HC Deb 07 May 1923 vol 163 cc1973-2010

No special constable, if called out for duty during an industrial dispute, shall be called upon to perform any work in connection with the industry in which the dispute is proceeding.—[Mr. Trevelyan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

A certain amount of difficulty exists with regard to this Bill, because of the vagueness of the right hon. Gentleman who brought in the Bill. He was very careful to say very little, but there was a question as to the use to which the constabulary would be put, asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), at the time of the Second Reading, as follows: Will the trade unions be assured that the Force will not be used in trade disputes, as during the War? To this, the Under-Secretary replied: I have already said that no trade unionist is going to be forced to become a special constable. If he becomes a special constable, he becomes one knowing perfectly well the duties he will have to perform. If he says to himself, 'I do not feel, if I become a special constable, that I shall be able to carry out those duties,' it is his business not to become a special constable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1923; col. 990, Vol. 162.] At the same time, there is nothing in that reply which does define the duties of the special constable. All we have heard from the bench opposite is a description of the duties of special constables in keeping the peace, maintaining the law, and defending property. As a matter of fact, we, on this side, do not think that this body of special constables is necessary even for that purpose, but there is another purpose to which they might be put, and that is the purpose of strike breaking. This Clause directly challenges that question, and if it were passed, these special constables would still be available for keeping the peace, should the Bill become law, and they would still be available for defending property, but they would not be available for breaking a strike or a lock-out, or being used for industrial purposes. It really is, therefore, a test Amendment. What are the duties of these special constables? If they are to be used for the purpose of blacklegging, it is perfectly obvious, as we have been saying over and over again on this side, that no trade unionist will apply, that no one who disbelieves in blacklegging, either in any dispute that he sees possible ahead or on general principles, will join. That means that the great mass of trade unionists in this country will have nothing whatever to do with it, and, therefore, what we say is correct, that this new Force will be composed only of enthusiasts for the mine-owning and property-owning view of industrial disputes, people who, from their side, believe in class war.

5.0 P.M.

We, of course, say that the police are the right people to deal with difficulties of this kind, as they have done perfectly satisfactorily from the year 1831 to the year 1914, when the police, with the very rare assistance of the military, have been sufficient for any disturbance that there has been. When trade disputes have occurred, the police have never been used for breaking strikes or being called upon to do the strikers' work. Unless you adopt this Amendment you are going to create this new force for a different purpose from that for which the police are now used. I think the Government have not, perhaps, quite realised how inconsistent this is with the mild statements that they have been making hitherto. They go on saying that this is a general force, which anyone can join, but do they seriously pretend that a force will be likely to be joined by any number of working men which may be called out any day to do blacklegging? Do they seriously pretend that? Do not let them go on to say, "Oh, it is open to the working classes to join," if they are going to insist on defeating an Amendment of this kind. If this Clause be inserted, all law-abiding citizens may join this force. There is no reason why they should not. If this Clause be not passed, the majority of law-abiding citizens of this country, who include the working classes, would not be able to join this force. If this Clause be not inserted, the enormous majority of the law-abiding citizens of this country could not join it consistently with their consciences, consistently with their ideas of how society should be run.


I beg to second the Motion.

I do so mainly on one ground. The Home Secretary, who has shown readiness to understand different points of view, does not seem to have sufficiently appreciated one very vital point, that is, the way this new force of special constabulary is to be regarded by the ordinary public, and particularly by the working-class public. What is it to be regarded as? It is not solely a question of what it is actually to consist of or of what it is actually going to do. It is a question of the impression it will make on the public. It will be generally agreed that, whatever else we want the force to be, we do not want it to be recognised as an instrument in class warfare. We do not want it to be thought of in that light. If this new Clause be not carried and if the special constabulary could be called out for duty during an industrial dispute and called upon to perform work in connection with the industry in which the dispute is proceeding, it is absolutely inevitable that this force will be looked upon as an instrument of class warfare. As such it will certainly be viewed by a very large section of the community in the sense that they will not join and will not support it. On the contrary, they will help to swell the general current of opinion critical if not hostile towards the force When we know, on the other hand, that there is a very large number of people in this country who would like such a force to be used as an instrument in class warfare; when we realise that there is a very great danger of a force from which men of working class or Labour sympathies shrink, that, force will become in fact an instrument in class warfare. We heard in the Debate on the Second Reading references to the Fascisti movement in Italy and so forth. It is especially in relation to the subject-matter of this new Clause that that question becomes important. No doubt there may be exaggerations in regard to this, but there is, in certain countries, in various forms and guises, a movement for creating a forcible weapon to be used against the working classes, and to be used against democracy and democratic ideas and methods.

I do not suggest for a moment that in this country such a movement is likely to take the extreme forms which it tends to take in Latin countries, or in such countries as Hungary, yet I do say that we see the beginning of such a movement even in countries and peoples much more akin to our own. Among the Teutonic people, who, whatever we may think of their conduct in certain events, are in character more like ourselves than the Latin peoples—among these people, for instance, in Bavaria, you have a movement of this kind very highly developed, and very competently and thoroughly organised. Movements of this kind may spread from one country to another more rapidly than some people believe. There is a distinct possibility that, if we have an instrument, such as the proposed Special Constabulary, which could be used in industrial disputes—and undoubtedly there would be an outcry for its use if industrial disputes arose and if it were in existence—if we have such a force, there is a distinct danger that it might become a part of the movement I have described, which in Italy takes the form of Fascisti, definitely and consciously directed towards suppressing the activities, industrial and political, of the working classes. But whether it did so or not, it would be regarded by the public opinion of this country as being a one-sided force, and as such it would undoubtedly be weakened in its power and usefulness, even if it did not become a positive danger to the community.


