his mates and fight, but when it is just a question of the secrecy of the ballot, and he has to consult nobody but himself and can consider the matter for himself, I consider that he votes with a far freer mind. Again, you have always to consider that when men vote for a strike the sacrifices are not equal. The young, irresponsible youth, without a wife and family, readily votes for the militant side, but the grey-headed elder, with wife and children depending upon him, is in a different position.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The sacrifice he has to make is often very much greater, and therefore it is in the interests of these men that I speak in support of this Bill. Maybe it is a crude and badly digested Bill, but I would urge my friends of the Labour party—and I am proud to number a good many of them amongst my friends—that they should accept the 792 principle of this Bill and secure, in their own interests and in the interests of their followers, that on these very grave matters of industrial dispute their members shall have the absolute and full protection of the secrecy of the ballot, and I am sure the number of industrial disputes will be very much lessened and the freedom and liberty of their members will be substantially guaranteed.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Dr. Macnamara)
In connection with industrial disputes, two suggestions have been recently put forward from various quarters—first, that a strike should not be called without a ballot of members, and secondly, that as far as possible the ballot when taken should reflect the free and unfettered opinions of the men concerned. As regards the first point, that is not raised in this Bill, and therefore I will not go into it; but the second issue is raised in this Bill. It is that if you have a ballot it should be so conducted as to make certain, as far as is humanly possible, that the decision shall reflect the free, unfettered, and deliberate wishes of the rank and file. Nobody listening to this Debate to-day—and certainly not the trade union leaders whom I see opposite to me—would think of dissenting to that proposition in any circumstances, but inasmuch as certain allegations have been made—they have been made here this afternoon—regarding the method of arriving at the decision of the rank and file in certain cases, the promoters of this Bill come forward and say, "In any case where you take a ballot, here is a machinery which you may use, but you are not compelled to use it." That is the proposition. My right hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) and others, say to the promoters and supporters of the proposition, in effect, "Had you not better leave us to manage our own affairs? Our people resent and will view with very great irritation any interference of this sort." My right hon. Friend said in terms, "Don't you butt in, "and indeed, they put to us" The very fact that you seek to do so by this permissive proposition—no matter how enlightened and above-board the motive and purpose may be and no doubt is—will create irritation." That, in a few sentences, is much of the speech of my right hon. Friend. Goodness knows, nobody wants to create irritation, and of course everybody here, 793 including, I am quite confident, the promoters, share the common British prejudice in favour of letting people manage their own affairs—as the mover of the Bill put it, their own domestic affairs— which we all have at heart, naturally.
Apart altogether from any allegation of impropriety in any degree or kind, let me make that quite clear. The situation is not quite so simple and clear-cut as that. My hon. Friends really want to look at that for a moment. We wish to indulge the British prejudice in favour of looking after their own affairs. Of course, trade unions are not the creation of statutes, and it is quite true that, even to-day, they have no corporate existence. But, putting it roughly, from 1871 right down to the present time, and increasingly so in recent years, as every hon. Member opposite knows, the trade unions have more and more come to be accepted by succeeding Governments as representative of the aims, the wishes, the desires and the aspirations of the working-class people. That is a fact. That, of course, confers very great responsibility, and anxious responsibilities, as every trade union leader knows. But, apart from this conferment of responsibility, which has grown with increasing momentum, in recent years particularly, there is something more than that in the Statute Book. There is the Trades Disputes Act, of 1906, with which everybody here is familiar. Now I have mentioned this fact simply to note that, side by side with the conferment of increasing authority and responsibility, there is in this case, at any rate, the conferment of a measure of immunity for trade unions and their officials as officials. I am merely rehearsing a familiar story when I say that the acknowledged responsibility of trade unions in the life of the country is now very considerable, and succeeding Governments have accorded them, with growing momentum, in recent years, a very large measure of recognition in the determination of national issues.
