§ 29. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,463,000, be granted to His Majesty to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for Expenditure in respect of the Air Force Services."
§ [For Services included herein, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1922, cols. 635–6.]
§ First Resolution read a Second time.
§ Mr. AMMON
I beg to move, to leave out "£188,643," and to insert instead thereof "£188,543."
I desire to call attention to the decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept the recommendation of the Geddes Report for the abolition of the Civil Service Arbitration Board. With the permission of the House I will endeavour to put my case as lucidly and as clearly and, I hope, as briefly as possible. The important point to remember in discussing this question is that in connection with questions which have been put across the Floor of the House the point has been obscured that the appointment of the Civil Service Arbitration Board was anterior to that of the Whitley Councils in the Civil Service. Perhaps it will be as well if I make clear exactly what the 720 terms of reference were to the Civil Service Arbitration Board. The Conciliation and Arbitration Board was set up in 1917 to deal with claims by Government employés for increased remuneration arising from the increased cost of living due to war conditions. The terms of reference were as follow:To deal by way of conciliation or abitration with questions arising with regard to claims for increased remuneration (whether permanent or temporary, owing to War conditions) made by classes of employés of Government Departments other than classes of employés who are engaged wholly or mainly by way of manual labour of a kind common to Government and other employment, and in respect of whom the Board are satisfied, on the certificate of the Government Department concerned, that adequate means for the settlement of such questions have already been provided, or that changes of remuneration always follow the decision of the recognised machinery applicable to the district generally.That was an attempt to meet the difficulties that were arising in the Government Department where the employés were on fixed wages, and it concerned those more particularly who were on the low scales of pay, and who were feeling very badly the pinch caused by the increased cost of living. The membership and procedure of that Arbitration Board was laid down as follows:Any claim which may fall within the terms of reference shall he heard before the Board acting as a triplicate chairman, together with not more than three official representatives, and not more than three representatives of the class of employés concerned or their associations, where such association exists. The official representative shall be appointed in cases where employés of only one Government Department are concerned—two by that Department and one by the Treasury. In other eases they shall all be appointed by the Treasury. In the first instance, the official representatives and the employés' representatives shall endeavour to arrange the difference by mutual agreement, but should they fail to settle the matter by conciliation the case will be at once referred to the Board acting as arbitrators, who may call for further evidence if they desire, and give other directions as they may think necessary for the proper decision of the matters in dispute.It will be remembered that the Whitley Committee, in its Report on conciliations and arbitration, recommended voluntary machinery for the adjustment of disputes should be set up—when the parties are unable to adjust their differences, we think that there should be means by which an independent inquiry may be made into the facts and circum- 721 stances of a dispute, on an authoritative announcement made thereon. We further recommend that there should be established a Standing Arbitration Council for cases where the parties wish to refer any dispute to arbitration.Therefore the Government have approved of arbitration and have done everything possible both to urge and bring pressure to bear upon Labour representatives and trade unionists to take their disputes to arbitration, and they have themselves set up the very elaborate machinery of the Industrial Courts for this purpose. Therefore we are simply asking that what they have accepted hitherto they shall apply in principle to their own Department and. maintain what they have impressed should be applied to all other industrial concerns outside. There was appointed a Provisional National Joint Committee consisting of 30 members, 15 official representatives and 15 representative of the Civil Service associations.
They wereto consider a Whitley scheme for the clerical and administrative branches of the Civil Service.4.0 P.M.
On 28th May, 1919, the Committee issued its Report, approving of the adoption of the Whitley principle in the Civil Service, and it is interesting to note that the adoption of the Report was moved by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Chamberlain), at a mass meeting, held in Caxton Hall, on 3rd July, 1919. It would be well that we should have some idea of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in moving that Resolution. It was an eloquent and enlightened speech. It accepted generally all that had been laid down, and was certainly in keeping with the spirit of regeneration, as one thought, that had come upon the Government. They were then inclined to look on these things in a broader and more generous spirit. In the course of his speech, the Lord Privy Seal said:You know I desire as strongly as anybody that the relations between the Government and its employés should be friendly and contented relations, and that the Service should not only do its best, but feel that it is made easy to do its best, by the appreciation shown by those who represent the State, the conditions under which they work, and the conditions under which they live. I ant very glad, therefore, to have such an organisation as this, but I am bound to add that the scheme is not in all 722 respects what I should have desired. It contains provisions which, frankly, I do not altogether like, and which I accepted with hesitation and reluctance; but I have accepted them, and, having accepted them. you may be sure that I mean to abide quite faithfully by them and work them loyally. I tell you this because I think it right you should know I consider there are features in this scheme which may give rise to grave trouble; but it will not give rise to trouble if they are worked in the same spirit in which the two sides who framed this Report met and conducted their deliberations. Everything depends upon the spirit in which we attend our future deliberations. If that spirit is right then the features of the scheme which I fear to be dangerous will not in practice result in damage to the public service. If the spirit is not right, neither this scheme nor any other scheme will work, and we shall have to abandon the steps we have taken and give up this great experiment. I am not a pessimist, however, and I believe that the scheme will work and that the proper spirit to work it will be forthcoming.That was the very enlightened point of view which the present Lord Privy Seal took with regard to this matter. There has been no suggestion from his successor or any other occupant of the Treasury Bench that there has been any breakdown or any departure from that spirit in which it was originally entered. In all things, the people have endeavoured to work it out in the spirit in which it was first adumbrated. It is as well to remember that when the Whitley principle was accepted for the Civil Service, the Civil Service Arbitration Board had been in existence nearly two years. That is very important. The Report, of which the right hon. Gentleman moved the adoption at that crowded meeting of the Civil Service, in Clause 6 says:For the purposes of this Report we have assumed that the Civil Service Arbitration Board will continue in being.That is pretty definite. There could be no more specific utterance. Its very brevity and conciseness indicates that the Government, when they adopted the report, recognised that the Civil Service Arbitration Board was complementary to the Whitley principle and was necessary to give it full and proper effect. I do not want to give further long quotations unless I am challenged, but I may say that the facts are emphasised in Clauses 34, 35 and 36 under the headings "Separate bodies need not be set up to deal with questions of remuneration," "Agreement (Procedure)" and "Disagreement." 723 Clause 36 under the heading "Disagreement" lays down the machinery, and the particular machinery was that already set forth by the Civil Service Arbitration Board. That, too, was adopted in the constitution of the Post Office Whitley Council, and in Clause 21 there is a similar proviso. I hope that I shall not have to read all those quotations to satisfy the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they are actually in the constitution. The important point is that the Arbitration Board was set up prior to the Whitley Council, and that when the Whitley Council was brought into being it was recognised that the Civil Service Arbitration Board was to complete the structure, so that it would work efficiently and without any ill-will. It has also to be remembered that the personnel of the Board consisted of a representative of the employers, a representative of the employés, and an independent chairman, all of them appointed by the Government, and none of them civil servants. The employés had no voice in the matter, but the side which I represent were quite willing to accept the bona fides of the Government, to meet them whole-heartedly, and to abide loyally by the terms of the agreement. We are now simply asking that they shall abide by the contract and not endeavour to depart from it. The Board consisted of Sir William Collins, Sir Francis Gore-Brown, an eminent lawyer, Sir Charles A. Russell, Sir Alexander Kaye Butterworth, who, I believe, has something to do with railways, Sir Robert Turnbull, Mr. Harry Gosling, and Sir Guy Garnet, another railway director, so that it cannot be said that the bias was likely to be on the side of the persons taking their disputes to arbitration. But I want to say that all sides implicitly accepted that these gentlemen, no matter what their business or their views on life, would carry out their duties as arbitrators fairly. The present members are Sir Charles A. Russell, Sir Alexander Kaye Butterworth, and Mr. Harry Gosling, so that it cannot be said that Labour is by any means overweighted. It is as well to know that from 1st May, 1919, to 1st August, 1919, they issued 99 awards, and from August, 1919, to May, 1922, they issued 29 awards. It has to be remembered that these awards are spread over an enormous number of cases and different grades, 724 embracing in the aggregate about 300,000 employés. Then we had the Geddes Report, which, in Vol. 3, page 67, recommends the abolition of the Board. They pointed out that the total cost of the Arbitration Board was less than £4,000, and I hope that this will be borne in mind. They say:The Board was set up in February, 1918, 'to deal, by way of conciliation and abitration, with questions arising with regard to claims for increased remuneration made by classes of employés, in Government Departments other than classes of employés who are engaged wholly or mainly by way of manual labour of a kind common to Government and other employment.' At present the Board is not empowered to entertain applications for permanent increases of salary from classes of officers with salaries of £500 or over.They recommended that the Board should be abolished on 21st February, 1922, the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed the Chairman, the vice-Chairman, and the secretaries of the National Whitley Councils that the Government had decided to abolish the Arbitration Board. This was the first ground of complaint. Till then the Government had honourably carried out the whole of their agreement with their servants, and there had been nothing to give anyone the idea that they were inclined to break faith. There had been no consultation with the staff, and they were taken entirely by surprise. In this House on 22nd February, 1922, in reply to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Betterton), the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:His Majesty's Government have been considering the matter. The conditions which led to the establishment of the Civil Service Arbitration Board some five years ago have been entirely changed by the formation of Whitley Council for the discussion of questions affecting the remuneration and conditions of service of civil servants; and the Government have come to the conclusion that the continuance of the present arrangements for compulsory arbitration are inconsistent with, and to some extent militate against; the development of these councils on the best lines. They have accordingly decided that the time has now come for bringing the present arbitration arrangements to an end. They have decided also that under these altered conditions it would be desirable to strengthen the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service by the appointment of some Members of this House who would form part of the official side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1922; col. 1910, Vol. 150.]The thing to note is that that would rather lead the House to believe that the Whitley Council had superseded the 725 Civil Service Arbitration Board instead of the constitution of the Whitley Council laying it down clearly and specifically that for the purpose of the Whitley Council it assumed that the Civil Service Arbitration Board would remain in being. One does not want to use harsh names, but it is difficult to find the name to put to that sort of treatment. It does not seem that there has been quite fair treatment accorded to the Civil Service in this respect. Since when have the Government altered their minds with regard to compulsory arbitration? They certainly have been trying to persuade other people to submit to it, but now, when it suits their point of view, for reasons rather difficult to fathom, they are prepared to abandon it for the Civil Service. Probably it is that at that particular time the Government were filled with gratitude to the workers, both in the Civil Service and outside, and appreciated the great services that they had rendered. Perhaps they were also apprehensive of the state of affairs in the labour and industrial markets, and therefore made advances and concessions from which ever since they have seemed to endeavour to find ways and means of departing. I cannot find any other reason. I hope I am wrong, but that certainly seems the position. It has also to be noted that the Whitley Council was further weighted against the employés by Members from this House who were to be called exclusively from the Government side. That fact ought to be borne in mind. You could not have a Member from the Liberal or Labour party. They were all to be exclusively from the Government side. I suggest that it is not calculated to give confidence in a body so composed, especially having regard to the fact that the Civil Service Arbitration Board has been already abolished.
It will also be within the knowledge of Members of the House that on the 15th May of this year the Chancellor of the Exchequer received a deputation of the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council. The deputation was unsuccessful. There was a meeting of Members of this House called in one of the rooms upstairs, and, as Chairman of that meeting, I was commissioned to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would kindly communicate to Members of this House a memorandum as to what 726 transpired at that particular interview. He refused to do it. Why should there be any refusal? Their idea was to arrive at the facts of the case. They wanted to see the arguments put forward by the deputation, and to see the answer which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made to them, in order that they might be in a position to arrive at a fair and considered judgment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer withheld that from the House, and one could only assume that it was done in order that, when the matter was raised in the House, Members would come here not fully informed, and not in a position to judge the case wholly and impartially as they would like to do. On the 24th May of this year the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, replying to the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) said:Provisions for contribution by consent of both parties is already made by the Industrial Court Act, 1919, which applies to civilian employés of the Crown; and it is not considered that further provision is either necessary or desirahle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th May, 1922; col. 1237, Vol. 154.]On the 15th June last the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, with reference to the paragraphs of the Report of the National Provisional Joint Committee, which stated that the maintenance of the Arbitration Board was assumed for the purposes of the Report:I do not agree that the paragraph referred to was to guarantee the permanent continuance of the Civil Service Arbitration Board, or to stop the Government from taking such action in respect of it as appeared to them to be necessary or desirable in the national interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1922; col. 559, Vol. 155.]One wonders what has brought about that change of view. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor presided over the particular meeting where the Whitley constitution was accepted, and actually moved the Clause embodying the Civil Service Arbitration Board as part and parcel of the Whitley Council of the Civil Service. Are we to assume that a change of Chancellor of the Exchequer carries with it the right to abolish all that his predecessor in office has done, without any consultation with the parties concerned and without informing this House as to the actual effect? I venture to say, with a very short knowledge of this House, that that is contrary to all Parliamentary procedure and experience. 727 Then the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, on the 19th July, said:It is not the case that the National Whitley Council, as reconstituted, will take over any function of the Civil Service Arbitration Board.So far as we know, the National Whitley Council has never been reconstituted. The National Whitley Council in the Civil Service was adopted in July, 1919, at a conference in Caxton Hall presided over by the Lord Privy Seal. The constitution was that approved by the Lord Privy Seal, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have this position. After that Board is abolished, three Members of Parliament, Government supporters, are added to the National Whitley Council. The whole constitution of the Council has been changed without any consideration, and there is an absolute departure from everything in regard to it.
I want, briefly, to put the position that arises now. The original Conciliation and Arbitration Board was set up by the Government to meet the great unrest prevalent in the Civil Service. Prior to that, there had been no permanent machinery for settling grievances in the Civil Service. It is true I have not been long a member of the House, but I have sat in another part of this building, again and again, in past years, and have heard Members on the Floor of this House condemn the deplorable waste of public time in discussing details of administration of the Post Office and other Departments, when there ought to have been some machinery set up for meeting it elsewhere. I have heard the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) and others, again and again, put up that plea in this House—a plea for which, I am bound to say, the members of the Civil Service thought there was a reasonable ground, and that the time of the National Assembly should not be spent, as it very often was for several days on end, in discussing, on the Postmaster-General's Estimates and other Estimates, details of administration, personal grievances, questions of remuneration, salaries and wages, which ought to have been settled outside this House with proper and adequate machinery set up for the purpose. For the first time in its 728 history, that machinery was set up in the Civil Service Arbitration Board, and the operation of the Council which bears a name honoured in this House. The result has been that very little has been heard of Civil Service questions on the. Floor of this House. That machinery has been available, and we have been able to settle the grievances outside. It will be within the memory of the House that the Postmaster-General admitted, across the Floor, that the relations since, between the representatives and his Department, were very much happier than they had been, and had resulted in mutual good on both 'sides. What has happened in that Department I know can be demonstrated in regard to other Departments.
I want, then, to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the position, seeing that the amount expended is a mere bagatelle. The outside expenditure is £4,000. It is less than that actually, but I am giving the round figures. I do not want to err on the wrong side, or to understate or overstate my case, and particularly I do not want to overstate it. It costs less than £4,000, and it is very fair to assume that the expenditure in the future would be very much less, because a far less number of cases are taken to the Civil Service Arbitration Board than before. It is fair to assume, that as conditions get more settled and more stable, there will be less recourse to this Arbitration Board, and, therefore, the expense is bound to be less. I imagine that the Government's reasons for their attitude are these. The first is the expense involved, though I do not think that is the main reason. The main reason is that the Board is not under the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Appeal can be made over his head, as it were, to this independent tribunal, and, when it gives its verdicts, they are final and binding. But there has been no complaint from any side that the verdicts have been wrong, and against the weight of argument. The Arbitration Board is weighted by those people whom one might reasonably think, if one put prejudice into it, would be against the ordinary employé—that is, large employers of labour, with only one Labour member, and in each case they are nominated by the Government. Those concerned on the other side have no voice in it. One cannot emphasise that too much. The third reason is that 729 the Board is a deterrent to the smooth working of the Whitley system. There is no evidence of that. On the contrary, the Board has made the Whitley Council efficient, and provided a means whereby, when a disagreement has been registered, they have been able to take it to an independent court of arbitration. That is the essence of Whitleyism.
