§ 4.0 P.M.
(1) If at any time it appears to His Majesty that any action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any persons or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light, or other necessities, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life, His Majesty may, by proclamation (hereinafter referred to as a proclamation of emergency), declare that a state of emergency exists.
(2) Where a proclamation of emergency has been made, the occasion thereof shall forthwith be communicated to Parliament, and if Parliament is then separated by such adjournment or prorogation as will not expire within fourteen days, a proclamation shall be issued for the meeting of Parliament within fourteen days, and Parliament shall accordingly meet and sit upon the day appointed by that proclamation, and shall continue to sit and act in like manner as if it had stood adjourned or prorogued to the same day.
§ Mr. WALTER SMITH
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "at any time."
No apology is needed from me for submitting this Amendment to the Committee, because never in the history of this Assembly have more drastic proposals been brought before us in the shape of a Bill than those contained in the Measure which we are now called upon to consider. There ought to be the very fullest consideration given to every line of the Bill before such proposals are placed upon the Statute Book. We are frequently reminded that all changes affecting the lives of the people from the standpoint of government should be effective by constitutional action. I do not know that any of us very largely differ from that suggestion, nor do we complain, possibly, of the further statement that has frequently come from the Government that any other methods that may be adopted to 1592 effect changes will be strongy resisted. Having taken up that position, we are, however, entitled to say that there is very great necessity for guarding the constitutional rights of the people. I know it was stated yesterday that there is nothing unconstitutional in this Bill, but such drastic changes as are suggested ought not to be made without the fullest opportunities for debate. We recognise that at times there must be necessity for emergency legislation and that there are many precedents to guide us in this matter, but all previous emergency legislation effecting such vast and drastic changes in the method of governing the country have always been of a temporary and not of a permanent character. Generally, they have been associated with passing incidents that have warranted special measures being adopted, but whenever it has been considered necessary to make such legislation permanent, then opportunities for discussion have been given, and, if not, one might reasonably have argued, should have been given.
§ In Clause 1 it is suggested that powers of a very wide and sweeping character, in fact so wide and sweeping that no Member can possibly sate the scope of them, how far they will reach, nor where they will end, should be taken. That proposals of this description should be brought forward in the form of emergency legislation, and should be dealt with under restricted debate, is a development which we are entitled to question, even from the standpoint whether it is in strict harmony with the constitutional procedure of this country. Of course, one recognises that we have no written Constitution. The Constitution of this country very largely rests upon the procedure and custom established by this House, but we are entitled to ask whether the Constitution of this country, looked at from that standpoint, offers any precedent of a nature which would justify legislation being passed in this form. It was originally intended that the Bill should be passed in one sitting, and now we are to take the Committee stage, the Report stage, and the Third Reading to-day. No legislation, let alone legislation of this description, so wide in its character, ought to be forced through this House without the amplest opportunity being given for every line of the Bill being closely scrutinised and examined.1593
§ What chance has any Member of this House of consulting with legal advisers as to what the scope of this Bill really is? There has been no opportunity whatever for giving that close examination and scrutiny to this Measure which its importance warrants, and yet the Government propose to make it a permanent part of their legislation to be used whenever the Government of the day deems a state of emergency has arisen which justifies its provisions becoming operative. I venture to suggest that that is a very dangerous procedure. We may have a sudden election during a period of passing excitement, and a Government may be returned to power which might use the provisions of a Bill such as this very largely for political purposes against their opponents. There is, in fact, no telling to what extent the Bill may be used, and therefore I say no legislation of this description must be permitted to be passed in a permanent form without ample opportunities being afforded for the discussion of every detail and for the examination of every line and word, in order to make sure that the liberty of the subject is properly safeguarded. What opportunity have we had of considering this Measure from that point of view? If it be necessary to have legislation to meet passing phases or conditions—if it be necessary for the Government to have powers deliberately and properly given in this House during a time of peace in order to provide for conditions of war, I do not know that anyone would object to proposals of that character coming before Parliament, provided they are temporary. In such a ease we recognise that there may be something to be said for the restriction of Debate, but our point in regard to this particular measure is that no Government has a right to carry such sweeping proposals—proposals which no Member of this House can say where they begin or where they terminate, or how far any Government might go in dealing with a given situation, which they themselves might declare to be a state of emergency. It is because we believe that this Bill, containing proposals of a permanent character, is contrary to what we hold to be the right procedure of this House that I rise to move this Amendment. We feel there is every justification for the Amendment. If the Government want special powers at any time for a special purpose, let 1594 them take them and make them of a temporary character, but if they want permanent legislation then let them bring their proposals forward in such a fashion as will give every Member of this House the fullest opportunity of exercising the rights and privileges which attach to his position here.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has moved an Amendment which raises the question whether this legislation should be permanent or temporary. The Committee will observe that the same point is covered by the next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) limiting the operation of the Bill to one year, and also the Amendment to Clause 3 standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) which seeks to provide that the Bill shall continue in force until the 25th day of November next and no longer unless Parliament shall otherwise determine.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER SHAW
Suppose these words "at any time" were left out, would it make any difference whatever to the operation of the Bill?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That was why I raised this point. Verbally it does not make any difference. According to our Standing Orders, if legislation is to be temporary that fact must be stated in a separate clause in the Bill—in the last Clause. I think the Committee was entitled to have this point raised at the outset whether the legislation was to be temporary or permanent, and it would be for the convenience of the whole Committee to get it out of the way.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I want to avoid if I can repeating what I said on the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill yesterday. I am opposed to the Bill either as a permanent measure or as a temporary one. I do not care how long or how short the time may be. I am opposed to the pernicious principle embodied in the Bill as it now stands. If at any time, whether there is an emergency or not, if in the opinion of the Attorney-General or of the Cabinet itself it is necessary, there will be power under this Bill to frame regulations of such a character as will prevent even a contemplated strike against unjust and bad conditions. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) made a speech yesterday which, if I may say so 1595 without offence, reminded me of the beggar woman's dog, because it went a bit of the way with everyone. This remarkable statement was made, and I am quoting it in order to show how the term "at any time" would affect great organisations in this country. The Noble Lord said:I sometimes have my doubt about the wisdom of the present Government.I always had my doubts about the wisdom of the present Government. Then the Noble Lord went on to say:But I do not think they are quite so mad as to endeavour to stop a strike by putting the strikers into prison. That is a perfectly insane idea which nobody in this House would dream of entertaining." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th October, 1920, col. 1430, vol. 133.]Just about 12 months ago I was a very humble and perhaps insignificant representative of His Majesty's Government at the International Labour Conference, and there we were up against something which, in my opinion, could be brought about under the cover of this Bill. There was an American miners' strike on in the United States, and emergency legislation of this character was applied to that strike.
§ Mr. SEXTON
What happened there? Not only was the strike declared illegal, but men were told that they could not collectively strike, but could leave their work individually, and not only was strike pay prohibited, but the leaders of the trade organisations were brought before the High Courts of Justice in America and were told by the judges that they must go out and act as strike breakers, and order their men back to work, or they would find themselves in gaol the following day. The same principle is embodied in this Bill as now framed. The speech of the Leader of the House yesterday was as mild as the cooing of a sucking dove. No one who listened to that speech would consider there was a bit of harm in the Bill. As I said yesterday, and as I repeat to-day, any course which the Government may take to safeguard the lives of the people and to provide them with food in the case of huge disputes and strikes would not only receive my commendation, but my hearty support, and if the Regulations 1596 to be framed under this Bill were confined to that, the Home Secretary would very likely find me in the same Lobby as himself. But that is not the object of the Bill, and the grim humour of the situation is contained in the tail-end of the measure—This Act shall not apply to Ireland.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member he must not discuss Clause 3, nor may he discuss the Bill as a whole in Committee stage. He must confine his remarks on this Amendment to the question whether or not it is to be in the form of permanent or temporary legislation.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I bow, of course, to that decision, and will only say that one is tempted when a Bill like this is under discussion to go a little bit beyond the Amendment. All I will say is this: If these words are allowed to remain in the Bill it will be possible for the Cabinet to declare a state of emergency even in normal times. They are to be the judges whether there is a state of emergency. As I pointed out yesterday, a section of workmen engaged by a municipality in the distribution of food, in the pumping of water, or in the municipal gasworks, might, should they in order to get better conditions give notice of a strike, find that, unless some provision is inserted in the Bill to prevent it, they would come under the provisions of this Bill and their strike would be declared illegal. This Bill, if passed as it stands, will take away the only economic weapon now possessed by working men to defend themselves against injustice, and that is why I support the Amendment.
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. Member who last spoke is under an entire misapprehension as to what would be the effect of this Amendment on the Bill. If the words "at any time" were cut out it would not make the slightest difference to the meaning of the Bill. It is intended that the Measure shall be permanent. What is the argument in favour of that? At the present time we have nothing in this nation between absolute civil procedure and absolute martial law if it ever be put into operation. For what reason is it that the Government are asking for this Bill? It is that, in practically all the civilised countries of the world, there is in the executive government a power of proclaiming an intermediate state. May I 1597 just quote a passage which shows what that actually is:—The law of most foreign countries recognises an intermediate state between war and peace, known by the name of the 'state of siege,' under which ordinary law is suspended for the time being by proclamation, and the country is subordinated in whole or in part"—this applies to foreign countries, and, as I shall point out, it is not done by this Bill—to military authority by proclamation. But such a state of things cannot exist under English law, which never presupposes the possibility of civil war, and makes no express provisions for such a contingency.We find that during the War, under the Defence of the Realm Act, simple powers were confided to the Executive of making Regulations to protect us against the enemy, and so on. It was found, owing to unfortunate circumstances, that some of those powers had to be brought into operation last year in order to preserve the life of the nation, and it is pressing upon most of us that it is advisable by some permanent means to give to the executive a power by Proclamation to bring such Regulations into operation. There is not a single word in this Bill as it stands now which will permit the Government to stop a strike or anything of the sort unless two things happen; First of all, Parliament must be called together; and, secondly, Parliament must sanction the Regulations which the Executive wish to put forward. There is not a word about strikes or anything of the sort. All that the Bill really does is to enable the Executive to issue a Proclamation, whereupon Parliament is summoned, and the Regulations are put upon the Table. Every one of those Regulations is subject to the control of Parliament. What harm is there in that? It is suggested that we have sufficient power under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. One knows that those Regulations were made for a state of war. Now we are coming back, as we all hope, to a state of peace. Everybody on the other side last night, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, on this side, and every Member of the Labour party who rose, admitted that there ought to be some extended power in the Executive to do this very thing and that is all that is suggested now.
§ Colonel GREIG
That is your opinion now? Then you have nothing to fear from this Bill. If the House of Commons does not alter its constitution, it will have just as much control over the Regulations, if this Bill be passed, as if the Regulations all had to be brought forward and submitted to the judgment of the House. What is suggested—that the Regulations will be made for the purpose of preserving the life of the nation from attacks upon its existence. Is there a man in the Committee, whether he be a member of the Labour Party or anyone else, who would refuse to take a hand in that? You all admit it. The hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) admitted that he would take a hand in that. The suggestion that the Bill should not be made permanent only means that at some future time, when we are, possibly, in the throes of some other social disturbance, the Government of the day will have to come forward for the same purpose. We want now to have a permanent, well-considered constitutional method under which—
§ Colonel GREIG
It is well-considered, because, first of all, we have had experience of the operation of D.O.R.A.; we have been five years under it. A Committee sat to consider every one of the Regulations of D.O.R.A., and whittled them down to almost nothing. We have come to the conclusion now, and it was admitted on the other side by every Member who spoke last night, that the Executive lacks proper power of control in the intermediate stage to which I have referred. Is it not better that we should have some sort of simple power conferred upon the Executive, with power conferred upon Parliament to say what these Regulations shall be? It does not mean that these Regulations are always going to be put into operation, but it does mean that it regularises the methods under which the Executive shall put into force any Regulations whatever.
§ Mr. HOGGE
As you mentioned, Mr. Whitley, I have on the Paper an Amendment which leaves in the words "at any time," and inserts the words "within 12 months after the passing of the Act." I think that that, probably, raises the question of the permanency of this measure 1599 in a better way than the original Amendment. I have listened, as I always listen, with patience to the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down. We all know the position that he takes up on any measure that this Government cares to introduce. He is prepared, on the shortest notice, to give us ample reasons why anyone calling himself a Liberal should support this Coalition. I congratulate him on the simplicity with which he follows them into that fold. He tells us that this Bill is quite simple, and he asks us to believe that on the basis of his own simplicity. He asks us to read this Bill. Some of us have taken that amount of trouble, and I would advise everyone to read the Bill in preference to taking his interpretation of what it means. For instance, he blandly assures us that nothing can be done until Parliament is called together.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Now the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows something else, which he took great care to conceal in his speech in favour of the Bill. The only other point that I want to meet in his speech was that really, if we allow the Government to have this Bill, nothing would happen without the calling together of Parliament. As a matter of fact, the entire mischief would be done before Parliament could ever be called together under Clause 2 of this Bill. We can dismiss that in one sentence. We do not believe in the principles, and we do not want to share the enthusiasm, of any hon. Member who has so far abandoned the principles that he once held as to take up that position.
Taking the two Amendments together, the real issue is the question whether this Bill shall be permanent or temporary. It is making, as was suggested yesterday, a considerable call upon the credulity of hon. Members to ask them to believe, that the Government ever really had in their mind this Bill as a permanent solution of a trouble which might arise in the future. As was said very pithily in an interruption, certainly not in my experience—and I am speaking in the presence of Members of this Committee who have been Members of the House of Commons longer than I have—it has certainly never happened in 1600 my experience that a permanent measure has been rushed through its Committee stage, its Report stage, and its Third Reading in one day. I remember that happening during the War, and there was reason for it then. We were confronted from day to day with new situations, and the Government came down and told us that they wanted certain powers, and both my right hon. and learned Friends opposite will remember that on practically no occasion did the House of Commons ever refuse to give to the Government, in a state of emergency, all the processes necessary to put a Bill on the Statute Book in one day. The Prime Minister, however, assured us yesterday that this Bill was not introduced for the purpose of the present emergency. We are asked to believe that we are dealing with the three stages in one day simply because it is a coincidence. The Government say that it is quite true that there is a strike of miners at the moment, but that this Emergency Powers Bill has no relevance to that strike, and that what we are asked to do is to consider the matured judgment of the Government as to the machinery which will be necessary in the future to deal with industrial situations of this kind. Quite frankly, I do not believe it. I think it is a preposterous demand on our creduality that the Government should pretend for a single moment that this Emergency Powers Bill has no relevancy to the present situation. One has been told—I think we were told yesterday—that other great countries have powers, which this country does not possess, of dealing with situations of that kind. I think that that is probably true. I seem to remember an industrial situation in France which was solved by the power which the State there had to conscript every industrial striker into the Army. I am not willing that this Government or this country should ever have any such power.
I do not propose to discuss either the nature of the powers possessed by other countries or the occasions on which they have been used. I want to search the history of our own legislation to see whether or not there is any precedent for giving this power to the Government. The one, of course, that occurs to one at once is the Defence of the Realm Act—the now familiar D.O.R.A. D.O.R.A. was a War measure, and it is not the fault of the Opposition that we have not got 1601 peace. This Government was elected to bring us peace, and on the conclusion of peace D.O.R.A. was to cease to exist. The maintenance of D.O.R.A. is of course the privilege of my right hon. and learned Friends opposite. She is their godchild—their stepdaughter, if you like—and they are responsible yet for the maintenance of that very undesirable female. That is the only precedent within recent years except one, and I invite hon. Members Opposite to say whether they are proud of that exception. That exception is the Restoration of Order (Ireland) Act. That was legislation introduced for an emergency purpose which the Government made permanent, and the circumstances in Ireland are in many respects more deplorable than most of us could imagine in the case of any industrial trouble there. The only precedent, therefore, for permanency that the Government have is the unhappy and ill-omened precedent of the Restoration of Order (Ireland) Act.
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is permanent. It is a legislative Act of Parliament now, and there is no restriction upon its operation. In the discussion in Committee some of us on this side tried to limit it, and my hon. and gallant Friend was among those who opposed the limitation. It is permanent. My Amendment limiting the operation of this Bill to 12 months has, at any rate, this enormous benefit: I should very much like to hear the argument either of the Attorney-General or of the Home Secretary on the point as to whether this really is a Bill in their mature judgment intended to deal with the situation, because look at the powers which will be taken. After all, it is true to say, is it not, that this Bill confers a dictatorship upon the Government in certain circumstances. The very Government that all through the last two years has been calling upon us to fight the dictation of the proletariat in Russia asks us not to accept the dictation of the proletariat but the dictation of a bureaucracy.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I do not want to interrupt and still less to import any unnecessary heat into the discussion. What I referred to in the phrase I just used was the fact that these Regulations will require, if they are to continue for any long time, the express approval of Parliament. That seems to me to be not a dictatorship, but the opposite of a dictatorship.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I did not at the moment quite catch the reference of the interruption. The right hon. Gentleman says, "with the consent of Parliament." Yes, after the emergency has gone. What does Clause 2 say?Any regulations so made shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be—not forthwith—as soon as may be after they are made and shall not continue in force after the expiration of 14 days.Emergencies of this kind do not take weeks to happen. They happen in a night, in a day, in a week, and the whole mischief will be done before ever the Regulations are referred to Parliament. Suppose it happened in a nine weeks' Recess.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Now we are getting the truth from some of the supporters of the Government. We are now having the real interpretation of the Bill from those who are not so able to conceal the true purpose as the Attorney-General. The Bill confers a dictatorship upon the Executive of the Government—not only this Government, but a Labour Government which may happen to be in power, or, if it is conceivable—most people think it is inconceivable—a Government which would be composed of the party with which I happen to be associated. Any Government, either the present Coalition Government or any independent Government, would have conferred upon it by this Bill a dictatorship the powers of which, as we shall show in subsequent Amendments, are vague and ill-defined in relation to any emergency which would arise in future Surely with the history of the legislation of this Parliament and of this House of Commons in our minds it cannot be 1603 argued, and I hope it will not be argued—I would far rather that right hon. Gentlemen opposite should say frankly, "We want this because it is urgent that we should have it," than that in a single day in Committee or on the Report stage, when we cannot even put down Amendments on the Paper, when we cannot do anything but send in written Amendments to the Speaker when he takes the Chair, they should urge us to believe that we are helping to mould something which is to govern the action of our Executive in all subsequent industrial strikes and emergencies. It is a claim I have never heard made in the House, and I hope right hon. Gentlemen opposite, accustomed as they are to plead on all sides of the case outside the House of Commons, will not put up a speech in favour of that position.
If this is an emergency measure, why not let the Government say so? Why not accept the view which the speakers from that side have put forth so frequently that hon. Members on this side are in some kind of agreement that the Executive should not be without powers? Why not enter into an examination of how great powers the Executive have and what fresh powers they require and when we are away from the heated atmosphere of an actual strike or a potential strike, in quiet and with the experience that this Government will gain from the Emergency Measure inside the 12 months suggested by my Amendment that it will operate, why not bring forward a measure which will enable the House of Commons to draw up a statutory code adequate for all emergency situations away from the dust and heat and turmoil of the conflict we are in just now. Then there might be some substance in the suggestion made from that side, that this is not an emergency measure but the mature judgment of the Government. I very much hope that right hon. Gentlemen will disabuse their minds of the idea, unless they have some strong argument which we have not heard yet, that we on this side for a single moment believe that this measure introduced on a Monday and Tuesday in the midst of an industrial trouble, rushed through its stages like an emergency measure during the War, is anything else than a covert attempt to get the better of circumstances over which they think they may not have control. There is no 1604 relevancy at all to the permanency of the situation.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
In accordance with your ruling, Mr. Whitley, though the words proposed to be left out will not in themselves strengthen the Bill very particularly, none the less the Debate has taken the form of being a Debate as to whether this legislation should be permanent or otherwise. Judging from the speeches we have heard to-day, one would imagine the Committee was discussing not this Bill, but a set of Regulations put forward under it. Apparently everyone who has spoken has looked at the Bill and seen that it gives wide powers to make Regulations, and has then tried to imagine the extremest and wildest Regulations he could think of, and argued as though they were before us. They discuss this not as though they were discussing the Bill. They are not, in fact, discussing the Bill, but discussing an imaginary set of circumstances which have not arisen and which, unless the Government is changed—and then what would happen we do not know—never will happen. The Bill provides that in certain circumstances a state of emergency may be declared. Those circumstances are defined in the Bill, They are extreme circumstances, though such as have arisen before, when a state of emergency may be proclaimed.
§ Mr. SHORTT
The words speak for themselves. I think my word "extreme" is quite simple. It means that no mere quiet industrial dispute can possibly be taken as a state of emergency. Then what happens? If no Regulations are framed, nothing happens at all. The only thing that is done in a state of emergency is not to bring particular Regulations into force, but to give the power to the Executive to frame such Regulations as are required for those circumstances at that time. No two states of emergency would be the same. You will have one set of circumstances creating a state of emergency and another time you will have another, and the Bill provides that you may proclaim a state of emergency and frame the necessary Regulations to meet the individual circumstances of that individual case.
