HC Deb 20 March 1922 vol 152 cc73-144

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Colonel Leslie Wilson.]


The House has had on many occasions to deplore recurring industrial disputes. In considering the quarrel which is to be discussed to-day I would ask the House to remember that in very few, if any, of these cases have the workmen been the attacking party. In all the instances of the great disputes of recent years the men have been acting on the defensive, and at most have been seeking to defend some of the conditions which formerly had been conceded to them. The immediate reason for this discussion to-day, so far as we are concerned on this side of the House, is to draw attention to the inaction of the Government and, through the Debate, to afford the House of Commons an opportunity to take some step which will hasten the end of this lamentable lockout. Our purpose is to make use, as we think an opportune use, of the new industrial law and to prove that the unions in this quarrel have done everything to maintain peace and to prevent injury to a great industry. No ordinary wage issue need form any part of this discussion, but I draw attention to the fact that the men in the engineering trades have recently by ballot voted on the two occasions when they were asked to accept reductions and agreed to the reductions, and a stoppage was avoided. They suffered a reduction of the 12½ per cent. which was conceded to them during the War, and they suffered a further total reduction of 6s. per week. The question of overtime is the underlying and substantial cause of the present quarrel, and I suggest that it is extraordinary that that question should be the cause of an extensive lock-out at a time when the engineering trade, like so many others, is suffering from severe depression, when indeed some 80,000 engineers were totally unemployed before the lock-out began. A national lock-out at such a moment and upon such ah issue is, to my mind, an astounding act of aggression on the part of the employers.

Let me refer to the first stage of this trouble. In September, 1920, the employers' federation and the trade union concerned came to an agreement on the questions both of overtime and shift work. That agreement provided for a maximum amount of overtime in any four weeks, but with no restriction whatever when overtime was required for breakdowns, replacements, repairs, trial trips, special alterations, or for the completion of any work required for delivery at a particular date. These provisions show that the men have exhibited every consideration for the facts of a mutual interest and for the discharge of a duty upon their part as employés. That agreement expressly deprecated overtime as a method of production on ordinary work, but it provided for overtime on such work when overtime was necessary. In December, 1920, a few months after the agreement was entered into, the trade union announced, in response to applications from its members, that the implication in the agreement was that overtime on ordinary production shall be worked when considered necessary by both parties. I put this question in view of the action of the employers—must two parties enter into an agreement and then only one party have the right to interpret the meaning of that agreement? I suggest that both the parties who arranged the contract are entitled to a voice as to what it means, and that if any serious difference arises on the interpretation or meaning of the language which both jointly agreed to use, neither side singly has the right to determine the exact meaning of the terms agreed upon.

Let me try to put in the language of the union concerned what its attitude is declared to be now. The union says that it docs not question the right of the employers to exercise managerial functions, nor to interfere with their claims in respect to overtime. The union recognises the right of the employers, but says and asserts that the workers have rights as well as the employers. The union is only too anxious that the rights of each should be related and composed, so that industry maybe carried on harmoniously. The employers refuse to the workers any share in the fixing of when and how overtime on ordinary production shall be worked, and they are prepared to allow the union to raise overtime questions only when overtime has been commenced. The union wants consultation on overtime before the grievance arises. The employers insist upon discussion taking place only after the grievance has begun. It is the employer's business to conduct his works within agreed terms and arrangement. That is not merely true of this industry, but it is true of every other industry and enterprise in the country. Just as it is the employer's right to look after his interest and his business, it is the union's business to watch the interests of its members.

The secretary of the employers' organisation, Mr. Brown, publicly stated within the last few days what he conceives the employers' claim to be. The phrases, to my mind, have a sort of Prussian flavour, and exhibit a frame of mind which works only in one direction, the direction of the master. This is the employers' declaration: In any organisation for the direction of human effort it is necessary that there shall be one directional authority, and all experience has shown that dual control, such as is now sought, is incompatible with the proper working and efficiency of an industrial establishment. If that doctrine were to be commonly practised, away would go all the modern tendencies of settling differences by the process of give and take, by mutual arrangement, by agreement, by conference, by decisions arrived at after conference between the two sides. As against this view, which is utterly autocratic and inapplicable, to the spirit of modern British industry, we assert that there is a mutual interest which ought to be mutually pursued by the two parties, and that pursuance involves joint action and a large degree of joint control, mutually approved by the two parties. The whole tendency within the industry in recent years has been in that direction of bringing together the interest of the workmen in the works as well as his employer. Those who have capital in an industry have no right merely upon that account to assert the superior claim, solely to decide the whole affairs which determine the capital of the, workman. The workman's capital is his labour, of mind, brain and body, and if we are to think of industry in the terms of human dealing and human relationship, we cannot entertain this doctrine of the sole right of capital to determine the conduct of affairs within the workshops in these days.

It is true that this doctrine has only been quite recently asserted, for I have here a document signed jointly by the representatives of the Engineering Union and the representatives of the Engineering Employers' Federation as recently as 9th December, 1920. This document relates to shift work. In principle there can be no real distinction as between shift work and overtime work, in so far as either may involve the application of authority claimed by one side or the other. This document relating to shift work, and signed by the two parties, including the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith), embraces these two statements: The introduction of the system shall be for the purpose of absorbing unemployed. The proposal to introduce such a system shall be subject to consultation with the workers' committee in each case. 4.0 P.M.

If, in the case of overtime, the employers now have a right to demand authority solely and always to say when it shall be worked, upon what ground do they agree that in the case of shift work there must be consultation and joint and mutual decision? If it be right to enter into shift work solely with the object of absorbing the unemployed, upon what basis do they insist upon overtime without taking unemployment into consideration at all? We have even a more definite piece of evidence as to what, until recently, was the view of the employers' representatives. There was signed some time ago an industrial conference report which, among other things, dealt with this very question of overtime. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, together with many other representatives of employers, signed that document, and it was signed also by representatives of the various trade unions. On the question of overtime, this sentence is to be found in the report: During periods of depression in an industry, overtime should only be worked in special cases. It should be determined in accordance with rules laid down …by its industrial council or by other joint representative body. Why, then, have we such a sudden departure since that document was accepted? We are, therefore, to have overtime on ordinary work entered into only in special cases and only after rules have been jointly arranged by both parties, and only after decision by a joint representative body. I suggest that this is a most unwarrantable departure from an arrangement mutually and voluntarily entered into by the two sides within only very recent times.

The two sides not having been able, through the extraordinary action of the employers, to proceed on the terms of their quite recent arrangement, we were met with an ultimatum from the employers, definitely declaring that new conditions, that new notions of interpretation, and that a new aspect of authority must be set up in the workshops to begin, as it were, a new era of undisputed authority on the part of the employers. Some play is made of the fact that the executive, of the men's union recommended these very terms to their members. They did. Having failed to settle any other way, and being met with this new demand, the men's leaders, in view of the fact that they had been paying millions of their money to support their members in a state of unemployment, in face of the fact that there were so many of their members out of work, and being anxious to avoid a stoppage or lockout, which in their judgment would bring not only injury but probably disaster to a great trade, did go to the extreme course of recommending their members to accept even the ultimatum of the employers. The result is known to Members of the House. Some 50,000 members voted against the executive's recommendation, and about 35,000 for it. Some reference is made to the fact that that was a small vote. It was, but it was a larger vote than the vote given on a previous occasion when the men accepted terms which had been arranged between the employers and their leaders. If a small vote be good enough to ratify an arrangement with which the employers agree, a larger vote should be accepted by them as good enough when it is a rejection of terms which they have tried to impose.

I take the liberty, upon this part of my subject, of addressing a comment to all employers of labour who have a subject of this kind with which to deal. I fear that recently the tendency of discussions between representative leaders of workmen and employers' representatives has been for the employers' representatives artificially to force an appearance of assent from the leaders of workmen even to the extent of extorting from them a promise to recommend conditions for their members which in their hearts they cannot approve, and which on their merits they cannot support. That is a bad policy for anything like healthy, voluntary bargain- ing as between the two sides. It is a policy which naturally makes workmen suspicious of anything which their leaders recommend. It is a policy through which the men can see. They see that the recommendation is made, not because of the worth or merits of what is recommended, but because the employers think that they have got their leaders in a corner and are able to compel them momentarily to range themselves on the employers' side and to induce large bodies of men to accept certain terms. That is a ruinous procedure, and will involve employers in many quarrels. A halt should be called to this new departure in voluntary discussions between the two sides.

I hope that my hon. Friends who have listened so far have observed that the quarrel throughout up to a late stage was on the question of overtime and the interpretation of an agreement relating to when overtime was necessary and when it was not. That matter of overtime has been so completely changed as to have become another question, the question of management and the right of employers to do what they like with their own, as so many of them say. If, as I hear an hon. Member assert, Scripture is to be quoted for that contention, then Scripture covers workmen as well as masters, and, so far as workmen have rights, they are their own rights, and they can exercise them even in keeping with Scripture. Management involves many things beyond the mere term which employers use to express it. It involves more than overtime in this instance. It can involve wage rates, it can involve status and the classification of workmen, it can raise the whole subject of workshop conditions, of pay, and of labour. The whole of the conditions of workshop life prior to the creation of trade unions showed the necessity for rules and regulations, for agreements, and for lines of damarcation that would classify and arrange into something like a system the various grades and the particular places of workmen in relation to their daily tasks. Now we are called upon by the employers to approve a new departure, which means that at any time when they like they can order one group of men off certain machines, and put other men on those machines at less rates of wages. That is not a workshop practice to which we are going back, and that will be said not merely for engineering, but for every other industry where these lines of demarcation and this definite acceptance of place and right have long been recognised by both employers and employed.

This question of management was only raised in an acute form after the workmen's ballot refusing to accept the terms on the question of overtime. It was only then raised in an acute form, but it was pressed with such unseemly haste as to be the first cause, ultimately, of the stoppage. The men's efforts for peace were maintained. The Amalgamated Engineering Union at that stage even made new proposals to the employers. These proposals would give to the management the fullest managerial rights to which they are entitled under existing agreements. The union put forward proposals which, in their judgment, would dispose of the question of overtime, but the employers positively refused even to discuss any further questions or to give any consideration to them, although overtime had been the real cause of the trouble. Having changed their ground from overtime to management, they would listen to no new proposals of a conciliatory character from the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and they proceeded forthwith to embroil 40 odd other organisations in the quarrel as well as the single union with which, up to that time, they had been in dispute. Questions of management cannot be considered apart from the rights of the workmen. The two are inseparable, and the man who says that he is going to be master in his own house must remember that in the workshop the workman has rights which employers must recognise, that those rights relate both to labour and to pay, and that any difference of interpretation on any agreement reached between the two parties ought not to be determined solely by one of the two parties, but should be jointly arranged by both.

There are some 47 other unions engaged in all manner of pursuits relating almost to every section of the engineering trade. They had never discussed this question of overtime with the employers. They had never been asked to do so. No point of difference had ever arisen between them and their employers. They had never been invited to a conference. The occasion to confer had never arisen. Nevertheless, the employers suddenly threw these new terms at these other organisations, and fixed a date within which they must have a decision. I wonder what would have been the tone of this House had any corresponding action been taken by those 40 odd unions, insisting on a change deemed to be extreme and serious by the employers. The unions, in their helpless position, pleaded for a postponement. They asked for time in which they would have ample opportunity to put before the members these new proposals. They repeated these appeals for postponement, but due opportunity for consultation was denied them. Hastily they had to improvise plans for a ballot, and that ballot is in course of completion. I gather that the Minister for Labour considers that the fact that this ballot is now proceeding is a substantial cause for the. Government not having intervened in the particular form which I will, a little later on, explain to the House. On the contrary, I think that the Government might have been of very great assistance in preventing the probable spread of this difference, and in composing the difference itself if it had not lost time; and if it had set aside the question of this compulsory ballot being imposed upon this large number of other organisations. Employers in the engineering trade will never be able to insist on this new doctrine, and I ask the House to exhibit no sympathy for it for these reasons.

Industry without restraint is industry tending to enslavement. Industry must be, and has been for long, restrained by at least four lines of action. First by legislation, of which this House has frequently approved. Secondly, by trade union action, which is commonly accepted even by employers themselves, and certainly is not resented by the employing class as a whole. Third, by joint organisation, and by such arrangements mutually entered into as are, for instance, very well symbolised in what we know as the Whitley Councils, joint organisations covering between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 workers, and, fourth, public opinion has often exerted itself in a manner to restrain industry from tendencies which otherwise would have been shown. If we talk about absolute freedom in trade in respect to internal workshop conditions we are simply talking about absolute anarchy. We must have regulations and joint arrangements in the mutual interests, and for the general prosperity of the industry itself.

I do not deny that the employers might, if they are callous enough to pursue their scheme so far, in the end win a victory. They might succeed in their lock-out, yet they would be simply setting aside the lessons of 20 years ago. Twenty years ago there was the greatest engineering lockout which up to that time British industry had known, and the men after 17 or 18 weeks' idleness all over the country had to give way. They were helped by their fellows, for those in work were at that time better able to support the locked out engineers than perhaps are the mass of the workers to-day. The lessons to be learned from what happened then are surely these, that a success obtained by that show of force, because one side by hunger may have to surrender, must be a short-lived success. For very soon that organisation, beaten to its knees 20 years ago, got again on its feet, and year by year it grew in numbers and money in such a degree and manner as to be a more powerful organisation at the end of five years after its defeat than it was before it was attacked.

I would suggest that this is not the way in which to conduct British trade, and that disputes which are avoidable, as clearly this could have been avoided, should not have been forced on an issue which could well wait, if it has to be tested at all, until both sides were a little more fit for determining the issue which has been raised. For in this matter more than the men have to suffer. The public, to a great extent, become the victims as much as the men who have to suffer the privations of a lock-out. The general workers and labourers, these third parties who in no sense had anything to do with the case, must suffer to a degree of privation if the employers bitterly pursue the course on which they have entered. The general workman and labourer very often has a cause for quarrel with the skilled engineer. This is not the time to enter into it and attempt to settle it. This is the time when I think I can say, as I do on behalf of all that class, that they will not allow themselves to be made the instrument of the employing class in this matter. They will not be used as the tool of the Engineering Employers' Federation by seeking to settle any grounds of difference they may have at a time when the skilled workmen are being closely attacked by the Engineering Employers' Federation. I hope that I have said sufficient to show that the ground has been altered at a most inopportune moment from a difference on the subject of overtime to these larger issues as to the rights of capital and the rights of the employers on matters of management.