Now it seems that not only is the Board to be abolished, but actually the Whitley Council itself is to be over-weighted on one side in the interests of one of the parties to the cases that will come forward. I submit there can be no justification, in ordinary common fairness, for anything like this. The Board, as I have said, costs but a trifle. Salaries, wages, and allowances have cost £2,444, and incidental expenses £80, so that there has been no tremendous waste on this particular side. If services charged to other Votes are added, such as accommodation, fuel, light, stationery, printing, postage, etc., the total cost is £3,909. It ought to be beneath the dignity of a Government to endeavour to get out of its honourable obligations in order to save a paltry sum of money like that. Surely we are concerned with bigger things than this on the financial side. We can only feel that there are other reasons than those which have yet appeared on the surface. This machinery is set up to deal with the whole cases of 300,000 people. I venture to say there is not an organisation in any industry, or anywhere, dealing with so many complex problems, and so many persons in the aggregate, that can be run under such inexpensive conditions, and it will save, so far as money is concerned, a tremendous lot more in the time of Members of this House and of the House itself, and in the friction and unrest that is bound to arise in the Service itself. The Civil Service Staff Organisations offered to bear half of the expense. They felt that if the Treasury were so impoverished, that less than 4,000 was going to make all the difference, they would generously pay out of their own pocket one-half of the expense. Certainly I should think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have no grounds of complaint on that score. They have tried to meet him quite generously and help him out of his financial embarrassments.
One finds it very difficult in arguing this case to understand how it is that the 730 Chancellor of the Exchequer can maintain his position, in view of the pledges given by his Government through the mouth of the present Lord Privy Seal, and the fact that the Whitley Councils are in being and for this particular purpose. Surely the State as an employer is subject to the same failings as individual employers, and, where they have disagreement with their employés, it. is equally necessary that there. should be some impartial tribunal if the machinery of conciliation or Whitleyism is to work smoothly. That is our whole case. The Government is continually impressing on private employers the necessity of having recourse to arbitration to avoid the misery and disturbance which arise out of strikes and lock-outs. In order to save this we are asking that the Government should put themselves in precisely the same position. They have accepted that position for five years. It has worked smoothly and without disadvantage to the Government; it has saved the time of M.P.s, and one really wonders what is necessary in order to persuade them to abide by it. I can only leave the matter here with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am hoping, now that our case has been put forward, he will in the light of the evidence given—and I should like to think he did not know of the specific pledges and the bargains entered into by his predecessor—accept the view that the Civil Service Arbitration Board was part and parcel of an arrangement sanctioned by the Lord Privy Seal and, in fact, moved by him in a resolution at a meeting of civil servants at Caxton Hall of which he happened to be Chairman. Surely that commits the Government, and there is a moral obligation upon them to abide by their own contract in this respect, and, above all, not to break it without consultation with the other parties concerned and without giving them any notice of the intention in addition to weight the whole machinery, as it seems, in the interest of the Government as against the employés. That is the case I wish to put before the House this afternoon. I thank hon. Members for their patience. I have endeavoured to put the case briefly and concisely, and it is upon these facts that I move the reduction of the Vote.
§ Mr. BANTON
I beg to second the Amendment.
731 I very much regret the necessity of bringing forward a matter of this kind. It seems to me that the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) is unanswerable, and under the circumstances we shall be pleased to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to say in justification of the position which has been taken up. This is a most inopportune time for such a movement as that proposed by the Department. This is a time when labour and capital should work harmoniously together. We are all suffering from the general unrest, and it therefore is all the more necessary that employer and employed should seek to promote the general efficiency. We want more co-operation, a. better understanding and a spirit of goodwill between the two sides. I have taken part for some years on different boards and committees, not from the employés' point of view, but from the employer's. I have sat on these committees for many years. We have worked together most harmoniously, and with great success, and the machinery which has in recent years been set up has tended. to make the working more smooth and to secure better results. That has been the result of the existence of a spirit of goodwill and of good understanding. I have never known, when such a. spirit prevailed, disagreement to continue. We have been able to arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to the parties interested. I cannot conceive why the Government should have done so much in recent years to establish these various Boards and Councils and then should themselves suddenly break away from the system. We have no desire to labour this question. The whole case has been presented in a most admirable spirit. We want to use no provocative language. We believe that the action which has been taken is due to a misunderstanding or a misapprehension. We would rather approach the matter with a desire to find out some way to improve the machinery and to create more co-operation between employer and employed. We think that is the better way to solve the whole problem, and not to take the most disastrous course against which we are now protesting. I think we have under the control of the Government and in our municipalities as loyal a body of men and women as one could wish to find. Things, of course, are not 732 perfect, but they can be made more perfect if we go on in the right way, which is not in the direction proposed by the Government. We cannot conceive that the Government are actuated simply by monetary considerations There must be some other motive and sonic misunderstanding. We will not use any harsh language, but we feel it would be disastrous if the idea were allowed to get root in the minds of civil servants that the Government simply made a concession in a time of stress because they felt it would be disastrous to their power if they refused it, and that they only intended it for the time being. We should not like that idea to be entertained by the workpeople. We want them to have confidence in their employers and to work harmoniously with them.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir Robert Horne)
The House has had the benefit of two very interesting and lucid speeches on this question, and what has been said by the hon. Members on the history of this matter needs to have very little added to it. The speeches, however, have proceeded upon some misapprehension of the real facts of the ease and of the considerations which must be applied to a problem of this character. Before t deal with the speeches of the hon. Members I would like upon this occasion, as I have now been for more than a year as Chancellor of the Exchequer the head of the Civil Service, to express my complete admiration of the Service which at the present time I have the privilege of leading. I cannot use exaggerated language with regard to the merits of the great Service which this country happens to possess. I am sure there is no Civil Service in the world which compares in efficiency and in the traditions of honour which guide the action of those large numbers of people who conduct the business of our country. Accordingly, whatever I have to say in the course of this Debate it certainly has no reference to and contains no suggestion of any doubt at all as to the loyalty of civil servants, and as to their readiness to do everything which is fitting and proper in relation to the Government which for the moment they serve, and when I say the Government I mean any Government which happens to be in the place now occupied by the present Government. I am sure they will give equally loyal and devoted service whatever party 733 happens to be in a position of power in the State at the time.
The Arbitration Board with which we are concerned, if I may be forgiven for a brief review of the history of this matter, came into being in the time of the War, and was obviously, on the face of it, regarded as a temporary expedient. It was intended to form a method of adjudication open to the Civil Service in one direction and one direction only, because its terms of reference allow the Board of Arbitration to consider only claims for increased remuneration. It is a curious fact that this is so, and it maybe accounted for because at the time, no doubt when the pinch of war prices was being felt, claims were being made for higher salaries, and this tribunal was set up for the sole purpose of dealing with those claims for increased remuneration. It was not a Board of Arbitration which could deal for instance with any claim which might be put forward on the part of the Government to the effect that circumstances had occurred which justified a reduction of remuneration. Obviously it was a body emerging from the special conditions of war, and has been continued since then up till the time at which it was decided that after it had completed the cases before it it should cease to function.
The whole atmosphere of the position has been entirely changed by the setting up of Whitley Councils. The theory upon which the setting up of the Board of Arbitration was based was. that at that time civil servants had no means of making their grievances properly known and no method by which they could fully represent their just rights and claims. That situation, however, has been entirely altered, as was admitted by the hon. Gentleman who moved the reduction of the Vote, by the setting up of the Whitley Councils which occurred a considerable time after the Board of Arbitration was constituted. What was the object of the Council? That object could not be better described than in the speech made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Banton) when he said that it is an attempt to bring methods of conciliation into the conduct of our business and to bring men round a table to settle their difficulties, instead of leaving them to be settled at arms length and by methods of strife. That was the object of the 'Whitley Council. I do not think I make any exaggerated statement, Mr. 734 Speaker, which I say your name will for ever be honourably associated with the great institution which has already brought so much peace into industry where previously there was controversy and trouble. The Whitley Council which was set up for the Civil Service has functioned and is operating and is, at the present time, exercising a very great and useful influence throughout the whole of the Service. I do not think the hon. Members who have spoken will deny that. At the time when the Report, from which the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) quoted, was drawn up and presented, the Civil Service Board of Arbitration, as it existed, was taken into account, and it was made perfectly plain in the course of the Report that it also regarded the Civil Service Board of Arbitration as a matter of difficulty. They assumed it was to go on as a temporary expedient. Obviously, it was purely a temporary expedient. This is what is stated in one paragraph to which the hon. Member referred, but which he did not fully quote:It. has been suggested that fixed machinery should be created to deal with other questions on which agreement has not been arrived at and which are outside the Board's terms of reference. We feel, however, that it is undesirable to suggest any fixed machinery for the solution of differences as its existence would necessarily impair the influence and authority of the National Council.That is exactly where the difficulty of the Arbitration Board has arisen.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I do not ignore it. My hon. Friend referred to it, and I also referred to it as having been read by him. But what I would point out to him and to The House is that he ignores the fact that the existence of the Arbitration Board as a temporary expedient was recognised, and that there are references in this Report which show that the authors of the Report regarded the permanent existence of a fixed machinery for the settlement of differences as something that might weaken the authority of the National Council.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My hon. Friend is now arguing on the point, and is not disputing upon a question of fact. At least I think I should be, allowed to state my argument.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The position, as I see it, is exactly as I have described, namely, that the Board of Arbitration was recognised all through as a piece of fixed machinery, originally devised to meet a War emergency, and that the authors of this Report were inclined to think that fixed machinery for the settlement of differences might be detrimental to the authority of the National Council. That is exactly what by experience the Arbitration Board has been proved to be. The Geddes Committee dealt with this matter, and I will quote from their Report, because I see that there is some confusion in the minds of hon. Members. I would ask them to remember that this is not a dispute on the question whether arbitration is a good thing or a bad thing upon which to depend. The whole question, although my hon. Friends ignore it, the real and crucial question which is before the House to-day, is whether you shall have fixed arbitration machinery always in being. That is the point. It is exactly there that the fixed machinery comes to clash with the organisation of the Whitley Council—indeed, destroys its authority, and, being always there, encourages further claims from one of the parties that is dissatisfied with what the Whitley Council does. That is not going to lead to the getting rid of difficulties, but only to exaggerating them and keeping them in being. Before I come to deal more at length with that part of the argument, let me remind the House what the Geddes Committee said upon this matter. This is apart from the question of the expense of maintaining the Board—the actual £4,000 a year which it costs. The Geddes Committee say:Whatever justification there may have been in time of war for setting up such a body, whose awards are final and who can thus authorise expenditure without the 736 authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are very strongly of opinion that the main justification for the existence of the Board has disappeared with the institution of the Whitley Councils in the Civil Service. It has now become the established practice in the Civil Service to consider on these Whitley Councils questions of remuneration, so far as they relate to posts carrying salaries not exceeding £500 per annum, and, in these circumstances, we are of opinion that the need for a standing Arbitration Board no longer exists.You have a standing system of conciliation in the Whitley Council, and the Geddes Committee report that a body which can take expenditure—because, indeed, that is its effect—out of the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ought no longer to exist. Let me develop that point of view a little further. I have suggested to the House that the existence of permanent and automatic machinery of this kind encourages people never to be content with the conclusion which is arrived at by methods of conciliation. The tendency, in fact, as the House will readily understand, is this: I would again remind the House that this Board of Arbitration only exists to consider claims for increased remuneration. That is its full reference.
§ Sir R. HORNE
It is an advantage for people whose remuneration is increased, but it is not an advantage to a body which wishes remuneration to be brought back to a proper level after it has been increased.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Yes. but the Noble Lord is speaking in a way which rather interrupts my argument. It is as loud as I am speaking myself. In point of fact, the tendency is undoubtedly to encourage civil servants, who happen to be unable so to convince the official side of the Whitley Council that they come to an agreement, to go on to the Board of Arbitration—and that is after they have wrung from the official side of the Civil Service all the concessions which the 737 official side think it proper to make. Therefore, they go to the Board of Arbitration with all these concessions as the jumping-off ground for a new claim. Let me read to the House an extract from a Civil Service journal, which puts the matter in a thoroughly cynical form, as indicating the type of procedure. It says:The Arbitration Board will have placed before them the official offer, which necessarily includes the original proposals and subsequent advances, and the staff's demands, and it is a logical conclusion that the award given must lie somewhere within those limits. More than what is demanded is, of course, not for a moment expected, and less than what has been offered would be manifestly unfair. It follows, then, that in all reasonable anticipation the Service cannot be adversely affected by the decision to submit the matter to arbitration, and in any case a really unsatisfactory award will not tie the hands of the Federation to the same extent as would a disappointing Whitley agreement arrived at and ratified by the Federation's representatives.Now observe what is the result of that conclusion. It means, do not arrive at an agreement under any Whitley arrangement, because that ties your hands; you are honourably bound to stand by it. But; you need not observe an unsatisfactory award that you get from the Arbitration Board your hands will be free. It reduces the Whitley system to a ludicrous position. It makes it absolutely futile. It in effect says: "If you are wise you will never come to a conciliation agreement; you will go to the Whitley Council, you will extract all that you can from the official side, but, after you have extracted all that you can, you will not agree, because that will tie your hands. Then go to the Arbitration Board. They cannot give you less by any chance than what the official side ultimately, as the result of full discussion, offer, and you may get more. In any case, after they decide, you need not be bound by it. "I am perfectly certain that any system which is going to do anything like that is going to undermine absolutely the whole theory of agreement by conciliation. I have no doubt that the House perfectly understands that the Government are not opposed to arbitration, nor am I personally. The Government brought in the very Bill to which the hon. Member referred—the Industrial Courts Bill—and passed it into law. I was myself the author of that Bill. My hon. Friend accuses me of turning my back on it. 738 On the contrary, I entirely approve of it. What does it do? It provides for permissive arbitration. No one is compelled to go to arbitration, but the machinery is there for the purpose. I stand by that Act, every word of it. When my hon. Friend says that I am retreating from it, he is completely inaccurate; I am standing by it. What I venture to say, however, to the Labour Benches is this Are they now for the first time in favour of compulsory arbitration?
§ Sir R. HORNE
The Noble Lord says Why not? "but I am asking hon. Members behind him what they think of it. Their whole attitude has been against compulsory arbitration. They say, "We shall go to arbitration when it suits us."
§ Sir R. HORNE
That is what I am saying to-day, and I will tell the House the reason in a moment, but I do say here that there are far stronger reasons for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so far as he is concerned, and for the Government, so far as they are concerned, being in a position in which arbitration is permissive, than there are in the case of any other body in this country. I put it to my hon. Friends of the Labour party that they cannot come here to-day and ask for compulsory arbitration and refuse to undergo it themselves. What is the position with regard to the State? The point is stated with great clearness by the Geddes Committee. If you have this system of automatic arbitration, into which the State is compelled to enter, then, indeed, you do take the control of expenditure out of the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because you leave it entirely to this body to say what any large range of servants of the State shall be paid. The servants of the State, as the Committee knows, are very numerous to-day. Take the whole of the Post Office and the whole of the other services which are concerned. Is it going to he said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who must keep within his own control the expenditure of the country, is entirely to surrender his own judgment in these matters to that of some independent body? It would be a very excellent cushion for me. I should then he able to say to the House of Commons and to the country, 739 "I am not responsible for this expenditure ";but it would be a very bad position for the taxpayer. The attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be that of being ready, on occasions when arbitration is suitable according to his own judgment, to allow that method to be adopted; but he is responsible for that method being adopted, and he is responsible for the expenditure involved in the result. He must not be compelled to be responsible for expenditure when he has no control.