1605 There are certain Amendments down on the Paper which I have very carefully considered in the light of yesterday's Debate. There is one in the name of the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) which says:No such proclamation shall be in force for more than one month without prejudice to the issue of another proclamation at or before the end of that period.When that is reached I propose to ask the Committee to accept it. In addition, I propose to ask the Committee to accept an Amendment reducing the time necessary for calling Parliament together, and I shall ask the Committee to say that five will be a reasonable number of days. In addition to that, I am proposing to ask the Committee to say that the regulations shall cease to have any validity unless they are confirmed within seven days instead of fourteen. What is this great dictatorship with which we are threatened if this is made permanent? A state of emergency within the opinion of the Government arises. His Majesty proclaims it. Parliament is called together and the regulations are then framed. Parliament is called together in five days. The regulations can easily be framed in five days, and therefore "as early as may be" would be the first day on which Parliament sat. On the first day Parliament sat the regulations would be before them and on the second day a Resolution would be put before the House confirming those regulations.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
How could that occur, supposing the meeting of Parliament was at the beginning of a new Session and there is the necessary Address to the Crown?
§ Lord R. CECIL
It is not necessary to have an Address to the Crown. In a state of emergency that would be done away with.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
May I ask a question in order to see clearly where we stand? Five days, I understand, would be substituted for 14 days in Sub-section (2) of this Clause.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
And when we come to Clause 2, in Sub-section (2) as I understand, seven days would be substituted for fourteen. Is that right?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Of course that is inevitable. You have your proclamation of a state of emergency. If Parliament is sitting, the moment the regulations are prepared and put on the Table of the House the discussion begins. It is only in the event of Parliament not sitting, and a state of emergency existing, that anything approaching the suggestion of a dictatorship would come in, and that would only be for the number of days between the drafting of the regulations and the putting of them into force and the seven days period that is proposed. That is the extent of the dictatorship. To say that we are setting up a permanent dictatorship is simply ridiculous. We say that the power ought to be permanent. I am not asking the House to make any particular set of regulations permanent, because the regulations must vary under the different circumstances; but the power to declare a state of emergency and the power to deal with that state of emergency should be made permanent. In asking that that power should be made permanent I hope the Committee will support us. While doing that we do claim that it is our desire to take every step to make the control of Parliament as complete as possible. If any hon. Member can suggest any method by which the control of Parliament can be made more complete over the regulations we shall be glad. After all, it is the regulations that matter. It is not the declaration of the state of emergency, and it is not the power to draft regulations, but it is the regulations themselves that really matter. To give Parliament the speediest control over these regulations has been our endeavour.
I have explained that the Government desire that this power should be made permanent, and I think I am right in saying that yesterday my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Asquith) said that, so far as he was concerned, he did not object to this, because it was intended to be permanent, or words to that effect. The permanence of this power is necessary. It is perfectly true that the occasion for bringing in this Bill has been hurried by what has passed during the last fortnight, but the causes for the Bill go back far beyond 1607 that time. We have recognised the necessity for some such legislation being brought in, and we had prepared it, although it is perfectly true that the occasion for bringing it in and hurrying it forward was what has taken place during the last two weeks. Because an occasion has arisen which necessitates our bringing it in more speedily than we had intended cannot affect the necessity for making legislation of this kind permanent. Therefore, I ask the Committee to support it.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that it is the intention of the Government to make this Emergency Powers Bill into a permanent measure.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
In view of that statement, it is all the more important that we should really understand what emergencies may arise under Clause 1 which would result in a Proclamation. I am not one of those who think that the Government have all the powers already in their possession that this Bill proposes to give. The Bill is so cleverly drafted and so widely drafted that it is almost impossible for us in the short time we have to consider it to realise its scope and extent. I want to ask a few questions before we go to a Division. The hon. and learned Member for Renfrew West (Colonel Greig) treated the matter rather lightly. He thought that the 14 days are quite ample.
§ Mr HENDERSON
I gathered from the hon. and learned Member's speech that he thought the 14 days' period was ample, and it has required the Home Secretary to show him he is wrong. I do not think that even the five days' limit that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to insert in the Bill is adequate to meet all the cases that may be taken under Clause 1. Under Clause 1, would it be considered to be interfering with the supply of food if what we call the transport workers were exercising their right under the trade union law of giving notice to their employers, and terminating their engagements in a constitutional 1608 way? Would the mere fact that they were withholding their labour in accordance with the trade union law be termed interfering with the distribution of food, and would you "proceed to do what was done during the War—proclaim that strike under the powers given in Clause 1? That raises one of the most far-reaching issues that can be raised, so far as the six or seven millions of organised workers in this country are concerned.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Surely the scope and extent of the powers in this Clause are raised on the very first issue as to whether the legislation is to be temporary or permanent in its character, and I want to press that question, because it seems to us that if this is to be a permanent attempt to nullify all the powers contained in the trade union law, we ought to have a clear understanding of that before we proceed further with the measure. The next question is whether the powers taken under Clause1 are going to be restricted or limited in their application to industrial disputes. Are there no others that interfere with the distribution of food? Have we not had experience since the Armistice of interference with the distribution of food, and has not that had much to do with the serious increase that has taken place in the price of food? If trade unionists have to be interfered with because they may be employed in connection with the distribution of food or in connection with water, fuel, or other necessities of life, we are entitled to ask the Government to say, here and now, on this first Amendment, whether, if they get this legislation in a permanent form, they intend to use their power and to apply their Regulations to other people than those engaged in an industrial dispute, who may be interfering with the lives of the people by controlling and cornering food in a way, unfortunately, that has been done over and over again.
§ Mr. WALSH
The speech of the Home Secretary left us in a state of wonderment why we should be limited to the very few hours that are being given to the consideration of this Measure. It is said by him that the Bill is to become part and parcel of the established code 1609 of law, and not merely an emergency measure to deal with an emergency that may pass away quickly. He has given us to understand that they were thinking of this Bill several months ago. If these two propositions are correct I do not think there is any hon. Member but must accuse them of deliberately flouting their responsibilities and deliberately flouting the right of this House to a fair, honest, and open discussion when such a serious Measure as this is proposed. The right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Henderson) submitted in general terms one proposition. May I ask the Home Secretary whether the Yorkshire miners' dispute of last year would be such a dispute as would come within this first Clause? The Yorkshire miners numbered about 130,000, and with their dependants they numbered probably 500,000 people. Therefore, in the words of this Clause they really were a substantial portion of the community. The words of the Clause areby interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light or other necessities, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life.There could be no doubt that the Yorkshire miners' dispute, which ran for several weeks, did a good deal towards depriving a substantial portion of the community of fuel and light, two of the necessities herein mentioned. Would the Proclamation touch a case of that character? There was a case where the miners and the coalowners were in complete agreement. The coalowners agreed that the men's case was based upon reason and justice, and so far as they were concerned the men's demands were true. They were refused by the Government, and the men struck work. What would there be to prevent a Proclamation being issued in such circumstances and everybody who took strike action after that Proclamation had been made would be liable to arrest and to be taken before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction and sent to a term of imprisonment?
§ Mr. WALSH
The right hon. Gentleman is most amiable and he always puts his case in the very best way. I would not put my legal knowledge, small as it is, against his, but I am quite sure that we could find legal gentlemen, of as great eminence as the right hon. Gentleman, 1610 who would state that under the subsequent Clauses, after the Regulations had been made, and not submitted to Parliament, or even after they had been submitted to Parliament and later revoked by Parliament, the validity of any action taken under those Regulations is not disturbed, and the miners' leaders in Yorkshire could be sent to gaol if they went in defiance of that proclamation. That is the sort of thing of which we are afraid. We are told that that is the real interpretation of these Clauses. Is there any necessity for this haste? If it is to become part and parcel of the established code of law, the right hon. Gentleman must show us some reason superior to anything which he has yet advanced.
If what we are going through now were new, if there had been no similar contingency, one might agree that there would be grounds for alarm and some decent justification for the action of the Government; but we are not living in new conditions. In 1911 there was a railway strike, and all the railways of the Kingdom were stopped. Many of my right hon. Friends were in office at the time. The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was the Prime Minister. There was never the remotest suggestion that powers of this sort had to be placed on the Statute Book within a few hours after the mere pretence of Debate. In 1911 there was not only a railway strike, but practically half the dockers were on strike. The whole port of Liverpool was closed. There were ironclads in the river. There were tremendous riots and disorder. There was no suggestion that this kind of legislation was necessary. In 1912 the whole of the mines of the country were stopped for between six and seven weeks, and it was never suggested by even the most reactionary that legislation of this kind was necessary. Let anybody go into these particular conditions, and he is bound to see that this is not an open but a cunningly veiled attack upon the powers now-possessed by trade unions, and that the Title of the Bill should rather be "a Bill to revoke the whole of the Statutes since 1824 conferring legal powers upon trade unions." That is the genuine object of this measure. It may be denied that that is the object, but it must be the result. You cannot act upon these conditions without a breakdown of the effective powers of trade unions, and, however cunningly disguised this may be, this is undoubtedly the result. I am speaking 1611 words which will re-echo in the hearts of millions of people outside this House, members of trade unions, when they sec this position, when I say that to ask that the whole Bill should be taken in eight or nine hours is simply flouting Members of this House and their responsibilities, and I am quite sure that the reaction will be very injurious to the Government itself.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have allowed considerable latitude on the discussion of this first Amendment, but it is quite plain that hon. Members have been tending to explore all the other Amendments which I hope to call in due course. If we go too far in this direction it will affect my action in subsequent Amendments. There will, I hope, be an opportunity for Members to discuss these other Amend-Amendments, if we do not traverse them now.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I rise not for the purpose of making a Second Reading speech upon the scope of the first Clause of this Bill and still less of making a Second Beading speech upon the Bill as a whole, but to answer as clearly as I can the specific questions which have been put to me. Before doing so, may I say what it is exactly that this first Subsection of this Clause does? It is said that this Bill is of a permanent character. All that is permanent is the method that is prescribed. This Bill affords us a permanent framework of machinery, and the particular Regulations, which will be governed by circumstances as they arise, will in every case be subject to, and depend upon the Resolution of this House. No doubt, so far as the framework of the machinery and the general type of method which is prescribed are concerned, this Bill is, for reasons which I need not repeat, of a permanent character. But the particular emergency which at any given moment will give rise to the Proclamation that the Bill contemplates and the Regulations that will follow the Proclamation, will be an individual and temporary thing. It is to be an emergency arising from the action taken or immediately threatened by some person or persons, and action of such a nature, and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated to produce certain very grave results. These results are nothing less than this: to deprive the community 1612 of the essentials of life, and to do so by particular means—namely, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light or with the means of locomotion. There is, so far as words can give it, a perfectly clear description, I will not say definition, of the nature of the emergency which alone can give rise to a Proclamation.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Henderson) asks two questions. I will take the second question first. He asks will it be solely from industrial disputes that the state of affairs which is contemplated as giving rise to the Proclamation must arise? No, I do not so read the Bill. There is no limitation to industrial disputes, nor, indeed, to disputes whether industrial or other. The words are designedly comprehensive. The Bill would be unskilfully drawn if it were otherwise. If we are to devise a general piece of machinery which may come into force on the happening of a certain kind of events, we should do our work very ill if we devised something which would not come into operation in some of those events. The condition is action threatened or taken by any person or body of persons of a particular kind and of the requisite dimensions. The other question is whether, if certain transport workers, not by the method which I think is called a lightning strike, but by giving due legal notice, were to hold out the prospect of preventing transport—it might be of food or of some other necessary of life—or at any rate of so hampering the means of locomotion that the community was threatened with a deprivation of the essentials of life, that might create such an emergency as is contemplated. My answer is that it must depend upon the particular circumstances of each case. The circumstances might be such that the action which my right hon. Friend indicates would be ground for saying that an emergency had arisen. In other words, such action might in particular circumstances be of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated to deprive the community or a substantial portion of the community of the essentials of life. The test is whether such action is likely so to deprive the community. That is the effect. The cause is the interference. I have the greatest anxiety to answer questions that can be answered, but I cannot undertake, and none of us can undertake, to enumerate exhaustively what in hypothetical circumstances might 1613 reasonably be regarded as such an occasion—
§ Sir G. HEWART
The Bill is founded upon the happening of certain events. Whether in a particular instance those events have happened, and whether the scale of them is sufficiently grave, is undoubtedly a question which the Executive must decide. In answering the questions of my right hon. Friend I have answered the questions of my hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh). He invited me to say whether something done by the Miners' Federation would yield an occasion of this kind. I cannot answer that hypothetical question. His remaining point is that we are now engaged in establishing a code of law. Unless I am profoundly mistaken, that is exactly what we are not doing. We are now engaged in providing a skeleton outline of procedure which is to be observed on the happening of certain emergencies. It is a skeleton outline.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I do not profess to know the precise meaning of "established code of law." I thought that what was meant was this: that we were engaged in a great task of setting out in detail what was to be the law in regard to a great number of matters for all time. If that be the argument my answer is that we are doing nothing of the kind. What we are saying is that if an emergency of this superlative degree of gravity arises, then there must be a recognised mode of dealing with it, a machinery ready to the hand of the executive which will enable the executive to deal with that emergency. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has pointed out that it is proposed within the narrowest possible limits of time to submit to Parliament for the sanction of Parliament those exceptional powers which by Regulation are obtained. Some stress was laid to-day by more than one speaker, and yesterday 1614 by the Leader of the Opposition, upon the term "the community or any substantial portion of the community," and we were asked, what is a "substantial portion of the community"? I should have thought that there was no real difficulty about that phrase. One finds in various Acts of Parliament, for instance in the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875, an Act which has not been repealed, the words "the whole or to a great extent." Exactly the same question may arise there. What is the problem? How great is the extent to be to be great enough to satisfy that definition? It is obvious that what is intended here by the phrase "substantial portion of the community" is that we are not to be told it is not an emergency because it does not affect the whole. We say it is enough that it affects a substantial portion of the community. There, again, if the executive in a particular case construed that Sub-section wrongly and declared a state of emergency to exist when it did not really exist, or when in the opinion of this House the conditions laid down in this Sub-section as conditions precedent had not been fulfilled, the House of Commons has the power in its own hands and can express its opinion upon action of that kind.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The question, and, as I understand it, the sole question which is really relevant to the Amendment put from the Chair, is whether or not, if this Bill becomes an Act, it should, in the first instance, be limited in its operation in point of time. I am not very much enamoured of the actual Amendment now before the Committee. I think it would have been a good deal better if discussion had been taken on the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) which sets a definite term of 12 months for the operation of the Act. It is idle to contend, indeed the Attorney-General has not attempted to contend, that this Bill does not effect a permanent alteration of the law. It does so in two ways. It equips the executive, subject, I agree, to Parliamentary control—and I am glad that the Government have given indication that they propose to make that Parliamentary control more prompt and effective—it gives to the executive two powers which the executive does not at present possess; first of all, a power by proclamation to state that an emergency exists, and, secondly when that proclamation has 1615 been issued, a power of making regulations to deal with the emergency so declared. Further, this Subsection of Clause 1 defines, or, as the Attorney-General prefers to say, describes, what I might call the ingredients which are necessary to constitute an emergency such as would justify a proclamation. All those are important and far-reaching changes in the existing law. I said yesterday, and I do not in any way recede from the position, that in my judgment it is desirable that by legislation, carefully considered and thought out, the law in this mater should be amended and put upon a sound footing. I am not going, as I do not think it is relevant in any way to the Amendment, to criticise the terms in which an emergency is defined in the Bill as drawn. I think it is desirable that Parliament should take the matter in hand, and that it should do so by a permanent change in the law. If this Bill, which I think ought to have been postponed or suspended, is to be pushed through its various stages, all the more necessary does it appear to me that in the circumstances of the hour we should treat it for the moment as an experimental measure. If it is to be a permanent part of the law of the land, there is no matter in which it is more important that deliberation should be shown; that, if possible, discussion should take place in an atmosphere which is not disturbed by the echoes and reverberations of outside strife and controversy, and in which the dispassionate wisdom of Parliament could be coolly applied to what is really a most grave and complicated problem. I think the Government would be well advised to accept some such Amendment as that which is suggested by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge). If the Government are determined to get the Bill, and will not respond to the appeals made to them from so many different quarters of the House to hang the matter up, let them get the Bill in such a form that Parliament a year hence, after experience of its operation, can review the situation and see whether it has or has not justified the expectations of its friends. Every consideration of policy and of wise statesmanship points, in the circumstances of the hour, to a limited duration in the first instance of the operation of the Act, and I am sure that discussion of the Clauses which follow would be very much 1616 facilitated if the Government would see their way to accept that suggestion.
Mr. T. THOMSON
An hon. Member who is an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill referred to it as a product of the War, and regret was expressed that we alone of any of the Great Powers have no law in addition to the ordinary civil law and martial law. He regretted that we had not a semi-military force that could be brought into play in time of emergency. I thought one of the catch-phrases used during the War was that it was a war to make the world safe for democracy. It seems to me that one of the results will be to take away from democracy the few powers it has. No one suggests for a moment that emergency powers may not be required on certain occasions, but I submit that Parliament itself should be the authority to decide whether the civil law of the land is to be interfered with, and not any Executive Government for the time being. The learned Attorney-General referred to the very limited operation of the powers which the Executive seeks. The Home Secretary chided critics on this side because they took extreme cases that may happen under the Bill. This House is charged with the duty of protecting the rights of the commoners under all circumstances, and that we should examine carefully the extreme cases which might happen. Even in a revised form, even if the Amendments are passed substituting five days for fourteen for the summoning of Parliament, and seven days for fourteen during which an order may run in case of emergency when Parliament is not sitting, you will have a period of twelve days during which the Government for the time being will have the most autocratic powers to do what it likes under the measure. It is not a question of distrust of this particular Government, although possibly this Government may not be one that inspires the greatest trust outside these walls, but it is a question as to whether any Government whatever should have powers given to it of such an autocratic character or for such a length of time.
One gathered from the experience of the War that this House has not been chary of giving unlimited powers to any Government when an emergency arises. Therefore any Government may rest assured that when it is necessary this House will give all the powers that are necessary. But until that emergency 1617 arises it is not right that we should be asked to legislate on hypothetical lines under conditions of which we know not the limit, and give to any executive powers which will sweep away the rights of Magna Charta and the common rights for which this House fought so long. Today, ordinary rights are not thought highly of here. I would suggest that we should make this a temporary alteration of the law and that the Government should meet the feeling of the House, as expressed yesterday and to-day, in as largo a measure as they can by limiting even the framework which the Bill sets up to one of a temporary character. To take the remaining stages of the Bill in one sitting, as is proposed, is trifling with Parliament.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I would like to add one word to the explanation made by the Attorney-General. I have given the closest attention to the speakers from the Opposition side of the House. Two speakers seem to have been under a little misapprehension as to the legal meaning of this Bill. Both hon. Members referred several times to what would happen if there was a strike, and they gave an instance of transport workers and of the strike of the Yorkshire miners which took place a short time ago. One hon. Member asked how those could be dealt with under this Bill and suggested that some drastic operation might be taken against the strikers under this Bill. That is a misapprehension. The state of emergency is only the preliminary condition which enables the Government to make a Proclamation. There is no punishment for a breach of the Proclamation. All that is to happen or can happen when the state of emergency is declared is the issue of Regulations, closely defined by the Bill as Regulations for securing the essentials of life to the community, and those are to be laid on the Table of this House and, consequently, will have to secure the approval of Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You may say "No," but they have got to be laid on the Table of the House. Clause 3 says that the Regulations may provide for the trial by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction of persons guilty of offences against the Regulations. That refers to a case of this kind. Suppose the Regulations provided that the distribution of the essentials of life are to take place at certain 1618 centres, and that certain means of transport were devised by the Government for the carrying of the food, then if there was any interference with the officers carrying out that it would be an offence under the Regulations and would be punishable. Surely that is just. To suggest that under these Regulations any sane Government recruited from this side or the opposite would make Regulations affecting the strike itself, the strike being legal by the law of the land, and would proscribe those engaged in the strike is really to contemplate a thing that is beyond the bounds of belief.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
We must really apply common sense in these matters, and to suppose that this or any other Government would deliberately try to make regulations to suppress a strike of a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand men is absurd.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
The hon. Member does not convince me by saying the same thing over and over again. The regulations provide only for securing the essentials of life, and it is only a breach of those regulations which is subject to punishment. All these marvellous things that are going to happen to transport workers or miners or railwaymen are simply idle talk.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
The speeches by the representatives of the Government and their supporters have not convinced us on this side of the House that this is not an anti-strike Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "And never will."] No, and never will. Let me give an illustration to show that the introduction of this Bill means destroying the effect of the trade union laws now in existence.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
There is an Amendment before the Committee on which a general discussion is allowed so as to avoid raising the same point on subsequent Amendments, but it must not be a Second Reading Debate.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I was giving an illustration in reply to the remarks of the Attorney-General. In 1912 you had a miners' strike and the Government had no power at that time to make a proclamation. In 1914 you had another miners' strike, but under the conditions of war you made a proclamation against the miners and therefore destroying the effect of the trade union laws. The suggestion of the Government is exactly the same to-day. If the railwaymen, for instance, went out last Sunday, and if this Bill were in operation, you would have been able to penalise the leaders of the railwaymen. Can you imagine that the Home Secretary if he knew that a great dispute was going to take place would listen to us on this side if we begged of him not to issue regulations? He would issue them and would come to this House to justify their issue and would probably get this House to support him. I say that this is an anti-strike Bill and that it will destroy the effect of trade union law as it exists today.