I want to deal with the position which the Government has been maintaining in relation to this dispute. The Minister of Labour has been exceptionally active, impartial and, I think, on the whole, helpful in all these matters in bringing together the two sides in this difference. Ceaselessly he has laboured to got conference, and, if possible, settlement. But when ordinary methods fail, in spite of perseverence and good intention, and when extraordinary measures are at his disposal, I think that a wise Minister and a courageous Minister would have gone the whole length of his opportunities. He still has an instrument which has not been used. This is an instrument forged by this Government quite recently, and for, as I believe, such a very definite and special instance as is now before us. What is the Industrial Courts Act for? It is not to deal with trifles, with petty disputes or minor cases.

I myself some time last Session appealed to my right hon. Friend to apply this Industrial Courts Act in a case where only a few men were concerned, though I think they had great rights, rights raising matters of individual liberty. Yet as only a few of these men were involved, and public inconvenience was not called into question, my right hon. Friend argued that on that account it was not a case in which there would be any justification for applying the powers of that Act. But surely this great engineering lock-out is a great outstanding national instance of a quarrel exactly of the kind contemplated by the Government when this Act was made law. It becomes all the more a necessary instrument in this case because the issue is not a wage one in the ordinary sense of the term. It is one involving precisely those points of difference requiring inquiry and calling for something like a judicial pronouncement so as to invoke the moral forces of public opinion in a manner to induce the parties to come to terms. This law could be applied without my right hon. Friend in any sense taking sides. We are not asking the Government to take sides—we are appealing for impartiality. We are asking it not to go into the merits but to set up this court to go into the merits, and call upon the two parties to this difference to adduce the evidence which they have with a view to seeing who is right and who is wrong. I do not see present the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but when he was Minister of Labour, and had to submit on 6th November, 1919, this particular Act, as a Bill, to this House, he commended the part of it which I now have in mind, Part II, to the House in these terms: There is only now one part of the Bill to which I need refer. That is the part dealing with the establishment of a Court of Inquiry. Everybody has felt the need in cases, where grave disputes have arisen, of some method by which an inquiry could be taken up which should enlighten the whole of the public upon the issues at stake. This Bill proposes that the Minister of Labour shall be entitled to set up a Court which shall have the power of compelling people to attend and give an account of their contentions in the dispute and of compelling people to produce documents which the Court thinks are necessary for the elucidation of the question at issue. This Industrial Courts Act, Part II of which provides for this machinery of inquiry, has never yet been applied in any outstanding instance of a national stoppage. It has been applied properly in one or two minor cases. I do not make the allegation myself, but I can tell my right hon. Friend that, outside these walls, there is a feeling that if the position had been reversed, if a condition of trade prosperity and boom had permitted the workers to make demands, and suddenly press new claims, all the resources of the law would have been used to prevent a stoppage, and compel the two parties to take part in an inquiry. Precious time has already been lost by the Government owing to the fact that it has not already used the machinery at its disposal, and, unwisely, the Government has delayed this question which, on its own initiative, and without pressure from either side, it could have ordered, and thereby have prevented the stoppage. I am confident that, much as the Employers' Federation may prize their rights, they would not have enforced the stoppage had the Government instituted an inquiry, as it could have done before the lock-out started. The stoppage itself has only intensified the reason for instituting an inquiry now, and the ballot of these other workmen, now proceeding, is no adequate reason for standing aside any longer. The engineering stoppage is perilous enough and extensive enough to justify immediate investigation. Of itself it is large enough to justify our claim. Should the dispute be extended to other trades the inquiry could extend itself to the larger area of trouble.

I am afraid that so far as there are extremists and die-hards on the two sides to this quarrel, they will have found great joy from the policy that the Government has pursued. The Government has missed a great chance of taking a hopeful middle course and of producing agreement by moral influences and by inquiry. I observe that this morning a statement has been issued by the employers' federation purporting to give their case. A copy of it has reached me. I could divide this document into parts. First there is that part which theorises and philosophises upon the rights of capital and upon the right of undisputed authority of employers in the workshop. As to that I have already said enough. Tendencies, facts, and realities are against philosophy of that kind, and I say no more. The second part is a recital of a number of instances where trouble has been occasioned in the engineering trades by, it is alleged, the interference either of workmen or of their representatives, shop stewards, officials, and so on. I shall not deny any of these statements, though after all they are not large in number, and they are not authenticated by any name, date or place. I do not for that reason object. I am willing to admit that they may be true. They are just the exceptions that prove the rule. Your rule is proved only by odd cases breaking out here and there. Is it any wonder that in so varied and extensive an industry as this there are almost daily points of difference arising between employer and employed?

I wish to draw attention to what I call the third part of this document. The last page, to my astonishment, is an effort to justify the position of the employers and to sustain their arguments by quoting as witness, first of all, Lenin, and the Bolshevists are cited to support the position taken up by the Engineering Employers' Federation. The second witness cited is a weekly Socialist newspaper, "Justice." So that now we find the employers' federation ranging themselves or standing in between these two extremes, "Justice," the Socialist newspaper, and the Russian Bolshevists. I congratulate the Engineering Employers' Federation upon having finally decided to put themselves in that galaxy. A more serious side to this is, as to whether this House, having without opposition or, at any rate, without an adverse vote or a vote of any kind so far as the principle of the Act was concerned, passed that law as one of the latest and best developments in modern industrial legislation—whether this House, having done that, should now stultify itself by refusing to make use of this new instrument on the first great occasion which has arisen. I put the view that if the men in this instance and for some such cause had been the attacking party, we would have had unmistakable demonstrations of disapproval from many sections in this House. I therefore ask hon. Members of every party to use their influence in urging the Government usefully to intervene, as I believe it can, in composing these differences. British trade cannot stand the strain. I began by saying that in these differences of recent years, the great stoppages have been due not to the aggression of the men, but to their having to resist steps taken by the employers against them. If it were true that in this instance the men were the attacking party, my view would be that the state of industry requires enforced settlement, if the parties themselves cannot come to terms. With our condition of unemployment, with our overseas trade in fresh jeopardy, with our difficulties in relation to markets overseas, difficulties which have thrown many employers out of work as well as workmen, influences might be used on the Government in order that the Government should immediately step in to compel an inquiry in an impartial court.


I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken for the very moderate and very fair way, from his point of view, in which he has presented his case, but at the same time I will ask him and his colleagues to give me that same degree of consideration in presenting another side of the case which, after all is said and done, will be equally as fair from my point of view and the public point of view as that which he has presented. In the first place, I cannot quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his statement that this dispute is one which has been brought about by the employers. I would recall to the House the fact that the dispute has arisen, as he says, on questions of overtime. The same questions of overtime arose in 1898 and in 1907, and were adjusted at that time on certain conditions and terms which were practically the same, except that the reduction of hours was from 40 to 32 in the former year, and in September, 1920, the hours were reduced to 30–30 hours of overtime not to be exceeded in a period of four weeks. In the previous adjustments, and when the negotiations were being conducted in 1920, it was understood by both sides that the same conditions would prevail in the terms of settlement as had prevailed in 1898 and 1907, and an agreement was reached and signed in good faith by the employers' federation on the distinct understanding that the same terms would be carried into effect as had been carried into effect on the two previous occasions. But what happened I Almost immediately following the signing of the agreement, the executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union sent out a manifesto to their branches saying that, although this contract had been reached—not exceeding 30 hours' overtime to be worked in four successive weeks—such overtime could not be worked without consultation with and reference to the representative of the men. That condition had not been imposed on previous occasions, but in all good faith the employers assumed that the terms of reference having settled the number of hours, they dealt also with the same conditions which had been settled previously. This new point, this new reservation, had never been discussed, and it was certainly not in the minds of either party to the agreement that such a proviso was to be made.

Continuously for months after that, discussions took place between the employers and the men, with the result that two or three months ago a decision was reached between the two bodies which made it perfectly clear that, the employers I had no desire whatever to interfere with the functions of the trade unions, and that the trade unions had no desire whatever to interfere with the functions of the management. Secondly, it made it perfectly clear that, inasmuch as an agreement had been signed whereby all disputes could be settled under the shop stewards' agreement, any dispute which might arise could be referred to that body; and, thirdly, that while such disputes were in course of settlement the employers' rights of management should remain undisturbed. That was recommended by the executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union for acceptance by the men. It was put to the ballot. With regard to the ballot and the manner of it, I shall have a word or two to say later. The proposal was turned down. I submit that here was a case where an unexampled and totally unexpected precedent was set up after an agreement had been reached by the leaders of the men's union, something which had never happened before, something we had no right to expect, and something which was totally foreign to all the history and traditions of previous settlements. Surely it cannot be said that the employers, taking into consideration all the facts and all that might possibly result from the enforcing of that regulation by the trade unions, are forcing the issue and trying to bring about a dispute, when they simply want to carry on their businesses as before.

To my mind it is perfectly clear, and to the general public I think it is also clear, that the conditions which the trade unions have endeavoured to set Up on this occasion were conditions which distinctly interfered with management. The fact has been mentioned that a very small proportion of the trade union members, 85,000, voted on this dispute, and a very much smaller percentage voted for the acceptance of the original terms. The fact that that is the case does not in any way affect the argument involved, because the contented mass on a previous occasion, in September, 1920, knowing and feeling that the terms were acceptable and would be carried, made no effort whatsoever to vote. My right hon. Friend made a pathetic appeal with regard to the industry itself and the lamentable conditions with which we would be confronted. I would like to tell the House exactly what would have happened had this particular lock-out or stoppage not taken place. The engineering and shipbuilding industries to-day are faced with a practically total sessation of work within the course of the next six or nine months in any event. That is a statement which is absolutely beyond dispute. At the present moment our engineering shops and shipyards are more than half idle and there is not the slightest prospect—try as we may and tender as we do, for work without profit—of getting any orders. Not only the engineering industry but the shipbuilding industry is paralysed, and yet we have a dispute of this kind coming up to-day, on conditions and terms which totally ignore the economic outlook and totally disregard the position in which the employer is placed and, as a matter of fact, the position in which the State will ultimately be placed, as regards its responsibility for maintaining these men and their dependants.

I feel that the attitude of the Amalgamated Engineeing Union on this particular ballot is not consistent in any way with the desires of the men, and from the evidence which is in my possession from various sources, and from the industries with which I am connected, I am convinced that the men themselves are not in the least happy as regards the position into which they have been forced. As I have said before, we are faced with a stoppage of orders in the engineering and shipbuilding worlds. I have been making some comparisons in a yard in which I am interested, and it may stagger the House somewhat to know that on engineering costs alone for a set of engines for a standard type steamer, built in 1914, the total cost of construction was £11,447 and the cost to-day is £29,260. I find that proportionate charges for material have gone up 167 per cent., wages have gone up 118 per cent., and general charges 200 per cent. In this particular establishment, as I would like to point out to my right hon. Friend, we have seen our rates on account of unemployment and other charges jump up from £2,100 in 1914 to £12,600 in 1922, a jump of about six times, which is reflected in a direct charge upon the industry. Taking it all through the industry, skilled labour advances, having regard to the decrease of hours from 53 to 47, show 118 per cent. increase over 1914. I take the same steamer on the hull charges, and I find she cost us exactly £70,000 as against £34,655 in 1914. There, again, increases of labour, material and charges are more or less in the same relation as they are in regard to the engines. May I point out that the increased cost of building that vessel to-day, over 1914, is £55,150, without allowing anything for profit whatever. It may also interest the House to know that last week I sold a steamer built in Germany and due to be finished next month, for just exactly £148 less than the difference between the pre-War cost and the present day cost of building a steamer in this country. That is what we are up against and I am prepared to make a gamble that the Germans made 100 per cent. profit, at the present rate of exchange, on the construction of that boat. What is the use of talking platitudes and nonsense when we are faced with the conditions like that? We are sitting here to-day talking about overtime and about the conditions of the industry, but very few Members of the House, and very few of the general public whose opinions are moulded by the public Press, realise exactly the difficulties which confront those who are engaged in this industry, and have all at stake in this industry, in trying to resuscitate business, which is being killed not so much by the wages which are being paid, as by the intolerable conditions imposed upon us in our daily work. Lines of demarcation, disputes as to how many men shall be put upon a machine, overtime conditions and all these things are being brought up to us from day to day, and we are being checked and retarded while we on our side are endeavouring all we possibly can to get output and avoid all disputes which follow any attempt to reduce wages. While we are doing all we can to decrease the cost of production, while we are doing all we can to get efficiency by spending money on new plant and new machinery, we are being met by every degree and particle of opposition which it is possible to put up against us.