Let me venture to remind the House of a few instances in support of the proposition. The Joint District Boards, recognised and given certain statutory powers under the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1912, are composed, as to the workmen's side, of trade union officials. By the Munitions of War Act, 1915, it was enacted, as we all know who took part in the discussion, if not indeed in the 794 preparation of the scheme, that no change in practice made during the war should be allowed to prejudice the position of the workmen or their trade unions in regard to the resumption and maintenance after the War of any rules or customs existing before the War, and the pledge was given full effect to at the instance of the trade unions in the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act, 1919. Then there is the Wages (Temporary Regulation) Act, 1918. Proceedings for failure to comply with the Act may be instituted by, or on behalf of, a trade union. Any party to such proceedings may appear by an officer of the trade union organisation although he is not necessarily a barrister, solicitor, or law agent, and the same privilege is granted by the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act, 1919.
Take the Rates Advisory Committee set up by Section 21 of the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919, wherein it is provided that the Ministry of Transport on questions referring to rates, fares, tolls and so on, is bound under the Act to include one member being a representative of Labour interests nominated by the Minister of Labour in consultation with the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress and other agents concerned. I think I am within the mark in saying that half of the advisory committees attached to the Employment Exchanges are trade unionists. The claim that the trade unions should be consulted by the Government on matters affecting their members has been widely and most wisely—I use that word with deliberation—conceded during the War. Advisory committees set up during the War had on them representatives of trade unions, and we owe a great deal to them. The development of Whitley Councils, to which my hon. Friend referred, although they are not covered by statutory sanction nevertheless in my judgment, and I think my hon. Friend will agree with me, very materially add to the importance and responsibility of trade unions, inasmuch as the workman's side of these institutions, from which we all hope so much, is invariably chosen by organised labour.
All this means that the State has deliberately conferred great powers and authority upon this great organisation; in one case immunity—I need not labour the point. I am quite sure my hon. Friends opposite appreciate it—but it 795 also imposes great responsibility. They know that. My point is this and this is why I make it: The very natural prejudice which has been stated here to-day In favour of people looking after their own affairs does not quite apply here as it does to definitely and clear-cut issues. Certainly it does not apply as it would have done 10, 20, or 30 years ago. We had better get down to brass tacks, as the Americans say, as to the reason of this permissive Bill. The promoters, as I gather, have every confidence in the level-headed judgment, the good sense and the honour of the vast body of trade unionists.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was trying to rehearse the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading, and, after all, I must assume that hon. Members who get up and make statements of this sort make them in good faith. With the statement of the hon. Member as to his confidence in the level-headed judgment, good sense, and honour of the great body of trade unionists, so far as I am concerned—it is hardly necessary to say it—I most thoroughly agree. I have had the great pleasure during the last 11 or 12 years of meeting the trade unionists employed in the Royal dockyards. It is alleged, in fact, that the extremists are so consumed with the pursuit of their own policy that they make no bones about using every effort, legitimate or otherwise, to rush the situation in the direction in which they think it ought to go. The allegation is that they intimidate the quiet people, and take advantage of their absence to use block votes in a way that does not reflect the true opinion of the majority. The promoters of this Bill say, "Here is a machine to remedy this."
§ Mr. J. E. DAVISON
Is that the process in any trade union in the country when there is a strike involved—I mean the block vote?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am stating the way the working of this Bill has been put to the House. Its machinery is permissive, and if used it will guarantee a verdict about which there will be no question, and I think that will be as satisfactory to hon. Members opposite as it will be to the public. The mover of the Second Reading was careful to go through the proposal in the Bill with regard to penalties, but whether it is expedient or desirable to place such a Statute at the disposal of the trade unions is one which I think the House must decide for itself. This is a private Member's Bill, and I take it that the House is fully entitled to give a free and unfettered expression of opinion upon it. Hon. Members have heard the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Brace) that the trade unions will not use it, and in effect they practically say, "Leave this question to us." I think I understood my right hon. Friend correctly to that effect. You say, "Leave it to us, and if there is anything wrong we will look after it."