The Attorney-General is always lucid and generally dispassionate, but we are discussing this Bill in what is, I submit, a highly inflammable atmosphere. Taking a naked light into a coal mine is a criminal offence, and there is no other action to which the introduction of this Bill can be more appropriately compared. I am reminded that it is an offence where there is inflammable gas, and there seems to be general agreement that the conditions under which there is danger exists in this House as they certainly exist outside. Our Amendments are designed to turn that naked light into a guarded flame and to make this a safety lamp. I hope hon. Gentlemen will believe that we have got no factious idea in our minds in putting down these Amendments. We realise as much as they do the very serious and critical condition of the time. Very difficult and delicate negotiations are giing on, and which we all hope will avert what would be a national catastrophe. Nobody wants to say a word that would make more difficult the getting of a happy settlement. But we are bound to recognise that at some point of these negotiations you may get where you can go no further. If that should be so, where is the last hope of peace? It is in the meeting which is called for Wednesday of all the trade union executives in this country, and that the whole weight of that 1620 meeting should be thrown into the scale in favour of peace. What is going to be the situation on Wednesday? All those at that meeting are going to be met with the fact that this Bill has been passed, it has been pointed out, and, I think, not properly appreciated, that what we are doing to-day is putting at the end of the long road along which labour has travelled not only for a hundred years, but for six hundred years, the notice, "No Thoroughfare." In 1824 the Combination Laws were repealed and the trade union movement really began, but long before that the efforts of the English labourer were directed to the improvement of his condition.
The Amendment, as I understand, is on the question whether this should be a permanent or temporary measure. I am endeavouring to show that there are reasons in the existing condition which would make it wise on the part of the Government that this measure should present itself on Wednesday morning, not as something permanent, bound and fixed, but as a temporary measure to meet an emergency. What chance is left to hon. Members on these Benches who in this House and outside are peacemakers to bring any weight or influence upon such a meeting on Wednesday if this Bill is passed as a permanent measure? It is not fair and it is not sportsmanlike to hang this weight about their necks, and you are depriving them of every shred of influence which they ought to possess in the situation. There is another and a deeper reason why this measure should be temporary and not permanent. We all agree some such measure is necessary, but it ought to be the end of a series of legislation, and not the beginning. By this measure the Government is dealing with a grave industrial situation when it has arisen, and it is doing nothing to prevent it arising. The Government is pledged to introduce measures dealing with the hours of labour and minimum wage. If those measures when they are passed are satisfactory, you will get such a condition of things created as will make a measure of this kind largely unnecessary. I submit that, until the Government have put through their industrial programme and passed 1621 Bills ameliorating the conditions of labour, they should not bring such a measure as this in permanent form. When they have done those things and removed the causes of the emergency, let them bring forward a Bill as a permanent measure, with the assent of the House, to deal with emergencies when they arise.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS
I shall try to confine myself very closely to the Amendment, which raises the question whether this Bill is to be a permanent or temporary measure. I will try and give what I think is a really good reason why it should not be a permanent measure. I do not think it ought to be temporary, and it certainly should not be permanent. This Government is not in the position of an ordinary Government. They are not solely the guardians of the public interests. They are in a different position from previous Governments, and are in the position of being a party to the dispute, and directly interested financially in whether they win their dispute or not. They are now engaged in a dispute with their workmen, who demand an extra 2s. per day. If they give that 2s. a day, the profit accruing to the Government will be reduced, and they come down and ask this House to give them power to beat their workmen in the dispute. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!"] But it is so. Anyway, it will be argued so, and it cannot be denied. It is no good the Home Secretary shaking his head. Is it true that you are interested financially in winning that dispute?
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
Ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is to his advantage to have the extra money in the Treasury which winning this dispute will mean. It is certainly not right that the Government should come down here and ask for these powers. If they are going to fight their workmen, then this House should take care that the workman is protected against the arbitrary action of the Government. The workman should have special protection, and you give him special protection in the case of the Post Office and the police. If there is a threatened strike there, you at once refer the dispute to a Select Committee or other impartial body, and it is very seldom that when such a body has reported the 1622 Government is not forced to adopt the improved wages and conditions recommended. If this House is going to give this power to the Government, it should also protect the interests of the workman, but I believe the Government will be well advised either to hang this Bill up altogether or to make it purely a temporary measure until they have got rid of the control of the coal mines. Then, when they have washed their hands of their trading interest, let them ask the House for these powers, and let the House after careful consideration decide what powers it shall give to the Executive.
§ Mr. SIMM
I am indifferent as to whether we make this measure temporary or permanent, but I want to face an issue that has been more than once raised in this Debate. It is quite common from my short experience in this House to hear things read into a Bill which are not there, and I am certain that has been done again and again this afternoon on this measure. We are told that the Government are bound to take sides against the workmen in the interests of somebody else. Who is that somebody else? The largest power to affect detrimentally the public of this country are the railwaymen, but I want to know what is going to happen if these powers are not conceded to the general public if the railwaymen have their own way. On the one hand you have a body of men, probably 14 in number, who compose the railway executive who possess the power, which I do not think they ought to possess, to call out the whole of their men within 24 hours. In other words, they can hold up and paralyse the community almost entirely.
§ Mr. SIMM
If the railwaymen did not carry food, and my hon. Friend who interrupts had a baby who had to live on milk, what would happen? Somebody brings the milk; it does not come by itself, and it is not the fault of the railwaymen that our hospitals and our children do not go short in times of strike.
§ Mr. SIMM
No, I believe the power lies with the executive, and not necessarily with a conference, to call a strike within 24 hours. That is a very serious matter for the State, and if these measures arise it is in some degree the abuse of trade union power which is to blame. Take again the case of a national railway strike, what happens to a railway man himself? Every railwayman in a measure becomes a blackleg when a strike is on, because he takes in his milk in the morning brought by a blackleg van; other wise he could get no milk; and he takes in food brought by a motor lorry, and every man who runs the motor lorry, whether carrying milk, or beer, or food, or other necessaries of life, is doing all he can to break the strike and destroy the power of the railway union. Are we going to say there is only one way to help railwaymen, and that is by all starving together? Are we all going to starve together, or are we prepared in an emergency of this character to give power to the Government to say that when the worst comes to the worst the women and children of this country are not going to die of starvation because someone else wants more wages? We have got to answer that question, and I say that if you tell us that trade unionists do not want this protection you are telling something that is not true. We are not all Lord Mayors of Cork, and I am sure the bulk of the trade unionists do not want to die of starvation for the cause they espouse. It is said that capitalists curse others, but we have all heard railwaymen curse others, engineers curse moulders, and miners curse somebody else, so that the so-called unity of labour is not one complete whole.
Whether this Bill is right or wrong, let us not talk nonsense about it. I am trying to talk the best sense I have got in stock, and I think it is much superior to some that we have heard from the opposite side. If we are not going to starve, then some power must be given to somebody to carry on in an emergency, and who is that somebody? Who must represent the public except the Government? The Government must stand by the public or see the public go under. I think the time ought to come, and to come quickly, when strikes will no more be used in settling industrial disputes. We hope to get rid of war, and we agree that war between 1624 nations is a very wrong thing. Well, I think war in the nation is equally wrong and that there should be a wiser way of settling disputes.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid this discussion is going a very long way beyond the Amendment. Can we not now dispose of the Amendment and come to subsequent Amendments on the Paper?
§ Mr. CLYNES
It may be that many aspects of the question raised by this Amendment have been sufficiently debated, but I am not without hope even now that the Government will listen to an argument in favour of discussing questions of permanent legislation under conditions where such discussion is really possible and proper, at any rate, for us on this side of the House. Before approaching the argument, I would like to make a comment on the speech we have just heard. It appears to some to be quite wrong for an executive to authorise a strike, because the executive is few in number, but to those same people it is quite right for that executive, however small, to stop a strike if they can. It seems to be argued that the executives desire to cause strikes or to authorise them, but they are mainly occupied in elaborate and sustained efforts to prevent strikes. The outside pressure which they have to resist is common knowledge. May I mention, in proof of the desire of executives to establish the most peaceful relations between employers and employed, that outside those great divisions of workmen who are employed in the great national trades, mining, railways, engineering, transport, there are many millions of general workers in all manner of skilled and unskilled employment who have been served by their executives in the last eighteen months or two years in the special direction of developing the most peaceful and conciliatory machinery possible to make these disputes a thing of the past, and we have four millions of these workers who are now covered by the machinery which is known to us as the Joint Industrial Council, with which the name of our Chairman will be ever associated. That surely is some proof that the executives in the industrial world of England are trying their very best to establish permanent machinery which will be an effective check upon differences reaching the point where serious dispute occurs.
1625 Here we are in the position of being almost disabled from taking a detached or impartial view of what the House of Commons ought to do in matters of legislation relating to the serious stoppages in these great national industries, for the Government is the employer. It is more than the custodian of a national interest and the Parliamentary conscience; it is the employer daily engaged in the character and capacity of the employer with miners and railway men's executives to try and determine these disputes; and surely there is something in the argument that that employer ought not suddenly to transform itself into the character of a legislator and force through a measure of this kind despite the view of the other party. It was commonly admitted, I think, by every speaker in the discussion yesterday that some legislation on these lines might be desirable, not in the interests of Governments, but in the interests of the nation, and I grant that it must often be a very unpleasant duty for Ministers of the Crown to have to propose what is after all very unpopular legislation of this sort; but when we admitted yesterday that some step of this kind might be necessary, our admission went the length only of agreeing that in face of the emergency which present or pending disputes has caused any legislation should be limited to that emergency, and that so far as permanent proposals were concerned the House of Commons should not be put under the pressure of having, not merely to discuss, but do decide in one day the whole of these enormous questions both of principle and detail which are raised by this Bill. I go further and express this view, that, having admitted that some new provisions may be desirable to deal with what is a new industrial situation, I believe that agreement on such legislation is possible if it be approached in a very different way.
We heard nothing of this Bill—and we have some claim surely to speak in this situation—until the beginning of this week, when we had a chance to see it in the press or to obtain it in the vote office. No executive of a trade union, however disposed towards conducting disputes on peaceful lines, however wishful to co-operate with the authorities in the maintenance of the law, has had any opportunity whatever to consider any of these details, and I submit as a matter 1626 of right, leaving aside the law, that it is-not right of a Government to use the situation of this dispute in connection with the miners or the railwaymen, which has created certan temporary apprehensions, to force through permanent legislation which will give rise to a very great sense of soreness on the part of the representatives of the whole Labour movement. I am no lawyer, but I venture to express this view, from which even a lawyer may not dissent, that what matters in law is, after all, respect for it; a belief that the law is the right thing, a feeling that it is the condition of modern community life without which the community itself cannot live in peace and under conditions of contentment. That element of a sense of just dealing, of a sense of it being passed under fair conditions, must be totally separated from this law, when it does become law; and I think I can assure the Government of this, that though this law will exist as an instrument, it will exist in the working-class mind without an atom of respect for it, and the tendency rather will be to disobey and defy it.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Certainly I do not desire it, and that is why yesterday I tried to urge upon the Government the advisability of taking a view of these questions rather wider than the limits of the law itself, that is, the view of what we call the psychology of these great movements in relation to wages and collisions between bodies of men and the Government. This is a law for which, in so far as it is to be a permanent law, there is no urgency, no need whatever to settle the whole of this question without any opportunity at all either for friendly conference or joint meetings, or for evoking the opinion of the great mass of men, or their representatives, who will be intimately affected by the law, and I would suggest that a solution should be sought which would tend more to conciliatory movements, peaceful relations, and observance of, and respect for, the law, than such a measure as this is likely to produce. What would employers say if any of their settled rights or legal interests were to be suddenly assailed without any opportunity of conference with them?
§ Mr. CLYNES
I know that can be said, but let us think of this law in the terms of its practice, and I think we shall be driven to the conclusion that, never in the operation and working of this law will any employer or his interest as such be in the slightest way menaced. Never will his personal actions, his individual liberty or his personal property be in the slightest degree placed under any restraint by the operation of this law. So that, while we are all equal before the law, we know quite well that, so far as the law relates to the action of labour, to the operation of strikes, to the conduct of men who take part in them, it is the workmen and not the employers who have reasons to fear the terms of the law. If it be that any employer in this House fears that this law will menace his interests or place his personal property in jeopardy, how is it employers have maintained such a commendable silence during the course of these discussions? It is not their custom absolutely to disregard their interests and leave them to find expression from the Labour Benches. I think that there is nothing whatever in the statement of the Home Secretary that in this regard the interests of both parties will be equally assailed.
I do not want to express myself in any offensive way as to the Government's action in using this moment to make permanent legislation of this kind, but I
§ am sure that this act of forcing through this measure in one day's debate in relation to a future which is unknown to us, and without an opportunity at all for the responsible trade unions to consider it, will be regarded by labour outside this House as a disgraceful Parliamentary manœuvre, and, so far as I am concerned, I can make no attempt outside this House to justify the action of the Government in making this matter permanent. Therefore I shall be disabled from appealing to the spirit of peace, so far as it might exist in the working man's mind, with regard to the conduct of these disputes. That spirit would be more likely to be evoked by the Government being content with the provisions of this Bill for immediate purposes, and leaving the House a fuller opportunity, under conditions of greater freedom, and after the executives have had a chance of consulting the Government, of considering what alterations of the law are required. I say it would be far better for the Government to seek safety in that course than to force a measure through which will carry with it not an atom of respect of the working men when it is passed into law.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 300; Noes, 70.1631
|Division No. 329.]||AYES.||[6.21 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Blair, Reginald||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Borwick, Major G. O.||Coote, William (Tyrone, South)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Courthope, Major George L.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Breese, Major Charles E.||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Bridgeman, William Clive||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Broad, Thomas Tucker||Curzon, Commander Viscount|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, Captain D. C.||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Bruton, Sir James||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Butcher, Sir John George||Denison-Pender, John C.|
|Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Carew, Charles Robert S.||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Carr, W. Theodore||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Dixon, Captain Herbert|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cautley, Henry S.||Dockreil, Sir Maurice|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Donald, Thompson|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart, (Gr'nw'h)||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Doyle, N. Grattan|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Clough, Robert||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Falcon, Captain Michael|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Lonsdale, James Roiston||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Foreman, Henry||Lorden, John William||Rodger, A. K.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Forrest, Walter||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Lynn, R. J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Macmaster, Donald||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Seager, Sir William|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Macquisten, F. A.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Mallalieu, F. W.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Manville, Edward||Simm, M. T.|
|Greer, Harry||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Matthews, David||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Middlebrook, Sir William||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Mitchell, William Lane||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Moles, Thomas||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Stewart, Gershom|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Morden, Colonel H. Grant||Sugden, W. H.|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Morrison, Hugh||Taylor, J.|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Mosley, Oswald||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Murchison, C. K.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Nall, Major Joseph||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Neal, Arthur||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Vickers, Douglas|
|Hinds, John||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Waddington, R.|
|Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wallace, J.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Hood, Joseph||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Parker, James||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Pearce, Sir William||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Whitla, Sir William|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Percy, Charles||Wigan, Brig.-General John Tyson|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Jesson, C.||Pratt, John William||Wilson, Capt. A. S. (Holderness)|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Prescott, Major W. H.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Purchase, H. G.||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Rae, H. Norman||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Ramsden, G. T.||Wise, Frederick|
|Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Randles, Sir John S.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Raper, A. Baldwin||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Knight, Major E. A. (Kidderminster)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Reid, D. D.||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Remnant, Sir James||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Renwick, George||Younger, Sir George|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Captain Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayward, Major Evan|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Dawes, James Arthur||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hirst, G. H.|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Hogge, James Myles|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Finney, Samuel||Irving, Dan|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Galbraith, Samuel||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Briant, Frank||Glanville, Harold James||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Cairns, John||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton).||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Cape, Thomas||Grundy, T. W.||Kiley, James D.|
|Casey, T. W.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Lawson, John J.|
|Lunn, William||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Sitch, Charles H.||Wignall, James|
|Mills, John Edmund||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Morgan, Major D. Watts||Spencer, George A.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Myers, Thomas||Swan, J. E.||Wintringham, T.|
|Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Raffan, Peter Wilson||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Tootill, Robert||Mr. Tyson-Wilson and Mr. T.|
|Royce, William Stapleton||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Griffiths.|
|Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Waterson, A. E.|
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment I propose to call upon is that in the name of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "or is immediately threatened" ["any action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person"].
§ Mr. HOGGE
In regard to the Amendment which you have passed over in Subsection (1) after the word "time" ["if at any time it appears"] to insert the words, "within twelve months after the passing of the Act," is not the point slightly different from the point raised in the Amendment of which we have just disposed? This did not raise the question of time. It was put forward to raise the question of whether the Act was to be a permanent or an emergency Act. My Amendment respecting the twelve months raises, I submit, a slightly different problem which I respectfully put to you, Mr. Whitley, is whether the Government should not consider taking this Act for twelve months and experimenting, and at the end of that time coming again to the House with the experience they have gained through the operation of the Act with something which was more comprehensive and more definite than this precise Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I agree that the point is a slightly different one, but the lesser is covered by the greater.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to move in Subsection (1), to leave out the words, "or is immediately threatened."
Personally I should have preferred to have had a discussion on the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut. - Commander Ken-worthy) which raises the question of the imminence of the actuality of a general strike. He also seeks to put more definite words in the place of those that occur in the Clause. As, however, that was not called, we are moving the omission of the 1632 words I have just indicated. In the first place, these words are proposed to be moved out because of their absolute vagueness. This Bill confers upon the Government extraordinary powers of which we will not be able to see the limitations until the actual Regulations are drawn up and submitted to the House in each particular crisis. None of us can visualise a kind of Regulation which may be necessary in the event of an emergency or an emergency which is immediately threatened. It so happens that we have had a concrete example which illustrates the difficulty of interpreting these words—I refer to the present crisis in which the country is engaged.
The Committee will remember that in connection with the miners' strike the railwaymen threatened to have a lightning strike last Sunday night unless the Government either entered into negotiations with the miners for a new settlement or actually settled the strike. Do these words, "or is immediately threatened'—perhaps the Attorney-General or the Home Secretary opposite will tell us—apply in a case of that kind? I should say that on the face of it they obviously would apply. The miners were actually on strike. They were out of touch with the Government. There was a hiatus in the negotiations or talks taking place. The railwaymen had made a certain declaration. The Government were so cognisant of that that it formed part, as the House knows, of our Debates here on Thursday last. The question I want to put to one or other of the right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite is: In the event of and with the knowledge that the miners' strike was in existence and that the railwaymen would come out on Sunday night in a certain contingency, would the interpretation "or is immediately threatened" be fitting? If it does fit, as I think it does, it means that all the powers of this Measure might be put into operation for a contingency which did not mature. There was no railway strike on 1633 Sunday night in consequence of the fact that the Government climbed down from the position—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!" and "Shame!"]—climbed down from the position taken up—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and re-opened negotiations. Hon. Members say "No," but I am within the recollection of the House. My illustration may not be relevant, but it shows the difficulties the Government may have in dealing with this Measure. I am asking whether, under the circumstances I have given, the powers of this Bill would operate. If they would not, it shows again the absolute absurdity of putting a Measure of this sort on the Statute Book.
You are going to throw this apple of discord into the midst of huge industrial organisations for no need or purpose. As a matter of fact, the strike did not mature; therefore, you might have this measure in operation and the drastic powers of this Bill which are conferred upon the Government before the situation actually arose. I think that is a temptation which ought not to be put in the way of any Government, particularly in the way of this Government, the temptation to use powers of this kind by which—well, I picture the possibility of the aggravation of the whole industrial situation if, when the miners, say, were out on strike, the Government took these drastic powers to deal with the railwaymen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) yesterday intervened in the Second Reading Debate to complain about the indefiniteness of some of the phraseology of this Bill. This, that I am putting forward, is probably the first example of this indefiniteness. If you are going to confer upon any Executive definite powers of this kind, and endow them with resources of action which otherwise they would not have, I respectfully submit to the Attorney-General or the Home Secretary that these powers ought to be taken on definite words, so that we could understand precisely what it is that can be brought within the ambit of this Clause. Industrial strikes, after all, are things to be deplored, but if, because of action—and it may be the precipitate action—of any Government, not necessarily this Government, you had an aggravation because of the possibility of a threatened strike, then I foresee in the industrial world much greater trouble than we have experienced in the past, and I should 1634 desire to avoid it. I hope my right hon. Friends opposite would also desire to avoid it.