I am connected with one of the largest engineering concerns in the North of England. We have never had any trouble, and we have got on very well with our men, and I have here a letter from the managing-director of that concern which, to some extent, will show the spirit existing in that particular yard, and also shows the conditions with which we are confronted, and which we cannot overcome. His letter contains the following: Our men have worked quite satisfactorily and, now that we have got rid of the importations during the War period our costs are showing a regular progressive improvement. Our relations with the workmen were never more satisfactory than at present, and it is with great regret we have had to stop these men. A letter was sent to him asking him to give particulars as to the refusal to work on overtime, querying output conditions, and raising the question of managerial functions. His reply may be rather interesting to the House: In cases where overtime has been desirable to finish repairs and replacements, where necessary for urgent requirements, this has on several occasions been refused by the Amalgamated Engineering Union members acting upon instructions from their district committee"— The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) might bear that in mind. It is a distinct contradiction of the statement which he made this afternoon from that Box, that there were no refusals under these conditions. The writer goes on to say— —"that is unless special permission was obtained from the delegates, which so far we have not asked for. I would commend this to the House: We have not, as a management, taken any steps to give effect to the demand of the committees under the shop steward system. For some years we have recognised the committee appointed by workmen in all departments whose functions are advisory. Although the Amalgamated Engineering Union representatives have tried to merge them in the shop steward committee, the other trade representatives have been against the Amalgamated Engineering Union in this rspect, preferring the present organisation, which is still in being. A great deal has been said about the spirit which prevails between employers and workmen. Does the Labour party for one moment imagine that we are going to cut our own throats in order to get a small, mean, temporary advantage over the workmen? If they do, they must think that we are entirely and totally devoid of common sense. If the Labour party also think that they are the only people who have got at heart any consideration for the well-being of the working classes then they misjudge the rest of humanity. We see to-day as clearly as we possibly can see anything, that for four years we employers have been living in a fool's paradise. We have seen these huge profits coming in to us, and we have seen the State taking most of them; we have seen occasional cases during the past three or four years where, in order to cheapen the cost of production and speed up output, we have spent considerable money in new plant and new buildings for development purposes, and what has happened? When we have done that, when we have spent considerable money on improvements and have attempted to work those machines and operate that plant in the most economical manner, we have been confronted with a deliberate refusal on the part of the men in the union to undertake to do the work on terms and arrangements which we can operate at a profit. The simple reason is that behind all and underlying all is the fear that if machinery becomes too good and too effective, a great number of men are going to be thrown out of employment. A more ridiculous argument never existed. If the Labour party took the trouble to study the industrial development of this country, they would find that for 60 years the ignorant have been fighting on that same theory. For 60 years we have had to fight against it, and in that 60 years we have seen the development of British industry to an extent which cannot possibly be denied or disputed. If we are going to retain our industrial position, our export trade and our command of the machinery market of the world, we shall have to do it along, sane, conservative lines.

There is a limit which is recognised by the so-called hard-hearted employer as to reduction of wages. We know there is a level below which we cannot and should not ask a man to work, but we do know this, that when we have, with a sense of justice and right, fixed wages, there remain only open to us, in order to regain our trade, avenues of economy in production. When we exploit those, when we spend capital and introduce capital into our business to develop them, is it fair or right that we should be placed in a position where we are stopped from putting those economies into operation and from exercising the managerial functions which we are to-day claiming? I say it is intolerable and unfair, and while it may be protecting the skilled unions, it is distinctly unfair and a grave injustice to the unskilled unions, with whom they are affiliated and who are very largely dependent upon them for their livelihood. The engineering unions will probably deny the ability of other people to come into their field of endeavour and do good work. The people who work at lathes and grinders, the people who do more or less mechanical work, although they belong to a skilled trade union, would do very well to remember the efforts of the women and the unskilled amateurs who came in during the period of necessity in 1914–18 and made shells, and in very many cases turned out a far greater output than the so-called experts.

We are in a position in the industry to-day where we have to get away from all this senseless talk about investigations. What is investigation going to bring about? Is it going in any way to re-establish confidence or create a market for our products? I cannot see it. I cannot see that anything can be done by any investigation or any committee, which cannot be done by common-sense people, people who have not blinkers on, sitting down together and talking sensibly and looking at the position as it really exists. All the committees in the world are not going to bring back our trade and our prosperity, and when my right hon. Friend talks about the conditions existing in the industry and would lead us to believe that the men are being badly treated, he does not tell us that the wages which are being paid to-day are very much higher than the general public realise. I may quote a further letter in this respect: I enclose herewith sheet showing the present day average earnings of pieceworkers based on returns taken out in October, 1921, and re-adjusted with all allowances for the present day. 5.0 P.M.

I would point out that they do not represent the best average earnings, because we have had no large volume of work proceeding; they are actual wages paid in an industry which is only working part time. For platers the weekly average at the present day is £7 9s. 6d. per week. That is the average for one yard, and it is a basic rate for the whole country, except the Bristol Channel. For rivetters, £5 18s. 6d. per week; painters, £6 18s. per week; smiths, £6 7s. 6d. per week; drillers, £5 3s. 6d. per week. Those men on piece work are receiving a fairly substantial rate of wage. On time work, which is strongly advocated by so many trade unions, I find that shipwrights get £3 14s. 6d. per week; joiners, £3 17s. per week; fitters, £3 12s. 6d. per week; painters, £3 8s.; and painters' helpers and piece workers, £3 5s. 6d. per week.


What about miners' wages?


They are considerably less than that, and I fail to see for a moment how the miners' leaders can, as units of the Labour party, stand up and support a union which is fighting for wages on these particular terms. If anybody has any right to a grievance it is not only the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), but the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. Tillett), who does not happen to be here, but who, in Cardiff last Sunday week, made a speech in which he attacked the craft unions and said—I believe I am quoting him correctly—"that it would be easier to get one's son made the Prince of Wales than to get him made a member of the Boilermakers' Federation."

There is one thing, I think, which has got to be dealt with frankly and with the gloves off, and that is the question of the ballot. This ballot which was taken is the most extraordinary travesty of balloting and justice and fairness which has ever been known in the history of this country. Not a single, solitary soul was informed in advance that this ballot was going to be taken. I know many hon. Members will deny that, but I have got evidence from all over the country that it is the case, and that nobody knew the ballot was going to be taken. It was advertised in some kind of journal issued by the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which probably nobody ever reads, and not even the members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union had any idea a ballot was going to be taken unless they happened to attend the lodge meeting on this particular night, and those who did attend had an opportunity of balloting. One of the rules and regulations of the union is that no ballot papers must be taken outside the lodge room. I have a letter here which I am perfectly willing to give to you, Mr. Speaker, for corroboration, but naturally I cannot give the name of the man away, in which he says, writing on the 15th March: It is certainly true that no member could vote unless he attended his branch on the particular night the vote was taken. The ballot rule of the Engineers says, 'No ballot paper to be taken outside the branch meeting room.' The only intimation the ordinary member had that a vote was to be taken was through the daily press. The branches meet once a fortnight, and large numbers of members, of which I am one, did not know on what night a vote was to be taken in their branch. The usual course is to send ballot papers to the branch secretary in time for him to announce at the branch meeting that a vote would take place at the following branch meeting night, but in a hurried ballot like this no time was allowed for this procedure to be adopted and thus permit the branch secretary to summon a meeting for voting. I can say definitely that that was never done. Here you have a case of a key union, on which to a very great extent over 47 unions at least are dependent for a living, It is a key union; it has control over the destinies of some millions of men, and 50,000 men out of 430,000 men are permitted to exercise the right of vetoing, not only on behalf of the membership of their own union, but on behalf of the other trades affected—85,000 voting out of 430,000, or 21 per cent., and less than 13 per cent. able to plunge this country into the condition with which it it now confronted. I say that one of the greatest mistakes this Government has has ever made is not to see that the ballots of these trade unions, which have such a distinct effect on the life of the community, are conducted in an honest and an upright way.


Who ballots the employers?


It has been said that a trade union should look after its own business, but we have got a right to expect the trade unions to look after the business of the country, and we have got to make our minds up that this particular system of balloting has got to be dealt with in the national interest in a very much more effective fashion than at the present time.


Who ballots the employers? Answer that.


I will answer. The employers are willing to conform to any' regulations the Government will impose on them in balloting, but I ask the Leader of the House and the Government to make this a strong platform. The women and children, who are always paying for these disturbances, who always have to suffer on account of the actions of these close, guilded, craft unions, would welcome and support any Government which would see that in all questions of balloting the same protection is given to the one who is voting and the same publicity is given as in the case of a guardians election or any other election of that kind. [An HON. MEMBER: "And a secret ballot."] You must have a secret ballot. It may be argued by the Government that it would cost a tremendous amount of money. Supposing it does cost in the course of the year a million of money, what is that compared with the enormous cost with which we are confronted week by week as a result of these ballots which are taken unfairly and ineffectively, and which are not in any way representative of the wishes of the members of the trade unions?

I say that if we are going to be subjected to these continual interruptions, when we are striving our best to get industry on its feet, because of the wild men who are assuming control of the trade unions, all we have to look forward to in the near future is a condition which is somewhat similar to that which we see existing in Russia. We are fast losing our trade, and while, as I have said before, for years we have been living in a fool's paradise, we, as employers, have realised that it is up to us to get busy. All the ideals and theories which were adopted and developed and allowed, under stress of emergency, to exercise an influence over trade union affairs during the years of war, when the Government had so much control over industry, have proved ineffective and have been proved abortive when it comes to developing industry, and all these ideas which theorists and other people have, as to dual control and joint control in industry having proved ineffective, I say, for Heaven's sake, let us get back to the same conditions in industry which built up the commercial and industrial prosperity of this country, and buckle ourselves about, and see that this matter is going to be dealt with in no half-hearted, vote-catching fashion, but in a straight, honest fashion which will give a little stiffening to those who are desirous of helping British industry, but who at present are deterred from doing so by reason of the lack of determination and strong-mindedness on the part of the Government.


The hon. Member who has just sat down addressed a very favourably received speech to the House, in which he has given us some remarkable statements, but I do not think he has thrown any clear light on the situation in which we find ourselves to-day, and may I say, with all respect, that I do not think he has at all handled the reason why this dispute has blossomed into a lock-out. If I were to summarise his speech, I would come to the conclusion that it is not the question of overtime, that it is not the question of managerial responsibility, but that it is merely the fact that six months from now there will probably be no work in the engineering shops, and that, therefore, we must try and find some cause to lock out the men at the present moment. He was very kind, in his references to {he unskilled men, in comparing them with the position of the skilled men. All I have got to say about that is, that we will leave this matter to the decision of the unskilled men themselves. I was astonished when, in the midst of a serious conflict of this kind, when we should be anxious to find out the real facts of the case, that we should have from him statements as to the wages being earned by those who work on piecework. I was always under the impression that the employers were particularly anxious to have payment by results, and that argument should not be brought in in relation to this matter.

In no society are ballot votes carried out so efficiently as in the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Intimation was given by the executive council in relation to that ballot. The secretaries of the branches, I presume, if not in every case, in nearly every case, gave their members the due notice that a special meeting would be called for the purpose of balloting, and, as a result of that due notice, there was a larger number of men voting on this occasion against the employers' terms than there were in accepting them some time before. These ballots carried on by the Engineering Union are ballots which determine the position of the men who are affected by the matter at issue, and it is only fair to say—and the employers' representative, the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. Gould), might have told us—that every agreement arrived at between the executive council and the employers' federation is only arrived at on the understanding that it shall go forward to the men for ratification by them in their branches, cither in the districts or else the society taken as a whole. Consequently, in so far as 23 per cent. of the members of the society voted—and I myself should rejoice if a larger number did vote—I must say that was a very large ballot, indeed, of the members of that society.

It will be my duty to recall, if I can, the attention of the House to the actual question in dispute. I want to say that I regret very much the failure of my right hon. Friend to get the people together to the extent of arriving at some arrangement. I myself was hoping that, as a result of his efforts, some compromise might have been adopted, which would have enabled my society's executive to go back to their members for another ballot; but, as I understand the position, the employers were adamant in their attitude towards what they call managerial responsibility. My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting referred to the fact that this dispute was the first serious national dispute in the engineering trade for a period of 25 years. He told us that on the other occasion the men were fighting for a 48 hours' week, and he reminded the House that though they were defeated in their attempts to establish that principle, yet, after many years, they were now in the possession, not of a 48 hours' week, but of a 47 hours' week, and, in some workshops, even a lesser number of hours. I have not any fear that the principles for which the men are standing out to-day will ultimately be established by them, whether they are adopted on this occasion or not. Just when the nation was expecting, as a result of the Geddes Report, by wrong methods or by right methods, or by both, to secure a reduction in the heavy taxation which the nation has been called upon to bear; just when the nation was expecting that the enormous expenditure in relation to its commitments in many directions would be reduced, this dispute is forced upon it, and, in my estimation, forced upon it by the action of the employers—a dispute which will entail considerable expense not only to the participants in the struggle, but to the community as a whole.

I, therefore, regret not only that the Minister has failed, but that there seems to have been a lack of foresight, and a lack of courage on the part of the Government in not insisting upon carrying out their powers, under the Industrial Courts Act, to see that this dispute should not have advanced to the position in which it is now. It is the Government's duty now to use its power under that Act to end this dispute, in the interests of the nation. There are other reasons why I regret that the Minister has not been successful. I would remind the House that there are 2,000,000 of unemployed, and that any addition to the ranks of the unemployed means greater hardship for those who are unemployed, and will mean more misery and distress for many who are non-combatants in this national dispute. For that reason, the Government should have been anxious to have an inquiry into the cause of this dispute. There is another reason. There are evidences of a slight but, I think, a real return of industrial activity. That is likely to be considerably postponed as the result of this dispute. Not only should we use national machinery to prevent disputes developing into industrial stoppages when the nation is at war, but it is essential that the Government, if it be anxious to repair the wastage and destruction of war, should use all its power to prevent industrial stoppages, to minimise their industrial effects when they do occur, and to restrict the continuation and prolongation of disputes. The present stoppage is likely to advance to that stage when a much larger number of men are involved, because the employers have, in effect, issued an ultimatum to those with whom they had no trouble in this connection.