Accordingly, I put it to the House that, whatever be the merits of arbitration—and it has many great merits, and I myself am a most ardent advocate of it—whatever merits it has, in the case of the State and of the Exchequer, while methods of arbitration are open both to the State and to its employés according to the methods which have been enshrined in the Industrial Courts Act, to impose upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer a system of compulsory arbitration is to take away that power of the purse which the House of Commons rightly demands that he should exercise. Let it be remembered that he is always, in every judgment that he forms, the person most subject to the influence of public opinion. if he forms a wrong judgment, if he refuses upon a particular occasion to go to arbitration, if he refuses to give the advances which may in a particular case be claimed, he is subject to the opinion of the House of Commons. Accordingly, it is at least likely that in the exercise of his judgment he will use the very utmost discretion which can be claimed of any public man. He is not really in the position of a private employer at all. He is not working for a profit, and therefore is not looking, with a private employer's eye, at the claims of those who serve the State. He is influenced by none of the ordinary selfish interests which apply in the case of a private employer. Is it not likely then that the servant, of the State is in a better position to have his just claims recognised than he would be if he were in private service? For all these reasons I am convinced that the continued existence of the Civil Service Arbitration Board would have been a detriment and not a help in this matter, even to the civil servants themselves. It has been, I agree, very well manned. One of the 740 people who have served most efficiently upon it, Sir Guy Granet. was also a member of the Geddes Committee which urged that it should be done away with It is now said that we have overweighted the Whitley Council by adding Members of Parliament to it. But we put Members of Parliament in, not as an addition to out-number those on the other side, but in places which otherwise would have been occupied by officials of the Civil Service. We did it in order to bring something more of public opinion into the exercise of the judgment of the official side of the Civil Service. Surely that is a good thing.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Certainly. the opinion of the Government of the time. If my Noble Friend holds office, those he will appoint to these places will be representative of his opinion, and it is only proper that it should be so, because, after all, who is it that has got. to make up his mind upon any particular question which becomes the subject of con troversy? It is the Government of the time. My Noble Friend surely does not. say that in administration you can escape the responsibility of forming your judgment on a matter and, if necessary, take the question to the Cabinet. At any rate, it is the Government of the time which is responsible for the action that is taken. He remembers the great. controversy with the Post Office and how it reacted on the people who held office at the time rather than upon their opponents. The Government of the time bears the brunt of the decisions. Accordingly, I suppose Et would be only proper, if they had the responsibility to endure, that these people, who are on the official side are people who, in the main, are in agreement with the Government. If it is not so, it is obvious that the. opinion of the Government of the time, might. be wrecked by an adverse majority, and both their control and their responsibility would be gone. That is entirely contrary to all the features of English administration, and I hope we are not going to introduce now a system by which Governments shall have responsibility where they have no control.' Accordingly, I put it to the House that, while there. is an attempt to make a plausible case with the suggestion that we are refusing arbitration, that really 741 is not the basis of this case at all. The whole question is whether you are going to perpetuate and continue a system of fixed machinery of that kind. I have pointed out the reasons why such fixed machinery really destroys all the methods of conciliation which we have been trying through these years to work up and to bring to complete fruition. Under these circumstances, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given a spirited, if not a heated, reply to two speeches marked by moderation and argumentative quietude, which is very often not a marked feature in cases where an attack has been levelled against the Government. I approach this question with a certain amount of detachment. I have listened very carefully to the arguments on both sides, and perhaps it will come as a sharp surprise to my right hon. Friend that I do not agree with him.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I agree with him that. there is no Civil. Service in the world which occupies so high a place in the estimation of the citizens of the community as the British Civil Service does, and they have always been marked, in their arguments for better conditions, by an amount of reserve and moderation which we all admire, But it is this very body, distinguished as it is by all these qualities, which disagrees almost entirely with the action which the Government propose to take. That certainly is a matter which must have considerable weight with the Members of the House. Certainly it weighs very much with me. A point to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave very little attention, but which seems to me to be a very strong one, was a meeting reported in the "Postal and Telegraph Record "of 10th July, 1919, which took place with the present Lord Privy Seal at Caxton Hall, he being in the Chair. He gave his official sanction and blessing to the whole scheme, and that scheme included the Board. The Board was set up in 1917 and the meeting took place on 3rd July, 1919. I have looked through the right hon. Gentleman's speech and I do not see even 742 the remotest hint of any disagreement with the Board operating as part of the scheme.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
There was no reason for him to refer to it. It was part of it. He moved its adoption. He was the chairman of a completely agreed meeting. We are bound to ask this question. What, if anything, has happened since to alter the policy of the Government? Is there any complaint about the action of the Board in the numerous cases which have been referred to it? Not a single suggestion is made that the Board has operated other than moderately, efficiently, and fairly between all parties. What is the cause then? Here it is, presumably. It -is the Geddes Report. As far as I can see, the main case of the Geddes Report here is an endeavour to save about £3,000 a year. That is a very estimable thing to do. I. do not discount saving £3,000 a year, even when you have a Budget of about £910,000,000. It is very important to save these little amounts. But the point we have to address ourselves to to-day is, "Is it worth while? "I say, it is not worth while. It is quite evident from what one knows, and, indeed, from what one has heard in this House, that. to abolish this Board will give rise to a very considerable amount of unrest and dissatisfaction in this efficient, satisfied Service. Ls it worth while to do that? I should have thought not. Another question arises on that. The right. hon. Gentleman has made some comparisons between the Civil Service arbitration and arbitration in industrial disputes. I think the two cases differ in some very vital aspects. In industrial disputes, whether they are disputes of clerks in offices or of men working with their hands outside, they are in the open, and they have methods of presenting and enforcing their case which Civil Servants are necessarily deprived of, and you must view the thing from that totally different standpoint. Indeed, I think it may be almost said there has been no exception to the maxim that Civil Servants never strike, and, therefore, the House of Commons must approach this question with these vital differences in mind. The importance of a Civil 'Service which is efficient and is working satisfactorily no one can overestimate.
743 Let us have a look at this Board to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes such strong exception. First of all it is nominated by the Government. It is not in any sense a, Board which is at all likely to take a biassed view of the case which is put before it by the employés. The Government of the day have in their hands the complete power of nominating its Members. There is another advantage which the Government have in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman referred to its limited powers of reference. It only deals with increases of remuneration. I should have thought that was a real advantage to the Government, because they cannot appeal on decreases. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman's argument was that where a case comes before the Whitley Council for an increase the proceedings are almost formal, because they all hold their hand until they get to the final court of appeal. Everyone knows that much more difficult conditions arise when wages are reduced than when there is an application for wages to be increased. It is a much more difficult problem, and the more difficult problem is to the advantage of the Government as things stand at present, withdrawn from this Board to which he objects. Instead of being a disadvantage it is an advantage to the Government to have this limited reference. There is no case made here or advocated, as far as I know, for any further powers to be given to the Board. They are satisfied with it as it works at present. There is one final point. Whatever the theoretical arguments which the Chancellor of the Exchequer may adduce—
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
They are theoretical in this way, that the right hon. Gentleman spoke about what might happen. It is hypothetical—in the future. The real fact of the matter is that this thing works well. As it works well, why disturb it? Can the right hon. Gentleman say within the 12 months of his office, or since this meeting on the 3rd July, 1919, that unfair decisions have been given against the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Will he say that? He cannot say it. He is satisfied with the decisions and the way they have 744 worked. Then, in Heaven's name, why not leave it alone? You ought to be thankful that you have a machine that is working well.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Then we ought. to have had arguments to-day containing statements of fact within the knowledge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which would justify the House in the reversal of a policy which my right hon. Friend—
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I did, and I did not hear a single ease brought forward. The idea was that in the future something might happen whereby the control of this matter will be taken out of the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and dealt with in this way. What does that mean? It means bringing back to the House of Commons the question of the increase or decrease of salaries in the Civil Service. There are many hon. Members who have been longer in the House than I have, but I well remember the very troublous times we had to go through in regard to dissatisfaction in the postal service. There is nothing more annoying. It is degrading both to Members of Parliament and to the Civil Service employés that they have to adopt methods which is disliked by all parties in order to enforce their demands here, and it results in this, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to receive deputations from Members of Parliament, has to have private interviews with Members of Parliament, and then en the Floor of the House, in some very limited time, we have a Debate, which is often not a real Debate. It is tinctured and coloured by the influences to which Members are subjected, and we do not get. the real facts of the situation. The present system is working well, and under all the circumstances, having regard to the vital difference between the Civil Service and any other industrial body outside, the satisfaction which it has given, and that no case has been made on the ground of finance, my right. hon. Friend is ill-advised in the course which he proposes to take.
§ Mr. HANNON
I have had an opportunity of seeing the Whitley Council of 745 the Civil Service in operation during the last few months, and I should like to say at once that the spirit of give and take and the spirit of mutual understanding, which is becoming more manifest every day in the deliberations of that body, are a great credit to the Civil Service. From what I have seen of the work of the Civil Service Whitley Council, I am quite satisfied that it will be impossible, in the interest of the Service. to continue side by side in future the Whitley Council and the Arbitration Board. It is quite obvious that this kindly give and take between the two sections, the official side and the staff side on the Whitley Council, must always be subject to this drawback, that the people representing the staff side must necessarily have in their minds the possibility ultimately of going before the Arbitration Board, and instead of arriving at definite and satisfactory conclusions they very often get the best they can—I do not blame them for doing so—out of the official side of the Whitley Council, in order to make it the starting point of a new bargaining when they go before the Arbitration Board. A system of that kind cannot he satisfactory to the Civil Service.
A good deal of the discussion this afternoon has had behind it the recent attempt that has been made to adjust the relationship between the Government, that is. between the taxpayer and the temporary civil servants. I had an opportunity of seeing the process of negotiation going on, and I am bound to say that I cannot conceive any outside body, detached from intimate knowledge of the Civil Service in all its variety of Departments and its varied responsibilities, with all the peculiar qualities which necessarily find themselves in so complex a staff, being able to deal efficiently and effectively with problems of that character. From what saw of the actual work of negotiation in the Civil Service Whitley Council, I was convinced that only those who have full knowledge and long experience of the actual needs and responsibilities of the Civil Service, and are fully acquainted with all that the civil servant, both as a director of employment and an employés, has to do in the day's work can really deal with questions of that very difficult character. From what I have seen, I should like to assure the House that the whole function of the official side in the Whitley 746 Council negotiations has been to maintain a fair balance between the taxpayer and the public servant of the Crown. I had an opportunity of listening very carefully to a long exchange of views between the very competent and capable representatives of the staff side and the representatives of the official side, and I must say on behalf of the official side that there was every evidence of full consideration and full understanding of the needs of the staff side, and the greatest conceivable desire, to go to the utmost limits, consistent with honest discharge of public duty, to meet the representations which the staff side made.
In this House the main responsibility of Members of Parliament is to safeguard the public purse. How can the Chancellor of the Exchequer fully discharge that duty if he has to delegate to some body outside the duty and responsibility of dealing with questions of increased remuneration in the Civil Service, or any other question that might arise if the Arbitration Board were to continue? I do not think it would be possible for him to discharge his duties to the State. In the deliberations that have taken place, and at which I was privileged to be present, all the cards were on the table. There was no want of frankness of either side. On the part of the staff side the case was presented with great vigour and great eloquence, and without the omission of any detail that could be brought forward on behalf of their case. On the other hand, the, official side gave the fullest consideration, to every point brought- forward, and it ever there was a case in which a full, hottest and frank expression of opinion was -brought to bear on the settlement of a very difficult, very delicate, and from the official side a very unenviable duty, it was shown in the course of these negotiations. What did actually take place at the negotiations was that the official side went to the ultimate limit that they considered it possible to go in order to meet the demands made by the other side. There was no margin left for future bargaining, and if the House were now to agree to the continuation of the Arbitration Board we should have this extraordinary position, which was indicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of an offer having been made, which was the outside limit which could 747 have been made in justice to the State and the taxpayer, being used as the beginning of a new set of negotiations.
The House will understand that there may be cases in which arbitration would be useful. Anybody acquainted with Civil Service administration can at once think of a multitude of such possible cases, but where such cases arise the Government itself, responsible for administration and responsible to the taxpayers for the careful expenditure of public money, is the body that ought to determine under what circumstances cases ought to be referred to arbitration. It has been suggested that the Arbitration Board was continued after the Whitley Council was set up. That is quite true, but when the Whitley Council for the Civil Service was established, it was, as in the case of all the Whitley Councils in the ordinary industrial life of the country, a pure experiment. and it was perfectly right to allow the experiment to develop before the Government took the responsibility of abolishing the Arbitration Board. The Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt very fully and fairly with the actual terms of reference of the Arbitration Board. It was to deal with increased remuneration. How can a body, whose original purpose was to deal with questions of increased remuneration, continue to function with any hope of justifying itself in the public mind in days when everybody is thinking, not of increased remuneration, but how much they can stem the tide from ebbing down. The establishment of the Arbitration Board was a purely war time expedient, and, like many other war time expedients, it must be abolished. At the time when the Board was introduced, it was said that there was not the machinery in the Civil Service which could adjust questions relating to increased remuneration, with full satisfaction to the Civil Service, and the Government agreed, not as has been suggested in some speeches, under the stress of war conditions, but because it was perfectly fair, to institute a Board which would examine these claims for increased remuneration.
The reasons, as I understand, for the abolition of the Board have been elaborated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it may be worth while to summarise them. In the first place, the 748 Government, as an employer, is in an entirely different position from an outside employer. I believe that the Government ought to be the good employer of the country. In its dealings with its servants it ought to give real consideration to every aspect of legitimate demand regarding conditions of service and remuneration. The outside private employer carrying on his industry for private profit naturally makes the best bargain he can, and in that case there may be, and indeed frequently is, justification for resorting to methods of industrial disputes that come before this Board. But the civil servant is not deprived of the opportunity of going before an Industrial Court. The Industrial Court is open to him as to any other class of workers in the country, and, though I think that it was not originally contemplated that the clerical side of the Civil Service should have access to the Industrial Court, it is now agreed by the Government that they can, if they wish, go to an Industrial Court and have their claims determined in the same way as any other class of employés in the country.
The next point was the unconstitutional position which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government must occupy in delegating their duties, in dealing with their servants, to an outside body with no responsibility to the Government of this House., and that that could not be continued consistently with the maintenance of constitutional system. Finally, there was the recommendation of the Geddes Committee. The right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) talks very lightly about the £3,000 or £4,000 a year saved in respect of the cost of administration of this Board. When the Geddes Committee was first suggested, I do not think that he welcomed it very warmly. Subsequently his attitude towards it as well as the attitude of a great many other people, changed, and they very willingly supported the conclusions of the Committee. Here is a case in which the recommendation of the Committee amounts not merely to an economy of 3,000 or £4,000, but to a simplified administration in the adjustment of the relations of the Civil Service with the State by one body instead of two, and I think that it would be exceedingly foolish if full consideration were not given to that recommendation of the Committee.