I wish to support the Motion. We cannot have enough Clauses of this sort in the Bill, and if this Clause be not inserted, the Bill is likely to cause unrest in the minds of a great number of people. This Bill as it stands is not a Bill for establishing order, but a Bill for disestablishing order. When the Bill came up for Second Reading, we had a very peaceful speech from the Home Secretary. He represented to us that this was a very mild and quiet Bill, and so on, but he was rather given away by hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite. One particular hon. Member, who is distinguished in the service of his country in the matter of dealing with torpedoes, really torpedoed his leader. Just when the Home Secretary had explained that this Bill was made up of nothing but the milk of human kindness, there was a swelling noise behind him of class warfare, and an hon. and gallant Member really expressed the feeling alluded to by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, of that sort of international belief in class warfare from the side of the privileged classes, which is such a danger on the Continent of Europe. I think everybody in this House who believes in orderly progress ought to see that, when a Bill of this kind is brought forward, it does not offend a large section of this country.

I assume that hon. Members opposite do not imagine that the whole mass of the workers of this country—take those who voted for the Labour party at the last Election—are all Red Bolshevists. I do not think that such a view is held seriously in this House, however useful it may be to set forth in platform speeches in remote villages. We are a party who wish to make changes in a constitutional and orderly manner. What we want to see is that the balance is held fairly between the two parties. In a trade dispute you have a contest between a certain number of human beings and a certain abstraction which is probably called a company. You cannot get at the company. Force is not used against the company. It is not even used against the directors who, in many cases, may not be near the spot where the dispute is actually taking place. If in every industrial dispute which takes place there is going to be a danger of mobilising an anti-trade union force from among the privileged classes or among those outcasts who are so down and out that they are prepared to blackleg their fellows, then I say that is a very great danger. Although I suppose some 30 or 40 years ago the majority of hon. Members sitting in this House would have accepted the proposition that in all industrial disputes the men were necessarily in the wrong, to-day we recognise that there are cases where the masters may be wrong.

If you use a force of this kind in industrial disputes, it could, by its very nature, be used only on one side. You create this force that can be used only against the men. What are you going to put on the other side to use force against the masters? Cannot you have some pressure to use against them? Can we not have a force to look after the children of people who may be locked out in the course of a trade dispute? This is a loading of the dice against the workers all the time. It is, I think, generally admitted that if you are to have anything like order you must have some impartial force to keep order. In any of your games you do not want the referee and the umpire to be prejudiced. In this case, by the mere fact of not having in the Bill this protection for trade unionists, this force is bound to be a prejudiced force drawn from only one side. At a time like this, when economic issues tend to be drawn between class and class, when all the great issues dividing the people are mostly economic issues, it is a danger to set up a force drawn from only one class. If you insert this new Clause, you can have a special force of constabulary which may be useful in certain eventualities; which may give a little needful exercise to some people in the way of having a little walk out now and again, but if this new Clause be cut out, a great number of the trade unionists in this country, some six or seven million men, will be cut out from that force. Your special constabulary will then be a class force and its existence will inevitably raise, among the less disciplined minds in this country on the workers' side, a desire to have a counter force.

I do not deny that there may be a few firebrands in this country who are on our side, but there are a great many firebrands on the opposite side, and I can see this force becoming a great danger if it got into the hands of a certain person who may not be sitting on the benches opposite, but who may be hovering halfway between the benches opposite and the benches below the Gangway on this side, and who is making speeches and writing articles in the Sunday papers trying to point the moral and adorn the tale of a lining up on one side of capitalists and on the other side of the workers. There may be nothing in that. It may be only the desire of someone who has lost a job to get a new job again as the saviour of society. We remember what happened in Ireland when a certain person was in charge of affairs. But when there are dangerous people like that, do not put a weapon of this kind into their hands; do not forge a weapon against the workers, lest you make them forge a weapon on the other side. We on this side of the House do not wish to march to social reconstruction by first of all flattening out our whole civilisation. We do not believe that the best way to reconstruct the home is to knock it all down, if the home be worth having Of course it might well be, in non-parlour houses, to knock it down. We think, however, there is a sufficient amount of structure in the walls of our own country to preserve. We do not want to see the home wrecked in the process of endeavouring to reconstruct. Therefore, I support this Clause to make this constabulary force a real and a national force, and not a class force.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) is to be congratulated on the wording of this Clause. It is very much better than the one in my name, and I think it is a valuable Clause. I think that ray Noble Friend the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) and others, if they want to make these special constables a broadly-based force, drawn from all classes of the community, will insist on the Home Secretary accepting this Clause, because otherwise it will be very difficult not only for any trade unionist to join this force, but for any person, who by temperament or by knowledge, usually has his sympathies on the side of the workers in trade disputes, and there are a great many, not trade unionists, who take that point of view. Everyone admits that during the War the special constables were perfectly efficient, and did very good work, but is it known generally in the House that it was a well-understood thing in certain districts, and, indeed, it was laid down definitely, that special constables enrolled during the War were not to be used in trade disputes? Those are the actual words used, and I embodied them in my Clause In the case of Hull, I know, the special constables were distinctly informed—pledged, in fact—that they were not to be used in cases of trade dispute. I have that from the gentleman who commanded them during the War, and who is, in fact, my own Chairman. The consequence was that a great many trade unionists joined—I think the majority consisted of trade unionists—and did splendid work in Hull, where more bombs were dropped in air raids than anywhere else, except London. You are really going to make it difficult for any trade unionist to join this force. Is that the intention of the right hon. Gentleman? Does the right hon. Gentle- man expect any organised workers to join this force, if they can be turned on to driving engines in a railway strike or trams in a tramway strike or lockout, or put to anything of that kind? Unless they can be assured that they will only be used for the purposes of preserving the peace, you cannot expect them to enroll, and you will have a force, not drawn almost exclusively from the middle and upper classes, but from those members of the middle and upper classes who, through ignorance, or want of sympathy and understanding, usually take the side of the employers against the workers in any trade dispute.