The employers have talked about the sanctity of agreement. I would ask, how have they observed the sanctity of agreement? Doubtless they may have gone through the correct procedure in so far as the Amalgamated Engineering Union are concerned, but in relation to the other societies they cannot claim to have done so. Therefore, I wish to read to the House some extracts from the correspondence that has passed, not only between my own trade union, but the other trade unions, in relation to this matter. First of all, in relation to the engineering and shipbuilding trades, they were informed of the dispute between the engineers and the employers. The employers intimated to the other trades that they would have to toe the; line. They would have to accept the same conditions as the engineers, with whom they were in dispute. These people rightly-sent this reply to the employers of labour: We have no official information of any difference existing between the Federation of Engineering Employers and this Federation, and we have no wish meantime to be combatants in any difference existing between the Employers' Federations and any other organisation. To this the employers of labour replied: With reference to the conference held to-day, I confirm statement made to your representatives at the close of the conference that the Federations will expect to receive from you on or before the 11th March, 1922, an intimation that the Unions affiliated to your Federation are agreeable to sign, either by way of agreement or joint recommendation, a Memorandum containing the under-noted paragraph. This paragraph is identical with the conditions sought to be imposed upon the Amalgamated Engineering Union. In reply to that, there was this further letter from the trades: We have your letter of 2nd March, 1922, in which you ask us to sign a Memorandum which is now the subject of an acute difference between yourselves and another organisation. At such short notice, we cannot agree to terms which we have had no opportunity of considering, but we will certainly submit your request for consideration to the Executives of the various Unions. Meantime, we place on record our surprise that Unions which have no quarrel with the employers on overtime or working conditions should, without provocation, have an ultimatum in regard to these important questions thrust upon them. Your procedure is also a violation of agreements between your Federation and the various Unions.… Your request, issued at this time, appears likely to involve us directly in the matter in dispute. They were perfectly correct in their anticipation, and these men are being involved in this dispute. That was widening the dispute with a vengeance. Not only that, but, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, on the ground of this difference in relation to overtime the employers intimated that, in the event of a dispute occurring, working conditions and wages would require to be brought under review. I come now to the Amalgamated Engineering Union, a union which is, at the moment, at war with the employers of labour—locked out by them because of an interpretation of an agreement. Reference was made to the agreement of 1914. No reference has yet been made to two subsequent agreements, which were arrived at between the engineers and the employers of labour. These agreements referred to shop stewards and works committees. The employers, evidently forgetting there were such agreements, intimated to the society that, The question at issue is whether the management of the works is entitled only to act after obtaining consent or concurrence of the shop stewards and works committees, or whether the management is entitled to manage, leaving any question arising to be dealt with in subsequent consultations, as provided in Provisions for Avoiding Disputes, the work in question being meantime proceeded with. I want to quote from the Shop Stewards' Agreement: In connection with this agreement, shop stewards shall be afforded facilities to deal with questions raised in the shop, or part of a shop in which they are employed. Surely an overtime question is a question the shop stewards were entitled to raise, and discuss. That agreement was superseded by an extended agreement, called the Shop Stewards and Works Committee Agreement, arrived at in 1919, and in which there is this provision: Shop stewards shall be afforded facilities to deal with questions raised in a shop in which they are employed. Shop stewards elected by the works committee shall be afforded similar facilities in connection with their duties. I have no hesitation in saying the whole of this unfortunate lock-out is not merely a question of managerial responsibility. It has been taken tip on the question of the members refusing to agree to the terms submitted to them in relation to overtime. Managerial functions are not the basis of the dispute. The lock-out has really arisen out of the conflict, as was intimated by my right hon. Friend, between the employers and the executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in relation to the correct interpretation of the overtime agreement, dated September, 1920. In that agreement the following words appear: The Federations and the Trade Unions agree that systematic overtime is deprecated"— Not only by the trade unions, but by both parties— as a method of production, and that when overtime is necessary, the following provisions shall apply. Round those words "is necessary" this conflict rages. So far as we are concerned, speaking for the trade unions, that is really the crux of the whole question. Arising out of these words "is necessary," the executive council considered letters received from the members of their branches as to Section J of the agreement, which deals with the maximum amount of overtime that members are called upon to work. It says: It should be understood that the paragraph implies that it is considered necessary by both parties. District committees should have due regard to the number of men unemployed, and whether such overtime will tend to absorb members who are unemployed. In relation to the same matter, I wish to call the attention of the House to a letter from the Engineering Employers' Federation. This letter runs: I am desired again to impress upon your Council the gravity of the situation which has arisen owing to your members having thought fit to call in question a basic principle on which industry is conducted. The employers feel that in view of the fundamental alteration which the ballot has brought forward, there is no alternative open to them but to face the situation, and in the national interest to place the industry on a sound economic basis, and accordingly the relations between the employers and their workpeople, the working conditions and the wages, will require to be brought under review. What is this basic principle for which the employers of labour stand? What is this national interest that they are advocating? What is this sound economic basis which has caused this dispute? Nothing more or less, to use a scriptural phrase, than that they should be in a position to say, as of old: "To this man 'go,' and he goeth; to another man, 'come,' and he cometh: and to this man 'do this,' and he doeth it." This it is that employers of labour are attempting to force upon their workers in the workshop. That may have been good enough for the Roman centurion in the first century of the Christian era. It cannot be tolerated by British workmen living in the twentieth century. I wish again to quote, and in doing so wish to indicate to the House what the Amalgamated Engineering Union suggested to the employers of labour. They suggested that the way out of the present difficulty could only be found by both parties being prepared to endeavour to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement. "We," said the union, "are prepared to proceed on that basis." This astonishing reply was received: The position of the employers has been confirmed by the Executive Council and the National and District representatives of the Union, but has been rejected by the members. It is for the authorised representatives of the Union and not for the employers to devise a way of convincing the members of the Union that they have erred. That was not a fair statement to send to the Executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It was not a fair statement of the question at issue. The Executive had accepted the memorandum. They had not agreed to confirm it; they had agreed to recommend it. They accepted the force of circumstances as they found them at the time. They realised there were conditions operating which made, possibly, necessary that an agreement which they did not believe in themselves should be accepted by the members. Let me read the statement of the Executive Council to the members on the ballot paper. There can be no dubiety about these words: Appreciating the gravity of the situation, and having regard to the fact that over 90,000 of our members are unemployed, industrial stagnation, and the severe financial strain to which the organisation has been subjected, and is likely to be for some time—for those and other reasons—equally valid?—your representatives, after continuous negotiation, accepted the following memorandum.… In another place they say: On further consideration by the Executive Council National and Divisional organisers, in conference, it was decided by resolution to recommend to the members to accept the aforesaid memorandum. It is only fair to say that these things were in their minds: That negotiations will proceed on the machine question, the claim of the Union to negotiate on behalf of the apprentices, and payment for holidays, on the understanding that the memorandum is accepted; therefore it should be clearly understood that unless this memorandum is accepted, it is probable that negotiations on these important matters will not be proceeded with. The executive council took these things into consideration and recommended their members to accept, and the members in their wisdom did not accept. We are being told, both outside and inside the House, that at the bottom of these disputes are Bolshevist tendencies and that these are responsible for the trouble. I would say to the House: Do not let us cloud the issue; do not let us darken counsel by talking about, or thinking of, workshop Soviets run by Bolshevist agitators. Do not let us embitter industrial controversy or throw opprobrious epithets across the Floor of this House at these workmen who fought for you in the great War, many of whom voted for you at the last general election. If I am asked: "Are these men Bolshevists?" my reply would be: "If they are, you have made them so. Every promise to them has been repudiated. Every useful measure of legislation has been repealed or devitalised. More than that, large numbers of their comrades are on the streets, without house, without work, without wages. They have been fed during the past three years since election time—and even before—on specious promises and pleasant platitudes." It is not your fault that you are not now reaping a whirlwind of anarchy, the result of misgovernment by those who have blamed us for not being fit to govern.

I would point out to this House that our reiteration of the term Bolshevist may lead them to believe that there is virtue and power in the name. There is disclosed a fear on the part of employers of labour; there is advertised a fear on the part of political representatives here of Bolshevism, and this may easily convince these men that there is much virtue in that kind of government. We are not to blame if, through your inability to fulfil your promises, discontent and unrest is prevalent in the country. I want to point out for the men that when they turned down the recommendation of the executive, 50,000 of them have demonstrated the same altruistic spirit shown by the miners in relation to their demand for a national pool. The engineers said, "Why should we work overtime when there are thousands of our fellow-men have no work to do?" That is the position. Is that an offence? Is that a serious economic blunder? Is that a moral delinquency? Is it a crime that they should take thought for 90,000 of their members unemployed at the present time? Is that sort of thing to be discouraged? Surely these men are to be commended for the attitude they are taking up in seeking, with human sympathy, practically to help their fellows by sharing the work with them? They desire to relieve distress and unemployment, to lessen the amount of unemployment by the offer to these unemployed men of a share in the work which is to be done. Is that also to be discouraged? I have heard people outside this House discussing this thing on train, tram, and omnibus. Some of them say that the men do not want to work. I have heard hon. Members in this House declaim about the iniquity and demoralising tendencies of the unemployment dole. In a large measure I agree with them. But here are 50,000 men who say to their fellow workers, "So far as we can help, you shall not have the dole, but share the work that is to be done." That is the position as we understand it in our trade unions and amongst our workers.

I should like to call the attention of the House to a very interesting appeal by the representatives of the churches in connection with this dispute. I am very pleased, indeed, that the churches are taking an interest in these great social and moral issues. The representatives of the churches say this: The actual point in dispute is the determination of 'necessary' overtime. The term 'necessary' is somewhat, indefinite, and clearly the decision in a matter of this kind must rest finally with the management. But the issue is not so simple as it would appear. We turn to a statement made by the president of the employers' federation, in which he says: 'We are faced with this clear issue: Are employers entitled to manage their works themselves, or must they do so by the consent of the men and their representatives, and subject to the hitter's right of veto? Nothing less than this principle is involved.' If this is an assertion of the fact that under present conditions the ultimate responsibility of management must rest with the employer, then it simply lays down a proposition that the men's leaders have accepted. If, on the other hand, it implies a refusal to the worker of any share in the control of industry from which he draws his livelihood, then the statement appears to us to run counter to a clear moral principle. It is virtually a denial of the worth of human personality; it involves a system which treats men not as men but as mere instruments of production. On such a subject we believe that it is the duty of the churches to make their voices heard. They go on to say: The demand that men should have an increasing share in the control of those industrial conditions on which the livelihood of the worker depends is one which ought to be met. We believe that trade unionism, which has proved its value in dealing with tasks hitherto undertaker, by it, offers an instrument through which the worker may obtain an increasing share in the control of industry. If that were all we had to say on this matter outside it would be bad enough, but a great many of the men not only belong to the Amalgamated Engineering Union but to the other union and they believe that this is an attack upon the whole fabric of trades unionism, and an attempt to smash trades unionism. All I can say is that if it is it will never succeed. I will go the length of saying that no matter what the result of this dispute may be to the men the experience of 1897 has demonstrated the inherent, innate, and epigenetic vitality of trades unionism. I would like to quote from a very distinguished Statesman who played a distinguished part in this House in relation to trades unionism. I mean the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. He said: I think, even if it were possible to repress trade unions, it would not be desirable. They improve the independence and providence of the general character of the working classes. Like my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes), I would not for a moment suggest that no difficulties of any kind have arisen in relation to the working of overtime. My right hon. Friend referred to some cases which the employers have submitted for public information. I am quite confident that while there may be here and there instances of that kind, there are, on the other hand, employers of labour who are systematically working overtime when there is no real need for it. I have heard myself of such cases from employers of labour. I am not one of those who would say when so many men are on the street that in some cases overtime is not necessary. I can quite appreciate the overhead charges of a night shift would be far too great, therefore some overtime might be required for production. I can understand the shop space being limited or an order may not be sufficiently large to carry on a double shift, and in such instances some overtime might be required. I appreciate all that, but in that connection I believe there are many employers of labour in this country who are not prepared to adopt the right method to overcome those difficulties.

Some little overtime occasionally may mean an increase in the employment of others outside, but surely those who are employed in the workshop have a right to a say in determining whether overtime is necessary. I know there is the Workshop Committee and the Shop Stewards Agreement, but that agreement does not go far enough because there is a preponderating number of employers opposed to Whitleyism and I know that some workmen are opposed to that system. In my estimation, the real issue is that these questions should be settled by the representatives inside the workshop. The national committee should prescribe the arrangements governing industrial disputes and the district committee should see the arrangements are carried out, and the workshop committees are the only people to determine whether overtime is necessary or not. The men inside the workshop representing the trade union should be asked to confer with the employers in relation to this matter, and the district committee would not be likely to interfere unless it believed that overtime was being worked merely for monetary considerations. It is intolerable tyranny for employers to say to the men: "No matter what your own arrangements are, or whether you have worked your full number of hours, you are to place yourselves at our disposal without any consideration for your recreation or enjoyment." I have already said that what has taken place in this dispute is regarded as an attack upon trades unionism. May I read one or two extracts—[HON. MEMBEHS: "Agreed, agreed—"] I do not think hon. Members know all that is being carried on in regard to this subject. Here is one example: Foremen are not affected by the notice, although they may be members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Opportunity should be taken to get foremen to become members of the Foremen's Mutual Benefit Society. That means that they ought to be induced to leave the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Here is another example: Workmen who retire from membership of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, who intimated prior to the posting of the notice that they had done so, should be considered non-union men, and be allowed to continue at work. Workmen who have retired from membership of the Amalgamated Engineering Union after the posting of the notice should be allowed to continue at work, providing they produce on or before the date the notice takes effect a membership card of another trade union. This has undoubtedly given rise to the belief that this is an attack on the fundamental principle of trade unionism. In concluding my remarks, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what has become of Part II of the Industrial Courts Act I Where are the roseate hopes held out by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he introduced that Measure I What about the opinion which he expressed that he desired to see co-operation between employers and employed? What about the public interest of which he talked? This Act was to be in the interests of the public as against employers and as against workmen, and both sides were to provide information so that they might judge the merits of the dispute between the parties in the dispute. Surely if information is to be given it should be given to the public not when the men are on the street, not when the dispute has extended to a lock-out or a strike, but before the men or the employers have gone to that length.

Is it because the working classes have expended their finances in relieving unemployment that the employers are taking this opportunity to smash the unions? The Minister of Labour and the Government at least have been very slow to use their powers, and their past promises have all gone by the board. 1s this Act also to be a dead letter? Apparently the Government no longer believe in the interests of capital and labour. I have no hesitation in saying that it should be possible for capital and labour to have interests in common, and I go the length of saying as long as capital represents interests and dividends and makes this claim for managerial functions, as long as capital takes precedence over labour in the fruits of industrial progress—capital is the product of labour—then mutual distrust and disputes are bound to break out. We cannot hope to solve our difficulties in the direction of strikes and lock-outs. Again, let me quote the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who used these words which I trust will not be lost on the Government nor on employers of labour: Just as long as masters refuse to admit that their men have just as great a right to combine for their own object as the masters have to combine in order to arrange the terms on which they shall sell their product; just as long as the masters refuse to allow their workpeople to have a voice in the settlement of the terms on which they give their labour, so long may they expect to have strikes, and so long will there be no hope of any happy solution of the difficulties which trouble the relations of Capital and Labour. These were great words spoken in 1885, and they are as true in 1922. I hope the Minister of Labour will not delay or postpone the necessary inquiry, not in the interests of employers and trades unions, but in the general interests of the community, so that they may understand the position for themselves, and I have no doubt when they do understand the position they will judge rightly in relation to this question.


