§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [5th April]:
§ "That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under The Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 1st April, 1921, shall continue in force, subject however to the provisions of Section 2 (4) of the said Act."—[Sir B. Home.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask with respect to the procedure in this matter. It is rather unusual that a Motion of the sort should be amended. May I, therefore, ask if you intend to call on the first Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). Will he be invited to move it in toto to omit the whole of these Regulations, or will you permit a discussion on each one separately? Perhaps I may be allowed to point out that I have an Amendment lower down to leave out certain words in certain Regulations—I do not object to the rest of the Regulations—and it would be for the convenience of Members if you would give a ruling as to how you will call the Amendments?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have considered the point, and have come to the conclusion that, as the first Amendment raises a general principle, it will be right for me to call it. On the assumption that that Amendment be negatived, it will then be open to the hon. and gallant Member for Hull to move his Amendments to amend certain regulations which the House has decided to retain in their entirety, or possibly amended.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
In view of the announcement which has been made by the Leader of the House, it would not be wise to proceed at this stage with a general discussion, and in harmony with 298 the arrangement that was come to, with your approval, yesterday, I would like to suggest that we proceed with the discussion of the Amendments. In the event of getting through the Amendments, and if time has to be filled up till 8.15, some of my colleagues might wish to take part in what will probably be a Third Reading Debate.
§ Rear-Admiral ADAIR
In regard to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I am very desirous of making a practical suggestion before proceeding to the Amendments. It is the desire of the House, I agree, to find a solution to this trouble with the coal miners and the owners. Some two years ago, speaking in this House on the Pre-War Practices (Restoration) Bill, I made certain suggestions, and, by leave of the House, I am going to do so again. The simplest way to do that is to read what I said on that occasion.At the bottom of all the 'ca'canny' jockeying for a price, and other restrictive practices, there is the spirit among the wage-earners that anything they do in the way of extra effort is to the advantage of what they call the capitalist—the shareholders—and not of themselves. I will not stop to argue whether they are right or wrong, but I think it would be a most excellent thing if we could get rid of that idea in some way, and I am going to make a rather bold suggestion. It is that, in the case of big industrial joint stock concerns, such as that with which I have been associated, the dividends should be limited. I say dividends, not profits. I want the profits to be as much as they can be, but I suggest limiting the dividends. If there is an excess of profit beyond the dividend, let it go first to establishing an ample reserve, so that in bad years the works do not have to shut down; secondly, to extensions to provide more employment if the state of trade justifies it; and thirdly, to pay bonuses to the wage-earners who have contributed towards the excess."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1919; cols. 1776–7, Vol. 116.]If by Act of Parliament the liability of a shareholder to loss in a concern is limited, there also ought to be a limit by Act of Parliament to the possibilities of his gain. The question may arise how such a limit is to be arrived at. I claim that that is a very simple matter and it can be done in this way. In the case of every joint stock limited liability company the dividend for any one year should be limited to twice the yield of some well-established Government security such as the 5 per cent. loan or 299 Consols. Assuming the price of the 5 per cent. loan during the year in question was 80, the yield would be 6¼, and in that year I would limit all limited liability companies' dividends to double that amount, that is 12½. In the case of the coalfields, in which the property is gradually disappearing, something further is necessary. Assuming a coalfield is worked out in fifty years, an additional 2 per cent, is essential, and that means that in such a year as I have suggested the dividend of a company in that coalfield would be limited to 14½ per cent. I have been led to throw out this suggestion in consequence of the speech which the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) made last night, in which he quoted a number of very high dividends, and I see no reason why dividends should not be limited as I suggest, and I believe this would do a great deal to remove much of the ill feeling which exists between the wage payer and the wage earner.
§ Mr. GOULD
I wish to make one or two points which I do not think have been considered by either of the parties in this dispute. It is very evident from the Debate yesterday that a policy of negation has been adopted on all sides. The coal owners and the miners do not offer anything, and we realise that the Government are unable to do anything in this matter. I wish, under these circumstances, to suggest one or two alternatives which may be considered by the three great parties interested in this dispute, that is, the miners, the owners, and the Government. I possess a certain knowledge of the coal industry, but at the present moment I agree, in view of the difficulties with which we are confronted, that this is not a time for acrimonious discussion, and if it is possible that any suggestion that I can make will be helpful towards obtaining a solution of this question, I shall consider that I have done my duty.
We have got to realise that decontrol is a factor and a force, and it cannot be set aside. The Government made it perfectly clear that we cannot have subsidies, neither can we have a period of indefinite control. We cannot agree, and I do not think the country will agree, that we shall have a system of national pooling for wages or for profits. The experience 300 of control in the past has been to prove conclusively that it works against the best interests of the country. I would like to make one suggestion. What I wish to say is this, that in some parts of the South Wales coalfields, if they do not persuade the pumpmen to go back the mines are going to be ruined, and it will be anything between twelve months and two years before those mines can be worked again. I can speak of collieries in Wales in an area in which 160,000 men are dependent upon those collieries, and if those men are not induced to go back to work those collieries are going to be out of order, and it will be twelve months or two years before some of the best pits in Wales will be able to produce coal again. In the meantime, every living soul in that district is going to be thrown upon starvation or the charity of the country. Let the wages stand so far as the pumpmen are concerned, and adjust their difference later on. I throw out as a suggestion to the miners that they should do this.
There is one thing very evident as far as South Wales is concerned, and it is that a good many items are charged against the cost for which there is no justification. We have had the coal cost in South Wales jumping from under 40s. per ton. to 55s. 1d. per ton, and for March I am fairly certain the cost will be considerably in excess of 55s. per ton. Under the existing arrangements when a man does not work in a pit he is entitled to draw from the colliery companies 3s. per day for every day he does not work as a war wage. In the case of one colliery where 1,500 men are employed they produced on one Monday 1,200 tons. Then for five days in the week, chiefly due to a shortage of wagons, they drew 15s. each, that is, £1,125 which was charged out in the costs, and this added practically £1 per ton to the cost of production of that 1,200 tons. Those men have an option, if they are out three consecutive days, of getting 3s. 4d. per day unemployment insurance benefit, but they have to be out three consecutive days. The men say: "We are not sure that we shall be out three consecutive days, and we prefer to take the colliery war wage of 3s." The result is that the industry itself is charged with the unemployment dole. It becomes a fictitious item charged on to the costs. The State 301 escapes payment of the unemployment insurance benefit, and, as a matter of fact, the colliery costs are pushed up out of all reasonable proportions. Those are absolute facts. I suggest that the unemployment insurance regulations should be amended so that any three days, whether they are consecutive or not, in which there is genuine unemployment in a colliery shall entitle the men to their pay of 3s. 4d. per day, and that the 3s. per day which is now charged against the costs of the coal shall be liberated from the costs, because we have to realise that, if we are going to get the coal industry on a normal economic basis and if we are going to sell our coal, we must take away from the costs all superfluous charges and all charges which do not actually belong to the industry itself.
There are three parties to this dispute, the owners, the miners, and the State. The State also has to take a certain degree of responsibility in getting the industry back on to its feet. Never mind who is responsible for the present condition; we are not discussing that matter now. We know that the responsibility for the ca'canny policy has not been altogether on the side of the miners, because both sides have been struggling towards the same end for different reasons. The coalowners have been, as every other industry has been for the past five years, seeking by every means in their power to discredit control, and they have succeeded. On the other hand, the miners have been endeavouring to do all that they possibly could to discredit private ownership. The result is chaos in the industry. Reasonably-minded men in the mining districts with whom I was in consultation on Saturday and Monday, working miners, loyal men in every sense of the word, have told me that they have been discouraged and disgusted with the action of officials in regard to a number of colliery areas and districts in their refusal during the past three or four years to go ahead with development work and machinery which would increase production and bring it up to a high point, but the colliery owners have gone on with developments and getting ready for the time when control was coming off. These men have said to me: "We have never voted labour or supported labour, but you cannot tell us with our first-hand knowledge and observation"—they have worked for years 302 in these areas, some of them 20 years before the War—"that the costs to-day are due entirely to the wages; they are due to the fact that in some areas we have not the facilities which we should have for getting out the coal and to the fact that development work has not gone on as it should have gone on, except with the idea of producing more coal when control is taken off." We have to face the facts.
Yesterday the Debate was a policy of negation. The coalowners offered nothing and, as one interested in many branches of industry, I say that we cannot possibly go on with costs as they are, nor can we go on with our work in any industry when we first of all set about antagonising the men as has been done in this particular instance. I employ something like 9,000 men, and I shall probably have to turn all those men out on Saturday because of no fault of my own, but simply because I cannot get coal. In any event in these particular industries, shipbuilding and steel industries, we cannot compete with foreigners, and we shall have to shut down in the course of the next six, nine, twelve or eighteen months. As soon as our immediate contracts have run out, we are finished. We have practically no hope of getting any competitive business. If we can get a reduction of 10s. per ton in the price of coal, steel will be down £2 10s. per ton. To-day the lowest possible price for which we can build 8,000 ton cargo ships is £20 per ton, and that does not include any profits whatever. They are building them across the water in Belgium, Sweden, and Germany for £10 per ton. How can we get orders?
We are working in this country at a great disadvantage because our basic cost, the cost of coal, is so high. It is not altogether due to the fact that wages are so high. Although our wages in the steel industry are Very much higher than the wages abroad, they were so before the War, and we were then able to compete, but to-day we are up against the proposition that our coal cost is so inordinately heavy and high. We are burdened with false charges in the costs. I take the Government returns of the costs of coal, and I simply say with my knowledge of the industry that they are absolutely fictitious, and, if we are going to get coal back to a reasonable price, 303 each one of the three sets of the community must undertake their share of responsibility and face the consequential loss.
Assuming that the miners did take a reduction of half the amount offered to them, it would not benefit us. It would not give us any solution as long as we did not get the artificial charges off the coal costs. I therefore suggest that for a trial period of three months we should limit, first of all, the total profits that the owners shall take to an amount which will not be in excess of that which they drew last year; secondly, that the 3s. war wage shall be taken off the industry as a charge and shall be assumed by the State; and, thirdly, that the balance of the coal profits, whether it be 80, 85, or 90 per cent., shall be put into a pool and that 50 per cent, of them shall be set aside as an amount to off-set the 3s. 4d. unemployment insurance benefit which will have to be paid during the trial period while the industry is getting on its feet. There must be a period of three months before we can see daylight. Probably three months will not do it. We have to go out into the markets of the world and endeavour to sell our coal. We cannot to-day sell Welsh coal at the prices. We cannot sell in competition with the Americans at our prices.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) gave figures yesterday, and I read them very carefully this morning. He was quite accurate in what he said, but he did not give the whole of the figures. I find that in 1913 America shipped to Europe only 455,000 tons in ten months, and in 1920 she shipped 8,650,000 tons. In 1913 she shipped to Argentina 425,000 tons, and in ten months of last year she shipped 2,800,000 tons. We have lost the Chilian market and we have lost the Brazilian market, and whether we get them back or not depends upon the price of our Welsh coal and upon our ability to get costs down to competitive level, because we have to remember that Welsh coal is no longer, as some people assume, in a class by itself. I can assure the House that there is practically no difference whatever between the quality of the best American coal, what they call Pools No. 1 and No. 2, and the quality of the best Welsh coal. The only difference is 304 that Welsh coal will stack better than American coal. As far as calorific value, fixed carbons, volume, and matter are concerned, it is equally good, and serves the same purpose, and I speak from experience, because I have used it in my factories and ships. I find that our South Wales costs in the month of February were 55s. 1d. per ton. The railway transport, screening, mixing, and other charges were 4s. 4d., making 59s. 5d. The freight to Rouen from South Wales at the present time is 9s. 6d., and there is no money in that. I speak with sad experience. The total cost landed at Rouen is 68s. 11d., without any charges for profits, carrying the coal at a loss, and producing the coal at a loss, as against the American landed price of 43s. 3d. Those figures are absolutely accurate. I can ship coal to Rouen from America at these prices to-day. I can ship the coal to Genoa from South Wales at 76s. 11d., as against 54s. 3d. for American coal, to the River Plate from South Wales at 80s. 11d., and from America at 56s. Those facts have to be faced by the House. It is no use begging the point. We can argue all day on National Boards, and we can talk about pooling systems, but we cannot get away from those facts, and we have to realise that if we are going to pay for the commodities which we require from abroad we must find a market for the coal which we produce, and we cannot find that market until we get prices right.
What has been the effect of the seven-hour day in South Wales? I know that the miners will not agree with me here. It has meant a loss of production of one-sixth. On your piece-workers' rates you have an advance of 14.2. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that for a trial period of three months—I put this forward as a suggestion—instead of reducing wages and instead of taking this cut which has been proposed the men say, "All right, we produced in 1914 287,000,000 tons of coal with 1,060,000 men in the industry. In 1920 we produced 229,000,000 tons with 1,240,000 men in the industry, 70 per cent, of that which we produced in 1914. During the greater portion of 1920 we were working the seven-hour day, which is only 5½ hours average on the coal face. It had the effect of increasing the cost by decreasing the output one-sixth. It also had added 305 on to that on the piece-workers' rate 14.2. We suggest that for a trial period the men in South Wales"—I know this does not apply to Northumberland and Durham and some other areas—"rather than take any reduction should agree to work the eight-hour day." I suggest it because we must be open to compromise. Let us have the eight-hour day. It will bring production up practically one-sixth, and you will get your 14.2 on the piece-workers' rate off automatically, as they are getting it in the longer working hours. If you eliminate the 3s. per day War wage, and increase the hours from seven to eight, you will get a reduction of nearly 5s. per day in the wages, according to production. But the wages will not be reduced to any appreciable extent, as the increase in production will be just equal to the corresponding reduction of nearly 5s. per day. I throw that out as a suggestion. Surely the men in South Wales realise that this is an impossible condition of affairs, with the industry bankrupt, and knowing that the State cannot afford to take out of the pockets of the taxpayers subsidies for the industry? Surely they are agreeable to accept a reasonable proposition, to give up a little bit themselves, equally as we expect the coalowners to give up their percentage of the profits, if necessary, for three months. The coalowners would have to sell the coal during that period at a loss if they are to recover the markets. Many a time I have had, for business purposes, to sell at a loss, knowing that in the following period I am going to be able to sell at a profit.