749 For the Civil Service to have an Arbitration Board in conditions which make arbitration compulsory would be to place them in a different position entirely from all other employés outside, and while the State ought to be the model employer in treating its servants, if not generously at least fairly, I cannot accept the proposal that the civil servant should be placed in a position entirely different from that occupied by employés in varying occupations outside. The Wages question in connection with the operations of Whitey Councils has been dealt with very satisfactorily without any introduction of surplus machinery of the kind suggested by the maintenance of the. Arbitration Board.
Take, for example, the excellent Council which is doing such admirable work in the pottery trade. The Joint Industrial Council in the pottery trade decided to appoint a committee whose function is entirely to deal with the wages question. In only one instance, since that body began to function, has it been necessary to refer any question of disagreement for an adjustment of wages to the Council itself. In the case of the textile trades, the. Whitley Council has been doing satisfactory work, from the point of view both of employer and employed, in the great textile area in the West. Riding. That committee has been appointed. to deal with the wages question, and there has not been a single case in which the decisions of that committee had to be carried forward for further consideration and reviewed by the Whitley Council itself. That being so, it is not desirable to introduce for the purpose of the Civil Service additional machinery which is unnecessary, which is not used in other branches of employment, and which the conditions render more difficult in Civil Service administration.
I can hardly conceive a Department with the remuneration of its servants subject to the decisions of an outside body, a body which may have very little intimate knowledge of the administration of the Department, being effective and satisfactory, if the grading of its servants is to be determined by this outside body. In all these circumstances, the House will be wise to accept the recommendation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to oppose the reduction of this Vote. I desire to pay the highest tribute I can to the efficiency of the civil servants in this 750 country. From what I can see of the civil servants who meet with heads of the Departments at the Treasury, they are of a quality of which any nation may be proud, and I think that we are going as far as we can in giving them an opportunity by frank, free discussion and exchange 'of views at the Whitley Council of getting everything they want, realising the advantages which the Service can give them, without any additional complication and unnecessary amendment of Civil Service administration.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
The hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Hannon) attaches great importance to the point that the Government cannot tolerate any outside authority fixing standards of wages, and in the course of his observations he pointed to the fact that civil servants in present conditions have the right of reference to the Industrial Court. Therefore I fail to sec what is the wide distinction between my hon. Friend and others who have taken part in this Debate in favour of the restoration of the Civil Service Arbitration Board.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Of course, that constitutes a further point on behalf of the civil servant. It does not give him the assurance that, in case of differences arising on the Whitley Council, there will be a reference to arbitration at all; but if the Treasury does assent to such reference the Treasury must, to that extent, be abrogating its functions and placing it. upon an outside authority to determine questions of wages. I was about to say that the question is fraught with considerable difficulty, and I may relate the facts which led un to the creation of this body. When the Reconstruction Committee issued the. Report associated so honourably with Mr. Speaker, the matter was referred to the Ministry of Labour, over which I was presiding for the time being in turn, reported to the Government the recommendations of this Committee, and suggested that they were. of such a character as to warrant the Government in commending them to the acceptance of employers and trade unions throughout the country.
751 In due course the Government accepted that view. Then it became apparent that the Government could not commend to private employers a system which they would be unwilling to adopt themselves. Hence the Government were driven by the logic of circumstances to agree to apply the principle of Whitleyism to the Civil Service. At that time, of course, I was pressed by Civil Service organisations and other bodies on this matter. I pointed out to the Civil Service bodies that the conditions in the Civil Service were dissimilar from those prevailing in outside enterprises. There was the primary difficulty of constituting a panel, and while on the Civil Service joint councils you have a panel intended to be comparable to that of the employers' panel, in fact there is only one employer in the matter. Therefore, the Joint Industrial Council, as understood in general terms, was not applicable to the Civil Service. But there was then a strong desire that the principles of Whitleyism should be applied, and for my part I am glad of this Debate, because it gives us an opportunity of reviewing the development of that system.
The Government, by the acceptance of joint councils, did accept the responsibility of diminishing to an extent the authority of the Treasury, and they did so with the full knowledge of what was involved, and they agreed that there must be some body outside the Treasury that should have a voice in controlling the wages and conditions which will apply in the Civil Service. Another difficulty which presented itself to our minds was the existence then of the Civil Service Arbitration Board. In order to relieve myself of as much responsibility as possible, I naturally set up a Committee to consider what modifications were necessary in the general scheme to make it applicable to the Civil Service, because that is the way Ministers have of dealing with difficulties in getting a task on to other people. I had to preside over the meetings of these Committees, and I well remember recognising that the existence of the Civil Service Arbitration Board was a fact which had to be taken into serious consideration. But the upshot of it was that we accepted the existence of the Board as representing the policy of the. Government, and, therefore, en- 752 deavoured to devise a scheme which would embrace this Civil Service Arbitration Board. The Civil Service were entitled then to expect that it was part of the arrangement into which they had been able to enter with the Government.
I recognised at the time, and have recognised since, that those who defend the retention of the Civil Service Arbitration Board do, to an extent, defend the principle of the abrogation of Treasury control. There is no getting away from that fact. Therefore I am. rather interested—I will put it no higher than that—to learn that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have insisted upon the complete restoration of Treasury control should see it possible to give support to this principle. That is only by the way. I accept it. knowing it to be inherent in the system. Some such body as the Civil Service Arbitration Board is absolutely imperative. If this: body has not worked properly, it is within the competence of the Treasury to set up another body and to se that its terms of reference are such as will give the Treasury equal power with the other side to require a review of conditions as they arise. My hon. Friend said that the Civil Service was distinct from any other set of workers in the country. That is quite true. The civil servant has never yet claimed, or certainly has not exercised, the right to strike. but if he is denied the principle of arbitration you must grant to him, without reserve, the right to organise and to ase the ordinary methods of promoting his case. which is that of the ordinary citizen of the country.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Against the State. The State is his employer After all, what my hon. Friend has argued mainly is that there should be some Member of the Government who is to be invested with autocratic power. Unless there be an arbitration body. the Treasury can instruct their representatives on the Whitley Council to veto any proposals that may be introduced by the other side. It is because of the inherent difficulties of the whole circumstance that I want to state, after a good deal of reflection and after having been brought into consultation with parties holding various views, that in the Civil Service you must have 753 some method of adjusting wages and general conditions. I agree that the better course is to have these Councils, foe it is only by the development of goodwill and a spirit of compromise that conditions can ever be settled on a satisfactory basis. Let us look at the question from a practical point of view. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has argued that the Civil Service representatives will refuse to make any agreement on the Joint Council because of the fact that there is the Arbitration Board lying beyond, and that they will therefore be induced to extract the greatest. possible concessions From the Treasury representative. In experience, what happens? If the Treasury representative found that that was the regular policy of the Civil Service representatives, it would restrain him from revealing the largest of the concessions that he was going to make in the Civil Service. The other side would find that they had defeated their own purpose, and that it. was much better to work in the spirit of the Joint Council and to settle. the matter on a voluntary basis. On the other hand, if the Treasury found that the civil servants were able to persist in reference to the Arbitration Board, and that that method meant that the State was being imposed upon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would comp to the House and reveal the whole matter. and would say, "This system is not satisfactory. We must substitute something else for it. "So in practice the Civil Service representatives would find that their best policy was to proceed entirely in accord with the principle of conciliation, with agreements of a voluntary character.
There is no exact analogy between the Joint. Councils in the Civil Service and the Joint Industrial Councils outside I am fairly well acquainted with the history and development of the council associated with the pottery trade. It was the first of its kind created. I took part in the opening ceremony at Hanley I know members of that body fairly well Indeed, I am very often in receipt of literature which they prepare. If my hon. Friend is in close touch with them, he will realise this. The Pottery Trade Joint Industrial Council has taken the initiative in the formation of an association of Joint Industrial Councils and interim reconstruction committees. These 754 bodies are operating with a great deal of experience, and, in the main, I believe, are manned on both sides by persons who are genuinely anxious to make the scheme of Joint Industrial Councils a complete success. These bodies have represented, or are about to represent, to the Government that two things at least are necessary in order to complete this scheme of councils. One is that. when the majority of the parties. 75 per cent. of both sides, have come to terms, they should be invested with legal power to compel outside bodies to comply with such agreement. There is nothing very new about that. It is one of the principles I have frequently argued in the Trade Union Congress. There I was always defeated. But I believe the trade union movement has come to recognise that there is a great deal to be said for the principle. I believe they are now being converted to it. It is the principle of the Trade Boards Act. You compel the unwilling employer to do what the reasonable employer has agreed to he the right and proper thing.
These Joint Industrial Councils, one of which has been alluded to in very flattering terms, are now demanding an Act of the Government. But a point more pertinent to our present discussion is that they recognise that there are occasions when the voluntary principle within the Joint Industrial Council may fail to effect an agreement. Such occasions have been very rare, but they do arise. They are now convinced of the necessity of an arbitration body being appointed in association with the scheme of Joint Industrial Councils. I understand that they are suggesting to the Government that a Central Board should be created, corresponding very closely to the Board that now exists in association with the. Joint Councils in the Civil Service. There must be some authority that will decide these matters as between the Government and the employé apart from the political parties. I well remember that a few years ago we had an almost degrading spectacle here on certain occasions during the year, when almost every Member present would be anxious to speak in order that he might say something in support of an organised body of civil servants in his own constituency. Of course, civil servants, like anyone else, are perfectly entitled to take advantage of anything that is at their disposal. But that system was 755 degrading to public life. Questions could not be considered on their merits. As between one opposing party and another you get demands constantly expanding and acquiescence also. Therefore, I hail the institution of this system as relieving Parliament of a spectacle which was most degrading.
Because the conditions in the Civil Service are unlike those in general employment, you must apply different methods for dealing with them. If you expect that men shall refrain from striking, you must give them some special method in compensation, whereby they can get finality in the determination of their conditions. First of all, I was favourably inclined towards the Government case. I have discussed it with Members of the Government, in order to ascertain what may be said on one side or the other. If we have decided to abandon this Civil Service Arbitration Board it must inevitably follow that we recognise the right of a civil servant freely to organise, and to exercise the right to strike if he be unable to get satisfaction, as he understands it The question of cost is hardly a point to be considered seriously. £3,909 a year is, of course, a matter that ought to be considered by Parliament. for every item of expenditure ought to be scrutinised. I have never subscribed to the extreme theory of economy Economy very often consists of wise expenditure. I believe that the expenditure of a small suns like this is really remunerative to the State, because it gives us contentment within the Service, without which you cannot get or maintain the efficiency which is the proud boast of the Civil Service.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I am entirely in favour of arbitration in all trade disputes. I go further, and ay that I am in favour of compulsory arbitration. Rather than have strikes on behalf of the workmen and lock-outs on behalf of the employers there should be compulsory arbitration. I am in favour of the Civil Service Arbitration Board to complete the work of the Whitley Council. I am not in favour of the Civil Service Arbitration Board as it exists to-day, and think the Government are quite justified in proposing to bring it to an end. There is something in what has been 756 said by the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) in favour of a Civil Service Arbitration Board, properly constituted, with full powers, but here we have a one-sided arbitration board, weighted against the Chancellor of the Exchequer and limited in its operations to one subject. It deals only with applications for increases of salary, instead of covering the whole ground, and I do not think the Government would be justified in continuing its operations. If it were an arbitration board equipped with full powers to deal with every possible question which could arise before a Whitley Council, whether of raking salaries, or reducing salaries, or conditions of service, that would be a different matter. Where the Whitley Council hail endeavoured, by means of conciliation to deal with such subjects and where means of conciliation have failed, then the subjects might be brought before such a board as I have described, and the decision of that hoard should be binding on both parties. That is the sort of board I would welcome in connection with the Civil Service, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should also welcome it. The argument of the hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Hannon) that the Chancellor should have control, and that these matters should not pass out of his hands, leaves me perfectly cold. I think the Chancellor should welcome the Petting up of an independent body. which would take the control of these matters entirely our of his hands.
It would be a great advantage to him if, instead of having his time and his energies taxed by dealing with all the issues which may arise in the. Civil Service, he had an independent body of men such as the present Civil Service Arbitration Board, but equipped with greater powers. The present Arbitration Board is an excellent body to deal with the questions which might be submitted to it, if it were constituted with wider powers and could cover the whole range of operation As it is limited to-day, I think the Geddes Committee were justified in recommending its abolition, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is quite justified in seeking to carry out those recommendations. In saying so, I do not mean that we ought to dismiss the whole question of an Arbitration Board for the Civil Service. 757 I think those who speak for the Civil Service should not have put forward a case based on the demand that the Board, as it is presently constituted, should be continued, but should have put forward a case in favour of enlarging the operations of the Board. As it is at present, the Civil Service has nothing to lose by bringing a claim before the Arbitration Board, but they have everything to gain, while on the other hand, the Chancellor has nothing to gain and everything to lose. The only issue that can come before the Arbitration Board is a demand on the part of the civil servants for an increase of salary. If agreement is not arrived at before the Whitley Council on such a claim, then it comes before the Arbitration Board. The Board really exists only for the one purpose, of securing increases of salaries for civil servants. A proper Arbitration Board, functioning freely and fairly. and holding the scales evenly between the contending parties, and dealing not only with questions of increases of wages but also with questions of decreases of wages, and with all other points which may arise as to conditions of service, and so forth, is the only kind of Board from which you will get satisfaction.
I listened carefully to all the speeches made to-day and my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), stated his case very well and very moderately but the conclusion I have come to, is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no other choice open to him, but to bring this one-sided arrangement to an end. My only hope is that this will not be the end of arbitration in the Civil Service but that a more powerful Board may be set up to cover the whole ground. Until that is done, I quite appreciate the contention put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that while he has the Whitley Council on his one hand acting as a conciliation body, he has on the other hand this Arbitration Board overshadowing the Whitley Council. There is no hope in the continuance of that state of things and it should be brought to an end as speedily as possible, but I urge upon the representative of the Treasury, that arbitration should not be entirely abolished. They should carefully consider the setting up of a fully empowered Board to deal with the whole of this work and relieve the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the 758 burdens which these applications and disputes entail. There should be a system by which these matters would be left to a body, such as I have suggested, to determine the issues between the Civil Service and the State.
§ Lord R. CECIL
My hon. Friend who has just sat down made a rather surprising speech. He says he is in favour of arbitration and of compulsory arbitration, and he is in favour of compulsory arbitration as applied to the Civil Service, but he is also in favour of abolishing the only compulsory arbitration which exists in the Civil Service on the ground that it is one-sided. Surely a gentleman coming from his part of the country, ought to have more regard for logic. Surely the conclusion from his reasoning is, not that we ought to abolish this Board, but rather that we ought to extend its reference—which can be done just as easily.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am quite satisfied there will be no objection to extending its reference. I cannot imagine there would be any objection, at arty rate, to extending its reference so as to enable it to consider all questions of decreases as well as increases of remuneration. The employés would not, I am sure, have the slightest objection to that, because the present position is not really one-sided against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but is one-sided in his favour. If he, after a discussion before the Whitley Council, decides on a decrease there is no power of bringing it to the Arbitration Board. The Arbitration Board cannot consider it at all, and the position is exactly as it was before the creation of the Board.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
Does the Noble Lord not recognise that that is to the disadvantage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He is bound to submit any proposal for an increase to the Board, but if it is a case of a decrease he cannot submit it to the Arbitration Board.