I am afraid that I shall disappoint my hon. Friends opposite to-night, inasmuch as I speak in relation to the dispute from an entirely detached point of view, not being a member of the Employers' Federation. Listening to the speeches we have heard tonight, I have been rather surprised from time to time to find hon. Members referring to employers in bulk when they only mean the Employers' Federation. I wish to point out to hon. Members who are not engaged in the engineering trade that there is a very distinct line to be drawn between engineering employers and the members of the Engineering Employers' Federation. We who are not in the Federation exercise managerial functions, knowing full well that if we did enter that Federation we should no longer exercise managerial functions, because the Federation represented by the Member for Cardiff (Mr. Gould) and the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith) would then proceed to manage our works for us in the way that seems to them the best.


On a point of Order. May I say that the hon. Gentleman does not know what he is talking about?


The hon. Member may be perfectly right, but unless I am very much mistaken he has nothing to do with the engineering trade of this country, except that he holds a post in the Employers' Federation.


May I again say that the hon. Member is misinformed?

6.0 P.M.


It seems to me an absurd thing for the members of the Federation to put forward a claim to exercise managerial functions now because they have already abdicated those functions in times past by joining the Federation. The hon. Member opposite has urged the Government to put this matter before the Industrial Court, but the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Young) pointed out that the real point was the interpretation of what is necessary overtime and what is not necessary. I would ask him to consider what Court could decide such a point. It would be placed in a very difficult position indeed. After all, on what principle is such a Court going to decide what is necessary overtime and what is unnecessary overtime? It is almost impossible to lay down any broad ruling which could be followed in every case. Every single case has to be taken on its own merits, and I do not think that an Industrial Court, with the best will in the world, could possibly come to any useful decision on the point. We have to remember that no employer of labour will work overtime if he can possibly avoid it. In the first place, he has to pay higher wages for it, and in the second place he knows perfectly well, from experience, that when a man has been working six or eight hours in the day, the value of the overtime work is not equal to the average value of the day work. Members of trades unions may be perfectly clear about this one thing—that no employer will work overtime if he can possibly avoid it. I do not think, therefore, so far as overtime is concerned, this dispute need endure any longer. My own experience is that if I want a man to work overtime, I go to him and ask him to put in two or three hours extra, and in nine cases out of ten he consents to do so. Indeed, he is often only too willing at the present time to make a little extra, seeing that wages are going down. But it sometimes happens that the man, particularly if he be young and unmarried, says with a sheepish air that he has an engagement which will prevent him working late. Being a bachelor myself and not very old, I have enough sympathy with that man to say, "All right, we will get someone else to work overtime." That is really what happens in nine cases out of 10 in the engineering trade.

Members of the House are apt in these Debates to get the impression that there is a tremendous conflict of interests and a constant state of irritation between employers of labour and the trades unions. There is nothing further from the truth So far as my experience goes industrial unrest—and I have had experience in the engineering trade for 20 years—industrial unrest does not exist to any such extent. At any rate, I have never come across it. I have had mobs more than once coming to smash the windows of my works and to break my neck, but as to the industrial unrest of which we hear so much from employers' representatives and from trades union representatives, well, all I can say is that, although it may exist in other parts of the country, it certainly does not exist where my works are. I should like to refer to the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Cardiff, because to my mind that speech really explains more than, anything else, how this difficulty has arisen and how this very small trouble has become a very great trouble. I thought it almost pathetic to hear the hon. Member for Cardiff saying, "Here we are, robbed of our managerial functions. We say to a man come, and he goeth, and we say to another man go, and he cometh. Here are we poor employers—struggling not for our own interests, not to increase our own incomes, but merely acting for the good of the country—thwarted and defeated at every turn by these abominable, wicked trade unionists." I have had my little troubles in times past with trade unionism, but I have never suggested that the trade union has ever taken out of my hands the managerial functions of my works. It seems to me, when an engineering employer comes down to this House and makes this complaint, the reason is to be looked for rather nearer home

As I have pointed out in this House time and again, if Englishmen are going to obey, they demand something which they believe to be better than that which they have. When employers of labour put themselves on exactly the same footing as those whom they employ, when they complain that the trades unions will not keep their agreements and that wicked workmen will insist on getting as much money out of the industry as they can, it seems to me they prove one thing and one thing only, and that is that they are utterly unfitted to be employers of industry. After all, what is it that makes for peace and efficiency in industry? My experience has been this, that men will willingly and gladly obey orders if those by whom they are employed can justify their position as leaders in indus- try. Then there is real efficiency and real peace. There is one way only, I believe, in which the employer can get that willing and glad obedience, and that is by showing in his own person that he is ready to observe a rather higher code of industrial conduct. If the men who are employed insist by collective action in taking every possible penny out of the industry, then it seems to me that the employer who wishes to be obeyed and who wishes to become an aristocrat in industry, must himself show that he is really fitted to be a leader of industry by not taking all that he might. That is really the moral of all our troubles in industry to-day. Employers of labour are hot really leaders. For an employer to say that men at a time like the present, when the worker is faced with destitution and poverty such as has not been seen for a whole generation, "It is your own fault, it is due to your own folly, laziness and wickedness," is to show that he is not a real leader- of industry. We know that in the Regular Army when men desert their officers at critical times it is the officer only who is to blame, and until a similar spirit is introduced into industry we shall never get an end of these troubles. People must cease saying that the present crisis is due to the men, and because they have not done what their employers desire they are therefore responsible for having produced the present state of affairs. The hon. Member for Cardiff, in making such a speech as he has made to-night, has proved that he at any rate, is not really fit for the position of a loader of industry.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

proceeded to put the Question, and, having collected the voices, declared that the "Ayes" had it.


No, no—


If anyone objected, it did not reach my ears, and the Question was therefore declared carried. But I am willing to put the blame upon my hearing, and I will put it again. The Question is, "That this House do now adjourn."


I cannot help thinking it is very unsatisfactory that this Debate should terminate in this way. I have no special right or claim to intervene, but really if we are to have a debate on a very important industrial problem—


I am proposing to put the Question again.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Dr. Macnamara)

Could not the Motion be withdrawn?


I do not think that is possible.


May I humbly point out that you put the Question "That this House do now adjourn," and collected the voices. Nobody said anything except "Aye," and you declared that the Ayes had it. That being so, there is nothing for it but to accept the decision, and go home. It is absolutely impossible to put the Question again.

Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD

I have heard decisions given in this House when Mr. Speaker has made a similar ruling, and it has been definitely stated that a certain Motion has been carried or lost, as the case may be. Then when his attention has been drawn to the fact that someone had a contrary opinion which had not been heard, Mr. Speaker himself has taken the vote again. I understand that you are now putting the Question and that we are bound to take a vote on this subject, but I do think we ought to have first some answer from the Government to the speeches which have been delivered.


It surely must be the inevitable right of any deliberative Assembly not to allow itself to be made a fool of by a mistake, and if there has been some misapprehension as to the decision which has been given, which quite evidently did not really convey the sense of the Assembly, there must be an inherent right on the part of the Assembly to say it will go back and have the matter put right by taking the Vote again. I submit that on more than one occasion the Chair has ruled that a decision apparently arrived at has been arrived at under a complete misapprehension, and has put the Question again to the House.


May I point out, on the point of Order, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Liout.-Colonel Ward) is mistaken in saying that over and over again after the Question has been put and the voices collected, another decision has been taken. I can only remember one occasion on which that was done. On that occasion the statement was made by several Members that they had risen to continue the Debate. On this occasion no one rose to continue the Debate, and no one said "No" when the voices were collected. Therefore, much as I regret it, I must point out it is quite impossible to do anything except to go home.

With reference to the point made by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), may I say that the reason in favour of the decision remaining unchanged is very evident? If, whenever Mr. Speaker or the Chairman had collected the voices, and no one had challenged, and if someone who might have been in the next room at the time could get up and say that something else ought to be done, there would be such confusion as would render it utterly impossible to conduct the proceedings. It is very unfortunate that this should have occurred, but, it having occurred, there is nothing to do except, to follow the Rules and adjourn.


I do not feel it possible to rule in the sense suggested by the Noble Lord. I think it would be too serious a precedent to set. With regard to the point taken by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, it is quite true that the Question was put and I heard no one say "No," and that I was forced to decide that the "Ayes" had it. I am assured, however, that my ears were at fault, and, in these circumstances, although I do not remember any precedent, I think I am right in saying that I must take the blame upon my own hearing and put the Question again. With regard to the possibility of continuing the Debate, I presume it would be quite possible to allow the time taken up in Committee of Supply to be the same as would have been taken in any case, and to resume this Debate on a fresh Motion for Adjournment later on.


I submit that this discussion, on a matter which is admittedly one of national importance, having been specially arranged with the universal assent of the House, no mistake or omission on the part of anyone should preclude the House from hearing the statements of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith) and of the Minister of Labour, and, in view of the national importance of this matter, I trust that no ruling will be given that will preclude a continuance of the Debate.


Might I suggest that, if it be possible now, by consent, for the Motion to be withdrawn, that might be done. If that be not possible, so far as I am concerned, I shall vote against the Adjournment, because I think it would be very unfortunate if the Debate closed in this way. I was waiting to give, as I must give, a reply to my right hon. Friend who put questions to me about the Industrial Court, but I was very anxious that I should not intervene in such a way as to preclude anyone else from taking part in the Debate. Therefore, I put it to you whether, by consent, the Motion can be withdrawn. If not, I should certainly advise my friends and colleagues to vote against it, in order that the Debate may not be left in this unfortunate position.


The Motion has not yet been definitely put. The voices have not been collected. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, they have—"] So it is alleged. The voices have not been collected as to whether the House shall adjourn or not. In the circumstances, are we not perfectly entitled, until the voices have been collected afresh, to carry on the Debate, and, in these circumstances, is Mr. Deputy-Speaker correct in saying that we are not entitled to continue it?


On a point of Order. May I ask what the actual position is? If the voices have been collected, and if that has not been challenged, the House stands adjourned. If the voices have been collected, and Mr. Deputy-Speaker, thinking he may not have heard somebody who called, wishes to put the Question anew, and if the Question be put anew, then, when the Question is put anew, either by you or by Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is in the power of any hon. Member to rise and continue the Debate. Either one of two things has happened. Either the House has adjourned, or it has not. If it has not, and another Question is put, and if I rise at the moment you rise and wish to continue the Debate, I can do so, if the House has not adjourned, although I maintain that it has adjourned.


I think I am seized of what has occurred in my temporary absence, and I think the right hon. Baronet's last statement is quite correct. As I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker put the Question by inadvertence, not having heard a call of "No." Therefore, the position now is that if anyone rise, to continue the Debate, the Debate is thereby continued.


My ears are very good, Mr. Speaker, and I understood Mr. Deputy-Speaker to say, "The 'Ayes' have it." That having been said, does not the House stand adjourned?


It has frequently happened before that the Chairman has said, "The 'Ayes' have it," and, his attention having then been called to a claim for a Division, he has allowed the matter to go to a Division. It is quite right to say that if, in these circumstances, an hon. Member rises to continue the Debate, the Debate is continued.


I did not rise earlier because I did not want to shut anyone out. I rise now because I have to answer on behalf of the Government. It will, naturally, be my endeavour to say no word that may accentuate this trouble. If I should do so, the House may be quite sure that it will be inadvertent. I did my best, as my right hon. Friend has testified, to bring the parties together, and to keep them together. That is my whole policy in a nutshell. I was profoundly disappointed that my efforts were finally unsuccessful. Since 10th January our unemployment figures have steadily, if slowly, improved week by week. In the nine weeks which have elapsed since that date down to last Monday, there has been a reduction of 142,000 in the number of persons registered as wholly unemployed, and, although I could not see any immediate break on a wide front, I look forward to a slow and steady reduction in the total of 1,792,600 persons still registered as wholly unemployed last Monday. Hon. Members will judge of my dismay when I saw this trouble threatening, and threatening at a moment when I was trying to forecast the future and trying to measure the further calls I might be able to make upon an Unemployment Insurance Act which has so effectually come to our assistance during a period of unemployment unparalleled in our history for its severity and its long continuance. It would not be right for me to enter the lists on behalf of either of the parties. I may, however, shortly state the situation as I know it. After discussions from May to November of last year, the following agreement was arrived at between the Engineering and National Employers' Federations and the representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Union:—

1. General.

  1. "1. The Trade Unions shall not interfere with the right of the employers to exercise managerial functions in their establishments, and the Federations shall not interfere with the proper functions of the Trade Unions.
  2. 2. In the exercise of these functions the parties shall have regard to the Provisions for Avoiding Disputes of 17th April, 1914, which are amplified by the Shop Stewards and Works Committee Agreement of 20th May, 1919, and to the terms of other National and Local Agreements between the parties.
  3. 3. Instructions of the management shall be observed pending any questions in connection therewith being discussed in accordance with the provisions referred to.

2. Overtime. It is agreed that in terms of the Overtime and Night Shift Agreements of 29th and 30th September, 1920, the employers have the right to decide when overtime is necessary, the workpeople or their representatives being entitled to bring forward under the provisions referred to any cases of overtime they desire discussed. Meantime, the overtime required shall be proceeded with.