§ Mr. SHORTT
These words are absolutely necessary in this Bill. You must take precautions when something which would create a state of emergency is threatened. If anything could be more specific than "immediately threatened" when you are defining a state of things which of necessity, up to a certain point, must be problematical, more appropriate words you could not have. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken took as an example what happened last week. That happened to be the case where a state of emergency arose through the action of a strike. That is only one instance. There need not of necessity be a strike. There may be many other reasons which may produce a state of emergency other than a strike. I notice that hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest—I suppose they really believe it—that this is an attack upon trade unions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]
§ Mr. SHORTT
I notice that many of the hon. Members opposite do take the strike as an example. That is the only reason why I deal with this from the point of view of the strike. It is true that the action which the union took last week was an immediate threat that they would strike, but it does not follow that it was in such circumstances and to such an extent that it was calculated to deprive the community of the essentials of life. A man may, for example, have stored an enormous amount of food in one store in order, to create an emergency, and if it is done in such a way as is calculated to deprive the community, or any portion of it, of the essentials of life, then it creates a state of emergency. This is a Bill to prevent women and children starving. If it is something which does not deprive the community of the essentials of life, it does not matter what has taken place, it will not create an emergency. It is necessary to make provision to preserve the essentials of life for the community, and it is essential that we should be able to act if there is a state of emergency immediately threatened.
The defence made by the Home Secretary is somewhat extraordinary. He says that really this is a Bill for the protection of women and children. Of course no one looking at the title of the Bill would draw that conclusion. In the second place, one would be entitled to ask that surely this Government, above all governments, ought not to have waited for this moment to bring in a Bill for the protection of women and children. The fact remains that you cannot dissociate this Bill from the present industrial dispute, and therefore we have to consider it in that light. As I said yesterday, I believe, and I have never challenged this proposition, that it is the right of the State to use the resources of the State to feed the people. That is why I could not understand the Prime Minister yesterday when he said that the Triple Alliance had come to a decision to themselves feed their 6,000,000 trade unionists, and he said, "Surely if they can do that, my duty is to come to some arrangement whereby I can feed the community as a whole." I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman because I never heard of that decision, and I challenge anybody to say that there has ever been a discussion, never mind a decision, as to the arrangements to be made for the feeding of the community, because there is general agreement that the community must be fed, and that is the prime duty of the Government. Look what this Amendment does. The Home Secretary has frankly admitted that if a strike is threatened the power to proclaim it rests with the Government, and there is no dispute about that. If a railway strike is threatened the Government can take action immediately under this Bill.
I want to get at the facts, and I want to deal with the Home Secretary's argument. He stated that no one suggests that in every industrial dispute would these powers be taken, but he said, "We must have the power if the circumstances warrant it." Who determines the ease? Who is the judge, and who is the final authority? Now we come 1636 back to the fact that it is within the power of the Government to determine any dispute, and bring it within this Bill.
§ Sir G. HEWART
Let me make it clear what is meant by "determine honestly by the executive." It means that the question whether the action is of such a nature, and on so extensive a scale, as to be calculated by this particular kind of interference to deprive the community of the essentials of life, has to be considered "honestly" by the Government.
That means that the responsibility is thrown upon the Government of abrogating the Trade Disputes Act. Take the case of a partial strike. The Government could say, even with a partial strike, "There will be no general inconvenience, and we can manage." On the other hand, they might say, "It is possible that this strike has been declared by a particular union, and it may involve the whole of the members of that union, and therefore we honestly believe to is necessary for us to take action." I think that is a fair interpretation of the Bill. The point I am putting is that the Home Secretary must remember when th Taff Vale decision was given in 1906 the election was fought on that issue, and then the right of combination was definitely and clearly challenged. We all know' the verdict that was given by the country on that issue. These words might be interpreted unfairly by unscrupuous people or by partisan people in such a way as to abrogate the Trade Disputes Act. Under that Act a threatened strike is not only legal, but picketing and everything else can be carried out in accordance with the law, and that could be interpreted entirely differently under this Bill.
There might be a legitimate opinion held that a certain Act was being performed by blackleg labour, and the Government might hold according to these words that it is not blackleg labour, and there you have the Trade Disputes Act clearly violated and superseded by these very words. All I can say is that I think that could be done, and it is because we are here debating these difficult 1637 and delicate points in an atmosphere which is totally unsuitable—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why"?]—because this is permanent legislation. Surely if permanent legislation is required this is not the time to introduce it, because is can be construed in no other way than a proposal to deal with the immediate situation, and if that is so it ought not to be permanent. It is because I believe that these words, even after the explanation of the Home Secretary, are dangerous that I support the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I rise to support this Amendment. I object to the words "immediately threatened," and I will give my reasons, which, I hope, will be appreciated by those sitting on the Treasury Bench. When the Home Secretary spoke about the need of preserving and succouring women and children I rather gasped. Has there ever before been one word said as to the suffering of women and children? The objection I have to those words is that they are taken, perhaps unconsciously, from the German school of military strategists, of which Moltke is the most famous representative, and it is the doctrine of the preventive war. I think the German system of war, internal or external, is the father of this Bill. The spiritual home of this measure is in Germany and in Prussia. The principle of the preventive war is a very wicked doctrine, and one of the main causes of the War of 1914 is the principle which is embodied in those words. You art: attempting to make it legal to use this proclamation because of the possible threat of certain persons to do certain things. The words of the Clause are "or is immediately threatened." The Prime Minister spoke of certain conversations of the Triple Alliance as to feeding their members, but those who know the facts have denied that any such conversations have taken place. Apparently the Government have been misinformed, I suppose, by their secret agents. The Home Secretary has a very large Department, and I suppose they have to justify their very heavy expenses, and apparently this is the sort of thing they do.
In future the Government may be misinformed in regard to some lightning strike action by bodies of persons immediately threatening the supply of food, water, fuel, light, or other necessities so as to deprive the community of the essentials 1638 of life, and then the Government may issue this proclamation. I say that to attempt to legislate for a threat only is wrong. It is against the spirit of the legislation of this country, and it is taken from that very Prussian spirit which has played such havoc with the world. The Germans have a system of proclamation called Kriegsgefahr, and now you are proposing the same system in these words for legislating against an immediate threat. The Prime Minister last night said that this Bill was drafted weeks if not months ago. If that is true, I think I know when it was drafted. It was drafted, not when the strike notices were handed in in this present unfortunate dispute, but when the Council of Action met. I am very sorry the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin is not here, because I believe that he has, on many occasions, agreed with me in this particular respect, that we may possibly hope in future to look to the power of organised labour—not necessarily in this, but in other countries—to prevent aggressive military action. There were conversations to that end before the War, and I wish they had been more successful. This Bill, if these words are left in, can be used to prevent anything of that sort. It could be done in France by calling the railwaymen to the Colours; in Germany by a proclamation of Kriegsgefahr, which, I suppose, can still be made in the German Empire, and this power could also be used in this country. Industrial power, wielded by the Council of Action, would certainly hold up the necessities of life which it is supposed to be the concern of the Government to ensure for the protection of the women and children. If these words were left they would be used to weaken the power of democracy to prevent war. Perhaps, however, the Government are right, and that they do mean what they say. In the fighting instructions to the old Chinese army it was laid down that when the forces came within sight of each other the Chinese commander was to order his troops to make faces at the enemy to attempt to frighten them. I am hoping that the intention of these words in this Bill is no more sinister than that, and that the proclamation, if it is to be put into force against a threat only, will only be an attempt possibly to frighten the so-called hotheads against taking precipitate action. It is, however, a dangerous power to leave in the Bill, and 1639 I hope that hon. Members will support the Amendment to omit these words. The learned Attorney-General may laugh very good-naturedly at my remarks, but this is very serious indeed if you are going to adopt the principle of acting only against a threat, and if the Government do strike away the weapon from organised labour, to which, I am afraid, in this hard world you have got to look for better conditions of life for those women and children about which the right hon. Gentleman speaks so much.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
The right hon. Member for Derby, when he is speaking in this House, and especially on such a subject as this, always presents, it seems to me, the spectacle of a man in a constant state of conflict between two duties—his duty as a trade union leader and his duty as a public man towards the community at largo. The right hon. Gentleman objected to this Bill because, he says, it is a compulsory Bill. Supposing it were not compulsory, but that it were for one year, would he not tomorrow, when addressing the trade union congress, call attention to this legislation and say that it was specifically framed against trade unionists? That would be the very first thing he would do. As he developed his argument, I contrasted what was his apparent meaning with the high patriotic utterances which we have so often heard him deliver. Is there any question that at this moment a section of the community is making a very direct attack on the rest of the community? That is the real issue at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman says that these words give to the Government a terrible responsibility. I quite agree, but it is a responsiblity which will be easier to bear than that of those who the other day threatened a lightning strike.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have purposely allowed a very wide scope on the first Amendment purposely because there was a good deal to be said. Now we must deal with this word by word. The question is, shall we leave in the words "immediately threatened" in addition to the words we have already passed, "action has been taken." Let us keep to that point.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
This House is asked to say that it has confidence in the 1640 Government as to the particular moment at which it might choose to exercise these powers. These powers are wide and great, but they are neither too wide nor too great for such a situation as we may shortly be confronted with. If the trade union leaders know that the council to-morrow will be directed toward peace they know perfectly well that these great powers will not be exercised. The Government, however, will have the thanks of the whole community if what some of us fear, but which we all hope will not take place, occurs, in that they have taken time by the forelock and have introduced this Bill.
The right hon. Member for Derby objects to this Bill because it is going to be permanent. Now I am going to ask a question—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is the point that the Committee decided on the last Amendment. We must not go back on that discussion.
I would just make this one remark. The right hon. Member for Derby was surprised, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull gasped with astonishment because the Home Secretary said this was a Bill for the protection of women and children. If the hon. and gallant Member had been in his place he would have heard an hon. Member above the Gangway say that, as a matter of fact, there was no necessity for the women and children of the working-classes to get protection under this Bill, as they were protected already. That may be the case with regard to the wives and children of 6,000,000 of the inhabitants of the country. I hope it is. At any rate, I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman, for it is not true of all the women and children in this country. There has been a certain amount of dispute between the two front Benches as to whether or not the question of feeding the community was discussed by the Triple Alliance. The right hon. Gentleman on the front Opposition Bench denied explicitly that there had been any discussion at all. I can only say that he could not have heard the directions given by one leading Member of the Triple Alliance, Mr. Williams, the general secretary of the Transport Workers' Federation. He issued his 1641 orders first to the mayors and councils of the boroughs of Deptford and Greenwich, that they should not allow their municipal buildings to be used for the purpose of enrolling food volunteers. He went on to say how, in the case of a national stoppage and general strike, food should be distributed. He said:We have had under consideration the whole matter of the distribution of food-scuffs in the event of a nationally extended transport and railway stoppage.The "we" referred to is the National Transport Workers' Federation. Then he went on to say that he regarded the danger of the enrolment of volunteers, especially from the middle class and the White Guard element of the community, as more provocative than the use of troops. We are going to have this; that the food supply of the country is to be given over to members of what might be called the "Red" Army, or, at any rate, the members of organised labour, and the other members of the community are to look to them for that food. That is not good enough, and if this is what organised labour intends to do in the case of a national stoppage, then the Government must keep in these words in this Bill.
§ Mr. LAWSON
If anyone had any doubt as to the object of this Clause the last two speeches would have done away with it altogether. Whatever the object of the Government is, there is not the slightest doubt that the majority of their supporters mean that it should be not only an attack on trade unions but on the labour movement in this country. I say quite frankly that there is abundant evidence that since the workers of this country began to take possession of the local councils and to obtain some authority on the watch committees and the standing joint committees, that the Departments here have thought necessary, and even the Cabinet also, to take certain steps because they cannot trust the people in those particular areas and those who are in power in the various councils in the country. That is a very bad sign, indeed. Supposing you had a situation like this, that you had, as was the case two months ago, the miners taking a ballot, strike notices being delivered, the notices expiring, and yet that there was a disposition to talk business. Even if the notices were up, the Government would consider that action was 1642 about to be taken or immediately threatened which needed their taking over certain powers. I submit that we are quite right in assuming that if you had a great industrial organisation which worked its fortnight's or week's notices and which was inclined to be conciliatory, it might be that, as the miners came to the end of the strike notices, the Government would think that they were on the point of certain action which would make it necessary for the Government to issue their orders and to take the powers given them under this Bill. If that were the case, the result would be that you would not help the constitutional movement in the trade unions, but you would help the people who believe in lightning strikes. You are not going to prevent lightning strikes by this Bill. You will precipitate them. There is not the slightest doubt that if you had had this Bill two months ago, with the powers contemplated by this Clause, when the miners' notices were first delivered, you would have had a strike at once and the country would have been in a worse condition to face it than it is today. I have listened to the Debate during the past two days, and I have been amazed at the insistence of the Government in going on with this Bill in face of the overwhelming reasons given against it. These words "immediately threaten" would enable any scaremonger who had any influence with the Government at all to rush it into a position that it might regret later on.
I gather from the Prime Minister and from the Home Secretary that in their view the real idea of the Bill is to save women and children from starvation. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have declared that so many times that they really begin to believe it; they think apparently they can do the work of the people of this country; there is a general impression abroad that if the wicked miners and railwayman would clear out the people the work would go on all right. That may be all right. I do not think, however, that their idea is going to have any effect on the workers of the country. If it had been a real desire to save the women and children the Government would have waited to carry this Bill in a more rational atmosphere. I regard the speeches of hon. and right hon. Members on this subject as an attack not merely on trade unionism but on the labour movement of this country.
§ Mr. HAILWOOD
I rise to oppose the Amendment. I confess I cannot understand the objections raised by hon. Members opposite and their suggestion that the words "immediately threatened" involve any attack on trade unionism. It is absolutely necessary that the Government should have these powers when a strike is immediately threatened, for the simple reason that a good many of the foodstuffs of this country are of a perishable nature, and it is important that the Government should be in a position to shift them rapidly from one part of the country to another, without first having to come to this House to secure the necessary power and to set up the machinery for the purpose. A delay of two or three weeks would, in that event, be involved, and the result would be that much foodstuff would be spoiled, the sufferings of the community would be increased, and the expenditure enhanced. Take the case of the milk supply of the country. It would be perfectly ridiculous, supposing the railway strike matured, for milk to be left standing at the railway stations in country districts while people in towns are wanting it, and would have to wait while such a Bill as this was passed through Parliament, and until the necessary machinery had been set up for distribution. The same may be said of the flour supply.
Then there is the question of yeast, which is produced in the distilleries of Scotland and Ireland, and has to be freshly delivered in our great industrial centres almost day by day, in order that the people may have their bread. I am under the impression that the Government, even without the powers of this Bill, only last week went into the matter and made arrangements whereby, in the event of a railway strike, yeast was to be brought to our various ports by destroyers and distributed by motor to industrial centres. I am sure the Government are speaking the truth, although the Labour Members may not believe it, when they say that this Bill is essential for saving women and children, and for ensuring that they are able to get their bread, milk, and meat delivered from day to day. It would indeed be the height of folly to wait until a strike was in full swing before making the necessary arrangements for distribution. This is not a question of strike-breaking. It is a question of feeding the people and preventing 1644 them being starved, and I hope, therefore, the Committee will strongly resist the Amendment which is being proposed.
Mr. J. JONES
I am very gratified to find that the members of the Master Bakers' Association are so anxious about the women and children, bearing in mind the fact that recently they threatened a general strike throughout the country unless they were given the right to charge what they thought proper for the bread of the people. Now we have their principal member getting up in this House and shedding crocodile tears over the women and children: it is a sight for the gods. We want to feed the women and children and we are doing it now. The only people who do do that are the men who work, and not the parasites who come along and lecture the working classes about their brutality, and who never hesitate to take advantage of starving women and children whose husbands and fathers were striving to lift them to a higher level. I have taken part in big strikes. I have gone back to an empty home and have had to pawn my furniture in order to try and keep the hunger wolf from the door, and I did not find any kind-hearted friends come along and enquire if I had had dinner. I want to suggest that the mere statement of the last speaker, that the Government has already arranged for destroyers to take the place of transport workers in conveying yeast from the distilleries of Scotland and Ireland to this country, is proof that they have got all the powers they are asking for in this Bill. I suppose it is true. The hon. Member is more in the confidence of the Government than I can ever hope to be. He is one of its loyal supporters, and is always ready to obey the snap of the whip. We desire to give protection to the community. Something has been said about a strike of transport workers. It must be remembered that the Transport Workers' Federation has something like 30 unions affiliated to it, and, until the membership of those Unions has been balloted, no strike can take place. Therefore the threatened potentialities of the transport dispute cannot be realised until the members have been consulted.
You are referring to his reply to a letter sent to him by a certain 1645 Mayor, asking the advice of the Executive of the Transport Workers' Federation as to whether he should allow public buildings to be used for certain purposes. That reply simply conveyed the opinion of Robert Williams as to what the position would be in the event of a dispute with the transport workers, who have always been willing and are willing still to co-operate in seeing that the needs of the people are provided for. What we object to in this legislation is the possibility that if these powers are given to the Government they will be used not merely for supplying what the nation requires, but generally for strike-breaking and in order to cripple the activities of the men engaged in the dispute. I took part in the long and bitter disputes of 1911 and 1912. We stood down in the dock districts in the East End of London for as long as eight weeks, and I know how short of food we then were. Hungry men and women and children stood at street corners, while policemen lined the route along which convoys of food went guarded by mounted policemen and by soldiers. These convoys were intended not for the hungry poor but to feed the people in the West End of London because they had the money with which to pay for the food. Behind this legislation is this fact—that you are not going to provide for the people who are hungry. You are only going to feed the people who can afford to pay for the food. When strike pay has been spent, when the strike funds are exhausted, when there is no money coming in, then the people will be reduced to starvation and the Government will be able to say, "Order reigns in Warsaw." Having exercised all the powers the State possesses to defeat the men, having spent more money in a fortnight than would suffice to give the miner his extra 2s. for 12 months, you are going to claim yon have scored a great victory. If this legislation becomes permanent, if the principle embodied in this Clause is carried into effect, you may find yourselves face to face in the future in a very different position, with this very weapon turned against yourselves, for a Labour Government may decide, under certain conditions, that a dose of starvation would not do some of you any harm—
I am sorry that I was led astray by the example of other hon. Members who have spoken before me, and I apologise. As far as this Amendment is concerned, we think that this Clause means that we shall always be in danger of the law. Every day disputes are taking place. Every day the tendency increases for amalgamations of unions to take place. To-day we are carrying on negotiations inside the trade union movement for the amalgamation of all unions in the great industries. Therefore there will always be the possibility of trouble, and this legislation will not merely be intended to be permanent so far as being on the Statute Book is concerned, but it will be in perpetual operation. Some clever gentleman who may be in the Government in the future may decide that, such legislation having been got through, you must use it effectively, and, therefore, you must always keep it in operation. For that reason, namely, that we are afraid of these dangers, particularly under existing circumstances, we support this Amendment.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The hon. Member who has just sat down is always eloquent, but is not always strictly relevant. I could not see the bearing of much that he said upon the particular words of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), as is usually the case, got to the very root of the matter and put the case in a nutshell. He said that the words "or is immediately threatened" should be struck out, because the Government cannot be trusted to decide whether such a danger is immediately threatened. That is the essence of the matter. I think, however, that he proved far too much. If the Government cannot be trusted to decide whether such action is immediately threatened, it cannot be trusted to decide whether such action has been taken. In fact, it cannot be trusted to decide anything at all. We might go further, and say that the House of Commons cannot be trusted. It is conceivable that a House of Commons might be corrupt. It is conceivable that it might consist of Members who are actuated by purely selfish interests and not by public interests. I hear hon. Members opposite say sometimes that the House of Commons consists largely of hard-faced men who have done very well out of the War. I know that 1647 there are a number of soft-faced men who have done very badly in the War. If the Government cannot be trusted, and if, as I understand hon. Members on the other side to agree, the House of Commons cannot be trusted to decide these things, this strikes at the root of representative Government. Representative institutions cannot be trusted. If the argument which has been put forward that the Government cannot be trusted in such a case be valid, then it is equally valid to say that the House of Commons cannot be trusted.