§ Lord R. CECIL
That is quite true. I agree that he is deprived of the power of going to the Board of Arbitration in such cases, and, as far as I am concerned, I should be very glad to see the reference extended so as to cover all questions of 759 remuneration and not only the questions of increases. Whether it ought. to go still further or not, is a matter for consideration, but for the moment we are only considering the question of remuneration, and, as far as that is concerned, it is not worth while arguing whether the present system works out to the advantage or to the disadvantage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In any case, it is not complete, and it ought to be made complete. But surely that is no ground for abolishing the Board altogether.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I understood the argument to be that the Board as presently constituted, should be continued. I followed the speeches carefully, and no proposal was made for an extension of its powers, and therefore the issue was as between the continuance of the Board as it is now constituted and its abolition.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not think that is quite a fair way of putting it. We have laid before us here a proposal by the Executive Government to abolish the Board. The argument of those who desire its continuance has been to say, "No. You have not made out a case for abolishing it. You may have made out a case for modifying it, but the Government proposal is to abolish it." I should be entirely with my hon. Friend and would support him to the utmost of my power if he were to propose that the Government should enlarge the terms of reference of the Board, and as far as I can learn—though I cannot speak on their behalf—hon. Members who sit behind me would also be in favour of that course. I regret the decision of the Government in this matter on several grounds. In the first place, I think it is a very unfortunate precedent for the Government to set. It is very unfortunate that they, as model employers, should take away a provision which employés of the Government very much value, which as far as I can learn has not worked badly so far, and which has done something to promote content among those employed by the Government. To take away that concession—if you like to call it so—granted during the War, is a bad precedent to set to some employers in industries in the country.
I have been told of cases in a particular part of the country—I do not wish to 760 mention names—where very much the same thing has been done by employers: where works committees established during the War, with the happiest prospects of making much better relations between employers and employés, have been withdrawn with the inevitable consequence that the old bad feeling, which was notorious in that particular part of the country, has, to a large extent, returned. I have been so informed by a very highly skilled observer, and that kind of thing is very unfortunate in the present condition of affairs. This proposal gives colour to the suggestion that the Government is taking the same course as has unfortunately been taken in some industries. It is said we must adopt this proposal, because the continuation of the Arbitration Board will injure the working of the Whitley Councils. I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, if he replies, will be able to furnish chapter and verse, for the injury which has been done to the Whitley Councils. These bodies have been in joint, operation for something like three years; is there any ground for saying that the Whitley Councils are working badly, and that their bad working is due to the existence of the Arbitration Board? I shall be interested to hear if the Financial Secretary can give us any specific cases showing that that is so. So far, the evidence is the other way.
The hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Hannon) is in favour of the Government's action. I understand that he is one of the three Members of Parliament who have been put on the Civil Service Whitley Council, and he is in favour of it. He is full of praise of the Whitley Council. He says that nothing can be better than the way in which the Whitley Council works, that nothing can be better than the action both of the staff side and of the official side, that they are most anxious to reach agreement, and that they treat all questions with the greatest fairness. He is against the continuance of the Arbitration Board. but, as far as I can make out, his main objection is that the Arbitration Board not consisting of officials, have not got that wonderful knowledge of the conditions of the Civil Service which enables them to deal with the difficult and intricate questions that come before them. I do not believe that, but, if it be true, what is he doing on the Whitley Council? 761 He has not got that intimate knowledge of the Civil Service which would enable him to deal with these terrible difficulties and complicated questions. The Government, it appears, deliberately ejected three of these official super-men, and pot on three Members of Parliament.
§ Lord R. CECIL
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us exactly the reverse. However, I will not say they were ejected, but that they replaced three who would have been officials by three Members of Parliament. Three experts have been replaced by three common Members of Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say common in the sense of ordinary and not specially skilled in Civil Service affairs. I confess that if these questions are so marvellously intricate that only civil servants can hope to understand them, it is very difficult to see why three Members of Parliament have been added to the Whitley Council. Of course, they have not been added for that purpose, but. in order to provide Parliamentary defence for the Government. when they are attacked on these matters. That is the main ease that is put forward—the prospective injury to the Whitley Council. I have heard no other serious argument used, except the constitutional one, to which I am coming in a moment. I do not believe that there is any evidence that that injury has occurred, and it does not seem at all likely that it ever will occur. I do not believe it is in the least true to say that a body does work less well because there is an appeal from its consideration—I cannot say its decisions. On the contrary, so far as it has any effect at all, I believe it adds to the care and industry with which they approach these questions. At any rate, as far as I have heard, there is no evidence of any injury that has taken place. To abolish a body which is doing good work and—this is the most important part—which is giving great satisfaction to those employed, in the fear that at some, future time an injury may occur to the Whitley Council, seems to me very unwise, and I venture to say this, that if it be really feared that the effect of this will be that those who appear before the Whitley Council will be utterly unreason- 762 able—and that is what I understand the argument to be, that the civil servants will make a claim, will listen to what the Government offer in answer to that claim, but will not attempt to agree with it—I say the answer is very simple. Give the Arbitration Board, if it has not got it, already, absolute power to give either less or more than what the Government have offered, and I am sure there will not be any tendency to be unreasonable in making appeals in such circumstances.
I come now to what, to my mind, is much the most. important part of this discussion, and that is the attitude which I think is at the bottom of the whole of the action of the Government. in this matter, namely, that it is wrong that anything should take away, should diminish, the complete power of the Treasury and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to decide these things exactly as they like. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must be supreme; that. is the view. I venture to think that is utterly unsound, and I personally resent this attitude—I say so quite frankly—taken up by all sections of all bureaucracies, that they are to he supreme, and that any attempt to interfere with their discretion is an attack on their privileges and their rights. I am sure it is wrong, and the sooner we get out of that atmosphere the better. There is no reason in the world why the decisions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to Government employés should not he reviewed by an appropriate court or an appropriate tribunal, and, for my part., I am quite sure it would be a great advantage. I have not an unlimited admiration for the way in which the Treasury deal with these matters, and I should be very glad to see, not only in this matter but in other matters, some means of questioning their decisions in matters of this kind. I am sure they are making a great mistake in putting their claim too high, and sooner or later they will find themselves met by violent indignation on the part of the outside public, but in point of fact they never can be. supreme, and that is where the Chancellor. of the Exchequer's argument. finally breaks down. There will always be an appeal to this House, and the real question you will have to settle is whether in the public interest matters of this kind can better be settled by a tribunal of appeal or by an appeal to this House. I 763 have no question or hesitation whatever in saying that for the decision of matters of this kind this House is as bad a tribunal as you can possibly devise.
I remember very well the difficulties with which we were faced when I was first in Parliament. Appeals were made to us by sections of the Civil Service, and it happened very often in the case of the Post Office. I am not complaining of it. They were doing the only thing they could do under the circumstances, which was to appeal from what they regarded as an unjust decision of their official superiors to the House of Commons. It was an intolerable situation. The whole atmosphere of discussion on that subject was a tainted atmosphere, and it produced, not only on Members of Parliament, but on members of the Civil Service themselves, the utmost disgust. I am quite sure I should he borne out by everyone who can speak for the civil servants in saying that they disliked it as much as any Member of Parliament, that they hated to be put in the position of having to use political pressure in order to obtain increased wages. It was a most unfair position to put them in and to put Parliament in. I have the most distinct recollection that in about the year 1908—everybody in Parliament at that time will bear me out—we were all looking about for some escape. We suggested all sorts of plans, and one of them, the one that always seemed to me, at any rate, most likely to produce a good result, was to get some extra-Parliamentary tribunal, which would command the confidence of everybody, to decide these questions and that Parliament, though, of course, it must remain constitutionally supreme. would in practice no longer be troubled with them.
That is what during the War, owing to the change of feeling which existed in the War, was established. The difficulty was—I speak quite frankly—to know whether the civil servants would accept such a solution, which was very doubtful, but they have accepted it, and they are anxious to retain it—to their great honour, in my view. What madness then to go back on it! I venture very respectfully to assure the House that if we go back to the old system, we shall have taken a retrograde step which everyone will regret, and, for my part, I was simply 764 amazed to hear that the Government contemplated this step. I would not have believed it possible that anybody, with the recollection of the old state of things, should desire to go back to it. I am not entitled to say more, but I happen to remember the discussion in the Government when this thing was established during the War. I remember my profound. relief that we were really, by the accident, so to speak, of war feeling, going to be able to establish an issue from the intolerable, position which existed in the old days in the discussion of the wages of civil servants. I agree with my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone), and my complaint, if I have any. is that it is not nearly wide enough. I would like to give the Arbitration Board discretion to decide on both increases and decreases, and I would like to bring within, its purview all the wages questions, not only of non-manual workers, but of manual workers of the Government. Nothing would be. in my judgment, a greater reform than to take out of the purview of Parliament altogether these questions of what salaries or what wages are to obtain for individual workmen or classes of workmen. It would be an immense benefit to this House, and it would be an immense benefit to the Civil Service, and I cannot tell how much I regret and deplore that the Government, having got this very small beginning of a system which really will free us from the intolerable burden which we used to be under, are really going to destroy this very admirable thing. for no other reason that I can see than that intolerable belief in official infallibility.
As one of the very common Members of this House who are now Members of the Civil Service Whitley Council, I should like to say a few words in reply to the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). He believes—and I think it is a common belief—that the appointment of three Members of the House of Commons on that Council was to provide a defence for the Government. I express no opinion at the present moment as to whether it is desirable or not that. Members of Parliament should be on that Council, but I think my Noble Friend will agree with me when I say that I am not accustomed to be placed in the position of defending the Government, whether I agree with them or not, and, so far as my presence 765 on the Whitley Council has anything to do with this Debate, I can assure the Noble Lord that his assumption in that respect is hardly correct.
§ Lord R. CECIL
That only shows that the Government have failed to do what they set out to do. They foolishly—from their point of view, not from mine—selected the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) to help them.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Perhaps the Noble Lord will better be able to express an opinion on that point after I have spoken. Dealing now with my Noble Friend's arguments, they rather surprise me. In fact, they awaken in me a Surprise equal to that which the speech of the hon. Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone) awakened in him, because, as we are talking at the moment of personal reminiscences, I remember the time when we were setting up the League of Nations. I remember we were all agreed that it was extremely undesirable to proceed by compulsory, or even semi-compulsory, arbitration, and that free consultation was the best way—the analogy is not complete, I admit—under the conditions to secure agreement and absence of friction. That was also the idea underlying the Whitley Councils. Surely it is obvious—I am not in a position to give chapter and verse, for I am not speaking with any inside knowledge of the work—but I do know something of what has happened—surely it is perfectly obvious that the fact that there is a recourse to compulsory arbitration in every case which falls under a certain category is bound to make discussion in the Whitley Council to a considerable extent unreal. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) probably has had experience in trying to secure agreement between two parties where there was in the background the fear of legal proceedings, and he probably has had experience in endeavouring to secure agreement between two parties where there was not that fear. He will probably admit that in the first ease, where proceedings in the Courts were in the. background, he found it very much more difficult to secure any kind of admission from either party which might subsequently he used against them.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think—if I may say so—made a mistake in his speech in speaking of the effect 766 which the existence of an Arbitration Board produces on the staff side. It produces an equally if not much more serious effect upon the official side. The official side is frequently in the position of not being prepared to make admissions and offers which it would otherwise make, because we all know, however much we may call these things arbitration and invest them with the prestige of a superior tribunal, that, as a matter of fact, every arbitration tribunal proceeds on the method of splitting the difference. That is the fear which must constantly he in the mind of both sides, and in the mind of the official side even more than the staff side. I make no complaint or accusation against the staff side. I do not say they have acted unfairly, but it is a little unfair for the Noble Lord to say when the staff side have acted well that it shows, not. that the Whitley Council has worked well, but that the Arbitration Board has worked well. What I say is, that the official side has not got its hands free, as it ought to have, to make offers. In the course of his argument the Chancellor of the Exchequer animadverted upon the way in which the Labour party, who are not prepared to accept compulsory arbitration, and who do not like it in ordinary industrial matters, are prepared, and wish, to have compulsory arbitration in the case of the civil servants.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Does the Noble Lord draw no distinction between those people who are working for the State and those who are working for private employers?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I was going to draw the greatest distinction if the. hon. and gallant Gentleman had allowed me to finish my next two or three sentences. On the other hand my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), who introduced this Motion, said that the State ought to be a model employer, and that it ought to be in the same position as any other employer. The fact of the matter is that the reason why the Labour party wish compulsory arbitration in this case is because they know that the State must be in a different position from the-ordinary employer, and that the service of the State must be in a different position from ordinary employment. 767 Therefore, when we talk about the State being a model employer it is true in a sense, but let us not forget that it cannot be a model employer on the same lines as the ordinary employer.
The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin said we must not have any more bureaucracy and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not supremely competent to decide these matters. It is not a question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is a question of the House of Commons. The Noble Lord said that this House is the worst possible place to which civil servants can appeal in respect of questions of salary and so on. Of course it is—on questions of salary. But that is not the point. The point is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible to this House, and we are responsible for raising the money, and we raise it compulsorily, and the question is whether you can give to a compulsory Arbitration Board the power which, in the last resort, resides solely in this House to grant the taxpayers' money to the employé. It is the supreme difficulty which you cannot get over. The way to prevent Members of the House of Commons being "lobbied" by civil servants on wage questions is not for the House of Commons to give up its responsibility, but for the House of Commons to say: "This is not the proper tribunal; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the proper tribunal; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not act as we think right, well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to go." We cannot go into details in exercising our power of control over matters of administration. It is not only questions of salary. The argument of the Noble Lord applies to other questions of administration. This House is the very worst possible body to decide any purely administrative question, but we do not say that the power of administration in other matters than the payment of salary should be taken out of the hands of Ministers and given to somebody else. That is really no argument at all.
§ Lord R. CECIL
My Noble Friend is merely putting purely theoretical questions. We have had experience of the system, and anyone who went through the experience 10, 12, or 15 years ago will agree with me that it was an unsupportable system.
§ Lord E. PERCY
It. may have been, but there is lobbying in this House on other subjects. We cannot get rid of appeals from citizens of this country to this House by giving our powers over to somebody else. The hon. Member for Camberwell knows there is no party in London municipal politics which has stood out so often and so much as the Labour party against the transference of powers from elected to ad hoc bodies. Here you are transferring powers from elected bodies to ad hoc bodies—transferring that responsibility. Is that a constitutional procedure which yon wish to encourage? After all, what is at the basis of this Amendment? It is distrust of the procedure of the Whitley Councils, distrust of the power of reaching agreement by free discussion. That is the only thing that can lie at the root of this Amendment. After all we are out—I certainly am out—for an attempt to work the National Whitley Council. I am on the official side at the present moment—but I started in this business on the staff side as a civil servant and in one of the divisional associations of the Civil Service, so that I do speak from an impartial point of view. Are we out in the Civil Service to work these Whitley Councils? That is our object. If you say that you are out for Whitleyism and also for an Arbitration Board of some kind then you are not carrying out the experiment that you started to carry out. We want the pure milk of Whitleyism undiluted by the water of fear on both sides to discuss matters.