That is the Memorandum of 17th and 18th November last which, after long discussion, was arrived at, and was recommended for acceptance to their members by the executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It was rejected, on a ballot vote, by 50,240 votes against, to 35,525 votes for, out of a total membership of 409,000. After this rejection of the Memorandum of November, 1921, by the ballot vote, the employers' federations gave notice, on 22nd February, to the Amalgamated Engineering Union of a lock-out, to begin last Saturday week, as it did. The employers' federations then met separately three other bodies—the National Federation of General Workers on 1st March, the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades on 2nd March, and the National Union of Foundry Workers on 4th March—and requested them to accept the first three clauses of the Memorandum—the clauses relating to the exercise of managerial functions. These bodies adjourned to consult their constituent societies. There were various discussions, in which representatives of the National Joint Council of the Labour party, the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, and the Parliamentary Labour party took part, and finally, on 10th March, the representatives of the four unions now concerned met the employers and asked that, in order to facilitate the taking of a ballot amongst the three unions also affected, the notices to the Amalgamated Engineering Union should be suspended. To this the employers were unable to agree. In the result, the other three unions, that is to say, the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, the National Union of Foundry Workers, and the National Federation of General Workers, were informed on the night of Friday, 10th March, and Saturday, 11th March, by the Employers' Federation, as follows: In respect that it had been represented on behalf of certain trade unions that the policy of these unions, as settled by their members, is in contradiction of the principles contained in the Memorandum under discussion, and that on this account it is not possible for the executive councils of these unions to make a joint recommendation on the subject, the federations agree that the unions represented by the present deputation be allowed fourteen days for the purpose of ballot, the returns of the ballot to be in the hands of the federations not later than the first post on 25th March, 1922. In the event of the ballot of any of the unions being against acceptance notices will thereafter be given to the members of such unions employed by federated films that their services will be dispensed with.

On Saturday, 11th March, representatives of these three unions met and decided to ballot their men on the memorandum of 17th and 18th November last, excepting, as I have said, Clause 4. That ballot is now proceeding. The result will be notified to the employers not later than Saturday next first post. That is the short record of the matter up to date. The House has heard the men's case from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes), and the hon. Member (Mr. Young), and it has heard the employers' case from the hon. Member (Mr. Gould). We have also heard a speech from the hon. Member (Mr. Hopkinson), and, as usual, he is rather difficult to classify. I was a little concerned as to which category I should put him in. I should like to read his speech in print to see if I can classify him. I shall not discuss the merits of either case. I observed with considerable interest that both my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) and my hon. Friend (Mr. Gould) are on common ground in one matter. Both agree that the Government has done something wrong, or has left something undone. That is the only point where they come anywhere near approaching each other. I leave it at that. I am not sure I would not rather have them all going for me than going for each other. I am, however, invested with certain responsibilities to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) has called my attention under the Industrial Courts Act, 1919. Under Part I of that Act a trade dispute, existing or apprehended, may be reported to the Minister of Labour, who has thereupon to consider the matter and take such steps as seem to him expedient to make a settlement. If he thinks fit, provided both parties agree, he may refer the dispute for settlement by arbitration. There is a little misunderstanding on that. I cannot impose it on the parties. It must be agreed. Under Part II, whether a trade dispute is reported to the Minister or not the Minister may inquire into the) causes and circumstances of the dispute, and if he thinks fit, may refer any matters connected with the dispute to a court of inquiry.


With regard to Section 2, can the dispute be in being or apprehended, the same as in Part I?


Speaking offhand, I should say the circumstances are the same. The Clause says, "Where any trade dispute exists or is apprehended." My right hon. Friend is right and my offhand answer is right. There is no distinction. I never supposed there was. A court of inquiry may be appointed by the Minister without the consent of the disputants. The report of the court of inquiry is not an award, like that of an arbitration court. A court of inquiry may make recommendations, and it is open to the parties to accept or reject them. That is the short story of my commission under the Industrial Courts Act. It has been put to me, "Why have you not put this into force? You have neglected your duty in not doing so." I do not want to do other than follow my right hon. Friend in the most admirable temper in which his speech was couched, but it was rather suggested that I should have done so if it had been in favour of the employers. I do not think that is a fair thing to say, because in the two cases in which I have put Part II into operation it could not be said that the employers were altogether in favour of my doing so. In one of them I think I may say they rather objected to it, but I put it into operation to prevent a lock-out. Therefore I may be allowed to comment on the suggestion that I should have acted otherwise if the boot had been on the other foot. I do not think that can be sustained. Of course, I had given and am giving the most anxious consideration to the question of my duty under the commission with which the Industrial Courts Act invests me. My immediate difficulty is the fact that a ballot is now in progress on the part of three other groups of trade unions. These three groups cover no fewer than 47 trade unions. I put it to the House, could I bring the machinery of the Industrial Courts Act into operation while these ballots are proceeding? My view is that I could not. [An HON. MEMBER: "Before the ballot."] I do not know what authority the hon. Member has to say that. I could not bring the Industrial Courts Act into operation while those ballots were proceeding. That, I think, would be an improper intervention, an intervention which in other circumstances and at another time might be sharply resented by trade unionists themselves. I can conceive circumstances in which they might object to intervention. It has seemed to me, therefore, that I was bound to defer my decision at any rate till the decision of the men had been taken.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what the Government had in its mind when it included in Part II the words "A dispute is apprehended"?


Exactly what it had in Part I. It was the duty of the Minister to do his best, I imagine, to bring the parties together—to seek conciliation. I felt that I could not use this machinery while the ballots were in progress, and I have to defer my decision, whatever it will be, until the ballot has been taken.

Captain O'GRADY

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman was deliberately asked by the unions to the dispute to operate Clause II before the ballot was taken—before even it was framed?


I will accept that. The hon. Member is probably right, but my policy has been to bring the parties together, and keep them together, and see if they cannot compose their differences. That has not been altogether unsuccessful, I am glad to say, on other occasions. The ballot will be closed at the end of this week, and I make this appeal to both parties to the dispute. It seems to me to be the duty of both parties directly these ballots are known, whatever the decision may be, to consider whether they cannot get together again without delay and see whether they cannot by that means compose their differences. That ought not to be impossible, and I shall first of all wait for the ballot and then see what action is to be taken. I hope there will be action. I hope we shall have an undertaking now that that endeavour will be made once again to come together and try to compose this difference, and I appeal to any in this House who have any authority on either side—and there are many who have authority—to come together, sit round the table and try to find a way out of the difficulty. I feel confident that I shall not make that appeal in vain. I would rather leave the final determination of the question of Part II of the Act until an opportunity has been given for that endeavour to be made.


This really is an extraordinary Debate. The case for the engineers has been put by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes). It has been put almost as well by the hon. Member (Mr. Hopkinson). It has been put by the hon. Member (Mr. Young) and the Chairman of the Employers' Federation, who has been present at every one of the conferences, who has led the whole attack from the employers' side, has sat in this House, listened to all that has been said, and has said nothing. I suppose we may judge from that the sort of attention that gets put to the trade union case when it is put before the conference. That sort of attitude is the universal attitude now where the workers and the masters come together. It is an example for this House, and it is an eye-opener for some of us to understand the conditions under which these negotiations are carried on. The Government sit and look on. It is not their affair. Unemployment in the country has increased by leaps and bounds. They sit there and continue to wash their hands, like Pilate. They are not concerned in this dispute. They are going to keep outside the ring and let the workers fight it out with the hon. Member (Sir A. Smith). That would be all right if the parties were evenly matched, but at present, with two millions unemployed—thanks to the Government—the workers have not much chance. It is not a fair fight, and the Government are hardly justified in allowing not only the trade of the country but the workers of the country to be smashed by this federation led by the hon. Member (Sir A. Smith). The right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara) told us that he could not have this inquiry under Part II of the Act while the ballot was on. I should like to have had that amplified as to why he could not. The real reason is not the ballot. The real reason is the hon. Member for South Croydon and the people who direct the Government. I now understand the plaintive appeal of Mr. Garvin to the Prime Minister in yesterday's "Observer": Come out of it, my soul, come out of it. That is the only thing that any Member on the Treasury Bench can do who really values anything of Liberal traditions. The Members of the Government sit there and allow this dispute to go on. It is their business to take no part in saving the country. It is their business to hold the ring when their friends are strong. I suppose that this Debate will now close, and that we shall not have an opportunity which the House, irrespective of party, has been looking forward to, of hearing the case stated for the employers. We shall not hear it, for the very good reason that there is no case.


What we have just heard convinces me of the absolute unwisdom of endeavouring to discuss realities in the atmosphere in which we are placed at the moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have got you on your feet—"] That may be so, and I hope before I sit down that a different atmosphere will prevail. I have been very much struck with the discussion which has taken place this afternoon and the discussion which has taken place in the newspapers, reminding me more of a general election than of a labour dispute. Personal attacks, deliberate misstatements, and attempts to give a wrong impression of the whole situation, have given this position a sense of acrimony that is entirely unnecessary, which does not exist at all, which should not be allowed to exist, which is due to political intervention and not due to any disagreement which has taken place between the employers and the workpeople.

We have had from the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) a very long statement, which has made me admire him for one reason and one reason alone, and that is that he makes an excellent advocate of a very bad brief. I am perfectly satisfied that he did not understand one little bit of the dispute which exists between the engineering employers and their engineering employés. At the same time, he has made a very plausible case, and I propose to answer him in detail. He referred to the question of the overtime agreement. The overtime agreement has nothing whatever to do with this case. The overtime agreement is one of those details which brings into light a general principle, and that general principle is an evidence of the difficulty which has arisen in connection with the overtime agreement. There is no question of overtime, there is no question of manning machines, there is no question of any details of workshop organisation in the dispute which at present exists.

As the right hon. Gentleman says, and as the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. R. Young) said, the trouble with which we are faced at the moment is a direct, pronounced, and declared now for the first time, intention, that hereafter the employers' liberty to manage their own factories shall be modified; dual control shall exist, and the right of veto shall be placed on the actual management. It is for this House to say whether they have come to that frame of mind, whether they are going to turn up the whole system which has prevailed in this country and other countries from the beginning of time, and say that the employers, on whom is the responsibility for managing their works, are to be controlled in such a way that they may go into their shops and find that, notwithstanding that they have instructed a certain thing to be done, the shop steward, the workman, or the representa- tive of the workman may come and say: "Yes, you instructed that, but I said that it is not 10 go on until I have arranged the matter with you." I ask this House seriously and deliberately whether they are prepared to admit that that time has come, because if they are the engineering employers are not.

Another point which the right hon. Member for Platting altogether ignored is what we have actually done in the past. I think I am right in saying that the engineering employers have given to the trade unions a measure of representative discussion which does not exist in any other trade. We have what is called "Provisions for avoiding disputes." These were settled in 1898, but in the course of time we found that the executive governments of the trade unions were not sufficiently powerful and their constitution was not sufficiently able to control the irresponsible elements who, during the War, insisted on what is known as direct action, ignored their own constitution, ignored the Government, and by means of strikes sought to get what they desired. We realise, and I have no doubt that other people have since realised, that there is a certain amount of evolution going on in connection with industrial affairs, and we found that there was a desire that the arrangements we had for conciliation should be arranged in order to give further discussion in the shops by representatives of the men directly concerned. We therefore came to an agreement with a large number of trade unions in 1919, called the Shop Stewards and Works Committees Agreements, which gave the unions a complete measure of discussion at every round corresponding with every representative stage that they had, either by their official or unofficial means.

We constituted the works committees in the fond belief that of all the troubles 90 per cent. would be far better settled in the shop than to allow them to increase in importance and grow in difficulty as we went from stage to stage of discussion. Accordingly, we made provision for setting up the works committees. What happened? A large proportion of the trade unions refused to have anything to do with the agreement because they said: "We are not going to have anything to do with shop stewards. We are not going to have anything to do with works committees. We are going to deal with the employers direct, and to force our ideas upon them. "What happened at the end of 1918 was the first deliberate attack that was made on the part of the unofficial movement upon the employers' right to manage their factories. There is no doubt that that was deliberately engineered. There is no doubt that it would have wrecked the whole of the trade union movement. It was designed to do so. Those who had the intention of carrying through that movement said deliberately: "The trade union movement is nothing to us. Our officials have nothing in common with them. We are going to get at the employers, and by the force of a stoppage to compel the employers individually to do what we wish." They tried it, and, a good thing for the country, they failed, and I think that every constitutional trade unionist will be glad that they failed, because otherwise the whole machinery of trade unionism would have disappeared.

We are accused of trying to smash the trade unions. A more absurd proposition was never enunciated by any serious body of men. The president of the main organisation which is affected by this stoppage of work has given it as his deliberate and considered opinion that that statement is absolutely unwarranted in fact. Were it true, what should we gain? Why should we smash the trade unions? We have to live with the trade unions. We have lived with them for 25 years in my own knowledge and experience. We hope, at least I personally hope, that the trade unions will become infinitely stronger than they are, subject, however, to two conditions, that with their strength they will get a strength of discipline based on democratic foundations, and that if the workpeople who are trade unionists elect their representatives they will conform to the instructions of their representatives, and not turn them down as they have been in the habit of doing since the middle of the War. The strength of the trade unions will be increased by the fact that every member of a trade union is prepared to take his share in the ballot. That they should be left in the position that the whole of them are locked out, and that that calamity should come on the country at a time when they can little afford it, because three-fourths of the membership has no apparent interest in the subject at issue, and they allow the matter to be dealt with by less than one-fourth of the membership, is an absolutely appalling state of affairs. The total ballot which took place did not exceed 87,000. At that moment there were nearly 93,000 unemployed, but not even the unemployed trade unionists thought fit to go and take part in the ballot which had such a serious effect upon their industry.