We have had bitter and prolonged trade disputes in the past, and in some cases there has been disorder. Others have passed very peacefully. We have had every sort of trade dispute during the last 50 or 60 years, very often prolonged, and leading to riots, much ill-feeling, and very often deaths. We have not had this special force of constables. Are there any cases where special constables were called out for trade diputes in the past? Were they in the strike in London or in the strike in Liverpool?


A lot of specials were called out there.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

It was not a permanent force, and specials can still be called out, even if this Bill be defeated altogether. We on these benches have maintained all along that the 1831 Act is sufficient, and we do not require this specially organised and—what I am afraid is going to be—specially selected force to be used in these trade disputes with, we think, very harmful results. These disputes were settled more or less satisfactorily, but they were settled. During the last Parliament a special effort was made by the last Government to organise all the blacklegs. A secret circular was sent round to the motor associations asking who were willing to help in the event of a strike. It was kept secret. I do not think it was legal, and it ought to have been challenged at the time. Unless this Clause be accepted, you are going to regularise all that, and, what is worse, make it permanent. It may be said that during the years 1919, 1920, and 1921, before the power of the so-called Triple Alliance was weakened, a case could be made out, and was frequently made out by Mr. Winston Churchill and other timid people politically—I must not be misunderstood—who are always frightened, always seeing red rats, as someone put it the other day. They used to say it was absolutely necessary to organise against this great body, the Triple Alliance, which could paralyse all the means of communication, and so on. Some excuse could be put forward—although insufficient, in my opinion—to organise these blacklegs amongst the motor-owning class and so on, but here you are going to put this permanently on the Statute Book. That shows, I think, a very poor faith in our fellow-citizens, who, after all, have been through a distressing and trying time during the past 10 years, and have not come out of it badly. I think the general public in this country has behaved, in very difficult circumstances, extremely well. We have had great strikes with a minimum of disorder, and with millions of men trained to arms, anyone might have prophesied extreme disorder and danger during those alarming trade disputes. In spite of this, the attempt is going to be made to make this force permanent, and therefore it is very necessary that some such Clause as this should be inserted.

May I remind the Home Secretary of the very questionable tactics of the daily Press during our trade disputes, in which deliberate attempts are made by certain sections of the Press to inflame the public against the employés involved? Lying statements have been broadcasted in these newspapers, and every attempt made to inflame public opinion, not amongst the mass of the people, but amongst the middle-class and the classes not involved in the dispute. On the other side, you have special interviews and special photographs of people who, for once in their lives, do a little hard work and drive motor lorries and railway locomotives. Sir Richard Cooper, when a Member of this House, had his photograph in half the papers of this country, and he was held up as a tremendous hero because he had driven a locomotive during the railway strike. Could anything be more likely to inflame and create bitterness? There you had men who were struggling for what they considered a necessary standard of life. The railway strike, it was admitted afterwards, was in many respects fully justified.


No, certainly not.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I did not expect the right hon. baronet to have the least sympathy with any work-people in a dispute, but he is honest, and I thank him for his interruption. But will the Noble Lord the Member for Battersea say the same? Will he say there was anything wrong in the attitude of the railway strikers on that occasion to insist on some decent standard of life? He has got plenty of trade unionists in his own Division, and I would ask him—


I must ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to address the Chair.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I apologise, Sir. I say that the self-advertisement of people who acted as blacklegs on that occasion was calculated to arouse class feeling. This force may be enrolled, as the right hon. Gentleman probably means it should be, for the legitimate purpose of preventing violence and riot, but if it is then going to be turned on to organised blacklegging, there will be a departure from the regular orderly behaviour we have had during these trade disputes. I hope, if the Home Secretary does not feel himself able to accept this Clause, the House will insist upon it. Statements are constantly made on these benches that hon. Gentlemen on the other side are out of sympathy with the workers. Let us hear from them whether they are in sympathy with the special constables being used for this purpose. There is an hon. Member for Ulster, who has more knowledge of special constables than I have. Is he in favour of these being turned on in trade disputes to break strikes? I invite the hon and gallant Gentleman for Finsbury (Lieut.-Colonel Archer-Shee) to support us. Let us hear something from the other side to show that the gibe frequently made against them is unfounded.