I oppose this Amendment for a reduction in the interests of the Civil Service. I feel sure that the Union, for instance, which my hon. Friend represents, who feel very strongly on this subject, have not considered the real consequence of this demand which they are pressing. I am quite sure they do not realise that they are going back and not forward in that which we are all trying to make secure—smooth working condition between employers and employed. I would appeal to hon. Members to consider very much more carefully than they appear to have done the real merits of an arbitration board before bringing against the Government this kind of charge that they want an autocratic sweeping away of a valuable safeguard of the worker. It is no such thing. It is not a valuable 769 safeguard. It is only a safeguard against the staff and the official side being, as they ought to be, brought up against each other in free discussion, and being bound to reach a decision by free discussion, without being able to hand over the question to some ad hoc authority to decide for them. That is the only thing against which it is a safeguard. I am in favour of the Whitley. Council system against anything which might harm it, and I wish to support the Government on this particular point.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
It is difficult for an ordinary person to make up their mind over this question of Arbitration or Whiticyism. I am told it has never been before tried together—industry and the public service. The Noble Lord who has just spoken is most convincing. He almost persuaded me, though he spoke rather from theory than practice. I remember quite well what the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin said years ago about the difficulties of the pressure brought by the Civil Service, who told candidates that if they acted in a certain way they would get their vote.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I should like to remind the hon. Member for Plymouth that never, as I think, in the whole history of Parliament has more pressure been brought to bear on Members than in the matter that we are now discussing.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
That is quite true, but that was concentrated pressure, and this is continual pressure. I have not, however, really risen to speak on this particular matter, because I have not made up my mind. I am all for arbitration, yet I do feel a good deal what the Noble Lord has said about giving the Whitley Councils a fair chance. I do not know whether we should not do that for a little while and then press, if necessary, for arbitration. Let the Treasury, or the Government, leave it an open question. I myself feel that in the Civil Service you have to be careful, because you have so many people who have been so long in a groove that it is very, very difficult to move them. Nobody has ever stood up for the Civil Service more than I have, but we certainly have some Methaselalls in it, admirable men, no doubt, but out of date. I have risen, however, to ask whether the Treasury or the Chancellor 770 of the Exchequer might not consider giving a chance to the temporary men and women who were taken into the Service during the War. Certain of these have proved themselves extraordinarily well. I ask that they should be given a chance, particularly the women—the men can generally speak for themselves—that the women should be allowed to stand for further examination so as to get in permanently. In some cases the women have done really brilliant work, and unless they get this chance of further examination they will be turned out of the Civil Service. I would appeal, not so much for the sake of the women, as for the sake of the Civil Service, and for those temporary men and women who proved really valuable servants to the country. I ask that they should be given this chance of passing the higher examination so as to be kept on.
Mr. J. JONES
I do not claim to be a representative of the Civil Service; I only claim to be a representative of the non-civil servant, the ordinary workman. We never asked for an Arbitration Board in the days of the War, and we agreed to the Whitley Councils. Who asked for this Arbitration Board? Why, the Government and their representatives, because they knew the dangers of men stopping work, particularly in great national establishments like the dockyards. The suggestion did not come from our side that we should have arbitration, but it came from the representatives of the Government, and they appointed an Arbitration Board. During the War, when we asked the members of our organisations to act loyally and support the nation in its time of trouble, some of us were led to believe that we were going to have better relations with our employers in the future, but now we are told that the Whitley Councils and all the advantages they were supposed to give are going to be taken away.
Those of us connected with industry would like to know what position we are up against. I have been present at, two Conferences quite, recently, one in connection with the engineering trade, ad the other connected with the transport industry. We have had joint councils, and we have gone along very nicely together. To-day, however, we are having a sledge hammer put upon our heads, and we are told, "You must accept this 771 or that, and no matter what the Whitley Councils decide, we are going to do what we like." We have to deal with the same people all the time, and this is not human nature but inhuman nature. If we had taken advantage of our opportunities during the War you would not have won the War.
Yes, some did, and sonic did not. The workmen, because they were patriotic, are now going through the mill. What is the good of asking me to be a patriot, when I discover that other people when they get the opportunity are going to do their best to pull me down again? [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no!"] I am quite aware that jam is not selling so well as it did during the War, and consequently manufacturers are screaming out in financial newspapers to bring wages down. As a matter of fact, the workers cannot now afford to buy jam, and consequently those who are making it cannot sell it. By the policy you are not pursuing you are destroying your principal asset, and you will find that you are not quite so wise as you think you are. What is there wrong about arbitration? We have always been asked to accept arbitration. Supposing there is a difference between us. In this particular case we have the State on one side as the authority to appeal to. We are told to-day that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the only man who has a right to decide this question.
What I say is that the services of a bricklayer are quite as valuable to the State as the services of the hon. Member, and nobody works harder, except the man who grows sugar and knows nothing about it. I suggest that the best way to decide a matter of this kind is a State Department dealing 772 with bodies of workmen, and if the officials of the State cannot agree with the workmen, the best way is to send the dispute to an impartial tribunal. I would like to see all questions of wages and conditions of employment referred to an independent authority, so that we could not be charged with deciding upon conditions without all the facts being taken into consideration. Now because economic circumstances are against the workmen, we find hon. Members opposite, who were great advocates of arbitration during the War, are now eating their own words.
I suggest that the hon. Member who introduced this Motion is on sound ground when he says it is not a matter for any official of the Government, or for a Whitley Council. A Whitley Council in an outside industry may be able to come to a decision, but what is happening now? I am associated with an organisation which is connected with 360 different Whitley Councils, and what is happening? We are simply having ultimata delivered to us declaring that. we must accept wholesale reductions in wages, which will bring us even below the standard of 1914. Attacks are also being wade on standard hours of labour, which we thought had been established in perpetnity.
Where are we now? We are to have no arbitration, but simply a decision given against us. You see the result of this in the transport and engineering industries, where we are simply told, "Stand and deliver; your money or your life." To us wages mean money, because they mean the standard of living, and we are being asked to go back to a of things in which we were never placed before. Therefore we mean to back tip our friends to the national and municipal services in saying that if the public servant meets his employer on the Whitley Council, and that Council cannot agree, they should have an opportunity of arbitration. Those who represent the Government run no risks, because they are State servants at a guaranteed salary.
If they differ with the workmen's representatives who have something to lose they will be thrown out of have met these civil servants, and I know they have all got good jobs, and they will be employed when our people are out of work. The ordinary employé has to run the risk of being discharged, and therefore there 773 is a different interest operating between them. The gentlemen who are permanent servants of the State sit upon the Whitey and they have a different point of view to the ordinary workmen. If you come to a deadlock, surely the best way out of the difficulty is a course of arbitration which is independent of both parties. We are standing for the Board of Arbitration, and I hope the House will see that this Board is retained.
I desire to add my voice to the almost unanimous protest which has been made against the removal of the Civil Service Arbitration Board. Very few arguments have been advanced in favour of the removal of that Board. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord E. Percy) put forward an earnest plea in favour of the Whitley Council. I do not think in the past hon. Members opposite have been very zealous about setting up Whitley Councils in connection with the industries of this country. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) seems to me to entirely forget that what we are dealing with is quite a different case to anything we have had before. We are dealing with an employer of the State under circumstances quite different from those which obtain in ordinary industry. The most important point which has been entirely overlooked is that the constitution of the Whitley Council for which the Noble Lord so eloquently pleaded was formed and agreed to by the unanimous and enthusiastic vote of the civil servants assembled in Caxton Hall where they declared in Clause 6 that the Civil Service Arbitration Board was part and parcel of the constitution of the Whitley Council. The present Lord Privy Seal, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was in the Chair at that meeting and he moved that very Amendment. As far as I know I believe the Noble Lord opposite was then on the side of the civil servants who drafted that Resolution.
The attitude which has now been taken up I am sure will be regarded with profound dissatisfaction by the whole of the Civil Service. Hon. Members have referred to the fact that the civil servants may take to strikes and so on. I think there will be a much earlier result than that, and we shall find in the next three or six months some 300,000 civil servants showing us in a 774 tangible form what they think of the action of the Government in regard to this matter. Three arguments have been brought forward this afternoon. The first is that of expense. The second is that the Arbitration Board is not under the control of the Treasury and the third is that the Board prejudices the Whitley Council.
Let me deal with these points. First of ail as regards the expense. I am told the expense of the Civil Service Arbitration Board amounts to £3,909 per annum, which seems to me a very small amount in comparison with the inestimable value of its work for the whole of the Civil Service, both in increasing contentment and securing efficiency of their work. We are told that with the State as employer the civil servant can always have recourse to the Industrial Courts procedure. There are two stages at which the Government are able to side-track or entirely check the attempt of any section of the Civil Service to go before the Industrial Court. The Treasury may refuse to allow the case to go before the Industrial Courts, and if it does allow a case to go forward the Treasury may still refuse, as they did on two occasions last year, to accept the recommendations of that Court. It has been said again and again that the continuance of the Arbitration Board is prejudicial to the Whitley Council. I have always been in favour of the Whitley Councils wherever it is possible to set them up. This Whitley Council has had added to it three Members from the Coalition side of the House. I cannot see how any civil servant can look upon a body constituted in that way as being a real, just tribunal, by which wage disputes and other matters which they may wish should be referred to it can be treated with any justice at all. This abolition of the Civil Service Arbitration Board seems to me to be another pledge broken by the Government. In the last two or three years we have had pledges broken in one section of industry, and cuts in another section. We have seen the coal miners' wages cut down; we have seen the railwaymen and the engineers, together with other sections of the workers, beaten down in their wages. This is another beginning toward reducing the wages of the Civil Service. It is causing dissatisfaction throughout the 775 whole of the Civil Service, and when you get dissatisfaction, discontent and unrest you get inefficiency. Hon. Members have spoken to-day about the inefficiency of the Civil Service. However you organise it, it is bound to be a conservative body, but when you get discontent and distrust as well you are bound to get inefficiency-and greater expenditure than at the present.
In my constituency there are hundreds of civil servants. They work in London and come back to live in that dormitory constituency. Let me read one letter, as typical of the sort of feeling which exists among the Civil Service in this matter. One member writes:In my opinion and in the opinion of a vast majority of my colleagues, an Arbitration Board is absolutely necessary. It does not make for confidence when one party to a dispute can say. 'My way or no way.' Even a criminal is allowed a right of appeal, and that after an unbiased trial. Conciliation is better than compulsion, and is far more efficient in producing content and confidence. It is causing discontent through-cut the whole Civil Service.That is just one example out of many which I could read to the House. For my own part I should like to see powers of the Arbitration Board extended. When the Financial Secretary to the Treasury replies I should like to know if there is any intention of providing any machinery to deal with those civil servants whose salaries are in excess of £500 a year. That, is a very important point, and in urging the continuation of the Arbitration Board I should like the Financial Secretary to give us some assurance that this matter will be dealt with.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I have very special reason for associating myself with this Debate; first of all because I have been sufficiently long in the House to remember what was graphically described by the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) as the sort of log-rolling which used to take place on these questions concerning the Civil Service before the War. Those of us who can go back 15 or more years know that we had, especially after the 1906 Election, some experiences in this House which I hope will never be repeated. My second reason for taking part in the Debate is that I happen to be more responsible for the setting up of the Arbitration Board than possibly any 776 other hon. Member of the House. I was a member of the Government toward the end of 1916, when we were compelled to face the position in which we found ourselves. The civil servants, like other workers, were getting restless and dissatisfied, very largely because of the increased cost of living. Applications were being made—I think quite properly—for improvements in their conditions. The Government had to face the difficulty with all seriousness, and after a good deal of consideration, and on my own suggestion, we decided to try the experiment of setting up this Arbitration Board. There were no Whitley Councils, and there was no machinery of any kind. While it is true that our primary object was to deal with the conditions arising out of the War, I do not know it was ever definitely stated that, on the termination of the War, the Arbitration Board would be abolished.
I have followed as closely as possible the Debate this afternoon. Apart from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, most of the hon. Members who have spoken have not supported the idea of abolition so much as they have supported the idea of strengthening this Board by an improved reference, in order that it might meet some of the strongest objections taken to it by the Government's spokesman. I want to appeal to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to tell us whether, if some improved reference, and if a strengthening of the powers of the Board to meet the difficulties raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be agreed upon the Government would reconsider its decision, and be prepared to give a further trial to this piece of very useful and very important machinery? I make that appeal because I happen to know that the matter has been seriously considered by the Civil Service Association. I have here a resolution passed by the national staff side, at a meeting on 28th March last. It is a long resolution, and I will not read it, except to give the words that I think ought to be very seriously considered by the representative of the Government. It says:The Court of Appeal shall consist of three persons"—I leave out the words dealing with how they shall be selected, and so on—with powers to decide differences arising between the staff and official sides of the 777 National Council, between the staff and official sides of Departmental Councils, and between associations and the Treasury or Department as the case may be; either side shall have the power of appeal to the Board.One of his arguments—if I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am within the recollection of the House—was that the Board, as at present constituted and under its existing terms of reference, was too one-sided; that the civil servants could appeal to the Board for something they desired to obtain, but that the Treasury, the official side, had not the same power of appeal to the Board. I suppose, in other words, if the Treasury felt that the time had come for some revision of salaries—say, because the cost of living had dropped right down and got back to normal, and that the advances given in view of the cost of living by the Arbitration Board should again be reconsidered—and if they were unable to obtain the revisions sought at the hands of the Whitley Council, they should then be in a position to ask that the matter should be sent to the Arbitration Board. It seems to me if some such reference as that could be agreed upon it would be possible for the Treasury to go just as freely to the Board as the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think it was easy for the staff side to go at present.
I listened very attentively to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and, if I may be permitted to say so, there was a fallacy underlying much of the argument he advanced. We must recognise that there is a vast difference between the civil servant and the ordinary employé—the employé of an ordinary industrial or commercial undertaking. I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognised that difference to the extent he should have done. He brought before us the work he himself had done in the setting up of the Industrial Courts, but let us look at the Industrial Courts Act. That Act lays it down that both parties must be agreed to the arbitration. Yes, but if they fail to go to arbitration, the employer, on the one hand, can lock his employés out, or the employés, on the other hand, can say to their employer "Take our notices, we will terminate our engagements, we will leave your concern entirely." They will down tools and leave the place and the employer to look after 778 themselves. Unfortunately, that occurs much too often. I think I can claim that in nearly the whole of my trade union life, now extending to 39 years, I have endeavoured to use what influence I could to try to show the working men that there was a better way than resorting to the arbitrament of industrial warfare, which often imposes hardship, privation, suffering, and sacrifice upon vast numbers of people who are not immediately concerned and who have no say whatever in the matter.
That is not the position of the civil servant. It ought to be—in fact, I think it is—the business of the Government and of the House to try to keep the civil servant as far away from that danger as is humanly possible. If we continue on the road along which the Government has started to travel in regard to this question of arbitration in the Civil Service shall we not be doing that which is calculated to drive the moderate civil servants right into the hands of the most extreme of those associated with the Service? May we not, unwittingly, be sowing seeds which will result eventually in such an agitation developing that we may have some attempt—I hope it will not come—to organise a stoppage in some branch or other of the Civil Service? After all, if there are grievances, there must be some machinery, whether it be in private employment or in State employment, for doing everything reasonably possible to remove those grievances.
I believe that this Board of Arbitration did give a great measure of satisfaction to the Civil Service. It is quite true, as has already been said in Debate, that when the Board was set up, the Civil Service did not look too favourably upon it. I think I had to run the gauntlet of a good deal of censure for having, as it were, done something to force that piece of machinery upon them. I felt that I could do no other, having regard to the conditions in which the country found itself in the middle of the great world-War. But what must be the feeling now of the civil servants who said, "We cannot get any satisfaction through the machinery of the Whitley Council. There is no Court of Appeal to which we can go?" That is the position if this Board be entirely abolished, and I appeal—it must be to all our interests—to the 779 Government to see whether they cannot accept this offer that is made in the Resolution I have quoted. Amend the terms of reference; amend, if you will, the powers; but, in the interest of the House, in order to keep us from ever returning to the objectionable experiences we used to have in days gone by, in order to allay the unrest which, I believe, is fairly general in the Civil Service, let us see if we cannot get associated with the Whitley Council some form of a court of appeal in the nature of the Arbitration Board.