Even if it were true in this particular instance that the Government could not be trusted, the Amendment is not of much importance in this immediate connection. If the Government decides that such action is threatened as will deprive the community of the necessities of life, what is to be the consequence? What is to follow on that decision? Some hon. Members seem to apprehend that it will be a blow struck at trade unionism, and that strikes will be made impossible. I venture to suggest that there is nothing in this Bill which would enable the Government to destroy trade unionism or to prevent strikes. It is neither the object nor the intention of the Bill, and it is not possible under the Bill. The consequence that is to follow upon the decision that such action is threatened is that the Government shall take immediate steps to secure the adequate supply and distribution of food, coal and other necessities of life. Even if the Government be wrong in its decision, and such action is not immediately threatened, the making of these arrange merits for supplying the necessities of life will not prejudice the community very much. My second reason for saying that this Amendment is not important is that, even if the Government cannot be trusted, there is a check on the Government. There is an appeal to the House of Commons, to the elected representatives of the people of this United Kingdom; and, unless they decide by their vote that such action is justified and ought to be taken, the whole of the arrangements made by the Government would fall to the ground.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Whatever the Government may say, some of us have deep-rooted convictions upon this Bill. Although I quite admit that one is not 1648 allowed to discuss principles and make a Second Reading speech, I am convinced upon this one point, that, if this Bill had become law only about three or four weeks ago, then, in consequence of the attitude taken by a certain organisation, an emergency would have existed. In the electricians' lock-out which occurred some three weeks ago, the employers took it upon themselves to lock-out all the electricians in different parts of the country who belonged to the Federation, because there was a quarrel between the employers and the electricians in regard to the employment of foremen. The electricians, for the purpose of defending their own position, decided, rightly or wrongly—wrongly, as I think personally—that on a given date they would withdraw all their men from certain power-stations in London, and, perhaps, eventually, in different parts of the country. Is anyone going to make me believe that, if this Bill had been an Act at that time, the Government would not have decided there and then that an emergency existed, and that the result would not have been that a certain number of men in the executive would have been subject to imprisonment? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It is all very well for you to say "No." These things are all right on paper, but yon get into the Law Courts. You will get the Judges, of course, who do not belong to our class, but to your class. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Yes; it is the interpretation of the law that gets you down every time. If I were a Judge, and belonged to the class to which I belong now, naturally I should take the interpretation according to the view of my own class. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] You can say what you like. And that is what happens in all Law Courts. Therefore, I say that this Clause is a very dangerous Clause, and I am firmly convinced in my own mind, whatever anyone may say to the contrary, that it is a direct blow to trade unionism. Ever since the Armistice we have seen what has been going on. We have seen that all the sympathy which existed during the War is absolutely brushed on one side now, in consequence of the attitude that has been taken up by certain employers in different parts of the country.
Again, I am firmly convinced, whatever you may say to the contrary, that, if it had not been for the attitude taken up a few days ago by the railway workers, this 1649 Bill would never have been brought forward. It seems to be thought that we are foolish enough to simply call upon our members to turn out on strike every now and again. I want to say, as one who has had some thirty odd years' experience in the trade union movement, that our difficulty is to keep the men at work. It is a great anxiety on the minds of the responsible officials, when they have got 500,000 or 600,000 men out of work, as to whether they are going to get back again when the strike is over; and you have the anxiety as to all the women and children whom those people represent. I can assure you that there is as much anxiety for people like myself and others as there is for some of you gentlemen who seem to think we are always wanting to strike. I hope and trust that this Amendment will be carried, because it is a great proposition that you are going to take action simply because certain people threaten. Only about three months ago the organisation which I represent was called upon to meet the employers in connection with the gas industry. They were not prepared to give what we thought was fair and reasonable, and they absolutely refused to submit the case to arbitration. Our only alternative was to threaten a strike If this Bill had been in operation, what would have happened? The Executive Council who advised the men to come out would have been liable to imprisonment [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I say absolutely, yes; I have had some in days gone by. I have been through the mill. I have had to face the military and the police; they hammered me and I hammered them, and if the occasion arose I should take up the same position again. This kind of legislation, I say quite frankly, is absolutely driving away men like myself, who have done our level best during the War period, and are doing our level best now, to bring about peace and harmony between the employers and the workmen. When you get a firm, deep-rooted conviction that this is a direct blow against organised labour, I tell you quite frankly that you are not going to keep me peaceable very much longer. I only wish we had that scientific organisation that you will have on the 11th November, when, by a proclamation, you will order the people to stand still for two minutes. If we had the power to order the men to stand still for a few hours this Bill would be absolutely useless. It is to that that 1650 you are driving people like myself and others who have done our best.
§ Lieut.-Commander WILLIAMS
I do not know that the last speech has helped very much towards the solution of the question, but I am certain that Members of the Opposition are wrong in one point; they seem to imagine that the folly of the Government is equal to the folly of the Opposition. Really it is not likely that this Government or any other Government is going to bring in a Bill which would be absolutely certain suicide. One cannot imagine any Government to-day in England bringing in a Bill the intention of which was, as has been assumed in various speeches, to threaten those who might be engaged in preparing for a strike. The object of these words, as I understand them, is to meet the case of emergencies which might arise at some future date, in which it might be advisable to put such powers into operation. May I mention one circumstance in which it might be absolutely essential for the Government to act, and to act quickly? It has nothing to do with a trade union. Suppose that there were in this country a great combination of people owning corn, or any other class of food essential to the people, for the purpose of deliberately holding it all up. If that combination or trust, or whatever it may be called, were carried too far, it would be absolutely essential for the Government to act as indicated in the Bill. Therefore, looking at the matter not merely from the standpoint of one particular emergency, but from the widest possible point of view, I think that the Government are justified in standing by these particular words.
§ Mr. A. J. LAW
Hon. Members opposite seem to assume that directly a strike is threatened comparable to the one in progress now the Bill will immediately come into operation. But if we notice, we find that it will not be so. The Clause says that if the action taken or immediately be threatened to be taken is of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated to interfere with the supply of food, and so on, a state of emergency will exist. At the beginning of the strike the Prime Minister issued a proclamation that there was no immediate necessity for alarm and that there was plenty of food which would last a considerable time. I 1651 think by their speeches, which have been very irrelevant, they have not shown why these words should be deleted. I hope the Clause will pass as it stands.
§ Mr. THOMAS SHAW
I want to sup port the Amendment because I do not like to give to any executive body the powers which will be given to the Government if the Clause passes with these words. It means that any Cabinet which contains one or two imitation Napoleons—and Cabinets may contain such persons—has literally the power to make any law it chooses for the moment without any reference to Parliament. If the Cabinet happens to be attacked by nerves—and I think this Bill is proof that the Cabinet has jumpy nerves—and it comes to the conclusion that something is threatened, this Bill gives it the power to deal with the law of the land as if it did not exist and to make whatever law it chooses for the moment. Reference to the last words of the first Sub-section of Clause 2 will, I think, prove my contention. It would be bad enough of the power were given in case of action taken where the Government is a party to the action—is one of the sides—but to give it the power I have indicated when it considers that it is threatened to do these things is, in my opinion, simply-giving up the liberty of the House to decide on grave issues. For there is a mob psychology, in this House as well as outside, on those Benches as well as these, and when you get the passions of men inflamed there is only a short step between order and revolution. Assume that you give your Cabinet the power and the Cabinet is unwise enough to jump to a conclusion too hastily and to introduce measures which are bitterly resented, do you make for peace? Do you make for the supplying of the people with food? You do not. What you make for is a condition of affairs in which it will be impossible to get them food. We have references to certain Members of the Labour party who are almost as unwise as certain Members of other parties. We all possess people who make statements which had far better be left unmade, but between the extremes of both sections there is a vast body of public opinion which, by tradition and by conviction, is in favour of order. That is the true opinion to be trusted and to be guided by. Take the present emergency, and this Bill coming right in the middle 1652 of it. Is that calculated to help in any way to bring about industrial peace? The workers, rightly or wrongly, do not trust the Government and do not trust the word of the Government, and with reason. When a responsible Minister says he has no evidence of things which are public property to all the world, do you expect a great deal of confidence on the part of everyone in the country? If you do, you are expecting the impossible. Obviously, this Government has not the confidence of the organised workers, and those of us who have done something for the preservation of the public peace and who did try to do something during the War, who do love their country, who want to see it great-in the best sense, have sat here and, while not agreeing perhaps with everything that has fallen from these Benches, have seen quite enough evidence in the others to convince them that we shall get no fair play from the other side, that argument does not count, that mere brute force and numbers count, and we cannot and do not for a moment trust the Government. That is the position of affairs, and one might as well be frank about it. It is no use beating about the bush. I am not prepared, if I can avoid it, to hand over these powers to the Government. I am not prepared to put the Cabinet in a position of coming to a decision when they think there might be a danger of casting aside the whole of the laws of the land. That is the power contained in this Bill, and I shall support the Amendment.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I am convinced that these words are the most dangerous words in a very dangerous Bill, and instead of the object being attained of preventing disputes, these very words will of necessity create more strife and trouble than we can imagine at present. Take an illustration which was given just now. We can imagine a dispute between operative and master bakers covering the whole of the nation. We have had so many of them lately that this is quite fresh in our mind. The operative bakers are discussing in their branches and in their meetings the possibility of a settlement, but with the knowledge that such a Bill as this with these words in it is in existence, the threat of a strike will stiffen the backs of the employers, and they will say, "Let them continue. An 1653 emergency will arise presently. A Proclamation will be issued. We will not meet them. The Government will step in." As soon as they by a resolution threaten a strike to enforce their just and reasonable claims, as they may be, the stiffening process takes place on the other side. "We will not negotiate any further. Let them go on." They will presently resolve that in the event of the employers not coming to certain conclusions they will authorise a strike. There is a threat—a national emergency. A Proclamation can be issued, and that will defeat in itself the very object of our trade union movement and take out of the hands of the workers the very weapon that they have a right to use, the right to strike, which legislation has given them as a last resort.
I am not an advocate of strikes. I do not want strikes. I abominate strikes. They are as great an evil as war, and I would rather be supporting a Bill with words in it which would make it impossible for strikes or lock-outs to exist than be connected with a Bill of this kind, which we know from our view-point is bound to irritate the position, bound to create trouble, bound to stiffen the backs of the other side, which will make negotiations practically impossible, and thus lead to strikes which are far more formidable than anything we have had in
§ the past. You cannot coerce them. You will never win by coercion. You are never going to solve the industrial problem by words of this kind. They only create trouble and dispel peace, and thus it makes it more impossible still. All the speeches of the Government representatives to-day are trying to make us believe that these words do not contain the meaning that is implied in them. All the arguments of the other side have been to make us believe that we have taken a very far view of things and are imagining things, that we must be dreamers or idealists, that these words do not mean what they are intended to mean, and that the whole Bill, including the words of the Amendment, are merely the most harmless thing ever introduced into the House of Commons. If it does not do all that it is intended to do, what do you want with it at all? We hope you will see your way clear to withdraw these words, which, if they imply even a threat to strike, will bring about a situation which we are afraid to realise.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 248; Noes, 58.1655
|Division No. 330.]||AYES.||[7.59 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Bruton, Sir James||Doyle, N. Grattan|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopoin C. M. S.||Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Butcher, Sir John George||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Carew, Charles Robert S.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Carr, W. Theodore||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|Atkey, A. R.||Cautley, Henry S.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Foreman, Henry|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Churchman, Sir Arthur||France, Gerald Ashburner|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Clough, Robert||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gange, E. Stanley|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Gardiner, James|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham|
|Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Bell, Lieut,-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Glyn, Major Raiph|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Greig, Colonel James William|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Blair, Reginald||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Hallwood, Augustine|
|Blane, T. A.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Harris, Sir Henry Percy|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Dixon, Captain Herbert||Haslam, Lewis|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Dockreil, Sir Maurice||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Donald, Thompson||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Mitchell, William Lane||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Simm, M. T.|
|Hinds, John||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Hood, Joseph||Morden, Colonel H. Grant||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Morrison, Hugh||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Hume Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Murchison, C. K.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Nall, Major Joseph||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Neal, Arthur||Taylor, J.|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Jesson, C.||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Parker, James||Turton, E. R.|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Vickers, Douglas|
|Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Waddington, R.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth)||Percy, Charles||Wallace, J|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly]||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Knight, Major E. A. (Kidderminster)||Pratt, John William||Waring, Major Walter|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Prescott, Major W. H.||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Purchase, H. G.||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Rae, H. Norman||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Lewis, T. A. (Glam-, Pontypridd)||Ramsden, G. T.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Randles, Sir John S.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Lonsdale, James Roiston||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Lorden, John William||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Remnant, Sir James||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Renwick, George||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Lynn, R. J.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Rodger, A. K.||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Wise, Frederick|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Younger, Sir George|
|Mallalieu, F. W.||Seager, Sir William|
|Manville, Edward||Seddon, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, Vernon||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hayward, Major Evan||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hirst, G. H.||Spencer, George A.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hogge, James Myles||Swan, J. E.|
|Briant, Frank||Holmes, J. Stanley||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Irving, Dan||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West|
|Cairns, John||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lawson, John J.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Casey, T. W.||Lunn, William||Waterson, A. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Mills, John Edmund||Wignall, James|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Glanville, Harold James||Rendall, Athelstan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. Neil|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Royce, William Stapleton||Maclean.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."1656
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 250; Noes, 59.1659
|Division No. 331.]||AYES.||[8.9 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Astor, Viscountess||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Atkey, A. R.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Austin, Sir Herbert||Barnett, Major R. W.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Barnston, Major Harry|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Barrie, Charles Coupar|
|Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Hallwood, Augustine||Percy, Charles|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hall, Lieut. Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Pratt, John William|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Blair, Reginald||Haslam, Lewis||Purchase, H. G.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Blane, T. A.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hills, Major John Waller||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hinds, John||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hood, Joseph||Remnant, Sir James|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Renwick, George|
|Brown, Captain D C.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hurd, Percy A.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Cautley, Henry S||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Seager, Sir William|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Jephcott, A. R.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Jesson, C.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Johnstone, Joseph||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Simm, M. T.|
|Clough, Robert||Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Knight, Major E. A. (Kidderminster)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Sunden, W. H.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Taylor, J.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Lloyd, George Butler||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Lonsdale, James Roiston||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lorden, John William||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Lort-Williams, J.||Turton, E. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Vickers, Douglas|
|Dean, Lieut. Commander P. T.||Lynn, R. J.||Waddington, R.|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Wallace, J.|
|Dowhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Dockreil, Sir Maurice||Mackinder, Sir H J. (Camlachie)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Donald, Thompson||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E (Lanark)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Macquisten, F. A.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Mallalieu, F. W.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Manville, Edward||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Middlebrook, Sir William||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Foreman, Henry||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Mitchell, William Lane||Wilson, Daniel M (Down, West)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moles, Thomas||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Gardiner, James||Morden, Colonel H. Grant||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Wise, Frederick|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Morrison, Hugh||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Glanville, Harold James||Murchison, C. K.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry||Nall, Major Joseph||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Neal, Arthur||Younger, Sir George|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon Frederick E.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Colonel Sir R. Sanders and Mr.|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon W. E.||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Parker.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Cape, Thomas|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Briant, Frank||Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Casey, T. W.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Cairns, John||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Spencer, George A.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Swan, J. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John J.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lunn, William||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Finney, Samuel||Mills, John Edmund||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Myers, Thomas||Wignall, James|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Rendall, Athelstan||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Holmes, J. Stanley||Sitch, Charles H.||Mr. Hogge and Mr. G. Thorne.|
|Irving, Dan||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
§ Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) leave out the words "or other necessities."—[Mr. Hogge.]
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "or any substantial portion of the community."
These words are vague. Apart from the jocose meaning attributed to these words during the Second Reading I do not know what they mean. They might be interpreted to mean any portion of the community such as, for example, the users of petrol. That might be taken as a necessity of life under the heading of fuel. It might be possible, if these words were left in, to widen the scope of this Bill and bring in industrial disputes which, although affecting very large numbers of people, nevertheless would not affect the ordinary man in the street or his wife and children. It is because I believe that at any rate the surface intention of the Bill, as declared by members of the Government with their hands on their hearts, is to safeguard the whole community and not a single section who may be affected by industrial disputes, that I ask the Committee to accept the Amendment. I hate in an Act to have loopholes like these words. We want that the Government shall have an honest excuse to employ this Bill only when the whole community is threatened and only in relation to certain vital necessities of life. This Amendment would do something to remove the mist of uncertainty resulting from the very loose wording of this Sub-section.
§ Mr. MILLS
The Home Secretary has accepted without discussion the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and in logic he can hardly refuse this Amendment I because it is consequential on the other. The supply and distribution of food, water, 1660 fuel and light can conceivably be something that affects the whole of the community, and the right hon. Gentleman agreed to the deletion of the words, "or other necessities." As those words could by no means affect the whole of the people it obviously follows that to insist upon the inclusion of the words "or any substantial portion of the community" is illogical. I do not know what will be said of the members of the Labour Party for daring to discuss the details of this Bill. I can see them getting excommunicated for daring, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) said in his elegant phraseology, to touch it with a 20-foot barge pole, but we have to make the best of the circumstances as they arc, and from the point of view of logic the right hon. Gentleman should accept this.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I disagree with my hon. Friend as to the effect of these words. They are in no sense whatever consequential on the words which have been omitted. We had to be just and generous with regard to food, water and fuel. Leaving out the words, "or other necessities" makes no difference, but when I am asked to accept this Amendment hon. Members must recollect that I look upon this is a good Bill and a necessary Bill, and this Amendment says that you may do certain things when the whole of the community without exception is affected, but you must not do them when a substantial portion is affected. Hon. Members may say that they do not know what "substantial portion" means. The law does. An equivalent phrase is well known in Acts of Parliament. It is known even in laws like the Act of 1875, and there is nothing fresh in it at all. Let me give the Committee an idea. You have a state of things in which the people in the Midlands, in Lancashire, Yorkshire and on the Tyneside are starving, but because the people in Cornwall happen to be all 1661 right you are not to be allowed to put the Act into force. That is the effect of the Amendment. The community means the community, the whole people. No one can say that half a doen manufacturers represent a substantial portion of the community. You cannot do things of that sort. But you might have half a dozen men stopping enormous works and causing enormous misery over a wide area. To be limited to occasions upon which it is the whole community or nothing is to reduce the Bill to a nullity.
§ Mr. LUNN
I think the words proposed to be left out are, perhaps, the most objectionable in the Bill. They are the words which can be used most readily by the extremists who are opposed to Parliamentary government. The Home Secretary has not stated what he means by a "substantial portion of the community." Earlier in the Debate my hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh) put a number of cases of disputes that have taken place at various times, and he pointed out that in those disputes, some of which were of a local character, the Government might have applied this Bill. With such words as these in the Bill there is no doubt it could be applied; for instance, in the case of one local colliery or one local engineering firm, a strike at which affects a substantial portion of the community in a given area. This is not a Bill of a national character; as the Home Secretary has said, it can be applied to localities, and if it can be applied to localities if: can be applied to small communities. I can see the possibility of its being applied even to a village community where one colliery happens to employ practically everyone living in that area, because strikers would be interfering with the supply of fuel and light.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The short speech of the Home Secretary illustrated the weight of the argument against making this Bill a permanent part of our legislation. Not only is the Bill intended to cover the interests of the community at large; it is intended, it appears, to cover the conditions affecting any considerable or substantial portion of the community in any part of the country. That surely strengthens the plea that this is not the time nor the place, in the circumstances, to expect us to agree to the Bill. The attitude of the Home Secretary appears to be that if an Amendment makes no difference 1662 to the Bill he will accept it, but if an Amendment makes any difference at all he must resist it.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My contention is illustrated by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman refuses to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The Home Secretary asks us to look at the matter from his standpoint, which is the standpoint of having great faith in the Bill, having regard to the purpose in view. I congratulate him on his faith, but his resource is not as great as his faith, or else he would adduce more substantial arguments for his attitude towards this Amendment. The question of interpretation, when this Bill is applied in practice, will rest entirely with the authorities. Our objection to this phrase is that it would be possible for the Government to exercise the resources of the law in connection with any local disputes that might occur, say, in the Midlands or in a town in Cornwall. Surely it was never intended, when this matter was first introduced to the Government and the Bill was framed, to rush in one day's sitting all these provisions, which cover every conceivable circumstance relating to any particular dispute. The provisions will permit the Government, in the ease of any kind of local dispute and in the case of any trade, to apply all the resources of the law to make it impossible to carry on the dispute from the trade union or working-class side. I hope that the Attorney-General will have something more substantial to say than the Home Secretary regarding this portion of the Clause. I appeal to him to take a different line. If we are not to make any impression on the Government it may be argued that we might just as well go home. But our disbelief in the Bill as a serviceable instrument of the law for maintaining order or procuring peace or making the supply of life needs more certain, is so strong that we must continue our resistance, in spite of there being so little encouragement.
§ Mr. WATERSON
The explanation of the Home Secretary has again brought before us the indefiniteness of the powers of this Bill. In reference to the words it is proposed to leave out, I wonder what 1663 is the interpretation of the Attorney-General. I ask him who is to decide as to the amount or the standing of the substantial portion of the community? Is it to be left to the local people in a given area? The Home Secretary told us that, for instance, if manufacturers locked their men out this Bill would give the Government power to step in and help. We feel particularly, so far as this Clause is concerned, that matters are going to be decided by interests that are continually getting at the back of Members of this House and pulling strings for their own interests here, there, and everywhere, and often against the wishes of the community. We must protest against this Clause being inserted in a Bill of this obnoxious character.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I should like to enforce the appeal just made so that we may be enabled to understand what is the meaning of the Government in reference to these words. I take it that that the Government, in a measure of this kind, would desire to get as large an acceptance of the House of Commons as it is possible to gain, and that, although they have been compelled to take the rather severe course which they are taking, nevertheless, they would like to secure our co-operation so far as it is possible to secure it. The difficulty I feel with regard to these words is this: I understood that the reason for this measure was to meet a a national emergency. I submit that these words might have application to a purely local emergency. It may be a matter which may affect a substantial portion of the community, but it may, nevertheless, be entirely local. Such an effect would entirely alter the operation of this Bill, which, as we understand, is designed not for local but for national purposes. I hope that the Attorney-General will be good enough to give us an explanation.