The speeches to which we have listened on this Amendment seem to me to show an extraordinary misapprehension of the intentions of this Bill and particularly as to the refusal of the Government to accept the Amendment. In the case, for example, of a dispute between myself and my men, do hon. Members of the Labour party really believe that if I applied in such a dispute for the use of special constables to break the strike among my men, that my request would be acceded to. [HON MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The Home Secretary, to whatever Government he belonged, would see me further first. The only intention of the Bill obviously is that under circumstances, which might arise, such that a considerable portion of the inhabitants of this country would be unable to avoid starvation in case of a continuance of the dispute—that under such circumstances alone would the special constables be used in doing any work in a trade dispute.

We had an example of the sort of thing I mean about three or more years ago, and it is a case of the kind in which undoubtedly a large portion of the inhabitants of this country were in actual danger of serious privation and of ultimate starvation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It was a serious position and it is under these conditions, prevailing in a railway centre like my own, that in the absence of special constables, such as are provided for under this Bill, we should have been in very serious danger of civil war. There was the railway strike proceeding in this country; and at times like this some of our neighbours can get out of it. You do not see the rich men suffering any privations. They can get away. But the people who first suffer privation under these conditions are the poorest of the poor, and, subsequently, the better-paid workers. In the circumstances present during the railway strike there was undoubtedly very great danger that the poorest in my own district were about to suffer severe privation and ultimate starvation owing to the holdup of the transport. Under such conditions it is almost impossible in the absence of a special force of the nature suggested, and such as is provided for in the Bill to prevent the rise of an unauthorised force in opposition to the trade unions. I know the thing from experience. I was just on the point, in my own district, of helping to get together such a force to help those anxious to prevent their poorer neighbours suffering from privation and, it may be, starvation, and to help in forming an organisation to see to getting the food trains through, so that our neighbours should not suffer. If we had done that, a position of the utmost seriousness might have arisen, for we should have been acting quite illegally. The presence of a strong constabulary composed of men properly sworn in and acting principally under the instructions of the majority of the country would undoubtedly prevent the rise of an illegal and unconstitutional force such as that I have indicated. Therefore, perhaps, I am justified in suggesting that hon. Members opposite have quite a misapprehension of the intention of this Bill. There is obviously no such intention as they think. On the face of it, no one would dream of using the special constabulary in any dispute between an employer and the men he employs. But it might save serious tumults if the Government were to use that constabulary in the case of a dispute such as that to which I have referred, only where it is a case of a dispute between the trade unions and the poor of the country.


I was really hoping that the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Measure would have told the House what the attitude of the Government was in respect to this Amendment.


I will do so later.


The fact is that during a previous discussion we were told by every hon. Member who rose that this particular form of constabulary was to be a completely impartial force, and simply for the purpose of helping the regular constabulary in the preservation of order. The hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) particularly emphasised that point in answering the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for the Edge Hill Division (Mr. Hayes). It was made quite clear that they were to be an impartial body; that we were not creating strike breakers, that they were to be purely impartial. If the hon. Member for Holborn will look at his speech, he will, I think, see that he used that exact expression.


indicated dissent.


I am quite sure that some qualms felt on these benches were at least allayed by that statement. After all, what is the special constabulary? It may be said quite clearly and accurately that they are an auxiliary force to the regular constabulary. Circumstances may arise, often have arisen, when it is necessary to supplement the existing forces. But the duties of the special force do not exceed and cannot transcend the duties of the primary force. They are supplementary. The duties of the second, that is the auxiliary force, are not to be greater than those of the force originally established and to which they are to be assistant. I think my right hon. Friend himself will admit that that is a fairly accurate definition. All that is asked for here—I am quite sure the House will recognise its fairness—is that where an industrial dispute is in existence—not a dispute in which the whole country is engaged, not a dispute in which I recognise the whole community's existence might be gravely imperilled, but an industrial dispute—that was the actual expression used—the added auxiliary constabulary shall not be used as strike breakers, shall not be called upon to perform the work which is ordinarily performed by the parties in dispute. I myself should have thought that hon. Members who desire, and I believe have very earnestly expressed that desire, that this force shall not be used as a strikebreaking force, would have seen that it is not in the interest of anyone that the community shall not have confidence in the force. The fundamental condition of confidence in a police force is that it will not outstep its ordinary duties and become participant in the merits of the dispute. Surely all that is asked here is the special constables, when established, shall not be called upon—if you like to put it that way—to help to work the mines.

I have been engaged in trade unionism now for 50 years. I think I have witnessed some of the most terrible industrial struggles that the last century and this has known. I have witnessed them on a mass scale in which vast numbers of people have been engaged. In the 50 years or so with which I have been connected with trade unionism, there has been no necessity for special constables. That auxiliaries have had to be called in, that the forces in the various districts have had to be increased, is undoubted. The whole mining industry—and those who know recognise that at least one side has had a fair share of prosperity—has managed to do without special constabulary right up till now, and until a couple of years ago, when the miners in the industry were locked out, and some million people were involved. The controversy was very acute, but there were no special constables called in. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] No, not a single one. The right hon. Gentleman himself will, in whatever else we may differ, agree that there never on such a gigantic scale was such a huge controversy conducted under such remarkably peaceful conditions..