7.0 P.M.

In regard to overtime, I hope the trade union leaders do not think the employers are more foolish than themselves. I put it no higher than that. I think they will agree that we are not going to have overtime, with the increased cost of overtime, on production work, if by any other means we can avoid overtime. Overtime is always a difficult problem. You get a man at the end of the day, when his energies are mainly exhausted, and you ask him to work overtime. In addition to that, it means that under present conditions overtime costs us 50 per cent. more than day work. There is more difficulty in the regulation of overtime in slack time than there is in the regulation of overtime in busy time. In busy times there is a certain amount of resiliency in a department, and you can accommodate the slackness in one department by having an increase in another; but. when it comes to short time, such as we have at the moment, there is not that variation, and the result is that in order to get men in several departments employed and to increase the numbers employed in these departments, it may be necessary that, notwithstanding the fact that so many men are unemployed, as in the department in question, there ought to be some overtime worked. In this case, those who understand the position will realise that you cannot always get additional men to come in and do the work of the men who are actually engaged on a job. I do not think that is is well that I should enter into a question of controversy in view of the discussion which has taken place, but I want to make one or two well-defined and serious points. The only question at issue is whether or not we are going to have the right to maintain the privilege we have hitherto enjoyed, namely, to manage the factories as employers, or whether, on the other hand, there is to be a dual control, and our right of management is to be subject to the veto of representatives of the workers. That question was settled between about 40 employers and about 40 representatives of the engineers, and we came to a conclusion which said that the instructions of the management were to be carried out pending any question arising out of its instructions being dealt with in accordance with the provisions which we had arranged. I do not see what any Government Committee of Inquiry or other body can do any better than 40 employers and 40 trade unionists who understand the position. If the Government appoint an inquiry to override the judgment of these people—who came to a definite conclusion and agreement—they will do the very worst thing in the direction of discouraging private, friendly, and confidential discussions between the two sides most directly concerned. After we had obtained that agreement we were asked, in order that there might be no doubt as to getting it through the membership, if we would allow the trade union to carry through the ballot in its own way. We said "Yes," and instead of the ballot occupying a fortnight it took two-and-a-half months. The agreement was come to in November, 1921, and the ballot was reported on the 27th January, 1922. The ballot was against us, and we found we were up against, not a question of overtime, not a question of detail, not any normal position at all, but against the fundamental principle on which the whole relations of employers and workpeople are based. We had to face that, and when we faced that we realised that we could not settle that question with any one union, but that we must settle it as a general question affecting the whole industrial situation and with all the unions representing the people we employ. We had to settle that question with 73 trade unions, and barring the engineers a large proportion of those trade unions are at present balloting.

The only thing I would like to say to those trade unions at the moment is this. We are not attacking you. It is all very well to say we are imposing our will upon you, but there is no justification whatsoever for such a statement. The engineers have called in question the fundamental principle which has been recognised as the cardinal principle and foundation of the whole structure of industrial relationship. We say to them, "Very well; if you call that in ques- tion, we must see where we are." We have responded to their challenge. We have not interfered in the slightest degree in anything referring to the relations between the engineers and ourselves. We met the other unions, and gave them time to take ballots of their unions. One reason for our adopting that attitude may be of importance and interest to Members of this House. We asked them personally to say whether they would recommend this proposal to their members, and they told us when we met them that in respect that several of their constituent bodies—that is, the trade unions—had for 12 months, and some for a less period, determined that the employers were no longer to have the rights they had hitherto enjoyed, they could not be asked to make a recommendation because it was against the express wish of their membership by ballot. If anything could have justified us in the attitude we adopted towards the engineers, when we found out what was at the back of their minds causing all the difficulty, it was the fact that the representatives of several of the other trade unions came and said, "We have already, without saying anything to you, made up our minds to the extent of 12 months that you are not going to be allowed to carry on your industry as you have done hitherto. We said quite frankly and definitely, "You will have to face this position. We should never have thought of raising this question. It has been raised for us. It has now been raised, and it has to be settled. Any agreements which we have made with you were made on an entirely different foundation, an essential condition being that we were entitled to exercise managerial functions. You have called that in question, and we must see where we are, because until we do, and until we are able to manage our own factories, we can make no arrangements with you or anybody else." Accordingly, they have come to a ballot.

There has been a good deal of acrimony and personal feeling introduced into this Debate, and I regret particularly the words of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) and of the right hon. Gentleman who acts as Vice-chairman of the Labour party (Colonel Wedgwood). If we are to indulge in personalities, it is an easy task, but it is one highly unprofitable and not in accordance with the dignity of this House. Not only so, but it is difficult for anyone in the representative capacity in which I find myself today to carry on with any feeling of security at all if, instead of dealing with principle, instead of dealing with a movement, instead of dealing with a broad basis, one is to feel that there are these agreeable persons who desire to depreciate the basis of the principle and prefer to make personal attacks, forgetting that that is a weapon that recoils with more force upon themselves than that with which it strikes the person attacked. Therefore I do not propose to go into that matter, and will go no further than to say this—and I say it to the Unions who are now balloting. If they are prepared to agree with us in principle that we are still to have the right to manage our factories we shall be more than pleased to sit down with them in conference while their men are at work in order to come to an agreement with them as to the manner in which these managerial functions are to operate. If, on the other hand, they say to us that we are not to have the power to operate these managerial functions, then I am afraid we shall feel that is such a large issue as will compel us to treat this as an absolute deliberate attack on the present system of conducting industry, and we shall have to make up our minds what we intend to do in reply. I hope, and I had hoped before the engineers' ballot came along, that seeing that we have to live with the unions in the future, and that a settlement under duress and after a period of strife is always a thing to be regretted, we should have been able to sit down in friendship, and while the men were at work to arrange the working conditions for the future, having regard to the conditions which prevailed in the War and before the War. Unfortunately, however, we were denied that opportunity by the engineers, who turned down the advice, of their representative body. If they give us an opportunity, we shall, without delay and with the greatest pleasure, sit down with them and see whether we cannot come to an agreement on this vexed question. If they do not do that, then, as I say, we shall have to face the situation.

It may be of interest to show exactly what has taken place. I would explain that of the various unions with whom we have to negotiate, a very large proportion were grouped in three main bodies, and we met their representative. We had, however, half-a-dozen or eight unions who had not combined with any other body. The last one to meet us was last Thursday night at half-past five, and just before we were entering into the war zone the last of these unions, after the discussions with us, came back after an adjournment and said: "We are quite prepared to sign the agreement with you if you are prepared to sign it now." Before they left the conference room that agreement was signed. I am not unduly superstitious, but I do regard it as a remarkably good omen that the last union we should have met was the first to sign that document, and I hope with regard to the other unions saner counsels will prevail. We have no desire whatever to smash the trade unions, but have every desire to assist them to become more powerful, on condition that they will alter their methods in order to make their power a real power. We have no desire to interfere with collective bargaining, because we realise the amount of good work it has effected, but if we are going to be attacked from the point of view of any Communistic principle, then I submit to the House, as I have to the Government, that we are not going to tolerate that for one moment.


The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith) rose with the declared intention to reply to the case submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). I am afraid that we cannot congratulate the hon. Member for South Croydon on the way he has stated that case. At any rate, I think I will be able to show that many of the substantial points upon which the case hinges he has entirely overlooked. He opened his speech by saying that overtime—out of which the dispute originated so far as the Amalgamated Engineering Union was concerned—was a mere detail, and he subsequently put before the House the fact that the real issue was the question of management, and, as I will be able to show, the question of management with a new interpretation. Could we be convinced that the hon. Member for South Croydon in his capacity as chairman of the Engineering Employers' Federation was prepared to put the old interpretation on management, I think, there would not be very much between us. He said more than once that the interpretation that they were now putting upon management was due to the fact that we were endeavouring to establish what he described as dual control. I venture to challenge that statement entirely. There is a vast difference between dual control and that spirit of mutuality by which the very agreements that the Engineering Employers' Federation have entered into with the workmen's organisations should be interpreted and should be applied in the workshops. The interpretation—


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of the agreement to which I have referred, and whether any trade union with which he is connected has ever been a party to that arrangement?


I am aware of the agreement, and I have all the agreements in my possession. As I allowed the hon. Gentleman to state his case in his own way, I trust he will extend to me the same-courtesy. I say the interpretation which the Engineering Employers' Federation is now placing upon the term "management" or "managerial functions," creates an entirely new situation. It is the situation which, if I read the shorthand notes of the conferences which have-taken place during the last few months correctly, strikes, in my opinion, at the very foundations of collective bargaining, and would very seriously prejudice many of the very agreements which the Employers' Federation have entered into. The interpretation means this: The manager is to give an order, and however new the work may be, however adverse to the principles upon which the work may have been done in the past, or however obnoxious to the workmen, the order must be executed and the working conditions entirely changed for the time being. It has to be admitted, of course, that the workman has redress in being able to put in a complaint, and that complaint has to be heard, subsequent to the objectionable work having been entered upon. He has a right to complain, and a form of negotiation will be carried through under the arrangements that exist.

I want to show, having been mixed up, not quite so much as I am now, in earlier years with these negotiations, that that is an entirely new principle. I happened to be the instrument in creating two Conciliation Boards in one of the industries that have been dragged into this dispute which, as I will show presently, never sought a dispute, and had nothing to do with it, but were dragged into it, and not requested, as the Minister of Labour has said, but given an ultimatum to do certain things, and told that if they did not do them within a certain time the employers would consider what course they would adopt against the organisation. I refer to the iron founding industry. I hold in my hand two sets of rules of Conciliation Boards which I was instrumental in setting up, one in 1894 and the other in 1908, and I think that I am entitled to say that the fact that I was instrumental in setting up these two Conciliation Boards is evidence, at any rate, of my anxiety to try to maintain the relations between the employers and the workmen in the most conciliatory and most peaceful manner.


Are they still in operation?


They are not, I am sorry to say. It is no fault of mine that they are not in operation, but it is good evidence to show what did obtain in those days. In the rule of the first of these Boards it is provided that pending the decision of the Standing Committee the full Board or referees"— because we had a rule that enabled us to go to arbitration in the event of our failing to arrive at a settlement by conciliation— of any question covered by the rules the working conditions shall remain unchanged. The other rule reads: There shall be no stoppage of work in the nature of a strike or lock-out pending the decision of the Board on any question, and all working conditions shall be those current at the time when notice was given. Is this the interpretation of managerial functions? If an order is given and the workman thinks it is so objectionable, so inconsistent with custom, practice, and principle, that he cannot immediately enter upon it, is the interpretation of managerial function in harmony to-day with the position that I have shown to exist when these two Boards were in operation in the engineering industry? If not, then I hold that I have made my first point, that it is a new interpretation, and as a new interpretation that it strikes right down to what I have already said are the roots of collective bargaining. To those of us who have been associated with the engineering industry, as I have been for some 38 years, it is difficult to understand the attitude of the employers on the present occasion. They have fixed this issue. If there is trouble in the engineering trade to-day, it is not a strike. Those of us who have read the whole history of the negotiations with the engineers know full well that, even to the extent of the leaders recommending that which they knew, as they must have known, would be received with hostility by great numbers of their members, they did everything in their power to come to a satisfactory arrangement, and the responsibility is not theirs, and I may say in all friendliness that this House is never slow in imposing the responsibility, when that responsibility rests on the working men's side. It is fresh in our memories how, time after time, that happened when we had the Debates in this House, when the mining industry was in the state of turmoil in which it was last year. But not only have the employers fixed the issue but they have gone further, and this is the most serious part of all, they have considerably extended the scope of the dispute, and I want now to refer, even in detail, to the mariner in which they extended the dispute to the organisation with which I happen to be connected, and of which I have been a member for so many years. I would remind the House again that the 47 unions outside the Amalgamated Engineering Union had no dispute with the employers on this question. That wants to be kept in mind very clearly.


On a point of Order. I have already said, and I think that my right hon. Friend will not disagree with me, that a number of the trade unions told us that they had a disagreement with us because they had made up their minds, by a ballot of their members, that they were going to alter the present state of affairs.


That is neither a point of Order nor a sufficient answer to the statement which I am making. I am referring now to the General Labourers' Federation, the Shipbuilding Engineering Federation, and the National Union of Foundry Workers, and, so far as the National Union of Foundry Workers are concerned, I have here a statement of a conference that was held as recently as the 4th of March, and I must weary the House by quoting it, in order to let the House see how this union was dragged into the present dispute. The Member for Croydon (Sir A. Smith), in opening the conference said: This conference has been arranged in view of the letter we sent you on the 21st of February wherein we referred to the difficulty which had been raised in connection with the employers' right to maintain the functions they have hitherto exercised in the matter of managerial acts, and we gave you copy of correspondence which we have had with the Engineering Trade Union and also directed your attention to a particular clause in a letter which we sent to them of which we enclosed you a copy and asked you to meet us. Now the general position to-day, which I understand from what we have been informed you are aware of, is this: that for the first time a serious attempt has been made to call in question the right of the employers to manage their establishments— This is a right that the union, so far as I know, has never called in question, the right of the employers to manage their establishments— and seeing that the question has been raised by one trades union—deliberately raised—raised on a ballot, notwithstanding the agreement which we arrived at with the council, the national and district representatives of that union, we have made up our minds that the time has come to settle this question once for all, and to realise whether in the future we are going to carry on on the basis of the employers having the right to maintain the exercise of their managerial functions or whether the ballot which has been taken is indicative of the attitude of the men. This is to a union that has never balloted— We have further realised that there is no use having a settlement of a fundamental issue like this with one particular trade union. We must know exactly where we are in order that we shall be able to deal with matters in the future, because, obviously, we cannot make an agreement with anybody until we know whether or not we are going to be allowed to manage the factories. All the agreements we have actually made were made on the basis that we were entitled to do so, and if that position is called in question the agreement which we have made is of no avail at all and we cannot proceed now until we know where we are on that particular point. And then this statement occurs, and I want the House to note it— If you are not prepared to agree that we are entitled to keep on industry on the basis which has hitherto existed"— —and so far as this union was concerned, this was the basis certainly up to the beginning of the War when these two Conciliation Boards existed— then I am afraid we will have to make up our minds as to what policy we are going to adopt with regard to your members. If, unfortunately, a stoppage of work should take place with any of the Unions, owing to the fact that they are not prepared to admit the rights we hitherto have been entitled to exercise being continued in the future, then I must say to you perfectly clearly and definitely that in respect of those persons whose employment is interrupted for that reason there will be arrangements made whereby the terms and conditions on which these men will be permitted to resume work will be laid down by us. There is the iron heel, if ever we had it. Though I have been negotiating in the engineering trade for more than 30 years, I have never heard of an ultimatum like that. Then we are asked, in face of the evidence that I have given that they had that interpretation of managerial functions before the War, whether our members are not being dragged into this dispute to which they were not parties, by being asked whether, they are prepared to accept these conditions, as if not, they will be locked out, and that when they come back they will come back on the conditions laid down by the hon. Member for Croydon. Here is the sort of dialogue that took place. I think that it is very informing, and at the risk of wearying the House I am going to ask them to listen to it: EMPLOYERS' REPRESENTATIVE: We cannot admit that we are not entitled to exercise the various managerial acts we have hitherto exercised or to exercise them in future, subject to the consent of the trades unions or their representatives or subject, as was put to us, to a right of veto. WORKMEN'S REPRESENTATIVE: But if a change was wanted on the other side, if the men wanted a change, the conditions all along have been for mutual arrangement, and that the status quo remain until it was definitely settled. This is the only fair position. EMPLOYERS' REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, but we are not going to allow the men to interfere with the management so long as the present state of society exists and the present structure of industry is maintained. We are either going to manage the shops or the shops are not going to run. Do not let us be under any misapprehension about it.