§ Sir G. HEWART
There are cases where it is necessary to prevent objection being taken upon the ground that what is affected is not the whole community. I entirely agree with the observations which have just fallen from the hon. Gentleman and an hon. Member behind that the object of this Bill is to deal with an emergency which, in the true sense of the word, can be called national. The 1664 object of this Bill is not to deal with an emergency which by any fair-minded person could truly be called local. If you were to say "to deprive the community of the essentials of life" you would be open to this possible criticism, that though a great part might be deprived, yet the whole community was not deprived. Therefore, the words are put in, "the community or a substantial portion of the community." Then I am asked, not for the first time, who is to decide whether the part of the community which is threatened with that deprivation is so large as to be called fairly a substantial portion of the community within the meaning of this Bill? The answer is, as I think those who put the question know perfectly well, that the Executive Government has got to decide. The Executive Government has got to decide, subject to this, that if it decides wrongly it will immediately bring upon itself the condemnation of this House and of the country. The Executive Government must be trusted, I say in all seriousness, to deal with this grave matter reasonably and honestly, and if it deals with it in a way which is not acceptable and in a way which has the result of applying to a purely local dispute the machinery intended only for a national emergency, why, of course, the answer is that it would be subject to the usual penalty. I quite understand that right hon. and hon. Members opposite regard this Bill with the maximum degree of suspicion. We can quite understand each other's views, but I do suggest that it is not right to assume that the Government is going to misinterpret and unfairly interpret every clause and every phrase of this Bill.
§ Mr. SWAN
I think we are still very much in the dark, after the legal explanations we have had, as to the scope of these words. Are we to understand that the inclusion of these, words may mean that any section of individuals who may sit behind closed doors and turn down reasoned complaints and grievances of a section of working men and thus provoke a strike will be affected by the insertion of these words? Take the people who are responsible for the food supply. By the formation of trusts and combines, by their action, and by their organisation and the raising of prices they can so affect the community 1665 that they will make it absolutely impossible for the bulk to obtain the necessaries of life, and are we to understand by the insertion of these words that the Government is going to take the onus of responsibility for saying that these people who are so affected by the action of the trusts and the combines are going to be fed by the Government? By the action of the same people, who are so overwhelmingly represented in this House, they effect economies by the use of staffs and by closing down factories and thus throw people out of employment. Is the Government going to take the responsibility of providing whether it may be coal, food, or anything else which may be held up by the action of such people? The food supply is being affected by certain people who possess lands and lay them down for grass or game purposes instead of utilising them for barley, wheat, or such purposes. Will these people come within the ambit of this Clause, or is it simply intended to apply to the mass of the people who live by wages and who on certain occasions may be provoked by intolerable conditions to protest? Here we find that certain people can act with impunity behind closed doors, and we are told that we ought to respect the law, but no penalties are to be imposed upon these people. We expect that if the Government expects tranquillity in the realm these things will not be introduced to provoke and create contention. Some have tried to justify this Clause because certain other countries have got it, but I cannot see any reason for the inclusion of it at all.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
Because of the remarks of the learned Attorney-General we who are connected with trade unions must do our best to find out what the meaning of the Section is. It refers to food, fuel, water, light, and the means of locomotion. Let us take a case. The gas of the city of Liverpool is private property. At least 800,000 people are supplied with their light by private owners there, who employ a considerable number of workmen. Supposing these workmen believe that they are entitled to better pay and conditions of labour and, unable to obtain them, go out on strike. It is quite clear that a substantial portion of the community is now affected in respect of the supply of light, which under the Clause is one of the essentials of life, and I submit that under the Clause a proclamation of emergency could be made 1666 and all the conditions that follow in the remaining Clauses would begin to operate. The moment any workman began to exercise his existing right of picketing to prevent other workmen doing his job, I submit that he would be brought within the mesh of the law, and I do say that this is a point that has a real bearing upon the general labour movement, and particularly the trade union side of it. The preamble of the Bill speaks of the community: "to make exceptional provision for the protection of the community." Indeed, wherever the community itself is threatened in these essentials of life, there is not a single one of us who would not at once admit that the Government were in the right and that an obligation rests upon every citizen to help them all they can, but surely these words are extremely narrowing words. I myself would not say that a small local area would be in any sense a substantial portion of the community; but when you get to areas numbering nearly a million people there is not a lawyer in the land or outside the land but would be compelled to admit that in the case of a people numbering 800,000 or well on towards a million, who depended for their light upon private owners of gas works, which gas works had been put upon strike by the workers themselves, that would be a condition that would justify a proclamation of emergency and all the other consequences which follow.
It is because of that that we really do feel, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman very well expressed it, the maximum of suspicion—not suspicion of the men themselves who are chargeable for the Bill, but, of course, it really is our duty to be suspicious here. There is an obligation cast upon us; this is an entirely new thing; it has never been thought of before; the Statute Book has never shown anything like this, and we are compelled to view it with the maximum of suspicion. We have a responsibility cast upon us, and although we are not suspicious at all of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, we really are suspicious of the conditions under which this Bill has been brought forward. We are suspicious of the fact that it has been in existence for some months, and is only brought forward now. The maximum of suspicion is engendered in our minds, not because of the particular 1667 conditions under which the Bill is brought forward, but because we see that this really does in essence repeal those laws for which we have struggled during the last fifty, and indeed well on for a hundred years. It is because of that, because the community is here, so to speak, set on one side, and a very much narrower and smaller interpretation is being brought in, because it is not
§ consistent itself with the preamble of the Bill or the broad intention which the right hon. Gentleman says it expresses, we think these words ought to be taken out.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 227; Noes, 59.1669
|Division No. 332.]||AYES.||[8.58 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Fell, Sir Arthur||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Foreman, Henry||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Forrest, Walter||Mallalieu, F. W.|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||France, Gerald Ashburner||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mason, Robert|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Gange, E. Stanley||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Mitchell, William Lane|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gardiner, James||Moles, Thomas|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Glanville, Harold James||Morden, Colonel H. Grant|
|Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Glyn, Major Ralph||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Bigland, Alfred||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Greig, Colonel James William||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Neal, Arthur|
|Blair, Reginald||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Blane, T. A.||Hallwood, Augustine||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Parker, James|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Percy, Charles|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Perring, William George|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Haslam, Lewis||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Pratt, John William|
|Bruton, Sir James||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Purchase, H. G.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Hills, Major John Waller||Rae, H. Norman|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hinds, John||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hopkins, John W. W.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Casey, T. W.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Renwick, George|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hurd, Percy A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Clough, Robert||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jephcott, A. R.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Jesson, C.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Johnstone, Joseph||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Seager, Sir William|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Simm, M. T.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Lloyd, George Butler||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Lorden, John William||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Lort-Williams, J.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Dockreil, Sir Maurice||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lynn, R. J.||Taylor, J.|
|Edge, Captain William||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Vickers, Douglas||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Waddington, R.||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir B. (Banbury)||Worthington-Evans, Bt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Wallace, J.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Waring, Major Walter||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)||Younger, Sir George|
|Warren, Lieut.-Col, Sir Alfred H.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Watson, Captain John Bertrand||Winterton, Major Earl||TELLEBS FOB THE AYES.—|
|Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.||Wise, Frederick||Captain Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Whitla, Sir William||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayward, Major Evan||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hogge, James Myles||Spencer, George A.|
|Briant, Frank||Irving, Dan||Swan, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cairns, John||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lawson, John J.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lunn, William||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Mills, John Edmund||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Myers, Thomas||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Finney, Samuel||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Sexton, James||Mr. G. Thorne and Major Barnes.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "the" ["of the essentials of life"], to insert the word "aforesaid."
Everybody in the Committee is anxious to realise the real meaning of this Clause, and I think that this Amendment will at all events help to bring out what are the real bearings of it. The Government have already accepted an Amendment by which they have dropped out the words "or other necessities." At the first blush I thought they would have accepted my Amendment as consequential, but, having had the opportunity of discussing the matter, I believe that is not their view. Probably most, or at all events very many members of the Committee will be under the impression that the essentials of life referred to here are food, water, fuel, and light. I gather, however, that is not the case, but that the essentials of life are really not defined in any kind of way in this Clause. I gather that the words introduced, "food, water, fuel, and light," are things which must not be interfered with, and the reason for that is that by interfering with them you tend to deprive the community of the essentials of life. In other words, the Government are not thinking of the community being deprived merely of food, water, fuel, and light, but of other things which they consider to be the essentials of life, and of which the community would be deprived if these things were interfered with.
1670 All our efforts on this side are in the direction of not destroying the Bill, but of bringing precision and definiteness into the terms of the Bill. We have thought that the Bill was surrounded by a particularly nebulous atmosphere in which its outline loomed very vaguely. We do think we have assisted to some extent in getting this outline more defined and distinct by dropping out the words "or other necessities." They left a very wide field of imagination open. If the Amendment I am proposing is not accepted, so determining the essentials of life covered by this Bill, then it leaves an extraordinarily wide field open. I do not know what the right hon. Gentlemen on the front Bench opposite consider are the essentials of life. Probably they consider very differently to what many of us on this side consider to be essentials. What may be considered essentials of life in some parts of the community are not at all considered the essentials of life in other parts. As a matter of fact, one may be deprived of a good many things without being deprived of the essentials of life. We have learned that lesson during the War. We have learned that a great many things that we thought to be essential before the War were not at all essential. We found a great many things could be substituted. In moving this Amendment we are asking the Government to define those matters the definition of which would lead them to be regarded as essential in a state of 1671 emergency. There is probably some difference of opinion as to whether all these matters set out are really essential. I do not know about light, except perhaps there is a considerable amount of dark ness about. It does seem to me the Bill would certainly not be weakened, but would move in the direction of clarity if the Amendment were accepted, and I am sure that must make a very strong appeal to the Attorney-General, who himself is an example in the House of that clarity.
§ Sir G. HEWART
If my hon. Friend will look once more at the Bill he will see that the proposal he is making would involve us in a very idle form of circumlocution. We are considering whether action which may be taken is calculated to deprive the community of the essentials of life. We go further in the way of definition, and we limit the deprivation to that which arises from interference with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel and light, or with the means of locomotion.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I do not know whether they come under the head of "fuel" or "light!" [HON MEMBERS: "Both."] I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend observes that if we were to accept the addition of this word, we should be limiting the essentials of life to the means already enumerated. Therefore I suggest in all seriousness that it is idle to add the word "aforesaid," which would be a clumsy repetition. It is perfectly clear that in addition to food, fuel, and light, there may be other essentials of life.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has treated this Amendment so lightly, because I think it is a very important proposal. He suggested that we were prolonging discussion. I do not know whether he thinks that it is any pleasure to us to have to discuss a rotten Bill like this, but we are trying to safeguard the interests of the mass of the people. I want to know whether the phrase "essentials of life" includes clothing and houses for the purposes of this Bill. In a civilised community houses and shelter 1672 and clothing are a necessity, but are you going to stretch this Bill to hit the men engaged in house building, who may object to diluting their labour, or the men in the textile trades who produce clothing. Are the clever lawyers employed by the Government going to argue in the Courts or in the House that these things are essentials of life?
We have been led to believe that we are dealing here with a Bill that is going to provide food, water and light for women and children, and yet this measure apparently is going to include clothing and houses, and may be used to break strikes of men engaged in those trades. The Attorney-General says that we are suggesting a clumsy form of words by putting in "aforesaid," but I want to know if this provision is to apply only to the things stated in the Bill, and I also desire to know whether essentials of life include clothing, housing, furniture, cooking utensils, and what not. The simple word "aforesaid" would make it apply to food, water, fuel and light, and the means of locomotion. We are trying to prevent the misuse of this Bill, and we have ground for our suspicion, and when the Attorney-General takes advantage of his great abilities and position to jeer at our Amendment, it rather heightens our suspicions.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
The Government have already accepted an Amendment to delete the words "or other necessities," which limits the proposal to the articles which the Government intend to take in hand, that is, food, water, fuel, and light. In that case the clothing which was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) does not come within the scope of the things I have mentioned. Nevertheless, the Attorney-General said this proposal might mean those things, notwithstanding the fact that the Government have accepted the deletion of the words "and other necessities." You are leaving everything in an uncertain state, and when the Bill becomes an Act you can immediately say that all the things mentioned in such a vague manner are included. This means that anything can be brought within the scope of this Bill, although you have accepted an Amendment which, we understand, would confine it to the necessaries of life which have been named.
1673 I hope some such word as "aforesaid" will be inserted in order to show that the Government mean what they say, and in order to limit the scope of the operation of this Bill. If this is not done, then it simply means that the acceptance of the previous Amendment means nothing at all. It is misleading the Members of the House, and it is only doing something to prove to the country outside that, so far as the Government are concerned, they are prepared to play the part of the hypocrite all through this Bill. I am glad to see that the Attorney-General agrees with my statement.
§ Sir G. HEWART
I nodded my head to indicate that I understood what the hon. Member was saying, although I do not agree with it.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We generally nod our heads when we are in agreement. I suggest that the Government should accept the Amendment which will confine the operation of this Bill to the categories they have already accepted. This would show that they are honest in their intentions and professions, and that they do not aim at breaking strikes and other things which we have alleged. I hope the Government will be honest with the people outside, and not speak in the vague manner they are doing. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are honest!"] Really such confidence in the Government is wonderful after two years of such statements as those which have been made by Governmental Members, the pledges made, and the methods adopted of keeping them. It is really a sign that at least some Members of the House have certain confidence in the Government. Even now they believe the Government is honest in their intentions. That, of course, is only what we have been expecting from a docile majority who are prepared on all occasions to back the Government in measures such as this. I hope at this stage at any rate that the Attorney-General will act definitely and decisively with the House and show that he is prepared to confine this to four categories of necessities by accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I support the Amendment, and I wish to ask the Attorney-General one question. It is quite true the Government have agreed to a deletion of "other necessities." Is it not the fact that although these words 1674 have been deleted you have got the same powers now as you had before they were struck out? The Sub-section says:or any substantial portion of the community of the essentials of life.What is the difference between that and the words which have been omitted?
§ Sir G. HEWART
The hon. Member asks me this question in so urbane a manner that it is indeed a pleasure to respond, and I will endeavour to do so in a single sentence. If he will look at the Bill he will see that the phrase in which the words "or other necessities" appears is a phrase defining the kind of interference from which the emergency has to arise. That is interference under five heads: the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light or the means of locomotion. These are the limiting words. In order that the emergency may arise there must be an interference with some one or other of these five things. The omission of the words "or other necessities" does reduce the scope of the Bill to the extent that it prevents interference with something else, something beyond these five things, from being within the scope of it. Having limited the interference to these five heads, the Bill goes further and says that that interference must be of such a kind, and upon so extensive a scale, as to be calculated to deprive the community, or a substantial portion of it, of the essentials of life. The words "essentials of life" do not in any way whatever take the place of "or other necessities" which have now been omitted. The interference must be with one of these five things. Interference is limited in that way; the further words are a limitation upon that interference.
§ Mr. PEMBERTON BILLING
While not wishing to hold myself open to a charge of having complete confidence in the Government, I should like to speak in opposition to this Amendment. The hon. Member for the Govan Division of Glasgow (Mr. N. Maclean) made the position of the Labour party quite clear when he said that the object of this Bill was to break any strike the result of which was likely to cause suffering or privation or the prevention of the populace from getting the bare necessities of life. It does not require a Labour leader to appreciate that the only possible hope that 1675 any section of the community could have of succeeding in fighting the Government, as distinct—and I want the Labour Members to appreciate that I make this distinction—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is making a Second Reading speech. This is a very clear and definite Amendment.
§ Mr. BILLING
I will keep near or nearer to the point than the late speakers did. The hon. Member for Govan pointed out that the idea of this Bill was to break any strike which might occur. Unless the Government take power, as they are endeavouring to take power—and this Amendment would tend to curtail such power—to prevent any strike which is likely to cause suffering to the community, they will be failing in their duty to the community. This reason why I oppose this Amendment is
§ that if it is carried it will be doing the very thing which the Government in this case are most anxious to prevent. It will be putting within the power of the Labour party an opportunity of holding up the community in the case of a strike. While I do not wish to stray, from any I point of Order which you, Sir, may have laid down, I do wish to say that I make a distinction between such a strike against private capitalists and against the Government, and therefore I oppose the Amendment.
I want to make an offer to the learned Attorney-General. I am quite willing to withdraw this Amendment if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to put down a schedule to be attached to this Bill stating what he considers to be the essentials of life.
§ Question put, "That the word 'afore-said' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 61; Noes, 237.1677
|Division No. 333.]||AYES.||[9.34 p.m|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayward, Major Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Briant, Frank||Holmes, J. Stanley||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Irving, Dan||Spencer, George A.|
|Cairns, John||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Swan, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Kenyon, Barnet||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kiley, James D.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lawson, John J.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mills, John Edmund||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Finney, Samuel||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rose, Frank H.||Major Barnes and Mr. Trevelyan|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Royce, William Stapleton||Thomson|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Sexton, James|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cautley, Henry S.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Blair, Reginald||Clough, Robert|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Coats, Sir Stuart|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Blane, T. A.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Borwick, Major G. O.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Breese, Major Charles E.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Bridgeman, William Clive||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Broad, Thomas Tucker||Coote, William (Tyrone, South)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brown, Captain D. C.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Bruton, Sir James||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)|
|Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart, (Gr'nw'h)||Butcher, Sir John George||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Carew, Charles Robert S.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Carr, W. Theodore||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Casey, T. W.||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Johnstone, Joseph||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Dockreil, Sir Maurice||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Renwick, George|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Edge, Captain William||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Lloyd, George Butler||Seager, Sir William|
|Foreman, Henry||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Forrest, Walter||Lonsdale, James Roiston||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lorden, John William||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Lort-Williams, J.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Gardiner, James||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Simm, M. T.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, south)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry||Macquisten, F. A.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Mallalieu, F. W.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Sugden, W. H.|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mason, Robert||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Greer, Harry||Middlebrook, Sir William||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Mitchell, William Lane||Taylor, J.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Moles, Thomas||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Morden, Colonel H. Grant||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Vickers, Douglas|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Waddington, R.|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wallace, J.|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Nall, Major Joseph||Waring, Major Walter|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Neal, Arthur||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Haslam, Lewis||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Percy, Charles||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Hinds, John||Perring, William George||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Wise, Frederick|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pratt, John William||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Prescott, Major W. H.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Inskip, Thomas Walke, H.||Purchase, H. G.||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rae, H. Norman||Younger, Sir George|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Jesson, C.||Randles, Sir John S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Rankin, Captain James S.||Colonel Sir R. Sanders and Mr. Parker.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the wordsNo such proclamation shall be in force for more than one mouth without prejudice to the issue of another proclamation at or before the end of that period.I have undertaken to move this, in the absence of my right hon. and Noble Friend (Lord It. Cecil), and I propose to ask the Committee to accept it. The effect will be this. A Proclamation of a state of emergency is made. It may last for a month, and for a month only. If the condition of things continues there is power to make a second Proclamation, say in the third week of the month, so that there shall be no hiatus. But all the Regulations under the first Proclamation automatically cease with that first 1678 Proclamation, and the result would be when the second Proclamation was made, if it were necessary, there would automatically again be an Order in Council producing the necessary Regulations and an opportunity for Parliament to discuss them and see if they are necessary. The effect of this Amendment, if accepted, will be that once a month at least, if the set of circumstances constituting the state of emergency remain, the whole matter will be considered de novo, and Parliament will have full control. That is one of the things we aim at in this Bill, whether hon. Members believe us or not, and I therefore ask the Committee to accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.1679
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the wordsProvided that a proclamation of emergency shall cease to operate when the state of emergency ceases to exist.This is really adding a little bit to the Bill, which seems like a contradiction of the attitude we have hitherto adopted. We want, however, to have some finality, some definite guarantee that, when the occasion justifies it, that is to say, so soon as the emergency ceases to exist, automatically the Proclamation or the Regulations that may have been made shall cease to exist also. We had an illustration last week which I think is the best that one can use. In the middle of the week there was a conference and a strike was declared. That put everyone, more or less, in a panic, and, undoubtedly, brought this Bill into Parliament this week. Not even the eloquence of the Home Secretary or the persuasive arguments of the Attorney General can remove the impression from my mind that, if it had not been for a certain Resolution which was passed last Wednesday or Thursday, we should not be discussing this Bill to-night. If this Bill had been in existence last week, a Proclamation of emergency would have been issued immediately that Resolution was carried and published in the Press. The emergency ceased to exist on Saturday, and, naturally, the Proclamation of emergency should cease to operate at the same time. We want to have this definite knowledge of finality, and I trust that the Government will see the force of the argument. If they must have this Bill, let us have some definite knowledge as to when the conditions brought about under it are going to come to an end.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I hope that we shall rot have any long discussion on this Amendment. The Bill has been described as indefinite, but what this Amendment is, goodness' only knows. Who is to decide when the emergency ceases?