That would seem to show that, first of all, there does not exist any necessity for special constables even to be brought into existence to any great degree than the need existing already, and that certainly in respect of their duties there ought to be no addition to these except as they form part and parcel of the regular force. As I said, confidence, after all, is the very essence of the efficiency of the police force. The moment you say that these people are to be called upon, or may be called upon, to become active participants in the merits of a dispute, you destroy the very conditions that make for confidence. Nothing can be worse for the status of the police force itself than to leave it open to any real doubt that they may be called upon to engage in an industrial dispute and to break the power of resistance of the men. As has already been very well said, no force has ever been used against the side of the employers. Sydney Smith said many years ago that corporations had neither souls to be saved or bodies to be kicked. Employers' corporations are intangible combinations that nobody can get hold of, while, on the other hand, the working people, massed in their thousands, in great communities, can very easily have force erected against them. In the case of this special force of constabulary, if it is necessary at all to have one, one desires its members to be efficient. Nothing could be worse than to destroy at the very outset confidence in such a force on which efficiency is based by a suggestion of partiality. I do really urge the right hon. Gentleman, who knows industrial history as well as most people in this House, at least to assure the House that this force, when called upon, is not to be an active participant into the merits or demerits of a trade dispute.


I am sorry if I have inconvenienced the hon. Gentleman by not having got up earlier, but there were various hon. Members to speak, and I was anxious to hear what they had to say. On the whole, I am not sorry I did not rise earlier, because there is an extraordinary amount of misapprehension in the minds of hon. Members on the question before us. Suspicions have been aroused—hon. Members on the opposite benches have conjured them up—which never existed in people's minds before, as to what the force is to be used for. The hon. Member opposite who seconded the Amendment talked about the new force. It is not a new force. It is not going to have powers different from what the old force had. It is merely to carry on the same powers and duties as the old force. The only difference is that in this case the members are enrolled, and in the other case, in that sense there was no enrolment. Under the Act of 1831 they cannot be called upon to perform any duties except the preservation of public peace, the protection of the inhabitants, and the security of property. They cannot be called upon to take the place of strikers, because the Act of 1831 already says that they can only be called upon for these particular duties, which do not include taking the place of strikers in a dispute. In an earlier Amendment we dealt with the point about them taking part in a trade dispute which might lead to disorder, and in that case special constables might have to be used. The special constables when they join know that they cannot be called upon in this way, and if they do not know they can very easily be told. To say that unless this proposal is passed in this House, that this force becomes a one-sided force—


The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) admitted that these special constables could be used in trade disputes.


I say that they cannot.


I say you are wrong.


I am referring to the statement that, without this Amend- ment, this Bill becomes a one-sided force, always to be used against the working men, but it can only be used against them when working men are out of order, and in order to keep order. The present force, or rather those who were enrolled under the 1914 Act consisted, I am told, as far as the metropolitan area was concerned, of 50 per cent. of the very class of men against whom it is said these special constables are going to be used. There has actually been strikers on strike who joined up as special constables, and so there will be again in the future. There is nothing to prevent men, whether they belong to a trade union or not, who are working men, enrolling themselves, and nothing can compel them to take the place of strikers if they are in this force. The Act of 1831 is quite sufficient to prevent the danger which hon. Members quite reasonably foresee, and therefore I hope this Amendment will not be pressed, because it is unnecessary and the position is fully safeguarded.


I cannot understand why on earth the Home Secretary does not accept this Amendment, because his whole speech is directly in favour of it. Really, if all that the right hon. Gentleman has said is contained in the Act of 1831, and if he is being perfectly frank with the House, why should not this Amendment be accepted in order to set all our minds at rest. It seems to me that the only loophole we have for suspecting the right hon. Gentleman is contained in the words "the preservation of order." Does the right hon. Gentleman by any chance draw a fine distinction between a trade dispute that affects the community and one from which the community cannot escape? Is he reserving the power to allow special constabulary to interfere by working a power station in order to keep the production of light and heat going? Does the right hon. Gentleman regard that as something which a special constabulary might deal with, although in an ordinary trade dispute they would not be wanted? Is that a case in which the right hon. Gentleman might so arrange the Regulation that these special constabulary might be of service? Unless there is something like that at the back of his mind, I cannot understand why he cannot accept the Amendment. If this is at the back of his mind, then the House ought to know and have it frankly placed before them. In 1919 there was a threatened strike of electric light workers, and I think it actually took place. If I remember rightly, the Navy stokers were brought in at the Lots Road station to work the power station. That was a trade dispute. Would that be regarded as one in which special constables could not take part as blacklegs, or is it an exception which would justify them taking part?

Take the case put forward by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). Would a railway strike be an occasion when the preservation of order demanded that the special constables should run the motor transport or the railway transport? Would such cases also be considered an exception? If the right hon. Gentleman rules out these cases, if these are cases in which the new special constabulary would not be used, we should like to know if they are to be considered trade disputes, and we should like to have the word of the Home Secretary that in such cases special constables will not be introduced. It seems to me that the idea at the back of the mind of the Government is that this new force of special constabulary should be used in cases in the interests of the community when the community finis it is inconvenient. If that is not so, we certainly have done them a grave injustice. If it is so, then think it ought to be stated frankly in the House. From the speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, I imagine that there is no sort of question of this new constabulary being trained to-day in special industrial work, or of acting in any way differently from the existing police force, and that they are merely intended to supplement the existing police force, and nothing more. If that be so, let us have the matter plainly stated by inserting this Amendment. If this is not the case, let us be told outright what it is that the Government propose.