That is rather a bold statement. Therefore, whatever may be the decision of the House, the discussion on this Bill, after all, is not without its value. Trade union leaders are invested with very grave and anxious responsibility, not only to their members but, as years have gone on, increasingly to the State, and those leaders we know most intimately in this House, those that I now see opposite me, have given us many evidences of their full appreciation of that responsibility. I cannot suppose that they, at any rate will, in any way, misunderstand or misconceive the motives which have brought this Bill forward this afternoon. My interest and that of my right hon. Friend opposite is to see that the great organisation which, after all, by patient endeavour extending over so many decades has done so much for the comfort and well-being of the labouring man, shall not fall below the highest ideals of those who most worthily represent it. It is, in the first instance, to them that I look to see—and it is their business—that no legitimate reproach should lie against their great organisation. I very much doubt whether, in any other country in the world, trade unions have been so frankly and fully recognised by the State and the Government as in this country. That obviously carries with it very great responsibility, as I have already tried to express and as 797 my hon. Friends opposite will be the first to confirm. Trade unionists always and everywhere will be wise to order their proceedings, and especially, if I may say so, the manner in which they arrive at their decisions so as to carry with them the greatest possible confidence of the public at large. Having reviewed the situation, the Government think that this private Member's proposal should be voted upon in an entirely free and unfettered manner by the House itself.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as befits him as the head of that great Department, the Ministry of Labour, contains proofs of a great deal of sympathy and general appreciation of the difficulties of those of us who sit here, and incidentally, of the very important place which trade unions have assumed in the life of our country. I cannot, however, congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the announcement which he has made on behalf of the Government. I 'would have thought that this subject was important enough- to cause the Government to have a definite opinion on it, and that we should have heard from the Minister of Labour at least, some few words of definite advice and guidance for Members of the House as to what they should do in view of the terms of this Bill. The House, however, is to have the advantage of the exercise of a freedom which is not always employed, and therefore we shall watch with all the greater interest the manner in which Members this afternoon vote into the Division Lobbies. This Bill is really built on a recent newspaper stunt. It is not a child of events. It has not come out of any great moving underlying cause. No case has been made out to justify the House in seriously thinking it should give it a Second Reading. That the Bill is untimely and that the moment is inopportune every Member will admit when he reflects on the fact that this is an hour when they are repeating appeals to organised labour, to restore, as far as possible, the fullest measure of industrial peace and contentment to our industrial kingdom, and to co-operate with employers of labour and with the Government, in resuming something like pre-War conditions in respect of the production of commodities, and the renewal of ordinary economic and industrial conditions It is at this moment, when they are making this appeal, that all the 798 charges incidental to the speeches this afternoon have been made. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill, and the few who supported him, went as deep as they possibly could to dig up charges against those of us who have the conduct of trade union affairs somewhat in our keeping, or to sweep together such charges as they could by citing instances where an individual workman has said something extravagant in support of some notion peculiar to himself, and in no way shared by trade unionists in general.
The extremists are not weakened by this Bill. If it became law their liberty would not be diminished, and they would not be in the slightest degree hampered in any course they might desire to take in relation to any particular trade dispute. I should have thought the Mover would have had the courage of his convictions and proposed a measure in terms which would have compelled the trade unions to do what he thinks is so essential for the industrial peace of the country. He limits himself, however, to permitting a trade union to arrange a ballot on the lines provided in this Bill. Its first Clause states that a trade union may decide that a ballot vote of its members shall be taken under its provisions in the case of any matter which might lead to a stoppage of work. What is there to prevent the extremists from doing everything they possibly can to see that the trade union does not take a ballot under such conditions? They have just as full liberty to exert their influence in that election as they have now liberty to influence any decision of a trade union, whether reached by means of a ballot or on an ordinary vote at branch meetings. Indeed, this would only strengthen the hands of the extremists, by permitting them to make to their arguments the addition that this was the device of a capitalist Parliament for the purpose of preventing them from exercising their freedom in the ordinary way. There is no argument which at the moment does more mischief in connection with the arrangement of differences than the argument that there are certain designs by Parliament to interfere with the freedom of these great organisations.