One last word. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was rather 10th to admit that the Arbitration Board was part and parcel of the Civil Service National Whitley Council. Those who have read the Report of the proceedings that took place at Caxton Hall. and which have been so frequently referred to in this Debate, cannot have a shadow of doubt that in 1919 it was the full intention of the Government to allow the Arbitration Board to remain as part of the machinery, and to be the court of appeal in the event of any failure to reach a decision in the Whitley Council. If that were not so, why did not the Government, when it was seeking to induce the Civil Service to form a Whitley Council, give some notice to the Civil Service that it was their intention, immediately the Whitley Council got going, to abolish the Arbitration Board? I am quite prepared to be corrected, but I know of no such hint, and certainly no direct or definite intimation that was made. I know that if I am wrong, the Financial Secretary, in his reply, will give me a quotation from some official statement, in order that, my mind may be clear on that point. I again appeal to him to see whether the Government will not act upon thy offer contained in this Resolution, and see whether a Board with an improved reference cannot he kept in being.
Mr. H. YOUNG
The clear reasoning and the eminent moderation of the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. A. Henderson) are always welcome to his antagonists, and particularly to his younger antagonists. The answer to the question which he addressed to me at the end of his observations is surely a very easy one. I know of no such utterance, and I know of no such notice having been given. In 780 the nature of the case, there could have been no such utterance and no such notice given. This was an experimental organisation, which has grown up by methods not cut and dried. We have not constructed on a system of logically looking ahead, and that, indeed, is an answer to a good many of the criticisms which have been advanced against the Government to-day. There was, of necessity, an experimental period, during which it was useful to watch the two apparently conflicting systems of compulsory arbitration and Whitleyism joined together. The conclusion to which the Government has come is based on that best of all bases—experience. Treasury Ministers are very closely connected with the Civil Service and have the best of all opportunities of learning by experience the high traditions and of watching the great labours of that Service, and they must ever feel that their responsibility towards that Service is second only to their higher responsibility towards the country as a whole. It is, therefore, uncongenial for them to be cast, as to-day they have been cast by speakers on the benches opposite, for the part of one taking hostile action towards the Civil Service. On our part, we absolutely reject the invitation to fill that part. This is no hostile action towards the Civil Service that is being taken, and let me say, with what emphasis and with what earnestness I can, trusting that I may carry conviction with sincerity, that if I did not believe that this Measure was actually in the better interests of the Civil Service, I would not support it. I do not expect hon. Members, who have formed such definite views as those expressed today, to agree with me, but I ask them to recognise that those of as who have taken, and who support, this action, do so because we believe it to be in the interests of the Service.
Let me pass on to give one or two reasons, and I think I can best do so by referring to part of the discourse of the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). In listening to him, we listened to the unrolling of a theory of a new Constitution for this country. It is a function under our present Constitution for the Treasury, under the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to co-ordinate and control the Civil Service as a branch of the State. The Noble Lord expressed the utmost indignation at the idea of the Treasury—presuming to exer- 781 cise those functions. It is a part of our present Constitution that the ultimate authority in all such matters of Government action, of executive action, as we are considering to-day, should be exercised by the House of Commons and the House of Lords in Parliament. As regards the House of Commons, the Noble Lord, if I do not misrepresent him, expressed the utmost contempt of its capacity for exercising those functions. In place of these constitutional powers of a democratic Assembly in the House of Commons and a Government Department under a responsible Minister, responsible to that democratic Assembly, he prefers an independent arbitration tribunal, arbitrary as well as arbitrational, which has no responsibility to the House of Commons, which cannot be made to answer for its decisions. That theory, carried to its logical consequences, is surely more fitted to the days of the eminent founder of the Noble Lord's family in Tudor times than it is to modern times. I much prefer the present system which it is our duty, at any rate as delegates to the House of Commons, to carry out to the best of our ability.
Let me reject another part which it has been attempted to thrust upon Treasury Ministers in the course of this Debate by an ingenious perversion—a perversion as unjustified as it is ingenious—of the argument of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His perfectly clear argument, dear in the sense and well understandable in tone, has been perverted as an attempt to assume a bureaucratic authority on the part of the Treasury, and it is said that that bureaucratic authority has been exercised for grinding the face of a downtrodden Civil Service. Here, again, is an uncongenial part—a part never played by us and never to be played. The whole bearing of my right hon. Friend's argument was only this, that Ministers are delegated by the House of Commons, and they must preserve that delegate authority intact, and answer to for it to this House, and it is irreconcilable with that responsibility that there should be outside bodies exercising irresponsible power, qualifying ultimately, if you look to the bottom of the matter, the soverign authority exercised by the King and Parliament.
782 Another great misconception, I think, has been introduced in the course of this discussion. It. appears to me that the whole weight of the case to-day has been imposed by a slight perversion of the actual attitude taken by the Government, and by a slight obscuring of the actual facts of the case. Let me remind the House that there is no suggestion at all to exclude the whole idea and practice of arbitration from the relations between the Government and its servants in the Civil Service. To judge by some of the arguments addressed to us from the Benches opposite, it is believed that that is the ease. It is not the case. It is proposed that the relations between the Government, and its servants of the Civil Service shall continue in this matter of arbitration upon precisely the same basis as they stand at present between any other employer and his employés.
Let me come to the next logical part of the argument. It is put to us that there is a right in the Civil Service to strike.
I may misrepresent, or put too strongly, the argument at present in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. It implies, he says, that there is the power to resist, and there have been references to a strike as a remedy. It is suggested that there might be inclination on the part of servants of the Government to take such violent, and, I should think, ill-judged measures, or that there might be such incapacity on the part of the Government as to enable them to do so. The matter is surely clear, that, as between the State and the Service, there is a difference that imposes a certain disadvantage on the Service. I should say it was this—that it was always the clear and overriding duty on their part not to refuse their labour. In that special relation of the State to its servants there is also this great advantage, that they have an employer who cannot exercise even such remnants of arbitrary power as are left at present to the ordinary employer in industry. It is an employer which is, after all, roughly, more or less—although, no doubt, there is a failure to appreciate 783 this ideal from time to time—representative of public opinion. What is a strike? A strike ultimately depends on public opinion, and there is no necessity for this weapon if the employé of the State gets the ultimate protection of all labour, which is general public opinion, that. may be brought to bear on the State more than any other employer by recognised constitutional and not necessarily by violent methods.
The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin and other hon. Members are afraid that if the system of compulsory arbitration is abolished, it may result in a return of these vexed and difficult questions to the Floor of this House, and may result in a renewal of that indirect and direct pressure which we all would infinitely deplore to see revived. I think the hon. Member opposite used the word "revived," but I would like to ask: Has it ever, to any appreciable extent, diminished? Was the result of the institution of the Board of Arbitration to diminish the amount of this political pressure? I very much doubt if it has had that result. I would that any means could be devised to abolish that pressure altogether. I may say in passing that the main agitation in this case has been by no means indirect or underhand or anything but completely aboveboard and perfectly legitimate, and I was aware when the Noble Lord was speaking—not of that agitation, but that he was speaking of the species of illegitimate agitation to which I am referring at the present time. If it is the case that there was, before the War, more of this species of illegitimate agitation than there is at the present time, let us remember this, that we now have the Whitley Council procedure. If I were to attribute the diminution of this illegitimate ventilation of grievances to any one circumstance rather than another, I should attribute it to the possibility of the open ventilation of such matters on the Whitley Council. In a word, it is to these Councils as a means of dealing with these matters, that I am convinced, in common with other hon. Members, we can pin our faith. We believe the true hope of smooth working between the State and its employés for the future lies in this experiment which is now fortunately something more than an experiment in methods of conciliation on these Councils. We believe it is a vital necessity to future 784 smooth working between the Government and its employés that these Councils should have a prosperous career. And as that has been put so clearly by my right hon. Friend it is totally unnecessary for me to emphasise it.
It is believed that the existence of these more violent, more powerful and less conciliatory methods for the settlement of difficulties has had a tendency to prevent the fostering of the realisation of the best results from conciliatory methods on the Whitley Councils. It is because we believe that, that we have taken this step in order to give conciliation the best chances possible in the world. I have been challenged, in the course of the Debate, with this criticism. It is asked: Why do you take this measure when all is going well? If all is not going well, in what respect is it going ill? That is a perfectly legitimate critical observation to make. After something more than a year of intimate experience, not actual presence at, but intimate experience of the Council table, and after having been in very close touch with the National Whitley Council, if my testimony may be accepted, I should certainly say, as a result of my observations, that the existence of the Civil Service Arbitration Board is very definitely preventing on every occasion the realisation of the best results of the Civil Service Whitley Council conciliation procedure. It has a bad effect, and it is always there. I can cordially echo the observation of the hon. Member who has performed such valuable service upon the Council, that there has been the most entirely liberal and open desire on the part of both sides in the various disputes which I have watched to obtain a satisfactory settlement. But it has been perfectly clear to me that throughout their deliberations, the final effort to come to close quarters with the last drop of oil, which means everything in negotiations of this sort, it is not the practice to use it on the National Whitley Council, because there is always this appeal to the arbitration board. I believe most cordially, as a result of my observations, that if there had been no standing permanent. Board in existence in all the disputes that have come to the Board, a final settlement might have been arrived at by conciliation on the National Council.
I look forward to the future with very little apprehension of there being an 785 embittered feeling on the National Whitley Council. If there are difficulties in arriving at a settlement, the sphere of voluntary arbitration remains and will be appealed to. It may very well be that circumstances will occur in which it is really difficult for either party to be quite sure that they are in the right in the matter. Circumstances do occur in which there is real doubt whether it is possible to arrive at a decision, or as to what decision would be in the interests of the public and of the classes concerned. When those circumstances arise, the same sphere of voluntary arbitration will exist with regard to the relations of the Government to its employés in the Civil Service as are open to the ordinary employer and employé. It will be open, voluntary and free. But this system of a compulsory Board is, in our considered
§ judgment, exercising an infinitely adverse effect on the prosperity and on the future of the system of conciliation, and for that reason and in the interests of the Service the Board ought to be abolished. Nothing could be easier than for Ministers—nothing is easier than for a Government to take refuge in such matters as this behind an Arbitration Board, and nothing is more tempting than thus to shuffle responsibility. There is no umbrella so good as an independent and semi-judicial authority for keeping off rain drops. But if it is not your duty to the State or to the class with whom you have to deal, to adopt such a method, then you should not take advantage of it.
§ Question put, "That '£188,643' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 149 Noes, 90.787
|Division No. 256.]||AYES.||[7.43 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Hallwood, Augustine||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Reid, D. D.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Renwick, Sir George|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)|
|Beckett, Hon. Sir Gervase||Hopkins, John W. W.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. w. c. H. (Devizes)||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hudson, R. M.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Bird, Sir R. B- (Wolverhampton, W.)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon, Cuthbert||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Jameson, John Gordon||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Simm, M. T. (Wallsend)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Simms, Dr. John M. (North Down)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Lloyd, George Butler||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Carr, w. Theodore||Lorden, John William||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lort-Williams, J.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Sugden, W. H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Clough, Sir Robert||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Thomson, sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Matthews, David||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Ednam, Viscount||Morrison, Hugh||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Murchison, C. K.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Neal, Arthur||Whitla, Sir William|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Nield, Sir Herbert||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Windsor, Viscount|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Winterton, Earl|
|Forrest, Walter||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Wise, Frederick|
|Gardiner, James||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Parker, James||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Perring, William George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Mccurdy.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Pratt, John William|
|Adamson, Rt. Han. William||Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hun. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Robertson, John|
|Banton, George||Hallas, Eldred||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Seddon, J. A.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbais)||Hayward, Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Spencer, George A.|
|Bramsdon, sir Thomas||Hogge, James Myles||Spoor, B. G.|
|Briant, Frank||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Sutton, John Edward|
|Bruton, Sir James||Irving, Dan||Swan, J. E.|
|Cairns, John||Jephcott, A. R.||Taylor, J.|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Casey, T. w.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomas, Lieut.-Col. Sir D. (Anglesey)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lawson, John James||Waterson, A. E.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Loseby, Captain C. E.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lunn, William||Wignall, James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Midlothian)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. w. (Stourbridge)|
|Finney, Samuel||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Foot, Isaac||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Gillis, William||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Graham D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Remnant, Sir James||Mr. Ammon and Mr. Walter Smith.|
|Green, Albert (Derby)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
Second Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 162; Noes. 67.789
|Division No. 257.]||AYES.||[7.50 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Falcon, Captain Michael||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Fell, Sir Arthur||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Foreman, Sir Henry||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Forrest, Walter||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Gardiner, James||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbais)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Matthews, David|
|Barrand, A. R.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, w.)||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Morrison, Hugh|
|Bowies, Colonel H. F.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon Frederick E.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Hailwood, Augustine||Neal, Arthur|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Casey, T. W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Cautley, Henry strother||Hinds, John||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hopkins, John W. W.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mosslay)||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Parker, James|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Howard, Major S. G.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hudson, R. M.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Perring, William George|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Jameson, John Gordon||Pratt, John William|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jephcott, A. R.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Johnstone, Joseph||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Renwick, Sir George|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Ednam, Viscount||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Evans, Ernest||Lloyd, George Butler||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lorden, John William||Rodger, A. K.|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Sutherland, Sir William||white, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Taylor, J.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Seddon, J. A.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Winterton, Earl|
|Simm, M. T. (Wallsend)||Tickler, Thomas George||Wise, Frederick|
|Simms, Dr. John M. (North Down)||Tryon, Major George Clement||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Wallace, J.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Steel, Major S. Strang||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Sturrock, J. Leng||Warren, Sir Alfred H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sugden, w. H.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Mc Curdy.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, Vernon||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Banton, George||Hayward, Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Spencer, George A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hogge, James Myles||Spoor, B. G.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Irving, Dan||Sutton, John Edward|
|Cairns, John||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Swan, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lawson, John James||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Wignall, James|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Finney, Samuel||Malone, c. L. (Leyton, E.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Foot, Isaac||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Gillis, William||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Rendall, Athelstan||Mr. Walter Smith and Major Barnes.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Robertson, John|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There are a number of items in this Vote which I feel quite sure we did not discuss on the Committee stage, and I think that, before we pass the Vote, the Minister in charge of Public Works and Buildings ought to be in his place—as I am glad now to see he is—in order to answer any inquiries with regard to the items in the Vote. I should like, first of all, to thank my hon. and gallant Friend for the trouble he took to carry through a visit this morning to the roof of Westminster Hall. He very courteously extended an invitation to Members of the House to see over the repairs that were being made to the roof, and I am only sorry that so few hon. Members availed themselves of that opportunity. I should like, however, to take this opportunity, as one of those who did take advantage of my hon. and gallant Friend's courtesy, of saying how glad we were of the opportunity of seeing the work, and how much indebted we were 790 to Sir Frank Baines for the trouble he took in showing us over the roof of the historic building. I understand the work may be concluded by the end of next March, at a cost of £100,000, and that when it is completed we shall have restored to the Houses of Parliament a unique example of a roof which could not be reproduced and which has been altered and repaired in such a fashion that it retains its previous appearance. I thought it was up to those of us who accepted the invitation of my hon. and gallant Friend to make this public acknowledgment of his courtesy.