The hon and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken s[...]ems to be unable to believe that all we want is that these special constables should do exactly the work which has been done by them in the past, governed by the same restrictions and Regulations, or, rather, by new Regulations which we shall have to lay on the Table of the House. The hon. and gallant Member thinks because I do not put a lot of unnecessary words in the Bill that there must be some sinister motive at the back of our minds. I have been asked whether it would be considered preserving public order, protecting the inhabitants, or dealing with the security of property, to call upon special constables to go and work at some power station where the men were on strike. I say distinctly that they cannot be called upon to do that work. On this point I want to be quite frank. In the case referred to by the hon. and gallant Member, volunteers were called for, not merely from among special constables, but generally, and volunteers enrolled themselves to do that work at the power station, and among them there were some special constables. I am not prepared to say that if a special constable volunteers for that work we can prevent him doing it. We say that if he does that, while he is doing it he cannot perform the functions of a special constable, and that is my position. I hope I have now made this point quite clear.


With regard to what has been said I wish to point out that 1831 is rather a sinister period, because the special constables were then organised to prevent people getting their freedom. Then the people were fighting for the first time for the right of the franchise, and special constables were brought in to beat their fellow subjects into subjection, and now this proposal is being brought forward to be used against the industrial revolution. I remember that in 1911 we had Bluebottles on the top of the meat vans, and they were special constables, and very special constables. They were not used to break the strike, but to break the people's heads, and it seems to me that that is what these new powers are being asked for. We know very well that when trouble does arise hon. Members opposite will be absent, and it will be the mugs who will have to face the music. We are told by the Home Secretary that these men will not be called upon to blackleg, but they will be called upon to do more because they will have to protect the blacklegs. There is nothing to prevent a special constable from going into a generating station, a gas works or water works and blacklegging the men in the dispute. Special constables will surround that station, with revolvers if necessary, to protect those at work.

6.0 P.M.

On this question, why do you not tell the truth? You tell us that we are preaching a class war, but you are producing such a war every day by forcing our wages down, driving our women into starvation conditions, and then you say you are doing it in the interests of law and order. The other day the Home Secretary himself told us that there were 360,000 ex-service men out of work. If you want more policemen, give those men a job. If you are short of police, put these men into uniform and pay them a decent wage for doing police work. Instead of that, you say you want blackleg policemen; you want every creeping, crawling thing in a factory to become a special constable—because they are the only men you will get. The fellow who wants a better job, who wants a few shillings a week more on his wages to put his fellow-workmen away, will join your special constabulary; no decent workman will do so. And yet you boast about your love for the ex-service man. Here are the men who have gone through the mill. Here are the men who have been disciplined and organised through the Army and Navy. If you want more policemen, if you think there is danger of disorder, give these men a chance and put them into decent work under decent conditions, and we will support you. What you really want, however, is protectors for blacklegs. If they are not blacklegs themselves, they will be the supporters of those who are. We want order if we can get it at a reasonable price, but we ask that this Amendment shall be carried, to give us a guarantee that they shall neither be used as potential blacklegs nor for the purpose of protecting blacklegs who may take part in breaking up an industrial dispute. I come from the East End of London, and from Ireland, too—

Captain Viscount CURZON

Hear, hear!


—and I have never been sent to prison for doing anything I am ashamed of. I have not been convicted 14 times for trying to kill other people. I have no licence to kill, but I will undertake to say that, if I had had to undergo the ordeal of the Noble Lord opposite, I should have been in gaol now. I do not happen to have been so successful in choosing my parents, and therefore I have to submit to the responsibility of being only a common person. We ask that this Bill shall not be passed. There is plenty of opportunity for the nation to protect itself against disorder. There are plenty of disciplined men ready to take service in that force. If you want more policemen, make more, and make them proper policemen—men who understand their duty and are prepared to do it. I object to these half-time blacklegs. We in the East End of London know them. We will trust ourselves in the hands of the ordinary police, because we know them; but we are not prepared to trust these people, who are always looking for something to turn up—militarist Micawbers. If it gets to be known among the workers outside that you are going to create such a force, to be called upon at any time to do anything that the authorities in power may demand, the result will be to create the very feeling that you want now to try to prevent—the feeling that you are organising a special force which is only recruited from certain sources, like the foremen in factories and people who are looking for better jobs; and the ordinary workman will get more embittered than ever. I hope, therefore, that this Amendment will be carried, and so justify the position we are taking up.


I think there is a good deal to be said upon the position taken up by the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. If the special constables are a class force, they are an extreme danger, for feeling will run high whenever their services are required, and, if feeling runs high in circumstances of that kind, there will be a great danger of fuel being added to the fire. When we talk about trade disputes we do not all mean the same thing. To me, there is nothing illegal about a trade dispute. There is nothing violent about it. It is not only perfectly legal, but perfectly peaceful to have a difference of opinion between employers and employés. It does not necessarily lead to violence or riot, and it is not a matter in which special or any other kind of constables will be required. If employers and employés cannot agree about conditions of labour, wages and hours, there is a dispute, but it calls for no interference on the part of the ordinary or the special police or of the military. I am not quite sure that all those who have addressed the House this afternoon have had that clear distinction in their minds. There is a clear line of demarcation between an industrial dispute on the one hand and an industrial riot on the other. A riot implies force, but a dispute or a strike does not imply force, and is not illegal.

What is a strike? It is nothing more nor less than a number of men saying, "We will not work under these conditions," and, in saying that, every man or group of men is exercising a perfect right. Why is it necessary to utilise police or special police in that case? If that is so, it seems to me that there is no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not accept this Amendment. It simply says that, in the case of a dispute, special constables are not to be called in. If, on the other hand, a dispute or a strike leads to riot, that is a different thing, and then force is required, because riot implies force. Riot is a condition in which men attack each other by violence, but a dispute or a strike is not necessarily a condition in which the aid, either of the police or of the military, is required. If a riot should arise out of a strike we have the police, and I believe that the police, and the police only, are competent to deal with it. I do not think that special constables are of very much assistance, and I think that their employment is bad policy.