If we are to have a measure of this kind, why is it proposed to limit these ballot provisions, and why do we suggest that all this elaborate, expensive, complicated and far-reaching machinery should apply only in the case of strikes 799 which are caused by workmen? What about the great stoppages of work in the nature of lock-outs caused by employers? Are not they, and the shareholders of the great capitalist companies and organisations, to be required to determine these methods by ballot in a manner that will make them even with the trade unions? No one who has supported this Bill has said that there is to be equality of conduct and action as between capital and labour in respect of such disputes as may arise. In one of the greatest disputes within the last 20 years, which lasted seven months, dislocated trade and business, and inflicted harm from which it may be said that some trades have not yet recovered, though the workmen's organisations have recovered—I refer to the great engineering lock-out of some 19 or 20 years ago—there was a stoppage of work where, admittedly, many employers of labour were coerced into locking out their men. Deputations of employers went to firms and told them that, if they did not stop their men and lock them out, orders would be interrupted, their business would be checked, and they could not carry on their ordinary relations as between employer and employed. What I say is common knowledge. I merely recall it to the memory of those who experienced the bitterness of that fight for the long period during which it lasted. Are we then in any way to interfere with those on the employers' side who determine these great questions relating to the interests of capital? The two great organised bodies must, of course, work upon different lines. Labour must work in the open. It must march and parade for its administration, its ballots, its meetings, all its intentions are reported in the Press. Everyone knows more or less the results of its conferences, and, in short, it must act in the light of day. Not so capital. Capitalists can determine the fate of millions of people just as they can determine very largely the prices of the commodities and needs of daily life. They can do it in secret. They can laugh at the idea of commanding them to take the voice and opinion of the thousands of persons whom they claim to be representing, and inasmuch as it is not possible to establish anything like a state of equity between these two great powers of labour and capital why is it proposed 800 seriously that this further restraint shall be proposed in the case of organised labour? Not that I believe in practice it could or would have been restrained. I want to speak with all respect of the law, but the law cannot retain or command respect for itself by interfering too much with what people regard as their inalienable right, with that thing that we call personal liberty.
Let me recall an instance of how futile the law can be when it has to deal with bodies of men who believe they are being wronged. In about the first year of the War a law was passed, with the general assent of organised labour, to make strikes illegal, to require parties to any difference about wages, or whatever else it might be, to have those differences settled by an arbitration body, and a great body of miners in Wales, feeling aggrieved and wronged, within a few days of that being passed into law ceased work and the law was helpless. The goals were not big enough to accommodate the men who ceased work. The peculiar strength of the workman is not in what he does but in when he decides to do nothing at all, and he can make the country absolutely helpless by refusing to go down the pit or into the workshop, or in some other way refuse to follow the ordinary pursuit of his labour. I would, if need be, ask the right hon. Gentleman to guard his Government and himself against any tendency which would create this sense of grievance in the minds of workmen and cause them to make a mock of the law by showing how impossible it would be to compel them to conform to it. But as a fact the trade unions have been particularly careful to conduct their internal affairs as well as they could possibly arrange them in this regard. They have had a great deal of consideration for the secrecy of the ballot, even to the length of, within their own rules and regulations, making provision to penalise and to inflict fines upon men who should interfere with the individual freedom of their fellow workers. There are cases where the trade union, not content with the ordinary imperfect arrangement for the usual trade union ballot has gone to the length, at considerable expense, of arranging an individual ballot through the post. We could cite cases quite recently where the central organisation, the executive, has sent direct to the address of every member a 801 ballot paper, with an envelope enclosed, the envelope being stamped and everything prepared in such a way that the man might vote without the slightest knowledge being given as to how any particular man had voted. There have been recent instances where minorities of men have undoubtedly influenced the trend of mind of the majority and to some extent have done things which none of us would approve; but instances of that sort in the history of the trade unions of the country ought not to be made a tag on which to hang such a serious cause of quarrel as this Bill is likely to be if it is passed.