I do not intend to take up the time of the House any further. I think the Government could accept the suggestion which I have thrown out with regard to unemployment insurance. It is not a subsidy; it is not a capitulation to a popular demand. It has been entirely overlooked and forgotten that the charges and costs of the coal industry are affected, and if we are going to get back to a sound economic basis we must, as we have had the benefit of the coal, and the Government have had the use of the collieries—we must share and share alike, because if we do not get the coal industry back on its feet, as far as we are concerned, as a manufacturing nation, we shall have to go down. My right hon. Friend the Member for Miles 306 Platting (Mr. Clynes), in the course of an article which I read the other day, said that if low production did cure unemployment, surely there would be no people out of work to-day. It is all very well for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to say, as I have heard them say, "What is the use of producing coal, there is no market for it?" It is not a question of producing coal for which there is no market. There is any amount of markets for our coal. I have inquiries for our coal at prices even from Germany. Only to-day I had one for half a million tons of coal. Hamburg wants our coal, but at a price. There is any number of markets for it, and when hon. and right hon. Members say it is due to the Spa agreement that we have lost the market for 24,000,000 tons per annum, they quite forget that before the War Germany supplied a very large quantity of coal to France, and she also supplied a tremendous quantity to Sweden and Norway, She supplied to the Esthonian and Baltic States a small quantity, and she supplied it to Rumania, Czecho-Slovakia, and Italy. All those markets are open to us at a price. The coal which America is sending to Europe to-day—8,000,000 tons of it—may come back to us at a price. I can assure the House that there is no merchant who deals in the Mediterranean or in these States which are now taking American coal who would not prefer to take Welsh coal even at 10s. per ton more. That is an established fact. I suggest therefore we do not bind ourselves to the statement that the Reparation Treaty has anything to do with the coal situation to-day. The markets which Germany formerly supplied, and which she does not supply to-day, are open to us, and if only our costs come down to a reasonable basis I am certain that not only would our export coal trade revive, but that our other industries which are also suffering from the cost of coal will have a chance of entering into competition again with foreign countries.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
By leave of the House I rise, not to take any further part in the discussion, although I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend who has just spoken on the very valuable contribution he has made to the Debate, but to read the replies which have just been received 307 from the Mining Association of Great Britain and from the Miners' Federation of Great Britain to the letters which I understand the Leader of the House read to it just now. The reply from the Mining Association of Great Britain is as follows:
§ "DEAR MR. PRIME MINISTER,
§ I have to thank you for your letter of this morning, and in reply beg to say that at the meeting of the joint Sub-Committee of the Mining Association and the Miners' Federation on Thursday evening, 24th March, my last words"
§ —this letter is from the chairman of the Mining Association—
§ "at the close of the meeting were to the effect that the owners would be prepared to meet the men's representatives at any time they wished to further discuss the situation with them. The owners are still willing to meet the men's representatives at any time, but I assume that if the latter agree to meet the owners they will have taken steps which will ensure that the collieries are kept free of water and in a safe condition for resumption of work.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ (Signed) EVAN WILLIAMS."
§ The letter from Mr. Frank Hodges, Secretary to the Miners' Federation, is as follows:
§ DEAR PRIME MINISTER,
§ Your letter of even date has been fully considered by my Executive Committee, and I am instructed by them to inform you that they are in a position to meet the coal owners, with representatives of the Government present, at any time or place convenient to all parties.
§ My Executive Committee would be glad to hear from you as to when the meeting can be held.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ (Signed) FRANK HODGES.
§ Mr. MARSHALL STEVENS
I rise to make a suggestion. My task has been made very much easier by the speech which has been delivered by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Mr. Gould). I listened very patiently yesterday without being able to find any reference in any speech to what really is the main cause of this trouble, and of the troubles which are bound to arise out of it. Before making the suggestion which I desire to put forward, I would like to say I feel every Member of this House, and every thinking person, would never desire that any collier should work at less than pre-War rates of wages, plus the additional cost of living to-day. That is, I understand, more than the coalowners see their way to offer, and 308 the reason for that has been very ably given by the hon. Member for Cardiff. I need not repeat it. It is not possible for the coalowner to pay those wages and to be able to sell his coal, and it comes back to the point that we have all failed to look upon reconstruction arising out of the War from a sufficiently broad viewpoint. It means that no question of arranging wages to-day in the coal trade can be satisfactory, either to the coalowners or to the miners, and if wages are arranged to-day on any basis that is obtainable, our currency must be depreciated before any trade on that basis can come into operation. We "have been endeavouring by scrappy legislation to deal with these several points as they arise. We have decontrol of this, and decontrol of that, and we have approached all these questions without looking at the broad outlook of reconstruction in a way that will enable us—the country which more than any other has to rely on international trade—to get upon a workable basis. Where we are to-day with our collieries we shall and must be to-morrow, or soon after with our other industries, unless the Government, which already has had two years for looking into this question, will take a wide viewpoint in considering questions of exchange and reconstruction in their various forms, and deal with them as a whole, rather than in the scrappy manner in which we are now dealing with legislation in this country.
We heard just now, at question time, from the Minister of Labour how necessary it is for us to have information in regard to the labour of other countries for purposes of comparison with our own. The right hon. Gentleman was asked if he had such information himself, and he replies that he had not, and when the question was put to him if he had any intention of getting it, he replied that he would consider the point. Thus it has been throughout, and, unless the Government will go into the question of reconstruction as a whole, and obtain the assistance of those Members of the House who are here for reconstruction purposes, to help them and will get from them information such as that which has just been given by the hon. Member for Cardiff with regard to the coal trade, unless the Government will do that and will work upon it before they bring up in this House these Bills 309 —Bills which we have to criticise—and unless we are allowed to take some part in the initiation of these industrial matters, I feel quite sure that we are only riding on to greater difficulties. I speak with some knowledge of these matters, and I do find that, although we come to this House for reconstruction purposes, we are not able to assist the Government to this end in the manner that we might. There is no chance of any settlement on the wages question which will be satisfactory to-day either to the coal owners or to the miners or to the country, and which will enable us to go on with our international trade. We must consider those larger main questions as to our position vis-à-vis the other nations. It does not matter even if it becomes necessary for us to become a poorer nation. It may be necessary for us, quâ nation, to become poorer, but it does not follow that because nations are poor the people in those nations need be poor. We see to-day throughout the world that in all nations, whether poor or rich, there are more rich men to-day than there were before the War. You have to disintegrate the national interests in questions of this kind from the commercial and industrial interests and deal with them separately. I hope that the Government will look into the matter from the larger viewpoint of reconstruction as a whole, instead of separating matters like the decontrol of coal and the very next subject that is coming up—namely, the question of key industries—and treating them in a scrappy manner. We shall not get on in that way.
§ Mr. RENWICK
I do not think that any representative of the great coal fields of Durham and Northumberland has intervened in this Debate, and I want to say a word or two primarily with regard to Northumberland, and, to a lesser extent, with regard to Durham. We have heard a great deal about South Wales from the hon. Member for Cardiff (Mr. Gould), and I must say that I agree with practically all that he said. We in Northumberland, like South Wales, rely almost entirely upon exports. Eighty per cent, of the available coal raised in Northumberland has to be exported, but we cannot export it at the present time on account of the high price, and, therefore, we are in much the same position as South Wales. Durham relies upon export to a less extent. The great iron industries 310 on Tees-side and in other parts of Durham absorb a large proportion of their coal. Northumberland, however, relies upon export to the extent of 80 per cent., and we think in Northumberland that with a cheaper price we could regain most of the markets that we have recently lost. I am going to make a suggestion, and in making it I want it to be clearly understood that I am not speaking on behalf of the coal owners, but I am making it after consultation with certain persons who are intimately interested in the coal trade in Northumberland and Durham. We are all agreed that the country will not stand a re-imposition of the subsidy. It would cost the country £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 a year, and it must be got out of the way. The next point upon which the miners lay great stress is that they want national instead of district boards for settling wages questions. In the North of England, we have not only the mining industry, but the great shipbuilding industry and the iron and steel industries. In connection with shipbuilding there are two great societies, the shipwrights' society and the boiler-makers' society, and I know that both of those societies are national societies. The business of those societies, however, is managed by district boards, and the wages are not the same in all districts. The wages on the Mersey in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industries are not the same as on the Tyne; they are not the same on the Tyne as they are on the Clyde; and they are not the same for ship-repairing in the Bristol Channel as they are on the Tyne. All those matters are managed by district committees. Surely it might be possible for the mineowners and the miners to agree in principle to a national board, and to work it in much the same way as the boilermakers and the shipwrights. I know that there is a disparity between different districts, and men are ready to leave certain districts when they know that some big repair job is going on in another district, because they can make more money. There is a good deal of flexibility. Surely a similar principle might be followed in the mining industry. I merely throw that out as a suggestion, as I gather that it probably would not be met by a non possumus, but would be considered.
In Northumberland, also, we should like to get back to the old principle of 311 the sliding scale. I was in this House with Mr. Thomas Burt and Mr. Charles Fenwick, representing the Northumberland miners, and I remember that I was asked by Mr. Charles Fenwick if I would oppose the application of the eight-hours' day to Northumberland, because they did not want it. Durham also did not care much about it, but Northumberland was hostile to it, and I spoke against it in this House. Then, I believe, some of the leaders in Durham begged the men not to join the Miners' Federation, saying, "Let us go on as we are. We have the sliding scale, our wages go up with the price of coal, and there is a minimum" Let us return, if we can, to that principle. It will be good for the mine-owners and for the miners, and if we can get a reasonable reduction in the selling price of coal we can easily recover most of the markets that we have lost, notwithstanding the inroads, of which we were told by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), made by the Americans into our markets. They cannot compete in Northern France, in the Bay ports of France, in the Atlantic ports of Spain or Portugal, or in Belgian or German ports; and they have great difficulty in competing with us in the Mediterranean and in the South American market. We cannot, however, compete at present prices, and it is absolutely necessary, if we are to regain our trade and employ our mines, that we should find some means of reducing the enormous cost of coal at the present time.
§ Mr. SWAN
I hope that no word which I say this afternoon will do anything to militate against the possibility of arriving at a settlement. I am anxious that a settlement may come soon, for the benefit not only of the miners, but of the whole of the State. I listened carefully to what was said by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Renwick) and by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Mr. Gould), who expressed his anxiety to reopen trade with the world. I listened carefully to his suggestions, but I heard nothing that was likely to remove the obstacles to the reopening of trade. Evidently his only solution is to reduce the cost of production either by a reduction in wages or by an increase in the hours of labour leading to a larger production of coal and at the same time to a reduced cost 312 of production. Some of us in the North of England were not very much affected in regard to reduction of hours by the changes which took place during the War, but one thing was obvious to us, and has been made obvious by recent inquiries, and that is that where the hours of labour were least the production was greatest. Therefore, that suggestion, as a means of reducing the cost of production and increasing output, will not apply, other things being equal. Those who have had long practical experience in the mines know that men exhaust their productive power in substantially fewer hours than those obtaining even in the lowest areas, and they have to regulate their energy if they are to continue efficiently to the end of the day or the end of the week; and it has been proved in Durham and Northumberland that where men worked shorter hours their output was greater. We had hoped that with the advance of science and knowledge we should no longer be expected to go back to the dismal days of the past.
As far as regards high cost of production in mining, we repudiate any suggestion that the miners are responsible for high cost either of wages or of production. There are many other factors which militate against the coal trade of this country, and which have tended to increase wages and costs. We have sought, both with the Government and with employers, for regulation of wages and costs, but those ideas were turned down, with the result that we have been compelled, in order that we might have a reasonable standard of living, to demand that our wages should be increased compatibly with the cost of the commodities by which we have to live. We suggest that, in addition to the proposals that have been made as the only alternative whereby trade might be reopened, there are other factors which have not been given prominent consideration either by the mineowners or by the Government, and which are both militating against output and adding substantially to the cost of production. I have heard complaints not only by managers but by owners against the huge tariffs which are imposed upon them. There seems to be a sort of commercial blackmail even in mining commercial circles. Within the last fortnight I have heard a prominent official of the mineowners 313 suggesting that instead either of the owners or the Government being amenable to an attack on wages there are many other factors which ought to be attacked before they attempt to reduce the wages of the mine workers and he suggested that they were handicapped severely and that when control was removed it would be almost impossible for them to hold their own against other countries owing to the enormous" railway rates which they had to pay for a very short distance. In my own neighbourhood when control is removed companies will find it absolutely impossible to go on owing to high railway rates, conflicting way-leaves and royalty rents. Because of certain interests, a sort of blackmail which dare not be mentioned, because they are up against certain vested interests, perhaps prominent members of the Government, who know that all these burdens are there, are not proposing that they ought to be removed so that the coal trade may again hold its own with other countries and not have these embargoes placed upon it.
In regard to getting peace, we have been rather surprised at the manner in which the owners in various parts of the country have approached the unions in the separate districts, and I am sure the Home Secretary will agree that the manner in which the Durham coalowners have approached the men has not been such as to win their confidence in such a settlement as was recommended by the hon. Member (Mr. Renwick), where you have either a conciliation board or the old sliding scale. When they approached the Durham miners, instead of asking if a settlement was possible by going back to the old district rates, instead of seeking to get a settlement on the period of the quarter on the selling prices, they offered them 155 per cent., when on the figures they would be entitled to 211 per cent., with the result that men who could not be considered to be extremists in any sense, but always abhorred a strike, and were never afraid to face men who were likely to lead the country into a strike, have been compelled to repudiate the policy of the Durham mineowners as being very unfair and not likely to win good opinion in the country towards going back to the district rates. That policy is going to drive the Durham miners back, not only to the black, dismal days before the 314 War, but substantially to cut their rates below a reasonable living wage, and if control is taken out of the way again on top of that, we believe it is going to add enormously to the cost of this country. We are going to have an enormous number of mines closed down and large numbers of men thrown out of work, who must either be a charge upon the revenue or upon the local authorities for maintenance. The policy is bad. It will lead the country unnecessarily into confusion and turmoil, whereas, if the Government had maintained control for some time to come, we should have been able to hold our own and save the nation millions of pounds.