On a point of Order. May I ask whether the whole of this speech is not really a repetition of the preceding part of the Debate?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

I think the hon. Member is going a little too deeply into the distinction between a, trade dispute and a riot.


On that point of Order. I am certainly most anxious to keep within the limits of order, and especially to obey your ruling, but may I understand what it is? Must I not repeat what other Members have said before me?


I do not think it is necessary to repeat too often what other hon. Members have said.


May I point out to you that the range of the discussion has been very wide? The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) discussed the whole principle of the Bill without question. Is there to be one law for him and another for my hon. Friend?


Yes, I have got a law to myself.


The danger, to my mind, of special police is that they might fail entirely to fulfil the object which the right hon. Gentleman hopes they will fulfil. I think training is necessary for the police if they are to prevent riot and disturbance, and that is their first function. I have travelled a good deal, and have never felt prouder than when I compared our police with those of other countries. Their impartiality, discipline and self-control are things of which we should feel proud, and one cannot travel in foreign countries without being able to draw that distinction to the advantage of our own men. The special constables are not and cannot be so trained, nor can they have the sense of responsibility which the regular police have. I think that this is an essential Amendment. It goes no further than to say that, in disputes which have not arrived at the stage of riot, the police or special police shall not be used.


I should like, first, to say a word in reply to the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson). He, apparently, is not now in the House, but he asked what was to happen if we did not have these special constables to do the work of strikers? We disagree with the statement that, unless we have an official body of this kind, persons like the hon. Member would be obliged to organise in their own districts in order to prevent people from being starved. Speaking for myself, I think that, in circumstances where the capitalists of the country have failed to provide a great national service and to organise it peacefully, it is the duty of the State, not to take sides against the workmen, but to organise these services quite apart from the capitalists who have failed to organise them. There is no need for the setting on foot of voluntary organisations. During the period when it appeared likely that there would be a great general strike in the country, all the people who were taking part in local government, especially in London, were asked to undertake the organisation of essential services, and I believe that all the local authorities, whether Labour or Tory, certainly in the metropolitan area, came together and formulated a scheme whereby these essential services would be carried on. All this argument, therefore, that the hon. Member and his Friends would be obliged, in order to save people from starvation, to set on foot a kind of Fascisti, falls to the ground.

I should also like to say that I do not think the Home Secretary answered the argument from this side. No one disputes the goodwill of anyone on the other side, but what we do dispute is the statement that special constables cannot be used in this way. During the year 1919—I hope the Home Secretary will take note of this date—during June of that year a special letter was sent to the special constables in London requesting them to take service in the electric light works, either as skilled or as unskilled workers. A friend of mine who served during the War as a special constable, and was not demobilised, was one of those who were called upon to do that work. It is, therefore, nonsense to say that special constables are not called upon to do this.


They volunteered.


This man was not told to volunteer. He was called upon to go and do the work. When you have a body of men organised as the special constables are organised, even calling upon volunteers is to all intents and purposes an order to them to go and do the job. But in this case it was definitely a request that the man should take the place of the people who were expected to go on strike at the electric light stations. I have in my possession the letter to my friend who was called upon to do it. When the Home Secretary talks of it as such a very innocent kind of force, may I recall to the House that 500 similar gentlemen took part of the Battle of Peterloo at Manchester. In those days they were called the "black-coated mob." They were looked upon as enemies of the workers even as long ago as the fight for political reform. Not merely are these men used in that way, but the Government, through the different Departments, are always trying to organise a force of blacklegs when there is likely to be a big trade dispute. If the Under-Secretary for War was here and we were challenging him on this subject he would tell us the Army are not for blacklegging. Yet the War Office during a trade dispute sent out a circular to the regiments all round London calling for men to take part in the various trades and occupations they had followed in their civil life before joining the Army. That circular was published in the Press and there is no denying it. It is on all fours with what will happen with this special constabulary in regard to future labour disputes. May I call attention to another fact in regard to these gentlemen. I have had sent to me this circular headed "Special Police Reserve": Dear Sir,—A miniature rifle club has been formed and two ranges have been acquired, namely, the Stock Exchange range, Borers Passage, and Sir Charles Wakefield's range at Blackfriars on the Embankment. The hours open to members are 4.30 to 9 on Monday at the Stock Exchange and 5.30 to 7.30 at the Blackfriars Lane. Match rifles are provided at both ranges. At the Stock Exchange range there is, in addition, a revolver range, and revolvers are supplied. Rifle and ammunition is supplied at both ranges at 4d. for ten rounds, and revolver ammunition is 3d. for six rounds. There is a subscription of 2s. 6d. To make a success of the club it will be necessary to have a large number of subscribers at such a low fee. The committee very much hope you will support the club, in which case kindly forward me your subscription in the enclosed envelope, when particulars will be sent you; the range at Blackfriars will be open on Thursday, 3rd May, and at Borers Passage on Monday, 14th. The next swearing of recruits will take place at the Guildhall on Friday, 4th May, at 1.30 p.m. Please make an endeavour to obtain a recruit. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite express the spirit of Fascisti thoroughly and well, and they prove that the statements made by the Home Secretary are of absolutely no effect whatever. Whom are you going to use the revolvers and rifles against? Against the workmen and no one else. You are not at war, are you? [HON. MEMBERS: "We were!"] You were, but even so, you never got the enemy here to fire on. Hon. Members opposite may say what they please, but they are being formed up for the purpose of shooting strikers. Will you allow us in Poplar to form a similar kind of organisation for working-men? The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor locked workmen up because they had in their possession old worn-out bits of guns. He put them on trial for having arms in their possession. These are the gentlemen of England—the stock jobbers of England—whom you are going to train in order that they may form the nucleus of these Fascisti. That is your special constabulary.