§ Major MACKENZIE WOOD
I also was one of the small party who took advantage of the invitation given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I am sure all who were there are highly indebted to him for the opportunity of seeing what is very rarely seen by anyone, let alone Members of Parliament. I only rise to ask one question. We were shown a number of very interesting drawings and photographs, and I understand they are unique—there are no 791 copies of them—and it was suggested by Sir Frank Baines that perhaps the question of expense prevented their being reproduced. It seems to me it would be highly desirable from many points of view that there should be some record more than there is at present of these interesting pictures and photographs. Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman any estimate yet as to what it would cost to have these reproduced, so that people all over the world who are interested in these things may have a record of them, and has he taken into consideration whether it would be possible to sell any number so as to pay for the cost of reproduction? I am certain that antiquaries all over the world, particularly those interested in ancient buildings, would be delighted to have a record of what has been done in connection with the roof of this building during the last few years, and I hope something may be done to enable them to know what has been effected, and to give them a guide in other works of the same kind, because I am sure there are many ancient buildings which may be suffering in exactly the same way as Westminster Hall, and if those who are responsible for them have before them the work which has been done at Westminster, it will be a valuable guide for them in doing similar work in other valuable ancient buildings. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to give us some assurance that something will be done to give these people in handy form the results of what has been clone in Westminster Hall.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
I should also like to ask my hon. and gallant Friend a question with regard to this very interesting entertainment for which he appears to have been responsible. Were any of the faithful friends and supporters of the Government included in the party? This is the first time I have heard of it.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I regret that it did not reach me, and therefore I was under the impression that my hon. and gallant Friend might be obliged to reply to me that it was given to the Opposition mainly because he thought they required education in order that they might support the Government. At any rate, Westminster 792 Hall on this occasion seems to have reverted, perhaps in a different and more modern way, to its old use of being a place which gave Members an opportunity of refreshing their bodies as well as their minds. I apologise to my hon. and gallant Friend for having suggested that he was neglecting the supporters of the Government. I only regret that the invitation did not reach me and I was not able to avail myself of it.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I do not know whether I am in Order in referring to Hyde Park on this Vote. I. should like to say a word about the way they have allowed the beautiful lawn to be maltreated in front Knightsbridge Barracks.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I will try Art and Science—that is the Museums. I have a grievance about the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington. I have had the good fortune to be able to go there a great deal in my life to study, and being a man with weak sight I find it very difficult to see anything at night time in the upper gallery.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Thai: s the very time it should be open. Working people and labouring men like myself have no time dining the day to go to these places. We can only go when our work is over at night and study as best we can. South Kensington is not meant for storing things, but for people to improve their knowledge and learn. We like workmen to go and see how beautifully things were made in the past, and they learn to have their taste improved and their craftsmanship rendered more capable. I have been there many a time in the evening, and had to come away for lack of proper light in the upper galleries. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman finds it is beyond his power to have the lighting looked into, he might make representations to the Minister of Education who, I believe, has control over the South Kensington buildings. I have raised the point once or twice before. I think night-time is the proper time when men should make use of these fine national collections and gems of art. When you come to think that the 793 reason they were instituted by the late Prince Consort was for the improvement of art, industry and science, it is quite wrong that they should be used by mere tourists during the day.
Some time ago the suggestion was put forward that we should have time recording clocks in the House to indicate the length of Members' speeches. I should like to know what is the state of affairs in regard to that proposition?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. GILMOUR (Lord of the Treasury)
in the first place, I must express my thanks for the appreciation of hon. Members who visited the roof this morning. I am only sorry that more did not avail themselves of that opportunity. If there was any great desire on the part of other hon. Members to see the roof, I should be very glad to try to make arrangements for them to do so. With regard to the publication of the drawings, the matter will be taken into consideration, and I hope some publication may result. Of course, it would be a costly thing at present. With regard to the lighting of the art and science buildings, we are taking special steps to make it complete, and the point the hon. Member raises will be taken into consideration. In regard to the last. point that was raised, the matter was turned down.
§ Captain Viscount EDNAM
I asked a question recently in regard to Alexandra Palace. During the War, and till quite recently, it was occupied by the War Office and other Government Departments. No steps were taken during the occupation to keep it in a fit state of repair.
With regard to Royal palaces, I should like to have a few more details as to this expense. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will be able during the next hour or two to give us a further explanation as to how the sum is going to be 794 expended. To come to the last item, as we are rather short of Irish Members to-night, perhaps it would he advisable if I raise the question of works and buildings in Ireland now. I should like to ask if, under this item, any allowance is being made for public buildings which may have suffered damage during the last year or two.
rose in, his place, and claimed to move "That the Question he now put," but Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
I am sorry about the interruption from the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), because he belongs to a party, or, rather to a section of a party, which takes no interest in what is happening in Ireland. Before the interruption took place, I was on the point of asking whether the money that is to be spent has anything to do with the putting up at the present time of the buildings in connection with the Parliament in Belfast. I should like to know what proportion of this sum of£158,850 has been expended. May I also inquire about Item 13, Rates on Government property? What is the exact proportion of the rates paid on Government property in England, Wales and Scotland? I should like to know that particularly, because it would be interesting in many English Members to know whether Scottish Members or the Scottish people have been able to shift some share of their burden on to Government property. The next item relates to Peterhead Harbour. That is a comparatively small item. I am deeply interested in this question, and I should like to know whether this is current expenditure, or whether it is expenditure on new buildings and fresh developments. If the Government is spending money on this great harbour, why is it necessary Is it because some great storm has washed away part of the harbour, or is it a question of current expense?
Reference has been made to the art and science buildings in Great Britain, and I need not make further allusion to 795 that subject. The following item on the programme relates to diplomatic and consular buildings. What is meant by including a Supplementary Estimate of £10? Are there any diplomatic and consular buildings in Russia with which we have to deal, and, if so, what is the exact state of repair of those buildings? [Interruption.] Obviously, the Socialist and Labour party wish to draw the curtain over Russia; but if we have any diplomatic and consular buildings there, we ought to know something about them. The next item refers to house building, and amounts to £66,000. We have had no explanation of this, and I am sure f he House would like to know whether these houses are being used for Government offices, or whether they have anything to do with the great house-building programme of the Government. There is another item in which I am more closely interested, and that is the question of surveys in Great Britain. A survey was begun some years ago, and it is still costing a considerable sum of money. How is this survey going on? Is it near completion? The Government have something to do with the sale of maps which are produced as a result of this survey. Are these sales doing well?
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
On a point of Order. I should like to draw attention to Standing Order 19, which says:Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member, who persists in irrelevance, or tedious repetition either of his own arguments, or of the arguments used by other Members in Debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech.Does not the speech to which we have just listened, with such faculties as remain to us, come under Standing Order 19?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The point of Order appears to be hypothetical. The Standing Order says:Mr. Speaker…after having called the attention of the House to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance…In this case neither the Speaker nor the Deputy-Speaker has called attention to the remarks of the hon. Member.
§ Captain W. BENN
Is it not competent for you now to call attention to the 796 obviously tedious and time-wasting character of the remarks of the hon. Member?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member has not unduly dwelt upon any one subject. He is dealing with the various items in the Vote.
May I submit that on every point he has used the same argument, namely, that no explanation has been given? As a matter of fact, explanations have been given in the Debate before. He is going on with a tedious repetition of his own argument.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is calling attention to various items in the Vote, and asking for information. If I notice any repetition, it will be my duty to animadvert upon it.
After that interruption by hon. and gallant Gentlemen—to whom I always listen with great pleasure, though I am not certain that I have not found some of them occasionally a trifle wearisome—I will ask for information on only one other question. As far as the survey of Great Britain is concerned, I was asking whether it is now complete and whether the sale of the maps is entirely profitable, and I would like to know the object of extending this survey to the Northern part of Ireland? The next item, War Memorials, concerns a great many of us. Is that an annual or a temporary expenditure simply for this year? It is only £500, but there is no harm in looking into it or in having a mind which likes occasionally to be curious when it is convenient to be curious. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will answer these few questions.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR rose.
§ Fourth to Sixth Resclutions agreed to.
§ Seventh Resolution read Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
in reference to the sum of £148,000, including a supplementary sum of £100,000. for the League of Nations, I would like to know what the contribution by other nations has 797 been to this fund? I have asked before, and have got no information. If it is not convenient to obtain the information now, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give it to me privately later on?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
In reference to the sum of £12,000,000 for the Ministry of Labour, I would like to know how much is in respect of new buildings. I quite see the difficulty of replying now, and if this information is given me in the course of the next week I will be satisfied.
§ Colonel L. WARD
(having advanced beyond the line of the Bar): I. understood that the end of the seat was in the House, as I have spoken there on several occasions already. I should be grateful to have information as to how the grants allocated to voluntary hospitals have been given. It seems to me from information which I have received that certain necessitous hospitals are not receiving the grants which they might reasonably expect.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is asking as to contributions to voluntary hospitals, which come under this Vote.
§ Colonel WARD
The right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake, and he has not given me the apology to which I am entitled. I was asking a question on the Vote before the House. A certain 798 hospital in which I am interested in Hull has been complaining that it has received no grants from this fund. It is not in a sound financial position, and I would be grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he will justify the grants which have been given and will explain why the ease in which I am interested has not been assisted.
I support the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The Government could find no better way of expending money than in this direction. The three hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench might perhaps between them be able to give a little help on this point. They arc all Ministers drawing salaries and they are full of efficiency. As to the Ministry of Labour Supplementary Vote, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) that we ought to have an explanation. Where is the Minister of Labour? If he were present he might add to our knowledge. Then there is the item relating to the Ministry of Health. I realise that the present Minister has had a very difficult job; but he is efficient and he is getting houses built, and built more cheaply than formerly. I think he might he present to give us one of his interesting speeches full of information about his building programme, and to tell us how he is gradually overcoming the obstruction to building by so-called organised labour. Another item refers to the National Insurance Audit Department. Are we spending over £123,000 on this work? Surely one of the numerous branches of the Exchequer could do the work without our having a separate item of this kind. The next item I do not understand. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] There are one or two hon. Members on the Labour Benches who are not usually shy in opening their mouths. Perhaps their shyness to-day is due to the fact that they have not among them the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy).
§ Colonel L. WARD
On a point of Order. On behalf of myself and my other equally undistinguished colleagues, I would like to call attention to the fact that there are no fewer than four separate and distinct representatives of Hull, and although we may not all attain the notoriety of our gallant and distinguished colleague above the Gangway—
I have never confused my hon. and gallant Friend with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. I can see no resemblance between them in any respect. As far as Hull is concerned, if there is any need, I will apologise. I always thought that Hull was such an important city that it had five or six Members. I am surprised to hear that it has only four, and I am certain that it deserves more. There is an item relating to the friendly societies deficiency. I would like to know what that is.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I have made a note of what the hon. and gallant Member has asked, and will communicate the information to him.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House cloth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I wish to know definitely what is the amount which has been paid up to Ireland during this year, and what it is intended to pay during the course of the current year. Here is a comparatively small item. It may or may not he a good item. The next item is £1,200,000 for criminal injuries in Ireland. During the past month or two we have had a large number of statements from the Secretary of State for the Colonies that large sums of money ate being handed over to Ireland and are to be taken into account on some uncertain date. The time has come when the House of Commons should be informed what the expenditure in Ireland is likely to be. We are voting sums of money to Ireland in an absolutely reckless fashion. I am told that some account is to be taken with the Free State, if and when they have got any money, but this is a position that should be faced by the House and on which the House should get information 800 on some occasion. We were told last December that if we only came away out of Ireland and deserted the loyalists in the South of Ireland, it would be cheaper in blood and I understood also in money. It certainly has not been cheaper in blood. We have deserted men whom I know well and children too, and in sonic cases their relatives have been murdered. I wish to know definitely whether it has not also cost us vast sums in money. I hope the Government will let us know how much it has cost us this year and how much more expenditure of this kind we are likely to incur before the end of the year. I know it is hard to press the present occupants of the Treasury Bench on this point. I am sure they are anxious to get to their supper and I myself have dined, so I do not want to take them at an unfair advantage, but I shall ask for a very definite undertaking that some opportunity will be given of raising this question when the Secretary of State for the Colonies is present and when we can get an answer from him on this most important matter. I will ask for a definite pledge that. I will be enabled to raise the matter, not at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, but at some time when we can have a definite statement from the Colonial Secretary—either during the Debate on the Appropriation Bill or at some other time—as to the amount of money which is being spent in Ireland at the present time, and whether the Free State is supposed to emerge at any particular moment.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
Do I gather that it is in order to raise tie question of the present position of our Government in relation to the Free State Government in Ireland?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This Vote is to defray charges on account of ex gratia grants to meet certain losses sustained in the Rebellion of iceii, and I do not think that the general relations between the Imperial Government and the Pro visional Government in Ireland can be discussed on this Vote.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
That is what I should have thought myself, but the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) has been permitted to make a speech in which that question was raised.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University will put down a question on the subject addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I cannot give any such undertaking as that for which he asks.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
To put down a question would be quite useless, but I will ask my hon. and gallant Friend to indicate to the Colonial Secretary that I have raised this point, and I withdraw it for the moment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House cloth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
Up to what date does this amount cover? I see it is to be payable up to March, 1923.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am bound to remind the hon. and gallant. Member that there is a Rule that any hon. Member who may wish to address the House must come up to the line of the Bar.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WARD
(speaking from within the Bar): I wish to ask a question on lines similar to that put by my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Lyle-Samuel). Statements are being made that the glorious mess which exists at the moment in Ireland is largely due to the fact that the people there expect that the British taxpayer will eventually foot the bill.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to what is happening at the moment in Ireland. Does that not transgress the ruling given by you, Sir, a moment ago?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
We have proceeded to another Vote. This is a Vote in respect. of compensation for criminal injuries and medical and nursing expenses of employés of the Crown in Ireland.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WARD
I was just about to point out that there is a difference between this Vote and the last Vote. The last Vote was in respect of injuries sustained in the Rebellion of 1916, and dealt definitely with that particular period of time. When we come to this Vote, there is no limit as to time, and I am particularly anxious to know whether that is intentional or not. Does this Vote mean that until such time as the Free State Government is firmly established we are responsible for all the damage that may be done in Ireland in asserting authority? Are we to be considered as being, so to speak, still in authority, and is it to be taken that the Free State Government and its troops are only acting under our authority? In view of statements which are being made in the public Press, I wish to know if the leaving out of any date in this Vote is intentional and if we shall presently have to foot another big bill for the restoration of law and order in Ireland by the Free State authorities, even though we have no control as to the methods by which that authority is being enforced?
§ Mr. SPENCER
On a point of Order. Does not this Vote refer only to the expenses of Crown employés, and not to the general public?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I was about to call the hon. and gallant Member's attention to that point myself. This Vote relates to compensation for in juries and expenses in connection with Crown employés, and not to destruction of property.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WARD
I understand that even now there are employés still in the service of the State in Ireland, and I want to know whether damage to them should not be fastened upon the Free State Government, if it occurs as a result of the disturbance which is taking place at the present moment? I suppose the matter has gone too far now, but I think it is necessary that some assurance should be given to the public outside that the British taxpayer is not going to be called upon to pay for the damage which is being done at the moment, seeing that neither this House nor its advisers have any power in that country now.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
This Vote is for the relief of people who come over here from Ireland. Has this £10,000 yet been spent, and, if so, is any supplementary grant going to be asked for for this purpose? Further, is this money to be paid ultimately by us, or is it one of the items which we are told is to be set off against the Free State Government when a settlement is arrived at some time in the future? I think some sort of information ought to be given to the House on matters of great importance like this. It is very proper that we should spend money on these refugees who have been driven out of Ireland, but we ought to know who is ultimately going to pay it., and how much it is likely to be altogether in the future. The House has been extraordinarily merciful to the Government in passing these Votes this evening, but I think we ought to be given some information on this question.