Whatever hon. Members may say, it is obvious that there is a widespread apprehension, not only amongst miners but amongst all classes of workers, that this is a policy, collusion if you like, between the Government, coalowners, and employers generally, to strike at the wage earners. The Labour movement is being attacked in detail. The first attack is upon the miners, and the railway workers and other sections think the next knock will be at their door. During the last six months the Government have negotiated openly with the mine workers, but they have negotiated with the coalowners in secret. They closed the door and came to a decision and said: "This is our offer. Either accept it or reject it." It would be very absurd to expect us to accept the conclusions of the mineowners without any knowledge as to how they were arrived at. No business man would simply say: "Here is a price. Accept it. It is all right." He would want to inquire into it. The miners have not had time to do that. The offer which is made is very inadequate. It is a substantial reduction. The terms have led to a lockout of the whole mining community of the country. It is proposed that emergency powers shall be put into operation. I do not know to whom they are intended to apply. If there ought to be any penalties on any section of the community it ought not to be on the mineworkers. Those who have led up to the crisis are either the mineowners or the Government. It is proposed to reduce the cost of production by reducing wages when we know the standard of living is already too low, or by working longer hours when we know that the miners are already called upon to work longer hours than are economical 315 either for themselves or for the nation, thereby diminishing. their efficiency. That is not a wise policy. We looked to the future with better hopes than any proposals that have been made to-day. We did not expect to be driven back to the black, dismal days that we have emerged from, but we hoped that by better organisation of the mines there would be reforms which would enable us to hold our own by eliminating all the factors which did not tend to efficiency and the advancement of the nation, and if we are to find a way out of this impasse it is for the Government to continue control until we are able to find our trade so that the mines will be able to be worked and our men employed not under conditions such as are being proposed but under conditions which will enable them and their families to obtain all the necessaries of life and live in happiness and comfort instead of the misery and degradation which these proposals are likely to lead to.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move, after the word "Regulations," to insert the words "other than Regulations 6, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, 27, 28 and 29."
The object of this Amendment is that, while the Emergency Powers Act Regulations will indeed be enacted, those to which we have special objection will be left out. I really do not know whether one should look at these Regulations as being a precedent for the use of future Labour Governments or whether they should be viewed solely from the point of view of the present crisis. I cannot help thinking when one looks at these Regulations giving power to the Government to commandeer land, mines, railways, and canals and giving the Executive an absolute right of dictatorship, that they must have been brought to the notice of the British Government by M. Krassin or some of the other advocates of Bolshevism in Russia. This indeed is a dictatorship. One could say a good deal about it, but we have to realise of course that in time of war dictatorship does become very nearly necessary. When the Great War began we passed D.O.R.A., which was very like these Regulations, though not so strict in some parts and more extensive in others. Now the Government tell us that we are face to 316 face with such a crisis that they have to treat it as though it were a case of civil war or prospective civil war and enact all these Regulations which amount to autocracy.
The first of the Regulations is one giving the Government power to take land. I do not want to say much about that. I do not want to fight it, because it may be of use to us later on, but I do wish to say that that Regulation might be put to a certain use now to meet the question of the strike and the unemployment consequent upon a strike. At the beginning of the Great War the Government were most energetic in finding allotments all round our great towns for those who were thrown out of work by the War, from which they could produce food. I think the Government might very wisely use the powers now given to them under the first Regulation to establish a large number of market gardens and allotments around our towns where people, thrown out of work through no fault of their own, could, at any rate, produce something for themselves and find occupation other than hanging about the street corners. I do not want to say anything to-day about those Regulations which interfere with property. They are not those to which the party I am connected with particularly objects. The Regulations to which we particularly object are those dealing with the liberty of the subject, and re-imposing upon British citizens all the restraints and interferences with liberty that we knew during the worst time of the War. I do not think I need say much about No. 6. It gives—I presume to the Home Secretary—the power to endanger the lives of His Majesty's subjects by allowing anybody to drive a motor car. The next Regulation to which I want to refer is No. 16. It gives the Postmaster-General power to tell all his sub-agents to refuse to take messages of a certain character over the wire. That practically gives the power of censoring telegrams to a number of sub-postmasters and sub-telegraphic officers all over the country. It is aimed at inconveniencing, if not disconcerting, the operations of the trades unions who, if they want to send messages to their branches, will be compelled to send telephone messages instead of telegraphing. But it merely inconveniences these people—it cannot 317 possibly stop them—and it does, in my opinion, give an undue power to small officials in post offices throughout the country.
When we get to Regulation 19 the really important steps are taken to interfere with the legitimate freedom of the subject. Under 19, if any person does any act likely to cause disaffection among the civilian population, or to delay any measure taken for the supply of necessities for maintaining the means of transit, he shall be guilty of an offence against the Regulations. That seems to me to be throwing your net a little too wide, even in the dangerous situation imagined by His Majesty's Government. Is it really supposed that anybody who can be supposed to be stirring up disaffection—it does not state against whom, but I presume against the Government—is committing a crime. That Regulation seems to be taken from some of the more ancient despotisms of the East, rather than Great Britain. The idea that you may not attack the Government, even in private, is one that will hardly appeal to the Coalition Liberals on those Benches, if there is any Liberalism left in them. [An HON. MEMBER: " They are purified."] Purified by fire, I suppose. Regulation 20 is even more interesting. That gives the police power to prohibit any meetings or any processions. Where there appears to be reason to apprehend that the assembly of any persons—it does not say how many, but I suppose it is a case of, "where two or three are gathered together"—will cause undue demand to be made upon the police, any such meeting can be prohibited.
Regulation 22 allows a Secretary of State to use the Army, the Navy and the Air Service to work in the mines or the transport service or the railways or wherever they may be considered of use. In other words, it gives a Secretary of State power to use armed forces of the Crown to act as blacklegs, to work wherever they may be told by their superior officers. There is a certain amount to be said for that power. I certainly do not think it should be extended to working in the mines, because that will almost amount to a case of brutality to the armed forces of the Crown. Where they might be used, no doubt, and where they have been used in the past, is in keeping the pits clear of water. If that were all, well and good, 318 but this Regulation gives far wider powers. It gives power to use these forces in any trade so long as it can be assumed by the Government that it is in the interests of the community to do so. I am inclined to think that every trade and every form of employment could be supposed to be vital in the interests of the community.
The next Regulation, No. 23, deals with the wicked person who obstructs or withholds information. According to it, any persons who withholds any information which he may reasonably be required to furnish by any officer or other person who is carrying out the orders of any Government Department is guilty of a crime. It is not enough not to do anything—silence is to be a crime under these Regutions. That goes far beyond anything we had under D.O.R.A. I do not think even a state of civil war in this country or the alarming prospect in front of us would authorise you to treat as a criminal a man who merely remained silent. It is an entirely new principle in British law since the days when a man was crushed to death with iron on his chest if he refused to plead in Court. Some time ago we abolished that punishment, and we no longer consider refusal to plead as a crime, but now under this law we are reintroducing the theory that a man by saying nothing may incriminate himself. Regulation 27 re-enacts the old D.O.R.A. provision as to arrest without warrant. Any police constable may arrest without warrant any person suspected of being guilty of an offence against these Regulation. Good Heavens! Any person in the country may be suspected of getting in the way, or saying nothing, or harbouring somebody who has taken part in a prohibited meeting, or any of the other hundred and one ways in which you are now enabled to commit crime by doing nothing! We have during these years of war come to disregard the liberty of the subject pretty completely, but I do protest against this being re-enacted one moment before it is necessary. I believe the sky looks a little brighter to-day. There is less chance than there was of having this universal strike. If on the whole there is necessity for some such legislation as this, yet this Regulation in particular might have been postponed until the need actually arose, 319 rather than accustom British citizens to surrendering their rights into the hands of the police.
Then comes the Regulation dealing with attempts to commit offences, No. 28. Under it any person who endeavours to persuade another person to commit any act prohibited by the Regulations, or who harbours any person whom he knows to have acted in contravention of the Regulations, is guilty of an offence. If you allow your son to come home late at night from a meeting and sleep in the house you may be making yourself a criminal. How any body of citizens can make it a crime to harbour a man who, after all, whether guilty or not, may surely out of Christian charity be given a meal and a bed, I cannot imagine. In 1792 the French Convention tried to make it a crime to conceal emigrés who were flying from the French Revolution. They sought to make it punishable by death to harbour anyone who was trying to escape from the country. Mirabeau denounced that law as a crime against all the traditions of France, and denounced it in such terms that he swayed the Convention, and they rejected the law that they were about to pass. I wish I had the tongue of a Mirabeau to convert even the Home Secretary to the view that there is something higher than the safety of the State, that is the tradition of the English people.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I beg to second the Amendment. In doing so, I desire to direct attention to one or two of the Regulations in order to try to elicit some information as to the exact intention of these powers. I should point out that a great deal depends upon the spirit in which we view the proposals that the Government are now making. We are bound to draw a very clear distinction between such an emergency as now confronts the country and the emergency which confronted the country during the War. I do not think the two can be compared. No doubt, this is a large and serious industrial dispute, but it is not a menace to the safety of Great Britain in anything like the sense in which the late War was a menace, and it does not seem to me to call for the drastic course which may or may not have been necessary during the War. Certainly it does not 320 call for the code which we have in hand, when almost everything depends upon getting a spirit of good will and good feeling with a minimum of interference with the individual if we are going to re-establish industrial peace in this country. No hon. Member opposite will accuse me of being an advocate of disorder; I hate it intensely. It has never done any good to anybody, and I am sure that nobody will be assisted in this crisis by embarking upon enterprises which afterwards they would have reason to regret; but, speaking as one who is sincerely desirous of peace, I am compelled to ask the Government whether these Regulations are strictly necessary, and whether, in the second place, they will not have the effect of embittering the feelings of considerable sections of people who are well disposed towards the cause of peace at this time.
Let me take a few illustrations from some of the Regulations which the Government propose. Regulation 6 gives power to the Minister of Transport, or any person appointed by him for the purpose, to issue licences for the purpose of driving motor cars, and the last part of that Regulation indicates that any licence may be suspended during the period for which the Proclamation of Emergency is in force. A very large number of drivers of motor cars in this country are trade unionists. They are members of bodies which may be involved in this dispute, and the question they immediately ask, and they are entitled to have an answer in this debate, is whether there is anything in this Regulation which is aimed at them in the crisis which now confronts the country. On that point I should like some information from the Home Secretary. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the sending out of telegraphic messages under Regulation 16. Practically every hon. Member will agree that in a time of crisis it is important to get the utmost publicity, to allow everybody to know what is going on, and not to drive any information underground, or to cause any movement to be conducted other than openly. That seems to me to be essential to any settlement of a difficulty like the one with which we are now faced. Is it proposed to interrupt messages which may be sent by one section of industrial workers to another? What is the intention of this Regulation? Is discrimination going to be exercised against any one 321 section of the community? What does the Government mean by this proposal?
Regulations 19 and 20 raise very important issues. Clause 19 deals, among other things, with acts calculated to cause disaffection among the civilian population, and the Clause which follows proposes the prohibition of public meeting or processions which are calculated to lead to grave disorder. Already, in the experience we have had in recent years, a Regulation of that kind has led to very serious controversy in many localities. Frankly, I would say to the Government, even in their own interests—although we are not supposed on these Benches to plead the interests of the Government—that they should let everybody in this country, no matter what may be his point of view, however extreme, state his case. I would allow him to do it with all the publicity he could command, because I rely first of all upon the law-abiding habits of the British people, and in the second place upon their common sense. If there is anything which assists the revolutionary extremists, it is any effort to drive their view underground. Let it have free expression, and I am perfectly satisfied that the country can rely upon the judgment of our people. Here is a power, however, that may be used against a perfectly legitimate meeting, called to state a case on behalf of any of the parties to the dispute, and a speaker who might use an unguarded phrase, of which even the most experienced speaker is guilty on occasion, might find that he has brought himself within the scope of these Regulations. I cannot believe that a settlement is going to be assisted by a device of that kind.
May I make a personal appeal to the Home Secretary? What is the greatest difficulty that Labour Members and others are confronted with in the country to-day in an endeavour to build up a sound, decent industrial system in Great Britain? Their difficulty has always been with the men who will not see reason, the men who will not argue a case, the men who are perfectly satisfied that nothing but wild and terrible methods will avail by way of solution. Regulations of this kind encourage that school, and make our task more difficult, and especially difficult in the midst of a crisis of this nature. Many of us are exercising 322 such influence as we possess in the interests of peace, and these Regulations do not help us. Under Regulation 27 power is given to a police constable to arrest, without warrant, people who may be regarded as guilty or likely to be guilty of acts hostile to the public safety. I regard that as a very dangerous power to entrust to a class of men for whom we have the greatest respect, but who probably cannot be presumed to know these Regulations. Knowledge of the Regulations is necessary before any such powers can be entrusted to any section of people in whatever capacity they may be employed. No matter how well the Regulations are published, no matter what action is taken to instruct the police forces of the country, it will remain true that large numbers of members of the police forces will not know the Regulations under which they are given the power to arrest without warrant. That is a very substantial inroad upon the rights and liberties of the British people.
My last point is that under Regulation 29 a justice of the peace is entrusted with considerable power in that on a representation in writing made by a police officer not under the rank of inspector he can close premises or interfere with the use of premises. In this connection a very curious distinction is drawn between the practice in England and what we gather will be the practice in Scotland if these Regulations are applied. In England the power is entrusted to a justice of the peace, but in Scotland the justice of the peace becomes the sheriff, and I submit with great respect that a sheriff in Scotland is a very different person from a justice of the peace in England. A sheriff in Scotland, as my right hon. Friend knows, is an advocate corresponding to a barrister south of the Tweed, and has great knowledge of the law; he is on the Bench; but I take it that a justice of the peace in England may be a person who does not know very much about the law. He may be merely some resident in the locality on whom this responsibility has been conferred in the past. There is a very serious difference between the practice proposed in the two countries, where in the one you require a man skilled in the law and in giving legal decisions of very great importance, and in the other you depend entirely upon a person who, in point of 323 fact, may know no law at all. These are a few of the objections which I urge against the Regulations. In any emergency in which we desire peace it is our business to interfere as little as possible with the rights, habits and usages of the people. These Regulations appear to me to go to the other extreme and to violate almost every right. In my judgment they will aggravate rather than help the crisis which now confronts the country.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
There seems to be one simple answer to be given to the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. The Government are seeking wide powers because it is impossible to foresee what will be the outcome of the present crisis. We are faced with a condition of affairs almost unexampled, or at any rate we have a prospect of such a state of affairs. We are faced not merely with a coal strike, or whatever name you choose to call it by—there is a difference of opinion upon that matter—but also with the results of negotiations which have been going on for two years past by which the Triple Alliance may call out other bodies of men to help to paralyse the community. The Government in such circumstances are bound to take these powers. As to whether the Government will use these powers we have some experience already, because we have had a railway strike in this country when the Defence of the Realm Act was in operation, and these powers were brought into existence and provided that the Government should be armed with sufficient powers when the Defence of the Realm Act had elapsed. I have read carefully the Amendment and the Regulations to which the Amendment objects. If the Amendment were carried everything which would strengthen the hands of the Government in protecting the life of the community would be practically taken out of the body of the Bill. Therefore, it will be impossible for me to support the Amendment. There is one thing which I am surprised should have escaped the eagle eyes of the Labour party, and that is Regulation 26, Section 2, which provides that the management of societies are responsible for the action of those societies unless they can prove that they had no knowledge of it. That has not escaped the eye of certain other hon.