Where was that said?


It was said at the conference to which I have referred with the Engineering Employers' Federation, over which the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir A. Smith) presided on 4th March, 1922. The document goes on: WORKMEN'S REPRESENTATIVE: I suggest to you that Section 3 of the Memorandum is a fundamental alteration from what has previously existed. EMPLOYEES' REPRESENTATIVE: No, I do not admit that, but even taking it on your basis that is the fundamental condition which is going to operate in future. WORKMEN's REPRESENTATIVE: I cannot see how it is going to operate. I want to know what the men will do if they want a change. If they go to the management and say, 'We want a change of certain conditions,' what will they do? EMPLOYERS' REPRESENTATIVE: The management will decide whether or not it is prepared to accede to the request. WORKMEN'S REPRESENTATIVE: But if the management impose their conditions then the natural position would be to stay outside until we come to an arrangement. That appears to me to be an equitable position. May I say, in passing, that, so far as the engineers' union is concerned—the same does not apply to my own union—they cannot stay outside. That is the irony of the whole situation. They have a provision for the avoidance of disputes, and however objectionable the order of the management may be, they cannot go outside. They are bound to remain in by the provision for avoiding disputes. That is the most objectionable part of the whole thing. They are bound hand and foot, and dare not go on strike. The conversation goes on: EMPLOYERS' REPRESENTATIVE: It may be quite equitable from your point of view, but it is not what is going to take place. It is all very well. What you suggest now presumes one thing, and one thing alone—that the operation of the factory is to be subject to dual control. We are not going to have that. We are going to manage the shops and nobody else. Let us be quite clear. That is the issue. Those are the conditions laid down by the employers' organisation. As I have said, we were no parties to the trouble, but have got this ultimatum. Here is the letter that was sent: My National Council have had under consideration, with the assistance of the transcript of shorthand notes, the proceedings of the conference between representatives of your Federation and this Union held at Manchester on Saturday last. My Council recognise that the questions are addressed to them directly, and in compliance with your demand for a reply by Saturday, 11th March, I am now instructed to write you to state that as we are not parties to any dispute on the point raised, we protest against being drawn in by your Federation without any provocation on our part. As you raised the matter and gave us but one week to decide, the whole onus of the position rests with your Federation, and my National Council cannot agree to sign the suggested agreement nor can they enter into any joint recommendations to accept your proposals. I think I have said sufficient to show that this creates an entirely new position. It is asking the men to work a new interpretation altogether.


I do not desire to interrupt at all, but I wish to inform the House that the extract the right hon. Gentleman has quoted is an extract from a document of a kind which has been recognised for years between the employers and the executives of the trade unions as being strictly private and confidential.


I hope we are going to conduct the Debate with strict accuracy. I challenge the hon. Member for South Croydon to show that I have quoted a single sentence from any document which is of a private and confidential nature.


Conference notes which are taken at central conferences are, and have always been acknowledged as private and confidential by the members of that conference, for the obvious reason that if there is not to be sufficient freedom of speech at these conferences to enable the members to appreciate what is in each other's minds, then nine-tenths of the value of those conferences is gone. The central authorities of the trade unions have gone so far in many cases as to deny the right even to their own district committees to see these notes.


That does not prove that it was a private and confidential document. The executive council had to submit the matter to the members, and I have been quoting from a document that has gone to the whole of 40,000 or 50,000 members. That is not a private document, surely? I have the whole of the notes here. How can these documents he confidential? I have been mixed up with this business far too long for the hon. Member for South Croydon to be able to say that these shorthand notes are private and confidential in the sense that we are not permitted to use them among our members or to lead our trade unions.


Not only that, but the executive council refuses to allow members or district committees to see them. If the right hon. Gentleman is as fully advised as he professes to be as to what is going on, he would realise that there have been resolutions sent to executive authorities that it is essential these notes should be disclosed to enable the district committees and members of the unions to see what their own representatives had said and thereby to have an opportunity of finding fault because they have not said what they should have said in accordance with the ideas of these local people. The only safeguards we have had in the interests of both sides has been that notes of conferences of that description are strictly confidential and private to the members composing the conferences.


I must say that I cannot accept that in pleading a case, as we have to do to-day. Moreover, the hon. Member for South Croydon has been free to quote documents containing very serious statements against all the unions Members of the House have received today one such document. The hon. Member for South Croydon wishes to be permitted to do that sort of thing, and we are not to be permitted to quote from the transcript of the shorthand notes.


I have not been guilty of any breach of confidence.


If the House is prepared to consider me guilty of a breach of confidence because I quote from the notes in order to defend the case of my own union when it is attacked, I am quite prepared to stand condemned for such an action. There was another speech today to which I must make a reference. It was the speech of the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. Gould). That speech was considered so valuable that the Minister for Labour replied to it as a speech in which the employers' case had been stated. I listened to the speech very carefully. It was interesting, but it seemed to me from beginning to end to be a speech in support of an inquiry. I think the hon. Member made some of the strongest statements that could be made to support the claim we have made for an inquiry. For instance, he talked about the ballot and the way it had been taken. He talked about members of the union never having been given a ballot paper on which to record their votes. If this be a dispute which is hanging upon the decision of the ballot, that statement is the strongest argument why the matter should be probed to the bottom by an impartial court of inquiry. No cheer given in this House was louder than the cheer given to the hon. Member's closing statement, that the Government should see that ballots were properly conducted in the trade unions. If that be the view of the House, why do hon. Members to-day not stand by us when we urge the Government to get down to the foundation of this business? If the ballot has not been satisfactorily taken, we of the trade union movement are only too anxious to discover the reason why it is not properly taken. We will assist in the most searching investigation. We are exceedingly anxious to have ballots properly taken on every occasion.

The hon. Member for Central Cardiff also made a very eloquent plea about the condition of the shipping trade. He said that we had been living in a fool's paradise, that the conditions under which they were compelled to work were so onerous that it was nearly impossible to go on. All I can say is, that if his words and his appeal do not find acceptance with the general body of the workers in the country, it will be because there are such illustrations on the other side as one I am now going to ask the House to note. Here is a case that was reported in the Press a few days ago. There are some very strong phrases used by the judge who tried the case. It is a case heard at Greenock, "Loss of War profits; £51,000 damages asked." This is what the judge said: They have put in an analysis of their pre-War profits as compared with their postwar profits, and from their analysis one could draw a certain inference as to how far in truth they were affected by the action of the Government. This was a case where the Government had taken seven or eight fitters to work in another yard owing to the exigencies of the War, and the employers put in a claim for £51,000 damages. Here are the remarks of the judge: The average pre-War profit for the five years ended December, 1914, amounted to £6,465; for the four years between 1914 and 1918 to £55,438, and for the two years 1919 and 1920 to £104,716. The judge went on to say: That was the firm that was making a claim against the Government, not founded upon any claim of common law, but upon the ground that it was a fair and equitable claim to make in respect of loss sustained by their having obliged a Department of the Government by sending eight fitters to work in some other firm. I repeat that if the words of the hon. Member for Cardiff do not find acceptance among the workmen of the country, if the workmen cannot credit that shipowners and shipbuilders are really being so badly treated, it is because there are such illustrations as this to be placed on the other side. Finally, I want to say a word on the attitude of the Government. I am quite prepared to admit that the Minister of Labour has done everything in reason to keep these people together, but I cannot understand the final attitude which has been taken up with regard to the proposed court of inquiry. I am going to read to the House Clause 4 of the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, which is the first Clause in the second part of that Measure: Where any trade dispute exists or is apprehended, the Minister may, whether or not the dispute is reported to dim, under Part I of this Act, inquire into the causes and circumstances of the dispute, and, if he thinks fit, refer any matters appearing to him to be connected with or relative to the dispute to a court of inquiry appointed by him for the purpose of such reference, and the court shall, either in public or private at their discretion, inquire into the matters referred to them and report to the Minister. Then I want the House to particularly notice this: A court of inquiry may, if it thinks fit, make interim reports. Any report of a court of inquiry and any minority report, shall be laid as soon as may be before both Houses of Parliament. That is most important. Here is a dispute in existence affecting 300,000 men: here is a dispute apprehended, affecting additional hundreds of thousands of men. If there ever was a case that should be brought under Part II of the Industrial Courts Act it appears to me this is one of those cases. Part II of that Act was enacted in the interests of the public. It differs from Part I, because either of the parties may object to coming under Part I, but it does not matter if both object to coming under Part II, the Government can still put Part II into operation. It cannot be denied that the public interest is affected by a dispute of such magnitude as the one which has now been entered upon, and its magnitude may increase in the course of a few weeks more. It is clearly in the public interest that a most searching inquiry should be held and that Members of all parties in the House should have the benefit of any report issued by whoever might constitute a court of inquiry under this Act.

I appeal to the Leader of the House to see whether he cannot take steps in this direction without waiting. The ballot is not returnable until Saturday, and more than probably, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday must elapse before real business can be entered upon, and even then you may have to appoint your court of inquiry. It seems to me that the setting up of a court should be proceeded with, that the preliminaries should be entered upon, and, as far as possible, that the influence of everybody should be brought to bear upon the organisation worthily represented by the hon. Member for South Croydon to ask them to withdraw the lock-out notices. This inquiry, if it is going to be a proper inquiry, must last for a long time, and it is no use holding that inquiry while there are hundreds of thousands of men resenting the treatment that they are experiencing in being kept compulsorily idle. Therefore, it seems to me that if the hon. Member for South Croydon and the Government and those of us who are exceedingly anxious to see this matter brought to a close, laid our heads together, we could get this court of inquiry set up. I believe if there is anything at all wrong, on the part of the workmen, as far as misinterpreting managerial functions is concerned, such a court would be the best method of elucidating it. I feel, from the purely public standpoint, that it is a disaster we should have had this lock-out just at the moment when trade was beginning to go in the right direction. It would be a terrible disaster if it should go on, as it might easily go on, for months, until orders now passing about have gone elsewhere. We should all deplore such a situation, and for all these reasons I again appeal to the Government to see whether they cannot at once set up a court of inquiry, in the hope that, as a result, we shall have the engineering industry placed on a much more satisfactory foundation.

Colonel L. WILSON

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.


No, no.

Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided: Ayes, 80; Noes, 162.

Division No. 51.] AYES. [7.54 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D. Hayward, Evan Rendall, Athelstan
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W. Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hogge, James Myles Rose, Frank H.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Holmes, J. Stanley Royce, William Stapleton.
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Irving, Dan Seddon, J. A.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Jephcott, A. R. Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Birchall, J. Dearman Johnstone, Joseph Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Slmm, M. T.
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute] Kenworthy, Lieut-Commander J. M. Sutton, John Edward
Cairns, John Lawson, John James Swan, J. E.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Lunn, William Taylor, J.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lyle-Samuel, Alexander Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray Thomas, Brig.-Gen, Sir O. (Anglesey)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South) Mallalieu, Frederick William Tillett, Benjamin
Finney, Samuel Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.) Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Galbraith, Samuel Morris, Richard Waterson, A. E.
Gee, Captain Robert Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross) Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne) Murray, John (Leeds, West) Wedgwood, Colonel Joslah C.
Grundy, T. W. Myers, Thomas White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth) Naylor, Thomas Ellis Wignall, James
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) O'Connor, Thomas P. Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Halls, Walter O'Grady, Captain James Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hancock, John George Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Hartshorn, Vernon Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. W. Smith.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S. Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Lindsay, William Arthur
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A. Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.
Amery, Leopold C. M. S. Flannery, Sir James Fortescue Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)
Atkey, A. R. Ford, Patrick Johnston Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Baird, Sir John Lawrence Forrest, Walter Marks, Sir George Croydon
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Fraser, Major Sir Keith Molson, Major John Elsdale
Barlow, Sir Montague Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz
Barnston, Major Harry Gardiner, James Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Barrand, A. R. Gardner, Ernest Morrison, Hugh
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Neal, Arthur
Bell, Lieut. Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Gilbert, James Daniel Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L (Exeter)
Betterton, Henry B. Glyn, Major Ralph Newson, Sir Percy Wilson
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Gould, James C. Newton, Sir Douglas G. C.
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith- Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E. Greig, Colonel Sir James William Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)
Brassey, H. L. C. Gretton, Colonel John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Breese, Major Charles E. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H. Guinness, Lieut. Col. Hon. W. E. Morris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Parker, James
Carew, Charles Robert S. Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton) Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Carr, W. Theodore Haslam, Lewis Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)
Casey, T. W. Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston) Poison, Sir Thomas A.
Cautley, Henry Strother Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Cecil, Rt. Hon, Evelyn (Birm., Aston) Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Rankin, Captain James Stuart
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.) Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Cheyne, Sir William Watson Hinds, John Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Coats, Sir Stuart Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hood, Sir Joseph Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian) Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) Hopkins, John W. W. Rodger, A. K.
Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead) Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Dawson, Sir Philip Inskip, Thomas Walker H. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Dean, Commander p. T. Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Jameson, John Gordon Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Elveden, Viscount Jodrell, Neville Paul Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Evans, Ernest Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)
Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly) Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)
Farquharson, Major A. C. Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Fell, Sir Arthur King, Captain Henry Douglas Starkey, Captain John Ralph
Steel, Major S. Strang Turton, Edmund Russborough Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)
Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K. Viekers, Douglas Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)
Stewart, Gershom Wallace, J. Wise, Frederick
Strauss, Edward Anthony Ward, Col, L. (Kingstonupon-Hull) Wolmer, Viscount
Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser Waring, Major Walter Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Sykes, Colonel Sir A. J. (Knutsford) Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T. Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South) Watson, Captain John Bertrand Woolcock, William James U.
Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill) Wheler, Col. Granville C. H. Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Thorpe, Captain John Henry Wild, Sir Ernest Edward Young, E. H. (Norwich)
Tickler, Thomas George Williams, C. (Tavistock)
Townley, Maximilian G. Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Tryon, Major George Clement Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Dudley Ward.

Question put, and agreed to.