§ Mr. SHORTT
If the Government decide that the emergency has ceased to exist, naturally they will cease to put any regulations into operation. I have already accepted an Amendment limiting 1680 the continuance of any proclamation to a month. After that month any further regulations can be discussed, and discussed from the point of view of the necessity for them as well as from the point of view of their own merits. This is really a totally unnecessary Amendment. It decides nothing; it leaves it entirely in the hands of the Government. We have been told to-day pretty plainly by a good many hon. Members on the other side that we are the most dishonest and discreditable persons on the face of God's earth, but now it is sought to put further power into our hands. We have limited the continuance of the proclamation to a month, and at the end of that time we have to start all over again. There is the same power of discussion in Parliament, and there is everything that exists at the very beginning of our proclaiming a state of emergency. Surely that is sufficient. If it is, I hope we shall not waste any time in discussing an Amendment that would really extend our powers rather than diminish them.
One is not quite sure whether it would extend the powers. Again let us take the illustration of last week. Following the threat of a strike, the Government produces its proclamation. The point of this Amendment is to prevent the Government from interpreting the same proclamation as applying to another dispute. The Home Secretary asks who is to decide. Obviously it is the Government. But there is this safeguard, that the Government, if this Amendment or some such words were accepted, would be compelled to satisfy the House of Commons and the country that the proclamation was for the purpose of dealing with a new emergency, and not with the one that had passed. Unless some such words as these are introduced into the Bill, this situation may easily arise. Take the case of the transport workers, who have 28 different unions. There might be a dispute affecting one section of the transport workers, and a proclamation might be issued in regard to it. That dispute might be settled, but a dispute might be pending in another section of the transport workers, and it could be held that the proclamation was applicable to that.
The Home Secretary says that these particular words do not 1681 meet the case. If he is prepared to meet us on the point, he might, perhaps, between this and the Report stage, draft some words which will meet the case. Clearly he now admits that there is that possibility.
It is the contingency that we are dealing with, and therefore, without binding ourselves to particular or specific words, we do submit that no Government ought merely to use powers obtained for the purpose of a particular and special circumstance to deal with another circumstance. That is really the object of the Amendment, and I hope some consideration will be given to it.
§ Mr. KILEY
One would gather from the comments of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that he has no serious objection to these words, but fails to understand their object, and sees no advantage in their being inserted. The Mover and supporters of the Amendment, however, see a great deal of advantage. If a state of emergency arises with regard to a possible strike, what object is there, when that strike is over, in continuing the proclamation? Those who support the Amendment want an assurance that, when the emergency or the strike finishes, the proclamation will pass out of existence. Therefore, if the Home Secretary sees no disadvantage in the words, and if, although he does not see any advantage in them, it is apparent to those who are concerned in the Amendment, I fail to understand why he does not accept it, and I trust that, as has been suggested to him, he will reconsider his attitude on the matter.
§ Mr. BILLING
I am surprised that a Member of the standing of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) should put his name to such an Amendment, and also that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Thomas) should support it. If it were carried it would be quite within the power of the leaders of any strike movement to cause Parliament, which might not be sitting at the time, to be re-assembled every day during the whole of the vacation 1682 by simply threatening, like the railway leaders threatened, a crisis last Thursday and calling it off on Friday and threatening it again on Saturday and calling it off on Sunday. The idea appears to me to be absolutely preposterous. It has been suggested as to who is to decide when the state of urgency has passed away. [An HON. MEMBER: "When the strike is settled."] But do Labour Members consider that all the leaders of the Labour Movement have a thermometer under their tongue so that by their blood pressure or temperature the Government can (ell whether they are likely to be more passive than when they made the threat? The Amendment is clumsily framed, and if it amounts to anything at all it is that those people who framed it probably see some means of bringing the power of the Government to a rapid end. I think any Amendment to the Bill is tending to limit the powers the Government has taken for the protection of the public generally so that they may obtain the commodities of life in a crisis. I submit that the Amendment need not be further discussed.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
I do not think the criticism we have just listened to is very profitable. At the same time, if the Amendment were carried Parliament would be open to the charge of being lacking in common sense. Take the case for the Amendment put by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Thomas), which I think was really the pith of the Amendment. He suggested that an emergency might arise in reference to a certain dispute and that the atmosphere might clear, but before it was completely cleared and the emergency gone there might be an appearance of another dispute arising on the horizon. Under these circumstances if it did arise, would it not be extremely foolish that it should be necessary to have a fresh proclamation? After all, granting that the Bill is wanted at all, and we must assume that as the basis of discussion, you will have a certain state of unrest—whether arising from a strike or a projected strike does not matter—and an emergency is proclaimed. Supposing the difficulties present themselves in another part of the industrial field, it seems to me to be the height of absurdity that under these circumstances, when the country knows perfectly well that the powers which the Government have to wield are quite as necessary to-day as 1683 they were yesterday, because of some technical difficulties in the way, when unrest is showing itself it should be necessary to drop the one proclamation and have another. That would be utterly absurd and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to his guns.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
On a point of Order. I believe you called on the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil). There are several Amendments down reducing the time from 14 days to 3, 5, 4, and so on. I understood privately that there was some talk of the Government accepting one of those Amendments.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is not a point of Order. I cannot say whether the Government is going to accept Amendments. I called the name of the Noble Lord, who is next on the Paper. He has not answered and no one rose to move his Amendment. Therefore I called the next Amendment.
Further Amendments made: In Subsection (2), leave out the word "fourteen" ["will not expire within fourteen days"], and insert instead thereof the word "five."—[Mr. Grundy.]
Leave out the word "fourteen "["fourteen days, and"], and insert instead thereof the word "five."—[Major Morgan.]
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
In the opinion of hon. Members on this Bench this Clause is entirely unnecessary. The Government possesses practically all the powers that they require to put into effect anything that is desirable to maintain the necessities of the community. The legislation they are seeking in this Bill will give them most arbitrary and absolute power over the wellbeing of the entire community. The Prime Minister in speaking on the Second Reading tried to influence the Labour Members to accept this Bill by asking us whether we desired to see an abundance of food or fuel in the West End of London and a scarcity of food or fuel in the East End of London. He went on to say that the powers the Government are seeking under this Bill were possessed 1684 under the Defence of the Realm Act during the War. I recollect, and I am certain that most if not all hon. Members recollect, what took place at that time. We recollect that whilst the Government possessed those powers during the War under the Defence of the Realm Act there were food queues in the East End of London, and in the West End there were luxurious dinners and suppers being served at the Kitz and the Carlton for people who were willing to pay 30s. for such dinner or supper. [HON. MEMBERS: "More!"] I am putting the figure according to the menu. The extras brought the price up to a much higher figure. The powers that existed then, in the possession of the Government, were not put into operation and, therefore, it gives the Members of the Labour party to-day every justification for saying that all this talk of sharing round the fuel and the food, which has been the excuse of all the Government speakers on behalf of this Bill, has been practically denied by their own actions at periods when they already possessed the power.
The Government talk about an immediate and extreme emergency. They say that certain things happen, and they want to have immediate power whereby they can move immediately in order to prevent any shortages in any part of the country. We are told that this Bill has been prepared for several months. If it has been lying in the archives of the Government waiting for some suitable opportunity to bring it before the House, we say that this is not the most suitable opportunity. It has been pointed out that there is no grave situation in the country, and that this particular Bill, brought in at this time, is provocative.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
And with the Clause we are discussing, If the hon. Member had been present during the Debate he would know what we were discussing, and would be better able intelligently to follow what I am saying.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I was not referring to the hon. Member, but to the hon. Member 1685 (Sir W. Rutherford) who interrupted me. The Clause we are discussing is the vital Clause in this Bill, and we are entitled to deal with any action which the Government may take in regard to men who come out on strike, or who threaten to come out on strike. That is perfectly in order, and I hope the hon. Member will remember that when he listens to subsequent speakers on this Amendment to reject the entire Clause. We remember that when-over there is a strike in a trade dispute in this country all the powers not only of the Government but practically of the Press in this country are levelled at those who by striking are endeavouring to better or alter their conditions. I hear one hon. Member say there is nothing about that in this Clause.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We are not talking of what is actually stated in definite language in the Clause, but of what can be done and what the Government's spokesmen said they were prepared to do when they were speaking on the Second Reading.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
May I ask hon. Members to allow the hon. Member to continue his speech? If he is out of Order, the Committee may rest assured that I shall call him to Order. I am the proper person to call him to Order.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Of course, we understand that hon. Members wish this particular Bill to go through rapidly. I have no wish that we should be late to-night any more than any other hon. Member, but I am going to protest on every occasion that is open to me against the passage of this Bill. The Rules of the House enable me to make this protest now and the Chairman will call me to Order if I overstep the bounds of discussion. In the strikes that have taken place or may take place the power already possessed by the Government has been put in operation, not for the purpose of protecting the entire community, of which the strikers are a part, but in order to defeat the strike, and this Bill gives 1686 additional power to the Government. It can make a Proclamation, even when Parliament is not sitting, that a state of emergency exists, and it can do as it is endeavouring to do at present with regard to the threatened strike of railway workers—set up offices in every part of the country to enrol men, and women possibly, who would be looked upon, in the event of the strike taking place, as individuals blacklegging the strike.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We have hungry people in the community when there is no strike, and we do not hear talk of feeding the community. What I believe is meant really by feeding the community is that hon. Members who are voting for this Bill do not want to go short because there is a strike, and they are less interested in the necessities of the community than in their own luxurious living. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am here to state my opinion. I know the attitude taken up by hon. Members opposite towards our party and our people in the country. I am not concerned with how they look on me. [Laughter.] I am going to state my opinion in this House in spite of the laughter of hon. Members. I am prepared to take the advice of my own people in these matters, which is more than hon. Members opposite are prepared to do with their constituents. Members supporting this Bill show no interest in the community at any other time. For them the community does not exist.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must confine himself to reasons for rejecting Clause 1 of the Bill. That is the only question before the Committee.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I ask the Government if they are prepared to put this Clause into operation on the day this Bill becomes law with regard to the landowners of this country, who are putting land out of occupation and preventing the growing of food in this country and who have, during the last two years permitted 800,000 acres of land to go out of cultivation, thereby shortening the food supply of the country. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh now, but are they prepared if a Labour Government goes into power? 1687 [HON. MEMBERS: "Never!"] Never is a small word with a large meaning, and our friends are not prophets. We will occupy those Benches when we have the support of the people outside and, judging by the votes cast at the last election and the feeling in the country, that time may not be so very distant I ask hon. Members opposite whether they would vote with as great alacrity with a Labour Government as they are voting now with the present Government, if we had stated definitely that we were going to put this Clause and the rest of the Bill into operation in the case of men who had reduced the food supply of the country by allowing their estates to go out of cultivation by allowing farms to cease to be farms, and by adding the land of those farms to deer forests. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. I tell them that that is what is going on in Scotland to-day. It is going on in Perthshire, where a tobacco magnate has bought an estate.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am most anxious to give the hon. Member every opportunity of stating his arguments against the Clause standing part of the Bill, but I think we can hardly go into the vexed question whether deer forests shall be added to or abolished.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I was pointing out that land is going out of cultivation and that, therefore, the food supplies of this country are being reduced. This Bill states definitely—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I did not interrupt the hon. Member when he made that statement, but having made the statement he must not continue to argue it,
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I was developing the argument. I will accept your ruling, however. We want this Bill to be dropped entirely. We do not see any occasion for it. We think the Government possesses all the powers it requires—this Government or any Government—and we believe, indeed, that 'the present Government is not so much in a state of panic as in a state of hysteria over the projected transport workers' strike, and that it is that which has caused them to bring in this legislation. The Government seems to imagine that there is really likely to be a revolution if they do not pass a repressive measure of this kind. They believe, 1688 quite possibly, that the much quoted phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" is going to be realised. Of course hon. Members object to that, but they do not object to a dictatorship of the profiteer, which is in existence to-day. This Bill is brought in to prevent any attempt on the part of the workers to get what they believe to be right—satisfactory living from the goods that they are themselves producing.
§ Mr. MILLS
I support the rejection of the Clause for two reasons. The first reason has been reiterated by Members of every party. It is the reason that to proceed further with the Bill at this particular stage of industrial unrest is unwise. Secondly, we are perfectly certain that in the peculiar conditions in which we are living now, with all that may develop at to-morrow's meeting of the whole of the executives of the trade union movement in Great Britain, to have that meeting held with the knowledge that measures of this kind have been introduced is likely only to intensify bitterness rather than appease it. The arguments of the Homo Secretary and the Attorney-General in support of the Bill were very plausible from their point of view. From the point of view we put forward we ask the House to consider what has happened in the immediate past. You have not waited for Parliamentary sanction to do certain things The whole consensus of opinion in the country has altered with regard to this dispute which is overshadowing everything at the moment, namely, the coal strike. The "Message to the Nation" was plastered over the walls of the country. We say that the information which lead to that Message came from tainted sources. We say that the miners' case was prejudiced, and passions aroused by distorted statements of fact being put on the hoardings because there was a Government willing to accept from the people on whom they rely for industrial information, information which had not been analysed as clearly or as concisely as it might have been. The Debate of last Tuesday proved that beyond the shadow of a doubt, and the newspapers of the following day clearly accepted it, and they retracted their previous attitude. The "Times" executed a complete volte face on their previous attitude, and admitted quite frankly that the case as put forward by the miners' Members 1689 in this House had quite altered their view with regard to the miners' responsibility for the low production of coal. If that be so, it obviously follows that we are entitled to say with some degree of justification that in the past great national issues have been raised by basing statements on information received from tainted sources. Therefore we hope that the Government will see that the best thing to do from every point of view is to withdraw this Bill even now, and allow the present industrial crisis to be passed over, so that in the future the legislation which is foreshadowed by the Government can be entered upon in a spirit of calmness and reason.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken in making a Second Reading speech on this Clause. If I may respectfully say so, although he has put his case with great force and cogency, he only repeated arguments already made from the Benches opposite in opposition to the Bill as a whole. I desire to say a few words with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), and I do so for this reason. I am the last person to take an objection to a fighting speech, and I admire that quality of the hon. Member, but I think when he reads over the speech he has made he will be candid enough to admit that he said one or two things which were unfair. Let me call his attention to one or two matters which he alleged, and which, in my judgment, were quite unfair to some of us who sit on this side and to those who agree with us. The chief argument the hon. Gentleman used against this Clause, I gather, was this. He said that there was no occasion to give these powers to the Government, or that it was undesirable to do so, because when they possessed the same powers in time of war, although there was great occasion to use them, they had failed to do so. I see he does not object to that representation of his argument, and he went on to observe that when people had luncheons at the hotels in the West End, notwith standing the powers of the Government, all the luxuries were to be had without stint at those hotels I am not one myself who ever cares to take my meals at places like the Ritz or the Carlton, but it was common knowledge, I think, that nothing could have been further from the truth 1690 than the picture drawn by the hon. Member; because in point of fact, although I daresay very high charges were made for what was given in those hotels, probably a great deal higher than the food was worth, the ration throughout the War at those places was most strict. It was no more possible to get more than a person's share of sugar, butter, bread, or whatever it might be, at the Ritz or Carlton than at any house in the United Kingdom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Does any hon. Member question the accuracy of that statement? I myself, as I say, do not partake of my meals at those places, but I am a member, not of the Carlton Hotel, but of the Carlton Club, which in times of fighting peace is the home of luxury; but it certainly is true that, throughout the War, at the Carlton Club is was no more possible, even if one had wished to do so, to get more than one's fair share of sugar, or butter, or other things, than anywhere else. Therefore, that particular statement of the hon. Gentleman was not only unfair, but it, was untrue, and, being untrue, it was an entirely false argument against now giving the powers for which the Government ask, and which I think they did throughout the War, very impartially and very drastically exercise; and I think they were quite right in doing so.
There was another thing which the hon. Gentleman said which I really submit to him was unfair. Perhaps irritated by something which some of my hon. Friends said to him in interruptions, but at all events, whatever the reason, he looked across to this side of the House, and he told us that the only reason why we wanted to give these powers to the Government was that we wanted to make sure of securing our own luxuries in case of the emergencies contemplated by the Bill, and he went on to elaborate that by saying that we cared nothing for the feeding of the community at any other time except when we were pressing for a Bill of this sort. Does he really think it is fair to us to say that? I represent in my constituency, I will not say, of course, anything like the large body of labour opinion which the hon. Member does; I know that is not so, but I represent a very considerable body of labour in my constituency, although it is not an industrial constituency at all. 1691 What right has the hon. Member to say that I do not care anything about the people in my constituency? I do not complain, although I might, of his suggestion that I have no sense of humanity, but even if I am absolutely devoid of humanity, has he warrant for saying that I have no sense of responsibility to my constituents? As I said in supporting this Bill on Second Reading, I say again now, I have got a very heavy responsibility to my constituents, thousands of whom are labour men, and if they are not, as they might not be, in the slightest degree concerned in some of the emergencies contemplated by this Bill, does the hon. Member really say that I am to do nothing, either directly or by the support of the Government, to see that these people in my constituency are saved from suffering and destitution?
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
I am not suggesting that he should not do that during a period of strike if there is a scarcity of food, but why limit it to a period of strike and not have it all the time?
§ Mr. McNEILL
I do not want to follow the hon. Member on that point, although I could have a good deal to say about it. What I am complaining of is that he objected to us on this side—and he did not exempt myself from the indictment he hurled at my hon. Friends—because he said we did not care for the feeding of the community at all, and that all we cared for was securing our own individual luxuries. I do not expect to extort from the hon. Member any confession, but I feel perfectly confident that when he thinks it over he will see it was an unfair remark. All I can say for my self is—and I am perfectly certain my hon. Friends on this side agree with me—we entirely repudiate any such charge the hon. Member made, whether in the heat of the moment or otherwise. We have as much humanity as ho has, and I do not accuse him of any lack of it. I believe we have also as much sense of responsibility. We are doing our best—we may be right or wrong in the view we take—to provide for future occasions, the particular need of which we cannot foresee, but which we do think may arise, when our duty to our constituents whom we represent in this House require that sustenance shall be brought to them in the same sort of way that it was brought during the War, and we think that without 1692 some such power as this Bill gives that responsibility cannot be fulfilled. I would ask the hon. Member to believe, although we may not agree as to the necessity or expediency of this Bill, that we are actuated by motives not one whit less high than those which actuate himself.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
I think we can assure the Committee from these Benches that it is not from any purpose of obstruction that we are opposing this Clause. [HON. MEMBERS dissented.] Of course, I pay little attention at all to hon. Members' ejaculations; they have not the slightest weight with me at all. More than 80 per cent. of the Members on these Benches have a lifetime's experience of the working classes and trade unions, and most of us know something of the terrible experience through which the working classes had to go before trade unions were established, and especially before they became effective units in the social and industrial life of this country. It is because we see at once that this Clause—the operative Clause of the Bill—means a serious attack upon the effective power of trade unions that we are opposing it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If hon. Members had anything like the knowledge we possess of trade union organisations, and the way in which they have been attacked in the past, they would think differently. Why, it is only a few years ago since trade unions became effective at all. For a quarter of a century one attack followed upon another, until trade unionism became a thing of naught. Their funds, their powers and authority were gone to pieces. The Law Courts, always in the name of equality of treatment between the employer and the workman, gave the Taff Vale judgment and a thousand and one other decisions. "Ah, but," it is said, "this particular Clause and this Bill will give equality of treatment in regard to the employers who are doing something to interfere with the supply of essentials." If there is one motto more than another we ought to keep in mind, it is to free our minds from cant, and there is not a Member in this House but knows perfectly well that whatever action is taken by employers, whatever action is taken by great trusts—and it is always going on—to interfere with the supply of 1693 necessities, there never will be any action taken against the trusts and employers, although there may be thousands of cases when there will be a real need for the Proclamation of a state of emergency, does anybody, however, in his wildest moments think that action will be taken against the organisations to which I have just referred? No! Speakers who have followed the right hon. Gentlemen in charge of the Bill have seen that this is a measure directed against the effective powers of the trade unions, and they have so hailed it; but they never hailed it when it was suggested that there would really be a chance of roping in the trusts and the monopolists. Not a bit of it! This measure is really to be seen as the first direct attack upon the effective powers of the trade unions which have only been built up by tremendous labour and through enormous pain and trouble. How much suffering was there then for the women and children?