324 Members who have an Amendment later on the Paper in regard to it. The effect of these various Amendments would be to deprive the Government of all real power to deal with this grave crisis. The criticism to which I have listened seems to me to be extraordinarily futile. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment spoke of the Government endangering the community by issuing licences to people unable to drive cars, when everybody knows that any Member of this House can get a licence to drive a motor to-morrow and need not pass any examination. That sort of criticism is not helpful. There is not one country in the world which would not take to itself even wider powers. The United States was faced with a national coal strike in 1919, and the Government issued orders prohibiting the trade uníon leaders from even issuing any instructions of any kind or making use of any trade union funds.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
No, but I am pointing out that this country concedes far more liberty in these matters than any other country, and the Government are not taking nearly the powers that have been exercised by France in similar circumstances. The Government in these emergency Regulations have done everything possible to preserve the liberty of the subject, but if the liberty of the whole country is in danger, then the Government are bound to interfere with the liberty of individuals in particular sections.
§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
These Regulations are put forward ostensibly to secure peace in this country while this dispute is running. Instead of maintaining peace, they will create trouble. We have been told by the Prime Minister today that a meeting is to be held. I hope that something will come of it, but is this going to help to get accepted any terms proposed? In matters of this kind no one gets all he sets out for. I have never known that to happen, and it is going to be the same now. It generally works out in this way, that the negotiators for the workmen get far enough to be able to recommend the workmen to accept the terms which they have been able to secure. Does anyone think that these 325 Proclamations and Regulations would make it easier to get the workmen to accept any terms recommended to them? My opinion is that it will do the opposite, and that men will see it but, and see what comes of it. Is not that the spirit of the British? This will make it more difficult to get the terms accepted. Is it too late to ask the Home Secretary to suspend the discussion on these proposals for the time being, and to see what is going to come out of the meeting that is to take place? To-day I understand that the railwaymen and the transport men decided to join with the miners. That creates a very serious position. I believe that the suspension of these Regulations would be the best thing that could be done at present. I do not go into these different Regulations, but there was one, I think, about making certain speeches. I suppose it means that the most moderate men can speak their ideas, but that the extreme man cannot without being liable to fine or imprisonment. Do you think you would get those moderate speeches if these Regulations were put in force, and the other chap could not talk? It is better to have an open free discussion in which you will get the opinions of both sides. There was another point made about sheltering. There are fathers with one, two or three sons who may go out during the day and get into crowds. Whatever happens, do you think that the father would turn one of his boys out at night? Nothing of that sort would happen whatever the consequences. Is it not possible for the Home Secretary to see other Members of the Government so as to have this discussion suspended for the moment, so that negotiations can go on, and that we may see what will come of them? Whatever America or any other country does, these Regulations cannot help us but will simply create trouble.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) was inclined to complain of other countries having taken wider powers in times of industrial distress than this country. He instanced France and America. I wonder that he did not also instance Prussia. Prussia was the shining example held out to people of his school of thought before the War. It was the great stronghold of militarism, and the divine right of monarchs and Governments. Why did he not quote the Prussian practice of dealing 326 with trade unions, and that of Bismarck, who was the great hero before the War in support of this way of dealing with unruly workmen? I am astonished, after what has happened during the last six or seven years, that hon. Members complain that we do not go in for more restrictions on the liberty of the subject.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The complaint seems to be that we are actually the freest country in the world. Before the War, before the microbe of militarism was allowed to breed in our blood, the Englishman could boast of the freedom of England, of its Government, and its people, and his proudest boast abroad was that the Government of England was the freest and most sure-founded in Europe.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Gentleman opposite, I hope, will live as long as I, but if some of his friends had their way England would not be the most stable country, because the English people will not stand being bullied. They will not stand restrictions on their liberty, and they will not stand, above all, interference by any little jackanapes in top-boots. I do not know what they think of it in the hon. Member's part of Wales.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
And if reports are reliable the hon. Member has some difficulty in addressing any audience in his own constituency.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I would be the last person to interrupt the hon. Member, though I appreciate the compliment he pays me when he says he would endeavour to prevent me being heard. I really think that we have got something to be proud of in this country, and I object to this panic legislation, and 327 it is because I think with the hon. Member who spoke last that it will do more harm than good that I propose to resist these Regulations in a constitutional manner. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone also gave us another reason why these Regulations should be proposed apart from the examples of America and France, but not of Prussia. The Triple Alliance he says for two years has been negotiating to take concerted action if they consider that their rights as trade unionists or citizens were threatened. But he is wrongly informed. The Triple Alliance was formed before the War. I remember my business friends speaking about this sort of thing with bated breath in 1913. It is no use coming forward and holding up the Triple Alliance as a bogey when urging that these powers should be granted. The Triple Alliance is an old-standing arrangement. It does not happen to have been used, but the fact that it was formed in 1913 is no reason for passing such Regulations as these in 1921.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
My reference to two years ago was that at that time they began to discuss the taking of political action against the Government, not in reference to wages.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am afraid my hon. and gallant Friend is still misinformed, because the Triple Alliance I am told, by people who know much more about it than I do, was for the purpose of taking action where the interests of its members were threatened, whether by the Government or anyone else. I may point out to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Lieut.-Colonel Croft)—I refer to him because I know how bitterly he opposes nationalisation, and he and I are poles apart on that matter—that under these Regulations it would be possible by a stroke of the pen to nationalise, any property or any class of property in the country, whether private dwelling houses, lands, factories or mines. The Preamble of the Proclamation says: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, or light, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or 328 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.A case might be made out, for example, by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood) that the blockade of land in this country by landowners has deprived the community of the essentials of life, has prevented access to the land, and prevented the production of food in this country, and a clever lawyer might make a very good case that those words cover such an emergency. Under the first paragraph of Regulation 1, that occasion having arisen,it shall be lawful for the Minister of Transport, the Board of Trade and any other Department approved by His Majesty for the purpose, … to take possession of any land, buildings or works (including works for the supply of gas, electricity or water and of any sources of water supply) and any property (including plant, machinery, equipment and stores) used or intended to be used in connection therewith.It is possible under these Regulations to take possession of the railways, the mines, the land, any empty houses wanted for housing soldiers, any factories which it is thought were wrongly used or not used to the fullest advantage of the community, and to nationalise them. As a matter of fact I exaggerated when I said that the hon. and gallant Member (Lieut.-Colonel Croft) and I were as the poles apart on the question of nationalisation. I am not altogether in love with nationalisation. I would object to any Government having the power to take possession of anyone's property under these Regulations. I am speaking now as a Liberal. Great exception has been taken to Regulation 16 because it might be aimed at preventing trade unions sending telegrams to their branches. It might also be aimed in a very objectionable way against the proper distribution of news by journalists. It might be aimed against Press messages with the intention of keeping back facts which are awkward for the Government. Perhaps the Home Secretary will enlighten me on that point. As has been said, what we want is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and the greater the publicity the better.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I daresay I shall be alive for some time yet. Regulation 19 deals with sedition. Already the Government are persecuting people for so-called seditious utterances, and at present there are some 19 Communists in gaol. The Home Secretary gets them, not for being Communists, but for preaching what he calls sedition. I believe they are prosecuted under a Statute of Edward III. There are Statutes dating from the time of the rising of the peasants in the time of Edward III, by which anyone making a speech in which the Government is not praised can be brought before the authorities for preaching sedition. That is quite apart from the Defence of the Realm Act. Almost weekly in the Midlands men, speaking at the street corners, are made popular heroes and martyrs by being put in gaol for this offence. What we want this Regulation for I do not know, unless it is an attempt to frighten the people. If that is the case, the Government are making a great mistake, the mistake that the Prussian General Staff made in August, 1914. To Regulation 22 I take the gravest exception, because it gives the full power of the Army Act and the Navy Discipline Act and the Air Force Act over any soldiers or sailors in relation to civil employment. That is a very grave departure from previous practice. It means that you can use soldiers or sailors for forced labour. I believe that certain good people have been shocked by certain proceedings in Russia, particularly the conscription of labour. I have heard it preached in my own constituency, and I have been accused of wanting to introduce it into this country. I deny that. I am not in favour of forced labour. I hate compulsion of any sort. It is only poor labour that you get by such methods. At the same time, I can imagine a state of revolution in a country like Russia when it is absolutely necessary to make people work.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I have done a great deal of hard work in my time, and I could earn my living to-morrow.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Only within the last two years. It astonishes me to see the blessing of the Home Secretary given to this principle. Was the idea enshrined in Regulation 22 brought straight from Moscow? Was the Third International consulted about this? Were they asked to send forward their regulations for the army of labour in Soviet Russia? There is no difference in the world between sending, a battalion of Russian soldiers to forced labour in cutting down timber and taking 40 men and putting them at work as 40 motor drivers, on the plea that it is necessary to keep up communications. I object most strongly to the employment of the armed forces of the Crown in this way, whether at electricity works or gas works or in transport work or anything of that sort. I have no objection to the armed forces keeping order, if the police cannot do it. That is perfectly legitimate, and no Government would be doing its duty if it did not arrange it. But to put soldiers on in this way is utterly mischievous, and is likely to do more harm to the discipline of the Army and the Navy than the efforts of any of the poor agitators who are aimed at under the Regulation. Enrol your Middle Class Union, if you like, and try to attract others by higher wages. That is perfectly legal. But to take men who have enlisted in Army or Navy and force them to do the sort of work which strikers have refused to do is to ask for the gravest trouble. I hope my fears will not be realised. I do not want trouble. There are certain sections of people, and one Minister now on his way back to this country, who would like a little trouble, probably, so that it could be squashed. With regard to Regulation 23, I am surprised that there has not been some protest from Conservative Members in support of Members on this side. Is it reasonable to punish a man because he does not give you information when you ask for it? Is it British to force a man to become an informer or spy? Those are the powers demanded in this Regulation. They are required, not by the Home Secretary, who will be sitting in his office in Whitehall trying to answer the telephone, or sitting in this House, but by the little local official, who will have the power to punish men by temporary imprisonment if they refuse to give information against their comrades. That is totally against all our ideas of British justice.
331 6.0 P.M.
Regulation 27 has been criticised because it gives power to arrest without warrant. I have not yet heard the criticism that it also gives power to raid people's houses without warrant. We are likely to arouse much bitterness of feeling and hostility to the Government and the Government system in this country. All the information I have from Ireland goes to show that what annoyed people in 1917–1918 and 1919 more than anything else, long before there was any bloodshed by Sinn Feiners or assassinations of the police, were the raids by armed forces on private dwellings in the middle of the night. I raised the question in this House long before the killing of police had started. The domiciliary search and raid have been little known in this country in the past. They have been common in some continental countries. Nothing will annoy the Englishman more than such a practice. There is the old saying the Englishman's home is his castle. The one thing that people value is the privacy and the sanctity of their own houses. To give power to any military governor, who may be totally inexperienced in dealing with a civil population, to raid anyone's house, is most mischievous. Regulation 29 gives power to enter premises and prohibit their use. It first of all talks about premises that might be used for stirring up mutiny or sedition among the forces of the Crown. That is put in, of course, in order to disarm criticism. The Regulation also refers to any building likely to be used "in any way prejudicial to the public safety." Those are very wide terms. It is no good pointing to the fact that this Regulation also includes the offence of stirring up mutiny amongst the troops. It is no good saying that we are in favour of stirring up mutiny among the troops. That is no answer to our criticisms. These very wide words are sufficient to enable a justice of the peace to prohibit the use of any premises if he thinks they may be used in a way prejudicial to the public safety. Might this not be used against trade union premises because a trade union was organising a strike? If so it would be a breach of faith with this House. During the passage of the Emergency Powers Act the Government very wisely accepted an Amendment, put down by myself and others, which had the effect of not allowing these Regulations to be aimed at the right of striking. If you are going to 332 allow trade union premises to be closed against their members simply because the trade union is taking part in an industrial dispute—which it is legally entitled to do—you are overruling the considered judgment of the Government and of this House. Regulation 29 might be used to close the whole of the trade union premises in a selected part of the country. It may be said, of course, that the Government will not do anything so foolish as to use the Regulations in such a way as to embitter the King's subjects. I am not so certain of it. They told us the same thing about the use 6.0 P.M. of similar Regulations in Ireland, and also during the War, in regard to the Defence of the Realm Regulations. The appetite of the people who administer these Regulations grows with the eating. They start by raids, then the raids become more frequent, and they do not apologise to the people who are disturbed, and then the raids become brutal, and they embitter the inhabitants of the houses raided. We have seen in Ireland how the ordinary methods used by the military governors in the different districts to try and stamp out the Sinn Fein movement in 1917 and 1918 have defeated their own ends, and led to greater and greater use of power. The most demoralising thing that you can give to the ordinary person is unlimited power, and these Regulations give unlimited power. The papers yesterday were full of reports of troops being brought over from Ireland. I asked a question, without notice, I am afraid, at Question time yesterday, and the Government were not able to tell me whether it was true or not. They are the same men who have been administering the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, with results which unhappily we all know only too well. An Irish friend of mine told me yesterday that he had seen large parties of the Royal Irish Constabulary marching through London. I said they were surely men on leave. "Oh, no," he said, "they were fully equipped with blankets and overcoats and all their paraphernalia." They may be coming over here to replace the police guarding the Irish Office—I do not know—or they may have come over to attend a funeral.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Will the hon. Gentleman who interrupts object to bringing troops from Ireland?