I remember some years ago in this House and in committees upstairs for weeks we had disputes and eloquent speeches about how essential it was that no workman should be compelled to pay a contribution for political purposes against his will, and provision was made to exempt workmen from the payment of any contribution that should find its way into the coffers of the Labour party. The Labour party at that time in this House and the trade unions in the country opposed what was then being done, because we claimed that it was an unwarrantable interference with the internal business of the trade unions. We were told that hundreds of thousands of men were groaning under trade union tyranny, and that all they desired was the right to be exempt from the payment of a few coppers or a shilling or so a year. What has happened? For all these years this right of exemption has existed. A man can enjoy his ordinary trade union rights, but if he is a good Conservative or a good Liberal, if that is possible, he has the right to be exempt from the payment of this contribution. The House would be surprised if I could give them all the figures. I can give them, however, the figures in connection with the organised body with which I am connected. That organisation has a membership considerably exceeding 400,000 men, and the last record that we published of these cases of exemption amounted to the significant number of 13.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
A member has to do what is repugnant to him. He has to sign a declaration and send it in, asking to be exempt.
§ Mr. CLYNES
As to the manner in which he may secure exemption, all I 802 can say is that anything that is repugnant was provided by hon. Members of the same way of thinking as my hon. and gallant Friend. They made the provisions by amendments and clauses which they considered amply met the requirements of the individual members. Just as that provision for the exemption of men from taking part in the political work of the trade unions has proved to be not merely futile but ridiculous and has come to an end as a matter of practice, so in the case of this Bill, if it is passed on to the Statute Book, a similar result would take place. Finally, I would impress upon the House the wisdom of rejecting this measure for the reason that a great number of disputes which take place between employers and employed upon wage questions are settled without any appeal to a ballot without any approach to any kind of decision as to whether there should be a. strike or stoppage or not. Even before the Ministry of Labour was created, the tendency to compromise—a very welcome quality indeed in the British character— and to common-sense arrangement were fairly prevalent, and it is a tendency which, happily, is being helped and cultivated by the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides. He can testify, as he does, to the fact that most of these quarrels, which are inevitable in a great industrial country like this with its complicated system of working, are never heard of at all by the public. Indeed, a great amount of the good work that we claim to perform does not see the light of day; it is buried in the unread records of the trade union journals and minutes. It is only the odd cases of trouble that come before the notice of the public. I therefore think that my hon. Friend would serve the interests of the country better by not provoking, as I am sure there would be provoked, further differences as between employers and employed by introducing the practice suggested in this Bill. There are very powerful organisations, such as the one over which my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) presides, which have no provision at all in their rules for ballots. They have their own reasons for the absence of that provision. If, therefore, my hon. Friend thinks that by bringing forward this Bill he can prevent a railway strike or stoppage in one of 803 the big national industries of the country, he is totally mistaken. At least, this Bill would do no more than just delay some stoppage in some comparatively unimportant industry by requiring them to follow its elaborate and in some respects offensive and costly provisions. These are days in which all of us in turn appeal to the Government to follow a policy of economy. If there be nothing else in the Bill, there is in it all the elements of extravagance. It will set up very elaborate machinery and provide for the payment of considerable sums to men for doing very little. Incidentally, these sums will be paid to men who have no qualifications for what they are required to do. Therefore, upon every ground, and mainly upon the ground of it being folly to interfere with the internal business of these great organisations, I trust that the House will not give a Second Reading to the Bill.