Anyone who knows anything of the earlier history, or the greater part of the 19th century, will know that until trade unions became something like an effective force in the life of the nation the misery of the women and children, and of the large community about whom the Prime Minister spoke so feelingly last night was practically unattended to. There was no hope then. We know, we feel, that the definite effect of this Bill—I am not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of having a particular motive—but its definite effect is going to be to destroy the effective power of the trade unions. That is why we are opposing it. There is no man outside the House in the trade unions who will not re-echo what I am saying. If, then, that is to be its effect—and I am quite sure of it—could there be any worse dementia show by anyone than that shown by bringing in a Bill at this particular time, a when, above all others, all men of responsibility and good will would try to pull together, recognising that there is a condition of serious unrest and great disturbance? Yet this is the time that the Government seems to think best to do this. In so doing it is carrying out the old classic maxim that "whom the gods intend to destroy they first drive mad."
The Government could not act in a way better to justify that maxim than they are doing. But, it is said, other 1694 countries already possess these powers. Perhaps they do. The United States, I think, possess these powers. Has their experience been anything like ours? Have there not been vast upheavals from one end of the vast continent to the other with strike troubles? Take Colorado, with its thousand and one cases. As a matter of fact, existence there has been an almost continuous, unceasing friction. The bullet, Pinkerton's men, and a thousand and one things which have disgraced civilisation—that has been their constant experience. Take France—has it been any better? Has it not been greatly worse than anything we have ever experienced? Germany! There they have shot the people down by hundreds in the squares of Berlin. Is it not surely better that we should trust the laws of the past, trusting to coming gradually together and developing a better feeling between all classes of society than to bring in at this moment a Bill such as this? There can only be one conclusion in the mind of trade unionists outside, and particularly after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that this Bill has been drafted for three or four months, and in view of the fact that it is brought in under conditions which limit the Debate to seven or eight hours. Surely it would have been better to let the people know, so that we could have considered these proposals with some degree of consecutive thought, instead of under the present conditions. One could have understood this measure applying to some of the recent strikes, but this measure has been in the hands of the Government for three or four months, and it is now brought forward under conditions when effective debate is impossible. Therefore, we are driven to the conclusion that this measure can only have one definite result, namely, to destroy the force of trade unions, which has been acquired so laboriously, and on these grounds we shall give this measure our unflinching opposition.
§ Major-General SEELY
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that I have been referred to as being one of a party which is opposed to this Bill. I should be opposed to this measure if I believed that what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) has suggested was to be found within the four corners of this Bill. I know my hon. 1695 Friend is a sturdy champion of trade unions and we have learned to respect him as such. He says that he believes that this is an attack upon trade unionism, but if I thought that were so I would join with him in obstructing and opposing this Bill by every means in my power. I think the hon. Member for Ince has lost sight of the most essential part of this Bill. The Government of the day, whether it is this Government or a Labour Government, must very properly use this Bill as a really democratic instrument, because it cannot take any action under the Bill except Parliament is summoned within five days. Therefore it is absurd to say that we are now striking a death-blow at trade unionism by this Bill.
§ Major-General SEELY
The hon. Member said it was an attempt to strike a death-blow at trade unionism, but the Bill provides that Parliament shall meet within five days, and then the representatives of the people can express their views. No action can be taken except by Regulations, and they all expire unless they are renewed by this House. I do not believe that trade unionism to which the country owes so much rests upon so fragile a basis that when this House meets within five days it is going to allow anything to be done which can strike at the powers which trade unions possess. It is for that reason, having come to this Bill quite fresh, and having road it over with every desire to see eye to eye with my hon. Friend, that I cannot follow him in fearing that it is an attack on trade unionism.
§ Sir JOHN BUTCHER
My hon. Friend the Member for Ince, for whom I have, as I need hardly assure him, the most profound respect after his long experience in Parliament, has proved himself a very maladroit advocate of trade unionism. He says that this Clause is a direct attack on trade unionism. What is the fact? The Clause is a determination on the part of the Government to save the country from starvation and ruin in a great emergency. If to save the country from starvation is an attack on trade unionism it would follow, according to the logic of my hon. Friend, that one: of the objects of trade unionism is to starve 1696 the country. I do not believe in any such libel on trade unionism as that. I believe that trade unionism has done great service in the past; I believe it has a great future before it when properly managed. When I am told that to save the country from starvation and ruin is to-make an attack on trade unionism I can only say that, as a believer in trade unionism, I resent that statement very strongly. I believe that when the hon. Gentleman thinks it over he will see that, so far from being an attack on trade unionism, it is the greatest help that could be given to it. What would the country say if it found itself in an emergency, if it were reduced to starvation, and if it were told that that starvation was brought about in order to protect trade unionism? It would say, "The sooner trade unionism ends the better, better that the nation should survive than that trade unionism should prosper." I therefore suggest that the sole object of this Clause is to save the nation, and that, so far from destroying trade unionism, it would be a great advantage to it.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I have some recollection as a Member of this House of certain Private Bills that have been balloted for. As one reviews the Debate this evening on this particular Clause one cannot help trying to find some connecting link between them. The right hon. Gentleman representing the City of London on one occasion introduced a Bill for the repeal of the Trade Disputes Act. I remember on that memorable Friday afternoon that this Bench was cleared by arrangement and that the Government Benches were cleared by arrangement in order that the right hon. Gentleman's Bill should not be considered.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I think of that understanding, and also of the Government's silent support of the Trade Union Ballot Bill, which was allowed a second reading and which, in the Committee stage by various Amendments would eventually have come to the Floor of the House. If the Government had been sufficiently candid and frank, they would have said that, whilst they were not prepared to accept the principle that underlay that Bill, they were prepared to accept a medium between the two in order to 1697 hamper the prosperity and efforts of the trade union movement. It has been said that under this Clause the Government will be given certain powers. But they practically possess all those powers at the present moment.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I am dealing with the Clause when I say the Government already possess the powers it confers. When the railway strike took place last year what was the action of the Government? Did it not commandeer vehicles; did it not distribute milk in order that the children, who had a right to be protected, should not go short? Did it not take a prominent part in providing means for the transport of food? The fact is that had a railway strike taken place last week the Government would have utilised the same powers. When hon. Members assert that Labour leaders promulgate policies against the inclinations of the rank and file, may I tell them that the loaders of the trade union movement are compelled to act according to the dictates of their members expressed by ballot? The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) has pointed out that the Government have said nothing about this Clause being applied to individuals in the country—to trusts and monopolies which have been doing so much profiteering of the last few years. When they are prepared to hold the nation to ransom little is said by the Government. Are we to assume these powers will be applied to these people as well as to trade union activities? Nothing seems to be forthcoming as to that.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WATERSON
Although this is an emergency Bill it is conferring powers of a permanent character. The Prime Minister spoke of the power of the Triple Alliance, but not one word has been said by him or by any one else on that side about the powers of the vested interests and of the various Employers' Federations in the country. Under this Clause the Government will have power to see that the people of the country, under all circumstances, shall have the common necessaries of life, and under a later Clause certain penalties are to be imposed. I want 1698 to ask the Attorney-General a straight question. Is he prepared to put this Clause into operation as far as it affects his own Government? I want to remind him of the fact that the present Coalition Government is absolutely responsible at the present moment for the wholesale destruction of creameries in Ireland which is hampering the production of food. I want to ask him if he is prepared to apply the Clause even to the Government in this respect. When it comes to the support of vested interests and employers of labour, we sec that they are not prepared to apply it in that direction. The trade unionists of this country view this Bill, and this Clause in particular, with a great amount of suspicion. Their past experience of legislation in the House of Commons compels them to take that point of view; and it will be the duty of every trade unionist in the country to take every opportunity that presents itself to put up the opposition necessary to reduce this Bill to naught and to make it a very ineffective piece of legislation.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I desire to repudiate the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) that this Bill is of the nature of an attack on trade unionism. It is because I represent here to-night a party 80 per cent. of whose members are trade unionists that I feel bound to say that. If we thought that for a minute, we should not support the Bill. I assert that the bulk of the trade unionists throughout the country, in spite of what the hon. Member says, will recognise this Bill, because they recognise that something of this nature is absolutely essential. It is suggested by the hon. Member that there is in this Bill a differentiation as against trade unionism; but he must realise that there is no reality at all in his argument, and that any Government that neglected to bring in legislation of this kind would certainly be neglecting its duty. This particular Clause can be used against the same trusts to which the Attorney-General has referred, and it most certainly will be. My hon. Friends opposite are deluding themselves if they imagine—
§ Captain LOSEBY
The House of Commons will protect any section of the community from interference with the supply 1699 and distribution of food, water, fuel, light, or any other necessity. I know that my friends will shout that cry all over the country, but they know themselves that it is as false as anything can be. They know that there is not one Member of the House of Commons who intends an attack on trade unionism, but they intend to raise this false cry throughout the country. I rise now to protest, on behalf of trade unionists, against that cry, which, I assert, is utterly false.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I know something myself of the way trade unionists will look at this Clause. If I may claim the ordinary meed of honesty, I am going to ask the House to believe that I am honest in believing that the Bill will be inimical to trade unions, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Loseby) will not take it unkindly if I suggest that there are certain things in politics which are not quite as clear as they might be, and that we have not a monopoly of the dirty side.
§ Mr. SHAW
Read your statement tomorrow, and see what you have said. I am objecting to the Clause because I object to His Majesty's Government having the power to declare when a state of emergency exists. If anyone ought to declare that a state of emergency exists, I hold that this is the body, and that that state of emergency should only be declared after the subject has been debated. It is too much power to give into the hands of any Government, particularly when political feeling is running strong, and the state of affairs renders it dangerous to declare a state of emergency without first of all Parliament itself deciding. What will the Government gain by this? It will gain the tremendous power, more than has ever been given to any Government, of being able without the preliminary consent of Parliament to take definite action, whatever almost the circumstances may be. It is the Government which will decide whether the circumstances in its opinion—not in the opinion of Parliament—are such as to make the declaration of emergency necessary. It would be the Government which would decide what steps will be 1700 taken. It will be the Government which will have entered on a policy before we have had any chance at all of discussing what the state of affairs is and whether the necessity exists. That is the position of affairs freely and fairly stated, and one might as well be quite frank about it. Trade unionists do not trust the Government. They do not believe the Government is friendly to trade unionism, and they believe that actions speak louder than words. The subject itself is extremely dangerous at this moment. After all, even if trade unionists believe, without a shadow of justification, that this Clause is bad and is aimed at them, the present of all moments is surely the worst to introduce a thing that is bound to cause confusion and dissatisfaction. That is the condition of affairs in which we are now situated. First of all you give the Government the right to decide whether a state of emergency exists. You take that power from yourself. You also give it power to decide almost things which are tantamount to absolute revolution and the abrogation of all existing laws. That is what your power of emergency means. If you read the Bill, you will find that what I have said is absolutely correct—that not only does it give the power to declare a state of emergency, but to abrogate the whole of the laws of the land—make such provisions as may appear to His Majesty to be required for making the exercise of those powers effective.That is giving the Government absolutely the power to declare a state of emergency and to abrogate all the laws of the land. You might say inside 14 days there will be an opportunity for Parliament to consider the matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Five."] I am open to correction, but I ask if what has been decided is not that in case Parliament be not sitting it shall be called together within five days? When the Regulations have been made I am not aware that the period of 14 days that must be allowed has been changed.
§ Mr. SHAW
Exactly. Then what is the use of telling me that it is five days when the Bill says it is 14 days. [HON MEMBERS: "You are talking about another Clause!"] I have not mixed them. I know perfectly well what I am saying. This Bill gives the Government power to declare an emergency, and it gives them 14 1701 days in which to make the regulations the law of the land. That is why I object to this Clause. It is too much power to give to the Government. I object to giving that power to the Government. I believe it will be used unwisely; consequently, I am bound to oppose it. Not only do I believe that, but in contradiction to my hon. Friend the Member for East Bradford (Captain Loseby), I believe that the trade unionists of the country, with very few exceptions, believe the same thing. There is no necessity for panic.
§ Mr. SHAW
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman agrees, and I hope he will use his influence with the Government to get the Bill withdrawn for the present, and not make it appear that the Government is in a panic about a thing which is scarcely likely to take place. Why complicate things at the present time? Why make things worse than they are? There is no necessity for it. The powers proposed are too large for any Government. Parliament ought not to give them such powers. I know that the Committee is scarcely likely to be converted, but at any rate, I personally object to the powers. I would not trust the Government with them, and under those circumstances I shall vote for the deletion of the Clause.
§ Sir W. RUTHERFORD
I have been a strong supporter of trade unions all my life and have advocated everything that has been brought forward to strengthen them in a great deal of the work which they have done for the labouring classes in the industries which they represent. Let us look at what would happen if this Bill were not passed. What would happen would be this. Supposing there was a strike by the Triple Alliance, and we had no powers such as are indicated in this Clause, the effect would be that hundreds of thousands of women and little children and other members of the community who had taken no part whatever in the dispute, perfectly innocent people, would suffer enormously. They would be starved, the seeds of disease would be planted in the young people, and the whole community would rise in their anger and put an end to the trade unions body and soul. It is because I believe that the good work which the unions are doing, and 1702 have been doing in the past in a great many directions, should be preserved along lines which are legitimate, that the general community should be protected, and that such a contingency as I have mentioned should not arise, when the general community would be bound to turn round and put an end to the powers of the unions altogether, that I support this Clause. It is absolutely essential in the interests of the general community that this Clause should be passed.
§ Mr. BILLING
Both sides have been sailing round this Clause. The Clause must be carried, because without it this would be no Bill. The Government have introduced the Bill at this moment to show that if there is a fight they mean to fight. The trade union leaders say, "Why take these powers? You have greater powers under the Defence of the Realm Act." If that is so, why should they resent the effort of the Government to do a democratic act? If the Government abdicate these dictatorial powers because they are not suitable for a time of national peace, but vote for powers to summon Parliament in the event of a crisis occurring so that this House will have an opportunity of debating the regulations before they are carried, is it to be suggested that this is a stab in the back to trade unions? I represent in this House some 18,000 members of trade unions, who form a majority vote in my constituency. I have no doubt that every Labour Member will see that in the next three months the general election for which the Prime Minister is obviously playing up—for everyone who has not gone to sleep sees that the Prime Minister is playing up for a general election on industrial crises—
§ Mr. BILLING
It is the reason for the Clause. The reason the Labour party are opposing this Clause is they know that they will have to give an account to a certain section of trade unionists. The hon. Member said that every trade unionist would oppose this Clause tooth and nail. That is wrong. I am also an employer of labour. I represent trade unionists in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have the privilege of being independent of both the Coalition and of Labour, and I say that the Labour vote here does not represent the considered opinion of trade 1703 unionists. A vast section of trade unionists in this country are sick of the way the hot-heads are leading the country, and are longing for the power of the leaders to be curtailed. If Labour Members think that the vast majority of their 6,000,000 members—out of a population of 46,000,000—are opposed to this Bill and would like them to take a ballot—not a card ballot but an absolute ballot—of the trade unionists. Having regard to the industrial crises which are likely to arrive and the threats which the trade union leaders use that they can paralyse industry, commerce, transport and the existence of the community, their arrogance is becoming greater. They are dictating to the Government and this is the first indication the Government have given us that they do not intend to be dictated to by trade unions. Trade unions have their position in this country, but they are not the constitutional court of appeal for decisions in these or other matters.
It is perfectly clear that in this Clause the Government ask simply for powers to distribute commodities. A strong point was made against them that the Government could also use the powers to prevent the holding up of commodities by the smashing of trusts and combines. The Government have not the slightest intention of using their powers for smashing the petrol trust, or the cotton trust, or the hundred-and-one other trusts which are represented on the Government front Bench and by their supporters behind. That is what makes the Labour Members bitter and places the independent critic in the invidious position of finding himself first in one lobby and then in another. An hon. Member has said, "Let us clear our minds of cant." Let me say why I have cleared my mind of cant. Immaterial to me is the political activity of the present Prime Minister, of whom I was reminded several times tonight by speeches from opponents of this Clause—speeches similar to those of the Prime Minister in his earlier and more active days. One hon. Member referred to the broad acres and the deer parks, but did not mention "the first of the litter," but that was almost the only thing that he did not take from the famous Limehouse speech. Times change affairs, people, and opinions, but there is one thing that never changes in the minds of hon. Members of this House, and that is 1704 that no section of the community has any right to hold a pistol at the head of the rest of the community so that they might gain their material ends; they have no right to paralyse the whole civic state in order to get those things. If they do propose to do so, I consider that the Government are wise in taking these steps in order to prevent the trade unions from doing those things which hon. Members of the Labour party in one breath say they have no intention of doing, and in the next breath say that this Bill will prevent them doing. They know this Clause will be carried by an enormous majority not only in this House but with the considered opinion of the country. If they are making their speeches to-day merely in order to quote them on the platform six or eight weeks hence, well and good, and at any rate, if they are not doing their duty to the House they are doing their duty to what they believe to be their political possibilities. I appeal to the Labour Members to give this reading without trading from it and agree to the first Clause to show that they really do not fear even this Government or any other Government. Could they frame a Bill or pass a Bill which could in any sense kill any movement which had real social amelioration as its object, as trade unions had at one time before its leaders were more advanced members rather than the more considerate members of their movement, I suggest we can not only give the first Clause, but that every other Amendment on the Paper is, in the main, vexatious and blocking. I find myself, not because we are on the eve of a general election, but for reasons of common sense, supporting the Government. I have not supported the Government in this House or outside for more than two or three minutes at a time. When I see the Government, for the first time since 1918, doing what is essentially a constitutional and democratic and brave act, and telling the trade unions if they endeavour to paralyse the trade and commerce of this country they will take powers to fight them to a finish, then they have got my hearty support inside and outside this House.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I desire to suggest to the Leader of the House that, if this Bill is to be properly discussed, we require more time than has been given by the Government. I think the speech just 1705 delivered proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that we require more time if the points raised by the hon. Member are to be properly replied to. It is unfair for us to be asked to go on at this late hour discussing a measure of this kind. I would therefore suggest that we report Progress.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)
I am not going to say that the Government deserves all the nice things said by the hon. Member (Mr. Billing) He told us in two consecutive sentences that we were always bowing before the trade unions, and that we were always bowing before the capitalists behind us. It would be difficult to run a course of pleasing both sides, and retaining the confidence of this House if you are carrying through a tight rope performance of that kind. We were told that we were so frightened by opposition, from whatever quarter it came, that we were always ready to bow to it. We have no desire, in this Bill or any other, to try to ride roughshod over the House of Commons.
I can quite understand that a Bill of this kind should be regarded with suspicion by hon. Members who sit on the Benches opposite, but I am glad to think that the tone of the discussion, especially in the last two speeches which I have hoard, does not give any indication of any fierce flame of revolutionary sentiment which is likely to bring the Constitution down about our heads! I am quite ready to give more time on reasonable conditions, for I think reasonableness is one of the most necessary qualifications of any Government which tries to carry on a course so difficult as that mentioned by the hon. Member for Hertford. We are ready to give more time, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the real way to do that is to come to an ordinary Parliamentary understanding—that if we adjourn to-night, after the Division on this Clause, the, remaining stages of the Bill will be given us to-morrow. I think that is quite a reasonable suggestion, and I do not ask anything more than the ordinary Parliamentary bargain which is always come to, and which I have never seen broken during the time I have been a Member of this House. If that be agreed, not only by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party, but by the party represented by my hon. 1706 Friend opposite, we shall not even put down a Motion to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule. We trust to the fairness and the honour of the House of Commons, and if that be agreeable to hon. and right hon. Members opposite, I am sure it will meet the wishes of the House as a whole, and the Government will gladly agree to it.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I want to say to the Leader of the House that, while I appreciate the main part of his offer, I do not agree with that part of it in which he asks us to have a Division on this Clause before we adjourn to-night, for this reason—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If I may interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, the essential thing with us is to be sure that another day will be sufficient, and I do not care how the time is divided. If that understanding be given, I will accept it on any terms the Opposition like to make, and we will adjourn right away.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
As far as I am personally concerned, I am quite willing to fall in with the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and if it be acceptable to others, I will now take the opportunity of moving to report Progress.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I shall not divide against this Motion. I think the right hon. Gentleman has given a very substantial concession to the opposite side, for if he had not given it we should have finished the Bill to-night, but I object very strongly to the prolongation of the discussion of this Bill. I objected, when the House rose before, to its rising without settling the Irish Bill. We were called together here with the first business on the programme, the Irish Bill. Last week the Irish situation was admittedly serious and dangerous. The Bill has been postponed from last week, and it has been postponed this week. It has been postponed three days on the plea of special emergency for this Bill, and I am profoundly convinced that the longer this delay is continued, the more serious 1707 are the difficulties, the more serious are the dangers, which we shall have to face. While this House sits, until the Bill is disposed of, I shall lose no opportunity of protesting in this House against any instance of further delay that occurs. The Government are taking a grave risk by this prolonged delay, and although I shall not press this to a Division to-night, I wish the protest I make to be recorded.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Twenty - three minutes before Twelve o'Clock.