§ Mr. STANTON
Make the worst of their visit, as you generally do. You do not know yourself, you admit.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not know if the hon. Member objects to bringing troops from Ireland. If he does not, why should he object to bringing police from Ireland? As a matter of fact, the Auxiliary Police in Ireland openly boast that when they are finished with the Sinn Feiners, they are coming to this country to finish with the Labour movement.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The word which fell from the hon. Member is not generally used in Parliament, and I will ask him to withdraw it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel CROFT
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman quote what he said—the most serious statement that has ever been made in this House?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
That statement was made about these officers openly boasting it by Colonel Maurice Moore, C.B., who commanded the Connaught Rangers in South Africa, who has served with great distinction in the British Army, and who had a son killed in this War. He is my informant in this matter.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) that we must speak one at a time; otherwise there is no chance of hearing what is said.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The fact that he is a Sinn Feiner does not rule him out as a witness in a matter of this sort, especially when he has served for 27 years in the British Army, with great distinction, and the Government themselves have admitted that the Sinn Feiners are not all murderers by any means. The Home Secretary will bear 334 me out in that, I know very well. I say that the very fact that these Regulations exist and that we are giving the Government power under these Regulations of the very widest sort to invade the liberties of the subject, may mean that these Regulations will be administered by people who have been trained in Ireland to administer very similar Regulations in a very harsh and brutal manner. It is a risk I am not prepared to take, and I consider it is the duty of every hon. Member who has any wish for social peace in this country and for a happy issue out of our present afflictions, to join "us in protesting by voting against such Regulations.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I am sure the House will agree that this has been a distinctly profitable and interesting Debate, and I hope it will have the effect of clearing away some of the extraordinary misapprehensions which some hon. Members have conjured up in regard to these Regulations. In the first place, let me say at once that no one who reads them fairly can possibly say they are aimed at trades unions as trades unions, or that they are in any way aimed at a strike quâ strike. They have no connection with it, no relation to it in any sense whatever. Let me also remind the House, of what most of the speakers appear to have forgotten, that we are not dealing now with permanent legislation, such as that to which my hon. and gallant Friend opposite referred; we are not putting permanent powers into the hands of any man or set of men which can demoralise his or their character in the way that has been suggested. The Regulations depend for their existence upon the Proclamation of a state of emergency. Until a state of emergency has been proclaimed, they cannot come into existence, and as soon as this state of emergency ceases they cease to exist. A state of emergency has been proclaimed, but perhaps it may have escaped the memory of some of my hon. Friends that that proclamation of a state of emergency can only last a month, and if the state of emergency continues longer than a month it has to be proclaimed again, and these Regulations will have to be presented again, and the House will again have an opportunity of dealing with the Regulations, with the experience of the past month, if it were necessary in any way to 335 change them. Therefore, we are not dealing with permanent legislation such as that which was passed for Ireland, or such as that which was passed for the period of the War, which was, of course, semi-permanent. It is a purely temporary measure, for a purely temporary set of circumstances, strictly limited in time, so that it cannot continue without the consent of this House longer than a month, and therefore I submit, with great confidence, that those facts in themselves differentiate these Regulations from any with which this House has dealt before.
Let me remind the House that what we are doing now is carrying out a duty which we owe to the community as a Government. I quite agree with my hon. Friends opposite that it is the duty of the Government to preserve the liberty of the individual and to uphold the traditions of our country with regard to our legal procedure, our legal constitution, and our great traditions of liberty. I quite agree with all that, but the Government owe to the community other duties as well, and, surely, one of the primary duties of the Government is, at any rate, to see that women and children do not starve. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members cheer that, and, therefore, they cannot consistently oppose any one of these Regulations which is necessary for that purpose. It is essential that we should preserve to the community all the essentials of life, things that are vital to the community. I am sure they will not object to that, and I am sure they will not pretend that they or any body of men are entitled in this country to deprive the community of the essentials of life, and if that is so, we are merely preserving that which it is our duty to preserve and that which they themselves, if they were a Government, would have to preserve to-morrow. If that is so, they cannot conscientiously object to any of these Regulations which are merely for the purpose of carrying out that duty.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I cannot guarantee that all children "will be fed, of course, but I can guarantee, in spite of the sneer of 336 my hon. Friend, that there shall be no differentiation between strikers and—
§ Mr. SHORTT
It is no good my answering the question. I am answering the question which was asked, and I think at least I am entitled to the courtesy of some belief when I say, advisedly, that there will be no differentiation between strikers' and non-strikers' children. We are here dealing with the community, without regard to the strike, without regard to what is the cause of the emergency, without regard to any party in the struggle. We are dealing with a community which it is our duty as a Government to protect. May I deal, first of all, with questions that have been put to me in the interesting speech of my hon. Friend opposite. He asked me first whether these are strictly necessary. That is a question I cannot answer. I sincerely hope they will not be necessary, but they very well may be, and the probability that they may be is so great that it would be a distinct dereliction of duty on the part of the Government if they did not take the necessary precautions. It does not follow because you take precautions that it is going to be necessary to exercise your powers. I hope it will not be necessary I cannot answer that question, but although they may not turn out eventually to be necessary, I assure my hon. Friend of this, that it is absolutely essential that the powers should be there in case they are necessary. I am asked, do they not embitter feeling? I do not believe they will embitter feeling in the least unless they are misrepresented, but if they are misrepresented, they may very well embitter feeling; if they are represented as a deliberate attack upon trades unions, they may very well embitter public feeling; if they are represented as something done for the benefit of the owners as against the men, of course they will embitter feeling, but they will be very gravely misrepresented if they are so represented Therefore I say that I do not believe, if they are treated fairly and in a way which would recognise that they are merely the carrying out of their duty by the Government, impartially, I hope, if they are represented in that way, which is their true character, I do not believe for a moment they will embitter any feeling of any reasonable or any honest men.
337 Dealing with the particular Regulations that have been mentioned, No. 6 is that dealing with the licences of motor drivers. With regard to the first part, enabling the Minister of Transport—not the Home Secretary in this case—to grant licences, that is necessary. It might be very necessary indeed to give licences for the purpose of distributing food or any other purpose of that kind. With regard to taking away licences, I do not think that is necessary, and if it came to an Amendment dealing with that particular part of the Regulations alone, I should not insist upon it remaining in. I do not think it would do any harm being in, but I do not think it is necessary, and I do not think one ought to insist upon including anything unless one can say one believes it to be necessary. The next is No. 16, which deals with telegrams. That is not in any way dealing with telegrams sent by trade unions to their branches or by journalists to their newspapers. Indeed, without this, both journalists and trades unions might find themselves absolutely blocked from the telegraph lines. We have never had an emergency of this kind without finding that the telegraph lines get blocked, and they may get blocked by certain descriptions of telegrams. Let me confess at once to the House the kind of telegram that the Post Office have chiefly in their mind when they are asking for this Regulation. It is the betting telegrams, which do more to block lines in times of emergency than any other kind of telegrams. The Post Office have represented that, unless they have this power, they will not be able to keep the lines clear for such necessary kinds of telegrams as those that are suggested by my hon. Friends opposite, but every endeavour will be made by the Post Office to clear unnecessary telegrams like betting telegrams, in order, above all things, that publicity telegrams may get through, because nobody wants more publicity than the Government. You may be quite sure of that. The next Regulation is No. 19, which deals with seditious speeches. That, for centuries, has been a crime in this country, but if you proceed, which we never have done since we had power under the Defence of the Realm Act, under the old procedure, it is a cumbersome procedure and an expensive and a dilatory procedure by indictment.
§ Mr. SHORTT
It no more safeguards the subject than any other form of trial. There is a trial in each case, but in that case there is a trial on indictment, under which infinitely heavier punishment can be inflicted than can be inflicted under summary jurisdiction. Here you can proceed at once, and stop the mischief at once, and I am quite sure that no one in this House wishes to allow a man to continue to stir up violence and disorder, especially in times of great crisis such as this. It is for the preservation of peace that men must keep within fair and proper bounds. Extreme opinions are not punished. I challenge anyone to point to a single man who has been prosecuted because his opinions are extreme, but incitement to violence is very different from advocating extreme opinion, and incitement to violence is all that is aimed at, or all for which men are ever prosecuted or convicted, and surely it is a grave reflection on our British courts of justice to suggest for a moment that any man is convicted merely because his opinions are extreme. It is no reflection on the Home Office or on me to suggest that, but it is a very grave reflection on British courts of justice to say that any man is imprisoned for any such reason.
With regard to No. 20, there again there is no question of preventing meetings generally, and any trade union leader can address any meeting in any room at any street corner, or anywhere he likes, but if the meeting happens to be of such a character that it will give rise to grave disorder, and thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police or military forces, or if the holding of any procession would conduce to a breach of the peace, then it is lawful to stop it. That is not a general power at all, and it is a power which is essential, because it is idle to suggest that any body of persons who want to hold a meeting have a, right to do it in spite of the fact that it will cause such a state of disorder that there is danger that the police and military combined cannot properly deal with it. I am sure no Member of the House would advocate that such liberty should be given to any person or any body of persons in the community. It would not be liberty at all, but pure license of the 339 worst description, Regulation 22, so far as I recollect, has only been attacked by my hon. and gallant Friend, who is himself in one of the services. You may very well have to carry out not only the preservation of peace, but the preservation of the life of the community, and you may very well require those who carry it out to be protected from disaffected people who would stop it if they could, and, unfortunately, that is no wild imagining on my part. We had in Scotland only yesterday experience of the kind of thing that is already in existence, and may very well grow. We had yester day experience of men going in large bodies—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
It has nothing to do with this Regulation I object to No. 22 because it empowers any soldier employed in driving a vehicle to obey any order in connection with it. It extends the Army Act to industrial disputes.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Had the hon. and gallant Gentleman allowed me to go on, he would have understood what I mean. We saw yesterday men doing that which is vital to the preservation of the mines, and upon which the whole livelihood of the mining population rests. They were prevented from doing so by disorderly mobs headed by local extremists I am told, although I may be wrong, that they had nothing to do with the miners, and certainly not the trade union leaders. You cannot put soldiers to do that work without protecting them, as you would anybody else. It may very well be that civilians dare not do the work, because they are intimidated and have got to live amongst these people when it is all over. It may very well be that they cannot do those essential things because of the attitude of the mob, because of their strength and temper, and you cannot get it done except by trained military men under trained military leaders. It may very well be that the life of the community depends upon the power of using soldiers and sailors to carry out the work. It is as much acting and fighting in the defence of the country as if they were at war with a foreign enemy. I consider the Regulation absolutely essential to the powers which the Government are taking. With regard to No. 23, there again attack has been 340 made upon that because it makes it an offence to withhold information. It may very well be that withholding information is one of the best possible weapons to defeat the Government in their desire to secure and ration food. If there is a man who refuses to give information, and so defeats the Government's power of rationing and distributing food, is that man to go scot-free? Is he to be entitled to prevent the Government from being able fairly to distribute food which he or his friends have hoarded? That ought to be made a very serious offence, because it might prevent the impartial or fair distribution of such food as we possess, and recollect that if there is hoarding, the men in the trade unions, their wives and families, may suffer just as much as anyone else. Therefore you ought to have powers to force men to disclose hoarding.
With regard to No. 27, my hon. and gallant Friend talks as though it were an absolutely new thing in this country that a constable should be entitled to arrest without warrant. The furthest my memory takes me, so far as my reading is concerned, is the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839, but from that date onwards, at any rate, there have been numbers of Acts of Parliament passed with full knowledge where the power of arrest is given to constables without warrant. I am not surprised that that custom has continued, because very often, especially in a state of emergency, it is absolutely essential that it should be so. With regard to No. 28 (Attempts to Commit Offences), you must punish men who attempt to commit offences, even though they do not succeed. That is part of our criminal procedure, and I do not suppose that objection to that is serious. With regard to harbouring, if it comes to dealing with that Regulation alone, I should be quite prepared to accept an Amendment upon that. I do not attach a great deal of importance to it, because we are dealing with an emergency. We are dealing with a state of things in which it is more essential to stop the evil that is being done than it is to punish the person, and, therefore, if he is being harboured, he is out of harm's way, and there is no danger, and we can let him alone. Therefore, I should be perfectly prepared to accept an Amendment on that. With regard to No. 29, which provides for the closing of 341 premises, I am not sure that is very essential. At any rate, I should not press it, if the omission of it alone were moved, although it might be useful.
May I, in conclusion, say deliberately that these Regulations have been presented to the House as fully as possible? It is the first series of them that has been presented under the Emergency Powers Act, and, therefore, I am glad the House has had an opportunity of considering a full and complete set of Regulations containing, at any rate, the large majority of powers that are ever likely to be required, and it has given the House an opportunity of discussing them, which I am sure the House will feel has been a matter of very considerable profit. But I must oppose this Amendment as it stands. It would entirely ruin the whole force of the Regulations. It would entirely weaken the hands of the Government, and prevent them from doing that which it is their duty to do. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Captain W. BENN
I listened with very great care to what the right hon. Gentleman had to say, and I do not think, if I may say so with great respect, that he really defended very effectively the full scope of the Regulations he put before the House. His first point was that this was a temporary set of Regulations which could only last for a very short time, and would have to come under review if it were intended to continue them for a further period; but anyone who reads the Act will see that, so long as the Proclamation is in force, so long are the Regulations in force. So that all that you need to carry on these Regulations for a lengthy period—I do not say an indefinite period—would bt1 for a new Proclamation to be made, and I am not sure whether it is even necessary for this House to vote a humble Address in recognition of the Proclamation. Therefore, once the Regulations are passed by a series of renewed Proclamations, they may, as I read the Act, be kept in force for an indefinite period. It is idle, therefore, to say that the Proclamation only lasts a month or the Regulations only seven days, and the point which the Home Secretary attempted to make that this was quite a temporary set of Regulations for a temporary set of circumstances has not been made. The Home Secretary met objections to these 342 Regulations one by one by a dual argument. First of all, when he came to one that was difficult, he said that" he had no objection to it being amended, and if he came to others which he could not defend in their wide scope, he gave some individual application, with which we could all agree, without pointing out that it could be used in a much wider fashion, and in a much more objectionable way. As regards No. 16, he said that the Post Office should have power to stop any telegrams. We know perfectly well it could be used to stop the communication of Press messages which appeared to the Government to be harmful or prejudicial. It might be used to prevent communications between trade union leaders in the dispute. The right hon. Gentleman says the truth about it is that they must have this Regulation to prevent betting messages being sent over the wires.