I have listened with the greatest attention, and, of course, with respect to the opinion just expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), but I must honestly say, if the objections and exceptions that he has taken to this Bill are all that are to be urged against it, then I for one shall heartily vote for the principle of it. In my view, the Labour party, the Gentlemen in this House who represent the trade unions, have too long claimed to be a law unto themselves. I am old enough to remember the Debate in this House in regard to the Taff Vale dispute when the Attorney-General urged the need for keeping the trade unions within the law, and the Prime Minister of that day came in late in the evening and conceded to the trade unions of the country a charter which has been the beginning and source of all our troubles of the last 15 and 20 years. If the State is governed by the secret ballot, so should the great trade unions, which are considered by many of us sometimes as becoming the executive Government of this country—sometimes they live in Downing Street—be the first to welcome this great principle of the secrecy of the ballot in trade disputes. The right hon. Gentleman tried to frighten us with the new bureaucracy and further expense, but if we could save the millions which are wasted every year in trade disputes 804 by any precaution we could take, and could protect these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen from the men who stir up strife, they should be the first to welcome this salutary principle.
Anyone who has followed trade disputes in this country knows that the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on that bench, men of courage, moderation and sane views, sometimes, after great labour in making what they regard as an equitable arrangement between capital and labour, are stampeded by the hot-headed in the labour movement of this country, and all their work is undone. We have a right to expect of these gentlemen, who are real sincere labour leaders, anxious only for the great working-classes of this country, that when this Bill—with many of whose details I do not agree, though I welcome its principle—is brought forward, they should welcome its principle, which will save them from the forces that are in operation against them to-day. In my view, the great labour leaders of the country will before long come to this House and ask for the very power which we are now offering to give them. What possible danger can there be in a secret ballot, in allowing a man to vote just as his conscience dictates, or his interests require, without the influence of the ramping shop steward, and the intimidation which we know does exist? I have a great respect for every Labour Member of this House. I was returned to this House by a great working-class constituency, and I defeated a Labour man on that very point which I am making today, and I support heartily a Bill which will specially protect the moderate labour leaders in this House.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
I am opposed to this Bill, which is a pompous and pretentious attempt at class legislation. Despite the unwonted flattery of trade unions from its sponsors, there has not been a speech in support of the Bill which has not shown an almost invincible hatred of and opposition to the whole trade union movement. There is not a leading trade union Member of this House who has been consulted by the sponsors of this Bill, and whose approval has been obtained for it. Every man in this House who is entitled to speak for trade unions is opposed to the Bill. But the sponsors care nothing. They believe they are attacking trade unions, but they have not the courage of 805 their convictions and are not attacking overtly. If they could have done so they would have introduced a Bill to make trade unions illegal. It is not true to say that the leaders of trade unions are opposed to secret ballots. The promoters of the Bill pretend in one sentence that they want to support the moderate leaders, and in the next sentence they take every possible step to make it impossible for moderate counsels to prevail. The speech of the right hon. Member for Abertillery should have disposed of the Bill. The issue raised ought to be left with the leaders of the trade unions. Their position is sufficiently difficult, and those of us who are anxious that their moderating influence should remain ought to support them by opposing this Bill. For the sake of the credit of this House, I hope we shall not do anything to in-inflame and irritate industrial opinion. This Bill should be condemned by an overwhelming majority.
§ Mr. J. GUEST
I would not have risen had it not been that this Debate has been made the occasion for an attack on the society of which I am a member. The hon. Member for East Bradford (Captain Loseby) was understood to say that the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. Walton) was expelled from the Yorkshire Miners' Association for three reasons. The hon. Member for East Bradford was understood to say that the hon. Member for the Don Valley had four sons serving during the War, and that that was one of the reasons. It is a matter on which it is difficult to speak calmly. The Yorkshire Miners' Association has not the slightest reason to be ashamed of its record during the War. If there is one thing of which it may be more proud than of another, it is that the lads from our own Association gave their services during the War, and that those who remained at home backed them up. Over 30,000 of our members gave service during the War, and over 5,000 of them gave their lives. For it to be said in this House that we dismembered a prominent member or refused to take his contribution because he had four sons who served in the War, is a direct libel. It is a calumny.