§ Captain BENN
I have not sufficient knowledge to know whether there is racing or not, but if the Home Secretary wants to prevent betting messages there is nothing in the world to prevent him making a Regulation saying that so long as the emergency exists the telegraphs shall not be burdened with betting messages. But to produce such an argument for these extensive powers is to present an argument to the House which is not likely to commend itself to those who think at all in the matter. Then in regard to Regulation No. 19 (Acts likely to cause sedition, etc.), very wide powers are given to punish people who are likely to cause sedition among the civilian population. I consider these particular words to be most objectionable. What has been said repeatedly by our political opponents about us? That we were stirring up sedition, that we were a band of assassins, and so on. That is the sort of charge constantly made by people on the other side of the House against those on this side. We have been charged with every sort of offence described in this Regulation Does anybody say, therefore, that if these charges are made—and made in perfect good faith, no doubt by Members of the Government—that therefore the persons who made these speeches, by the use of this Regulation, would not come under the powers given by it? Of course they would. If anyone had a grudge he could endeavour to bring those 343 against him under this Regulation. The Home Secretary says there is nothing new about this, "it is only what we have been doing under D.O.R.A." If he has got the power to do this, what is the need for a new Regulation? Why does he not use the powers of D.O.R.A. instead of coming to this House for powers which absolutely wipe away every one of the liberties of free speech that exists to-day in this country?
Then as to Regulation 20 (Public Meetings and Processions). An Order may be made prohibiting the holding of a meeting or procession which it is apprehended by the authorities may give rise to gravy disorder, or prohibiting the holding of any procession which will conduce to a breach of the peace or promote disaffection. Could words be wider? Could more dangerous powers be given to people who regard the art of Government in the way this Government regard it? Take Regulation 22 (Employment of His Majesty's Forces). This allows the possibility of orders being given to blackleg a strike. That is the purpose of the Regulation. I myself think that it is very unfair to the soldiers. I am not sure that it is not in conflict technically, if not technically at all events in spirit, with the Act itself, which says thatNothing in this Act shall authorise the making of Regulations imposing any form of industrial conscription.If this it not a technical contravention of the Act it is so in spirit. It is taking the soldiers and not saying, "Will anyone volunteer to pump the mines"—which is a thing we should all sympathise with—but it is saying to the men of platoons and companies, "Right turn; you are to work the mines or to do any other work which the Home Secretary cares to make you do." This is a Regulation which, I think is in conflict with the original Act, and it is most objectionable. Regulation 23 (Obstruction of Officers) declares that any person who withholds any information in his possession may be punished, and for this the right hon Gentleman's excuse is this: that somebody might be hoarding quantities of food, and that someone knows but will not tell, "And surely," he says, "you will give us power to punish the man who knows for not telling!" But all through the War it was an offence to hoard food. 344 There was not any Regulation making it an offence to withhold information. Why if it was possible then to discover the hoards of food, when we were in conflict with the Germans, is it not possible to discover now any hoards? Is it because there is a miners' strike? As a matter of fact it is not intended that it shall be so used, because the Home Secretary will have nothing to do with it. It will not be used by jacks-in-office for any such purpose, but it is to punish men who will not give the information which is necessary to enable a particular course to be carried out, and really is a power which I think this House, as the custodian of the liberties of the people, should never dream of granting. We are told there are dozens of Acts of Parliament giving the necessary power. Why not use them? What is the good of bringing in new Regulations if there are dozens of Acts of Parliament which already give the power? Under the Defence of the Realm Act the Home Secretary is fully armed with the power of this Regulation.
Take Regulation 27 (Arrest without warrant, etc.). There is a most objectionable provision as to harbouring. It means that if a woman has a son taking part, say, in some miners' meeting and from which he goes home, and he is supposed to be withholding information about stores of food and his mother puts him into a room and attempts to protect him, she is liable to punishment. The Home Secretary cannot defend that, so he adopts the other attitude, and says, "Very well, I will let it go." In that case why present it to the House of Commons? What did happen when these Regulations were brought forward and what will happen? These Regulations and the Proclamation are brought forward to meet a continued state of emergency. The Home Secretary congratulates the House on the opportunity of debating the whole situation, but is that quite right? If the House had the opportunity of examining these Regulations in detail they would find in many particulars they conferred powers far beyond those that ought to be conferred upon any Government. Those Regulations concerning entering premises at any time are at the root of our difficulties in Ireland—that is, the power of raiding houses. The Home Secretary, intending to secure these things in the face of an opposition which he cannot meet, says:
345 "Oh, very well, I will let it go." I wonder how many undiscovered objections there are to these Regulations.
Our point of view is this, that the Government's conception of the way to govern the country in these particulars is wrong. They have an enormous Secret Service. They have a great police department which is not aimed at criminals, but politicians of opposite opinions. They have a department which costs four times what the same department cost before the War, and a department which from time to time appears in the Courts in a most unsavoury light. There are the provocative agents they employ, and they issue sheets and forge newspapers for the purposes of propaganda. In Ireland they have applied fully and without any restraint the particular method of government which now they are attempting to introduce into this country. We know exactly what is in their minds. The Prime Minister says, "The time has come when the country is to be divided into two camps"—the Prime Minister and his friends, with Labour on the other side, and there is to be a class war between the two. The Prime Minister is arming himself with the necessary powers to carry out that class war. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are you?"] I am certainly not going to join in a fight against Labour.
§ Captain BENN
The Prime Minister is preparing his friends, like the hon. Gentleman who has interrupted once or twice in this Debate, for this war, for he says: "Another 4 per cent, alteration in the Votes and this revolutionary Government will be in power." If that be so, does the House not think that this revolutionary Government will make something of this—the precedent which is being set here to day of arming the Executive with these arbitrary powers?
§ Mr. JAMESON
After the very forbearing, patient, and explanatory speech that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, I just rise to make one or two remarks. I think it will be within the purview of this House—and especially my hon. Friend the 346 Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Stanton), who has been annoyed by something—that the Debate which yesterday and for the first two hours this afternoon, provided the spectacle of the House of Commons at its very best, and of a Debate which, I think, in my experience of the House, has been almost unequalled in tone, temper, and in the usefulness of the speeches delivered, has come to rather a lame and impotent conclusion during the speeches of the last two or three hon. Members.
§ Mr. JAMESON
We seem to have taken a plunge into a region or atmosphere of party recriminations which at any moment like the present one must very gravely deplore. It stands out in marked contrast with the tone and temper of the speeches yesterday and the first two hours of this afternoon. I suppose it was inevitable that hon. Members opposite should make this demonstration in favour of the liberty of the subject, especially the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), that he should try to make his case by talking about brutality, military tyranny, and the horrible forced labour. He is supposed to be an advocate and admirer of the Soviet Government. I hope he will indicate his preference in favour of freedom of speech and liberty of the subject to Messrs. Trotsky and Lenin. We on this side of the House are particularly concerned with the vindication of the liberty of the subject. There is, however, one fundamental condition necessary for the establishment and protection of the liberty of the subject, and that one thing, the basis on which the liberty of the subject is absolutely founded, is that of law and order. Without law and order, and the proper protection of the subject, you can have no liberty at all. We sincerely hope there will not be occasion for calling in extra munitions to defend law and order in this country, but we are bound to take precautions, bearing in mind above all things the sacredness of property and the liberty of the subject. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hull spoke against this bullying on the part of the Government, and said that we wanted to protect the subject from bullying on the part of unauthorised people.
347 What I rise to impress on the Government is the overwhelming necessity at this grave moment, if the strike spreads and the worst happens, that under these deplorable conditions every measure will be taken to prevent anarchy and disorder and to maintain law and order in this country. The Home Secretary said it was to be hoped that the necessity for calling into play these Regulations would not occur, but there is always a danger. We have seen in the last three days mobbing and rioting in a part of the country which possesses a very God-fearing population as a rule, and yet even there you had mobbing and rioting, interference with property and interference with the police in the execution of their duty, and the preventing of people from working who were willing to work to save the vital property of the subjects of the nation and to save the pits from being flooded and the ponies down the pits from being destroyed. [Hew. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] At any rate, a great many of the ponies were drowned. When we see these things occurring we hope that nothing of the sort will occur again. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to neglect precautions.
A leader of the transport workers advocated the other day that if the transport workers came out on strike, which I hope they will not, they should violently interfere with other people who assist in the transport work of the country. There is a direct counsel to intimidation, terrorism, and crime. We are bound to guard against such action as that being taken, and therefore Section 19 particularly is absolutely necessary in order to secure that food shall be brought to the mouths of the "people, and that a proper supply of food, water and fuel and all the other necessities of life shall be safeguarded. I do not want to go through in detail the points which have been so adequately dealt with by the Home Secretary. It has always been contended that a state of war justifies these things, and I am bound to say that there have been hints of a sort of state of war that is industrial war being declared in this country. Many people are talking about industrial war, and a condition of things like that must mean very wide powers in order to maintain law and order. We hope it is not necessary, and we must 348 trust the Government to act in a reasonable way when putting these Regulations into practice.
Matters like the inciting to mobbing and rioting and crime ought to be treated with very great circumspection and delicacy by the authorities. I have no doubt that all these powers are vitally necessary, but the appeal I make to the Government is to act reasonably in regard to these powers. I wave aside the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Monmouthshire that the imposition of these Regulations would embitter feeling and would get upon the nerves of the other side, because there is no reason why they should. The Government have always taken up a most conciliatory and patient attitude, and they have done nothing to ruffle the most delicate and the most sensitive trade unionists. We are bound, however, to take precautions to see that the vital interests of property and of liberty should be protected, and to see that our food, and water, and other necessities of life, are supplied to the people. Accordingly these Regulations, so far from being harsh, are merciful, and so far from being an infringement of the liberty of the subject they are the establishment of the very foundations upon which, in a crisis, the liberty of the subject must rest.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I observe that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down concluded his speech by saying that hon. Members who preceded him had rather lowered the tone of the Debate. Perhaps he will forgive me saying that I fear that even he has failed to raise that tone. I will refer later to one or two of his points in regard to certain of these Regulations. First, let me offer a comment as to the title of the document which the House is being asked to consider. With some little experience of Acts of Parliament, I cannot recall any measure submitted to this House which so completely and in such a comprehensive way and so vitally affects the general freedom of the body of the people of this country as the document which is now before us. These Regulations are not even classified as a Bill. Let hon. Members read any of these separate paragraphs, and they will at once see how the freedom of the masses of the people is affected. Taking them collectively, I 349 say that if they were put into force and the final representatives of the law, as embodied in the person of the policeman and the soldier, were to try to enforce these Regulations against the individuals of this country, it would be impossible for any one of us to move. Everything that men may be disposed to say or do, every utterance and every act could be brought within the ambit of the terms of these Regulations, and could be dealt with as a serious violation of the law That means that hon. Members are great lovers of liberty so long as other people do as they do, but if people act in a contrary sense, the contention is that British freedom and liberty disappear.
I want seriously to ask one or two questions. What are the grounds and experience on which these Regulations have been submitted to the House? Upon what is the fear built which has bred these Regulations? Law, in general, emerges from a set of experiences. In what way has the conduct of trade unions in recent years been different from the conduct in previous years. We are happy in the fact that in spite of recurring serious industrial quarrels in this country they have been uniformly conducted in a spirit of fairness, observing not merely conditions of law, but the general conditions of decency and habits of the British people. I ask the Home Secretary to tell us what is the experience, the justification, or fears which have caused these Regulations to be submitted? There may be one ground, and I can think only of one, which forms any justification whatever for the fears which must be behind these Regulations. The Government must be in dread of some departure from the usual British habit of respecting fully life, property and liberty within these islands.
There seems some justification for that, and the Government might well turn its eyes to its own example. I firmly believe that there is a reduction in recent years in this country in what might be termed the respect of the Britisher for life and property. Let us face that fact. A Government which adopts and pursues in one part of the British Isles deliberately and which approves as part of its policy the destroying of property, the burning of creameries and setting fire to public buildings and private houses—a Government which sanctions or winks at that kind of thing being done in one part of 350 the country cannot absolutely liberate itself from the fear of that sort of thing being imitated, during times of high tension, in other parts of the country. As far as I can see, that is the only ground of fear that can exist in regard to the necessity for Regulations of this kind. I turn now to the appeal which has been made to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the inopportuneness at this moment for pressing these Regulations. The House was able to receive to-day with a sense of relief an intimation that steps are being taken to cause a discussion of the differences which have occasioned the stoppage in the coal trade. Notwithstanding some other decisions which may yet have to be confirmed or further considered, as I understand, to-morrow, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that to press provisions of this kind through the House at this moment will tend to embitter the situation. It will make it difficult for those who are appealing for moderation, and for measures of calmness and reason amongst thousands of men. It will make it difficult for that appeal to be effective if these men can turn round and say that the Government clearly is making every preparation to apply the fullest measure of force which the soldier and the policeman can express, and that therefore they can have little regard for the ordinary observances of our traditional way of conducting trade disputes. It will be a great contribution to an amicable settlement of this dispute, and it will help to produce the atmosphere without which it is impossible to have calm and reasoned discussion, if the Government recognise the fact that the two parties are perhaps at this moment together, and if it can be made known in the country to-morrow that this step is taken by the Government in the hope that that atmosphere will be produced. It would be far better as an act of statesmanship than to force these Regulations through by the mere weight of a Parliamentary majority.
If that view cannot be taken, I want to press a very serious objection to one of the Regulations, namely, that which deals with the position of the soldier and sailor. These men joined for soldiers' and sailors' work. They did not join to become the Instruments of the Government, or perhaps of a body of employers in connection 351 with the conduct of a trade dispute. In other words, they did not join to become blacklegs upon compulsion. That is what these Regulations would compel them to become. The men in the Army, as in the Navy, are very often members of a trade union or belong to families which include trade unionists—their brothers or fathers may be trade unionists, and they do not like some of the dirty work to which they are sometimes put. I grant to the full that it is the business of the Government to use the forces of the Crown to maintain law and order. I grant that it may in certain circumstances be necessary to use the forces of the Crown to protect other workmen carrying out absolutely essential duties. Here, however, is a Regulation permitting the authorities, whoever they may be, to tell the soldier or the sailor virtually to change his occupation whilst staying in his uniform, and to turn to the work of a workman instead of that of a soldier or a sailor. That really is carrying the powers of the Government too far; it is making a mock of other parts of the Regulations which say that a man has a perfect right to take part in a strike, or a trade dispute. What part can a man take in a trade dispute or a strike if all the other parts of these Regulations are to be applied toward making him absolutely helpless and to preventing him from doing anything whatever in furtherance of that strike or trade dispute? We ought not to anticipate that there will be violence or outrage or destruction either to life or to property.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Admittedly, there have not been. The law, as it now is, gives the fullest power to the Government to deal with any cases of violence or disorder; they are dealt with every day. These Regulations are designed to deal with organised labour. It is open, of course, to any hon. Member to say that these Regulations may just as well apply to employers, but the most ingenious hon. Member will find some difficulty in giving to the House any single illustration of how at any time it will be possible to apply these Regulations to the general body of mineowners. Yet this general body of mineowners are giving the men the notices which are the cause of this 352 stoppage. I suggest that there is sufficient power at present invested in the law to deal with any present or prospective outrage, either against life or property. These Regulations are so comprehensive and so one-sided as to make it possible for the Government to prevent a trade unionist in any sense exercising his functions as an organised workman and acting with his fellows for any purpose of conducting a trade dispute. I would ask the Home Secretary, in view of what has occurred to-day, and of the fact that the parties may now or very shortly be brought together, whether it would not be worth while, and a Very real contribution to an improved atmosphere tending towards calmness and settlement, for the Government to recognise the changes of the day and not to press these Regulations on the House?
§ Mr. SEXTON
I will not say that the Government have deliberately framed these Regulations with any hostile intentions against trade unions, but I am afraid that in his anxiety for their correct legal phraseology, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has lost sight of the extent to which they may be put, even though he himself may carefully guard against that being done. I want to give one case. Regulation 20 says:Where there appears to be reason to apprehend that the assembly of any persons for the purpose of the holding of any meeting will give rise to grave disorder, and will thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police or military forces.The right hon. Gentleman, in his wide experience, has surely learned the fact hat whenever a trade dispute occurs in any locality and meetings are held, undue demands are always made upon the police. I have never yet seen any trade dispute, while the dispute has been cm and we have been holding meetings in the hall, in which there has not been a force of police—particularly in Liverpool—specially called upon, and specially housed in such buildings as St. George's Hall in anticipation of the result of a meeting held in a particular place. Therefore, under that part of the Regulation, if a meeting is called for the purpose of organising a dispute, and the dispute is in existence, and an undue call would be made on an extra force of police, the calling of that meeting which would bring about the undue call is liable to be 353 prohibited, and will be an offence against the Regulations. Regulation 20 goes on to say:It shall be lawful for a Secretary of State, or for any mayor, magistrate, or chief officer of police … to make an order prohibiting the holding of a meetingwhich is liable to cause disaffection amongst the members of the ordinary population. Did the right hon. Gentleman ever know a meeting held to give advice to trade unionists in districts that was not likely to cause disaffection? This places me in this awkward position. I have not long come from a conference. That conference has virtually decided—by sheer force of circumstances it has been forced to do so—to recognise, rightly or wrongly—rightly, in my opinion—that the attack made upon the National Wages Board of the Miners' Federation is also an attack upon the principle of our National Wages Board. I am leaving altogether on one side the question of whether or not there is to be a subsidy. I am not concerned about that. What I am concerned about is that we have fought for 25 years for the creation of a National Wages Board, so that one Board should not be used against the other. We have established that Board; we have got uniformity. It is now threatened, nay, it is more than threatened. We have had cases to-day where individual employers have put up notices ignoring the existence of our National Wages Board. In view of what has happened to the miners, they have taken advantage of that to state that next Tuesday, if we do not go back to pre-war conditions of hours of labour, they will tie up and shut up their works. Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary this question. I happen to be a magistrate. Would it be in order, and would the Home Secretary ratify what I did, if I wished to take proceedings against those employers who deliberately and wilfully delayed the distribution of food? What is sauce for the goose is surely equally ditto for the gander. If I dared to do any such thing I should be like a voice crying in the wilderness. We cannot even hold a procession.
I hope no hon. Member of this House will accuse me of being too anxious to enter into trade disputes. If I have sinned at all it has usually been on the side of caution. I plead guilty to the soft impeachment, but there are times in 354 the history and the lifetime of even the most cautious when sheer force of circum stances compels him, in self-respect, to make a protest and to put up a fight. It may be possible, and it may be probable and necessary for me, at the end of this week, to call a huge meeting in Liver pool. I hope not. I hope the necessity will never arise; I hope that the steps taken to-day will be fruitful of good results. No one wishes that more than I do. But if it conies to the worst I am bound to call members of my organisation together. I am bound to tell them at a meeting neither to touch, taste nor handle, figuratively speaking, anything that will impede the possible chances of the miners succeeding in preserving their National Wages Board. Under these Regulations that might be construed into an offence because I am talking disaffection to the members of my own union. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the effect of these Regulations. I may be told that I am playing into the hands of the extremists. Are we always to be baulked by a fear of playing into the hands of those people? Nobody detests extreme measures more than I do. At times, however, extreme measures are necessary, and if the time comes—I hope it will not—at the end of this month for taking them, then, in spite of these Regulations and in spite of the penalty to which I may subject myself, I may have to speak words of disaffection to the members of my organisation, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that all the Regulations he or this House can make will not prevent me doing what I consider to be my duty. Even the employés of a municipality, the men employed in the waterworks and the gasworks, will be unable to attend meetings which might advocate action that would prevent the distribution of water or gas.
How can they enter into any dispute without bringing themselves within the four walls of these Regulations? They are rendered absolutely powerless. They are supposed to have the protection of the Trade Disputes Act, but the virtue of that Act is absolutely wiped away by these Regulations. If we do not attempt to organise effectively a strike cannot be successful. We are to be bound hand and foot by the Regulations, one of which empowers a police officer to go; into a meeting that is being held and 355 to attempt to disperse and break it up. I would be sorry for any body of police who tried that at a meeting of my organisation. It would want more than a force of policemen to do that, and, instead of keeping the peace, it would simply intensify the disaffection. Having made this protest I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be desirable to adopt some other phraseology in the Regulations, as otherwise they will only cause disaffection and disturbance to such an extent as will force him to realise the necessity for changing them.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It is somewhat of a tribute to the peaceful spirit and goodwill of the British miner that there should be so much surprise that in one area alone there has been a certain amount of trouble. You have a million miners out of work under the most trying conditions, yet there is great consternation because, in one area, trouble has arisen. I noticed on Monday when I returned to London there were great headlines on the newspaper contents bills which seem to have affected even Members of this House. They surprised me very much indeed. One newspaper declared that the miners were "getting angry." Yet when I came away from a mining village I left the miners attending to their gardens and taking part in ordinary peaceful avocations, and certainly there was nothing of the feeling which some newspapers seemed to suggest. That kind of fear must have affected the Government; otherwise I do not imagine they would have felt bound to seek these emergency powers, and to put in force Regulations of the kind here laid down. The Home Secretary told us that the Regulations will not have any effect upon the people unless the tenor of them is misrepresented. He made a very great point of that, but I would like to point out that in issuing these Regulations the Government are usurping the functions of the people who have hitherto kept the peace. That has in the past been done by the Standing Joint Committees, but the right hon. Gentleman now tells those bodies that he has no use for them.
Hitherto the Standing Joint Committee has been the chief authority in a given area. I have seen strikes after strikes carried on under the most bitter circum- 356 stances. I remember one which lasted for three months, and when, if ever there was a reason for an upheaval of strife and bitterness, it there existed. But the men of local influence in the area, have always co-operated with the local police authorities in maintaining peace, and hitherto they have succeeded. What is going to be the case in the future? I am a member of a Standing Joint Committee of a Labour Council. I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman what has been his attitude with regard to bodies of this nature. Long before we had these Regulations the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Government was to take away from the local councils power over the police and over many other things. The attitude of the Government, the attitude of the very gentlemen who have done a great deal to create democratic sentiment, has been to distrust that democratic sentiment and the people generally. Instead of having faith in the principles for which they stood in the past—the principles of trusting the people to be wise enough and sane enough to carry them into operation, he puts these Regulations into force. Who is he going to depend upon to enforce them? He is not going to get men of local influence to co-operate in the maintenance of peace as in the past. The Government will learn very soon that trust in the people in local areas will be of far more value than trust in the police and secret service agents, or in the Army and Navy. They will learn very soon that whereas the people have maintained a good spirit, have kept themselves in good humour under the principle of trusting the people, that spirit will no longer operate in actual practice.
Look at Regulation 20, which gives power of interference with any assembly of persons for a purpose calculated to give rise to disorder or disaffection, and which authorises the duly constituted authority to prevent the holding of such meeting, or of any procession. It is laid down that it shall be lawful for the Secretary of State, for a magistrate, or for the Chief of the Police duly authorised, to take such steps as may be necessary to disperse the meeting or procession, or to prevent the holding 357 thereof, and it gives the authorities right of access to meetings of all kinds and power to break up those meetings. But who is the Secretary of State going to depend upon for information as to the nature of these meetings? I think I know. Take such an area as I come from. It has always been a peaceable area. I can go back for many years to many strikes, and with a single exception under very difficult circumstances, there has been no case of disorder worth mentioning. I can imagine that that area is going to be filled with the agents of the right hon. Gentleman's Department. They have been put upon the pay roll of this House and something must be found for them to do. You will find various areas filled with these gentlemen nosing into people's affairs and making inquiries of all kinds into the activities of certain individuals and organisations. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the area from which I come is one which will resist such methods as that. If he is going to depend on this type of individual for information, I can assure him that even in the most remote villages of the area with which I am acquainted the inhabitants are just the type of people who will be irritated by such action, and individuals of that kind.
These Regulations will in themselves cause distrust, not because they are misunderstood, but because they are only too well understood. It is because we do not want to see that kind of thing occur, or to be placed in impossible circumstances for maintaining good order, good will, and good humour, that we protest against such Regulations. There might well be some spirit of bitterness; the wonder is that there is not more. I wonder if the House knows the fact that I am about to state. We have been told that we ought to accept district boards. Certain proposals were made in London, and I noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer very discreetly kept off this question yesterday. He said, "Yes, there is an exception in the case of Nottingham and Durham," but he did not tell the House that a proposal was laid down here in London as to the principle and method of settling the district rate, but that when they got back there was a difference of 60 per cent, from the offer that had been made here. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knew that 358 very well. Whereas the offer was something like 216 per cent, upon the 1879 basis, when they got down there it meant 155 per cent. What does that mean? It means that the owners know very well that, once they get us on to individual ground, they will be able to deal with us at their own price; it is a case of dividing and ruling. When incidents of that kind occur, one wonders that there is not more bitterness than prevails at the present time. We do not wish for anything of that kind. We have always said—the man in the street says—in our area, that the man who proposes physical force is usually the man who is not there when operations begin. We have no love for the individual who proposes violent methods, and I should be inclined to trust the common sense of the people themselves to deal with individuals of that kind. It is true that you have, as has been pointed out, the isolated instance, but even in that case I should say that the balance will soon be regained. It would be interesting to know what were the circumstances in that particular area.
It has been said that these Regulations give powers which would be very valuable if Labour were in office, that is to say, they give power to take over land and railways and so on. I am not prepared, however, even as one who believes in the collective ownership of great monopolies of that kind, to barter the old principle of trusting democracy to settle matters by democratic vote, for the Soviet system, which, as it seems to me, has been accepted by the Government in the Regulations laid down on this point. Anything in that direction gives a very poor return for the departure from the old traditions of British liberty, and of trusting the people in the area to do their own work and maintain the peace and goodwill that has hitherto prevailed, even under the most stressful circumstances. I should like to reinforce the suggestions that have been made from this side, in the atmosphere that is now prevailing and amidst the strenuous attempts to bring this regrettable crisis to an end and place us upon something like a permanent footing in industrial and commercial affairs in this country. I should like to ask if it is not possible to postpone the application of these Regulations. We know what is going to be their effect upon people who do not want at any time to take part in scenes 359 that they may regret in times to come. The very passing of these Regulations is going to have that effect, and so I would ask if something cannot be done to post pone their application, in order to maintain a decent spirit and bring matters to a successful issue.
§ Question put, "That the words, 'other than Regulations 6, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, 27, 28 and 29' be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 69; Noes, 285,361
|Division No. 60.]||AYES.||[7.38 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Robertson, John|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayday, Arthur||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Sexton, James|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Spencer, George A.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Holmes, J. Stanley||Swan, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Irving, Dan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cairns, John||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thone, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clltheroe)||Kenyon, Barnet||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Lawson, John J.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lunn, William||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Myers, Thomas||Wignall, James|
|Finney, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Galbralth, Samuel||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Gillis, William||O'Grady, Captain James||Wintringham, T.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rendall, Athelstan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Frederick Hall.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Glyn, Major Ralph|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gould, James C.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Greer, Harry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Greig, Colonel James William|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Barrle, Charles Coupar||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Hailwood, Augustine|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bigland, Alfred||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C (Kent)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Edgar, Clinord B.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Edge, Captain William||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hickman, Brig.-General Thomas E.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Elveden, Viscount||Higham, Charles Frederick|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Cilve||Entwlstle, Major C. F.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Briggs, Harold||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Britton, G. B.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Fell, Sir Arthur||Hood, Joseph|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Flides, Henry||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||FltzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Flannery, sir James Fortescue||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Foreman, Sir Henry||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Casey, T. W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Gange, E. Stanley||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Cecil. Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Ganzonl, Captain Sir F. J. C.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Gardiner, James||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Jameson, J. Gordon|
|Clough, Robert||Gilbert, James Daniel||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke NewIngton)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Kidd, James||Parker, James||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Stevens, Marshall|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Pearce, Sir William||Stewart, Gershom|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Perring, William George||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Philipps, Gen. Sir I. (Southampton)||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Taylor, J.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Lonsdale, James Rolston||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Lorden, John William||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Poison, Sir Thomas||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Lowther, Col. Claude (Lancaster)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Lynn, R. J.||Pratt, John William||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Prescott, Major W. H.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Vickers, Douglas|
|McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Purchase, H. G.||Waddington, R.|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Wallace, J.|
|McMlcking, Major Gilbert||Randles, Sir John S.||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Raper, A. Baldwin||Waring, Major Walter|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple)||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Mallalieu, F. W.||Reid, D. D.||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberweil)||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Manville, Edward||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Martin, Captain A. E.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Rodger, A. K.||Wilson, Capt. A. S. (Holderness)|
|Mitchell, William Lane||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Moles, Thomas||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wise, Frederick|
|Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Morden, Lieut.-Col. W. Grant||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Morrison, Hugh||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Seager, Sir William||Younger, Sir George|
|Nail, Major Joseph||Seddon, J. A.|
|Neal, Arthur||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley|
|Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Ward.|
§ Mr. SHORTT
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "and subject also, (a) to the omission in Regulation 6 of the words from '1903' to the end of the Regulation, and (b) to the omission in Regulation 28 of the words from 'thereunder,' where it first occurs, to 'shall,' and (c) to the omission of Regulation 29."