§ Captain LOSEBY
The hon. Member will allow me to say that, of course, my attack was made on certain officials and on the corruption of those particular 806 officials. Possibly the hon. Gentleman will tell us why he was expelled?
§ Mr. J. GUEST
I have no intention of dealing with that question. The matter is now sub judice and is to be dealt with shortly in the Law Courts. It ought never to have been introduced into the House. I repeat that the Yorkshire Miners' Federation can stand any investigation that any of our friends can undertake with regard to war services. The next point was that it was because he objected to a strike. There is not a man of repute in the Yorkshire Miners' Association to-day, from the president down to the humblest member of the executive and council, but has constantly in his trade union experience been opposed to strikes, and to say that that was a factor is again a gross misrepresentation of the facts. The statement that it was because he was a member of the National Democratic Party is as wide of the truth as the other two statements. Those are points which the hon. Member knows, or ought to know, and when he makes statements like these he is deliberately attempting to mislead this House upon points of importance, and by which he attempts to reflect discredit upon a very important section of the community. I hope that explanation will be accepted by the House.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
rose in his place, and claimed to move: "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN:
As one who has had twenty-five years' experience, may I say I do not recollect a single occasion upon which, had the provisions of this Bill been the law of the land, there would have been any change in the situation, or on which any single strike would have been averted. I desire to associate myself whole-heartedly with the sentiments expressed by my colleagues. [HON. MEMBERS:"Divide!"] I am not stopping a Division. I desire to associate myself with the sentiment that we shall be doing more harm than good by this Bill and that the irritation caused to the trade unions by the placing of this Bill on the Statute Book would add considerably to the difficulties of the men in the trade union movement who desire to see our disputes settled by ballot in secret in a thoroughly straightforward 807 honest manner. I hope therefore the House will reject the Bill.
|Division No. 91.]||AYES.||[4.59 p.m.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Goff, Sir R. Park||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Grant, James A.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Remer, J. R.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Houston, Robert P.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hurd, Percy A.||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stevens, Marshall|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Jameson, J. Gordon||Stewart, Gershom|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lindsay, William Arthur||Vickers, Douglas|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Lorden, John William||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Dean, Lieut-Commander P. T.||Macmaster, Donald||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Macqulsten, F. A.|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Manville, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||A. M. Samuel and Commander|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Bellairs.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Grundy, T. W.||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Parker, James|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Harbison, Thomas James S.||Redmond, Captain William Archer|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Robertson, John|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Irving, Dan||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Jesson, C.||Simm, M. T.|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Kenworthy, Lieut-Commander J. M.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lunn, William||Sugden, W. H.|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||M'Guffin, Samuel||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wallace, J.|
|Donnelly, P.||Mills, John Edmund||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edge, Captain William||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, John H. (Glam., Neath)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||O'Grady, Captain James||W. Thorne and Mr. Hayday.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.|
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That808
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 83; Noes, 77.
§ the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House."—[Mr. Brace.]
§ The House divided: Ayes, 67; Noes, 77.
|Greig, Colonel James William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Simm, M. T.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mills, John Edmund||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Grundy, T. W.||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Sugden, W. H.|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Harbison, Thomas James S.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Myers, Thomas||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Wallace, J.|
|Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Irving, Dan||O'Grady, Captain James||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Jesson, C.||Parker, James||Wignall, James|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Redmond, Captain William Archer||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Robertson, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Mr.|
|M'Guffin, Samuel||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||W. Thorne and Mr. Hayday.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Grant, James A.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick k.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Borwick, Major G. 0.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Burden, Colonel Rowland||Houston, Robert P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stevens, Marshall|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Jameson, J. Gordon||Stewart, Gershom|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Lindsay, William Arthur||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lorden, John William||Vickers, Douglas|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Macmaster, Donald||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Macquisten, F. A.||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Manville, Edward||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Molson, Major John Elsdale||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. A. M. Samuel and Colonel Burn.|
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.810
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned accordingly at a quarter after Five o'clock till Monday next (26th April).