This simply carries out the undertaking which I gave.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question proposed: "That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under The Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 1st April, 1921, shall continue in force, subject, however, to the provisions of Section 2 (4) of the said Act, 362 and subject also, (a) to the omission in Regulation 6 of the words from '1903' to the end of the Regulation, and (b) to the omission in Regulation 28 of the words from 'thereunder' where it first occurs to 'shall,' and (c) to the omission of Regulation 29."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Earlier in the course of the proceedings, I reported to the House the letters which I had received from the Miners' Federation and the Mineowners' Association, and I think the House was pleased with the prospect those letters indicated of the parties coming together with a view to resuming negotiations. Last night I stated the conditions under which alone negotiations would be possible, and I think the House was in general agreement with those conditions. One of them was, that 363 necessary steps should be taken by the Miners' Federation to resume pumping and prevent the destruction of the mines, and there was a condition with regard to pit ponies. I very much regret to say that a hitch has occurred, owing to a decision come to by the Miners' Federation, which makes it quite impossible for negotiations to be resumed unless this obstacle can be overcome. The Miners' Federation have just communicated to me that they cannot see their way to give instructions to the pumpmen to resume work during the negotiations. I should like to appeal to hon. Members and more especially to those who represent the miners, to exercise their influence to induce the Miners' Federation to reconsider that decision. It may be due to some misunderstanding with regard to the conditions under which the pumpmen would resume work. Naturally, they would resume work on the status quo, which means at the wages which were paid before the dispute, without prejudice, of course, to the general question of wages. I do not wish there to be any misunderstanding in regard to that. They are not asked to undertake the task of pumping under the new conditions or the new wages which have been offered. They will be paid the old rate of wages, without prejudice to the discussions which take place.
I therefore appeal very earnestly, more especially to hon. Members who represent the miners, and through them to the Miners' Federation, to reconsider the very serious decision which they have come to. It is obviously impossible for the mine owners or for the Government to undertake to go into discussions, which are bound to take some time because they involve the settlement of the whole mining industry, whilst the mines are being flooded. The mine owners would naturally have their anxieties in that respect, and it does not produce the necessary atmosphere which is so essential in negotiation. Many of the mines have been very seriously damaged already. Our reports from other parts of the country are that other mines are in course of suffering very serious impairment. The officials are doing their best. In some cases they have been interfered with, and seriously interfered with. After all, what we suggested last night was rather a truce 364 with a view to discussion. That is not a truce. The mine owners are not cancelling any decision they came to; they are simply resuming negotiations. I very much deplore the men's decision, but I am not discussing it now. It was one which had reference to the breaking of negotiations. Negotiations are now about to be resumed, therefore there is nothing that is derogatory to their dignity during the time the negotiations are proceeding in giving instructions that the pumpmen shall resume work, so that at any rate at the end of the period the mines will be there for them, for the mine owners, and for the nation. They must realise that it is better from every point of view, and certainly from the point of view of getting a friendly discussion and a friendly atmosphere in the Council Chamber and outside, that they should undertake this duty upon conditions which are not in the least derogatory. I appeal in all earnestness to them to re-consider their decision. I have done my best to secure the attendance of the Miners' Federation to-night, but I am very sorry they have dispersed. To-morrow morning I hope to meet them, when I shall certainly make this appeal to them.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes. I should like to meet the executive committee, and to put this before them; but it would be quite impossible to have negotiations whilst the mines are gradually crumbling owing to the difficulties of keeping them from being flooded.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I think the House will appreciate the Prime Minister's action in taking the House and the country fully into his confidence in this matter, and equally I have no hesitation in saying that hon. Members in all parts of the House will appreciate the fact that a genuine effort to bring the parties together was made by the right hon. Gentleman. I deplore the fact that the notices were given to the pumpmen by the owners, and I equally deplore the fact that the men were withdrawn. A request is now made by the Prime Minister, as I understand it, on this basis, that at least, if success is to come from these negotiations, the right atmosphere must be created. I gather that is exactly what he wants. All I can say at 365 this stage is that I hope hon. Members in all parts of the House will keep clearly in mind that the first essential at this moment is to bring both parties together, and if anything can be done to remove any difficulty whatever—it may be this or any other—I am sure we must all contribute our bit towards that end.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
Am I to understand from what the Prime Minister has said that this is to be taken by the Miners' Executive and the mine owners as a refusal on the part of the employers to meet the Miners' Executive to-morrow?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is not a condition of the owners. It is a condition that the Government laid down last night before the owners ever wrote their letter. The hon. Member will find it in the OFFICIAL KEPORT. It was the last condition I laid down on behalf of the Government—that it was essential, if we were to have negotiations, and if the Government were to offer their good offices in order to secure a discussion, that the pumpmen should resume work. I think the condition about the pit ponies has been arranged.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I do not accept that statement. The only two essential conditions laid down by the Prime Minister last night—
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
Yes, get the OFFICIAL REPORT, and when you get it you will find that the two conditions laid down were that the subsidy should be withdrawn, and that there should be no control. The Miners' Executive were prepared to meet the employers with the Government representatives at any time; but they are not prepared to be told by the employers that they must discuss something other than the question of the real differences between the miners and the employers at the moment. With respect to the question of the ponies, I want again to remind the House that we gave ample time for the ponies to be withdrawn, and if there are any ponies in the pits at the moment in danger of being starved or drowned, the employers have deliberately allowed them to remain there for the express purpose of arousing public feeling against the miners. With regard to the pumps—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
May I just interrupt the hon. Gentleman for a moment. He challenged the statement I made that last night I laid down as a condition that the Miners' Federation should give every assistance in saving the mines. I will just read the passage:It is essential that the Miners' Federation should give every facility and assistance to prevent the pits from being destroyed and also to save the lives of those poor dumb animals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1921; col. 235, Vol. 140.]Those are the two conditions.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I submit those are not the conditions. It would be a mistake for the Prime Minister or any Member of this House to imagine that the miners are not as much interested in maintaining the industry as the employers are. We have no desire to see pits being ruined. As a matter of fact, our livelihood depends upon the collieries, the employers' livelihood does not. The majority of the employers have more money invested in undertakings from which they can derive great profit from low-priced coal than they have in the coal-mining industry. Most of them are iron and steel owners, railway directors, shipbuilders, and shipowners. Their money is invested in all forms of industrial undertakings, and it makes no difference to them whether the pits are destroyed or not. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Let me qualify that. It is not of as much importance to them as to the miner. The miner depends entirely upon the livelihood he can extract from the coal mines and the employer does not, and it is not good enough for the Prime Minister or anybody else to suggest that the miners are careless of the well-being of the pit itself. They are not. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the condition?"] It was not a condition at all. We are prepared, however, to meet the, employers under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister or any representative of the Government and to put our case fairly and squarely before any unbiased individual or the whole public if we get a fair show. We have not got it up to the present time. We are not prepared, and more than that I want to say we have not got the power—the Members of the Labour party who are miners did not give any undertaking that they would be prepared—to withdraw the particular instruction which has been sent out and accepted by 367 the Miners' Federation. I want further to say it is no good for the Prime Minister to suggest the same wages as last week. Pay the wages to the whole of the men, give as a national agreement, and we ate prepared to resume work. You have not offered that; you want us to agree to allow individuals to be employed to defeat us, and at the end, when we are defeated, these 'men are to go to the conditions under which they would be working if there had been no stoppage. That is not quite fair. We want a fair and reasonable spirit created and a good atmosphere. We quite realise we cannot get our own way all the time. If you people on the other side cannot realise that we can. If our case is not fair and honest, then we will have to accept something other than the claim we put forward. If it is fair and honest, we want to get fair and honest treatment. The pumpman going back on the old wages is certainly not the status quo. The status quo is all the men going back on the old wages, and we are quite prepared to consider that suggestion if the Prime Minister is prepared to offer it. He wants to be clear of any responsibility. All the advantages are to be on your side, all the disadvantages on ours. I will be quite frank with you, we are not going to have that. I am a miner and I am not prepared to accept the conditions and I will fight as long as I possibly can against it and I will urge everybody belonging to my occupation—notwithstanding your Regulations—to fight as bitterly as they possibly can against any attempt to force us back into 1914 conditions. We are quite prepared t6 meet the Prime Minister, as I have already said, at 11 o'clock to-morrow morning and if he is not prepared to accept this, then it can go on as it is. We have been asked to meet him and we agreed to meet him, but the employers have laid down conditions which you have not told the House and we refuse to accept those conditions. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] The conditions were that work should be resumed so far as enginemen and pumpmen were concerned. We will not have it. We are appealing for a spirit of fair play; if there is any fair play amongst the Members of this House. It is not unreasonable surely to ask officers and gentlemen to be fair and that is all we are asking up to the 368 moment. We have not got it. We are laying down no conditions and we are not accepting the conditions laid down to us.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am sorry I was not in the House to hear more than the concluding words of the Prime Minister. I quite well understand the warm feeling which has prompted the comments of my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. D. Graham), but I may submit to him that they properly and fairly would form the subject of discussion between the parties when the parties are brought together. I rise to ask the Prime Minister a question. I well remember the Prime Minister's reference last night to the question of the pumpmen and enginemen and the impression left upon my mind was that the working of the pumps and engines should be a subject of first discussion when the parties were got together, and that everything should be done to arrange if possible a settlement of that question before proceeding with the other larger issues. I want to ask the Prime Minister whether we are to understand now that he lays down as a condition that before he takes a part in bringing the parties together and causing a discussion of the general question at issue such as the national agreement and the amount of wages and so on, he insists that the men must consent to resume work at the pumps and engines?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think I made it quite clear last night, and if my right hon. Friend will be good enough to refresh his memory by the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and I both regarded it as an absolutely essential preliminary condition to any negotiations that the pumping should be resumed. As I have already stated, I was hoping to meet the Miners' Executive to-night and talk the matter over. I cannot believe that this represents their final determination, that whilst meeting at the table to discuss a national settlement of wages that the mines should be gradually destroyed. I again ask for the good offices of my right hon. Friend, and all those who are associated with him, to induce the Miners' Executive to reconsider this decision to the extent, at any rate, of resuming pumping operations whilst negotiations are going on. That is not an unreason- 369 able request. I am quite prepared to meet the Miners' Executive to discuss that matter, but there is nothing to discuss between them and the owners on that—it is purely a question whether they will resume pumping or not.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am glad to have that description from the Prime Minister of what was in his mind last night, and he can be assured he has the good will of all of us in the step he will take to-morrow in meeting the members of the Miners' Federation.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
Members of this House have the right to quote the OFFICIAL REPORT fully. Here are the words of the right hon. Gentleman:We must make it clear that we could not enter into any negotiations on any expectation that we could recommend to Parliament the maintenance of this industry out of the general taxation of the country. We could not enter into any discussion upon the assumption that it would be possible to resume control of the industry. With these two limitations there is a very wide field for discussion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1921; col. 235, Vol. 140.]Those are the only two limitations. The whole context of all the previous remarks is that with these two limitations there is a very wide field for discussion, and when the right hon. Gentleman is bringing a force into the latter part of his speech, which he certainly did not put in last night, he is simply helping to smash all possibility of negotiations. Why can-
§ not these people come together? Why cannot the Government, which has responsibilities greater than anybody, bring them together? After all, if the plea is urged, as it may be urged with some force, that property is being impaired, are not children's lives being impaired? Are not the homes of the people being impaired? Let us go straight back to the status quo ante. If there is to be a fair deal, an honest negotiation, let us revert to the condition of things that existed before the dispute commenced.
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)
rose in his place and claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 1st April, 1921, shall continue in force, subject however to the provisions of Section 2 (4) of the said Act, and subject also (a) to the omission in Regulation 6 of the words from '1903' to the end of the Regulation, and (b) to the omission in Regulation 28 of the words from 'thereunder,' where it first occurs, to 'shall,' and (c) to the omission of Regulation 29.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 270; Noes, 60.371
|Division No. 61.]||AYES.||[8.17 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Butcher, Sir John George||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Edgar, Clifford B.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Casey, T. W.||Edge, Captain William|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Elveden, Viscount|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Entwistle, Major C. F.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Farquharson, Major A. C.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart.(Gr'nw'h)||Clough, Robert||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Coates, Major Sir Edward f.||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Foreman, Sir Henry|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beals||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||France, Gerald Ashburner|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Gange, E. Stanley|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Ganzoni, Captain Sir F. J. C.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Gardiner, James|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd|
|Briggs, Harold||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Glyn, Major Ralph|
|Britton, G. B.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Greer, Harry|
|Greig, Colonel James William||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Mallalieu, F. W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Manville, Edward||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Hailwood, Augustine||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Martin, Captain A. E.||Seager, Sir William|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Middlebrook, Sir William||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mitchell, William Lane||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Morden, Lieut.-Col. W. Grant||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Hickrman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Higham, Charles Frederick||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Nail, Major Joseph||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Neal, Arthur||Stevens, Marshall|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Hood, Joseph||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Taylor, J.|
|Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Parker, James||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pearce, Sir William||Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Vickers, Douglas|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Perring, William George||Waddington, R.|
|Jameson, J. Gordon||Philipps, Gen. Sir I. (Southampton)||Wallace, J|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emll W.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Poison, Sir Thomas||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Pratt, John William||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Prescott, Major W. H.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Kidd, James||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Purchase, H. G.||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Ramsden, G. T.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Randles, Sir John S.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Raper, A. Baldwin||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wise, Frederick|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple)||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Lonsdale, James Rolston||Reid, D. D.||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Lorden, John William||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Lynn, R. J.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Younger, Sir George|
|Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Rodger, A. K.|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayward, Major Evan||Robertson, John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hirst, G. H.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Sexton, James|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Cairns, John||Irving, Dan||Spencer, George A.|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Swan, J. E.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O (Anglesey)|
|Davies, Alfred (Lane., Clitheroe)||Kenyon, Barnet||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Edwards, C (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John J.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lunn, William||Waterson, A. E.|
|Finney, Samuel||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Gillis, William||Myers, Thomas||Wignall, James|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||O'Grady, Captain James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemswortk)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hayday, Arthur||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Frederick Hall.|