Lieut.-Colonel HILDER

Is the hon. Member aware that the Stock Exchange Club started before the War, I believe, at the request of Lord Roberts?


Before the War the feeling was as bitter against the workmen as it is now. I used to sit on the benches opposite and hear Mr. Winston Churchill talking exactly in the same fashion as some hon. Members have talked to-day, especially like the hon. Member for Mossley.

Lieut.-Commander BURNEY

Is it relevant to this discussion to bring in rifle ranges and revolver clubs all over the country which it is open to anyone to form, which have nothing whatever to do with special constables and which were in existence long before the Special Constables Bill was thought of or brought in?


That is more like a speech than a point of Order. I think the hon. Member was connecting it with his argument.


I was trying to connect it and I really mean it. I think this is all part of the fear which has been germinating in the minds of the capitalists and others, and I think you are doing a very great disservice to everybody in persisting in it. I think rifle ranges and learning how to use a pistol and so on for middle-aged and old men to start on is a very bad business indeed, especially for one section of the community to do it. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to stand up and say he will give me permission in the East End of London to form such a club. I know I should not be allowed to do it, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that a number of working people have been put on trial because they possessed pieces of rifles.


Without a licence.


Without a licence What licence are these people going to have to do it? To tell us at this time of day that special constables are not used, and are not going to be used, as blacklegs is all nonsense. They have been and they will be, and the purport of the Bill is to enable them to be so used. One person can declare an emergency. It is our old friend the competent military authority over again. And when that emergency arises, if the Government choose to say it is necessary for the feeding of the people or for the transport of goods that these men shall be used, they will be used and, therefore, trade unionists cannot possibly join this body. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that 50 per cent. of the constabulary during the War were trade unionists. I myself volunteered to do any duty which a special constable could do during the air raids and the difficult times we went through, and any of us would have done it. I wrote to his predecessor saying I did not want to take the oath, but I was perfectly willing to do the job of helping people, if it was possible for a person like me to do it. We were living under rather difficult circumstances, but that is an entirely different thing from organising this force. There is no need for their services, and I think if the right hon. Gentleman really understood all that has happened, both previous to 1914 and since the conclusion of the War, in regard to these specials, and what will happen if any big dispute comes along, he would at once meet us and accept this new Clause.

Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

I think it is unfortunate that an endeavour should be made from the benches opposite to convince people that the special constabulary is a class force. It has been my great privilege recently, on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant of the county in which I am interested, to present medals to a large number of special constabulary and, as far as I could see, the vast majority of those present were working men who had done magnificent service all through the War and are all perfectly prepared to go on assisting in time of stress at a General Election or in preserving peace if there is trouble, but who are all convinced that there is no question whatever of their being asked to carry out duties such as have been suggested. With regard to the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, it was formed in this country by Lord Roberts.


No, this was a special reserve for the City of London.

Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

This was, I understand, a miniature rifle club.



Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

You described it so.


I did not describe it as anything of the kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "You did!"] I will read the title.

Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

I quite accept what the hon. Member said. He says he did not use the words "miniature rifle club," but that is what it is in fact.


No, it is not.

Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

I think you will find I am right. It is unfortunate that this kind of class speech should be made with reference to the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, 95 per cent. of whose members are working men. As the Home Secretary has given us an explicit and definite statement as to the object of the Bill, it really seems to be a waste of public time to go on arguing that unnecessary words should be inserted.


I do not rise to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the argument whether or not this constabulary force is to be used as a class force. I do not conceive that subject to be covered to a large extent by the terms of the Amendment. The terms of the Amendment raise a readily understood and very important point. The Home Secretary appears to conclude that he has disposed of that point by giving the House an assurance that these special constables shall not be used as we fear and say in the terms of the new Clause they will be used. The new Clause expressly asks the law to declare that, in the course of their duties, the special constables shall not be required to do the work of the men taking part in a dispute. The Home Secretary says, "They never will be so used. I give an assurance that they will not be so used." Even Home Secretaries in these days appear and disappear with a good deal of rapidity.


Under the Act of 1831, they could not be called upon to do so.


There is nothing in the Act of 1831 to declare that special constables shall not be used in relation to a dispute. That Act declares that they shall be used for the maintenance of peace and order and for the protection of property. Our fear is that, in the pursuance of their duties in respect of these things laid down in the Act of 1831, those who are in supervision over the men may require them to take sides in a dispute. It may be that they will be required to take steps for the purpose of protecting property and for the purpose of maintaining peace and order. That is a matter of the point of view of those who will have the men under their control. What we ask the Home Secretary to say is, that in the new law which he is making it shall be expressly declared that these men shall not be required to take sides in a dispute to the extent of being compelled to take the places of men who for the moment are on strike. We are happy in the knowledge that, in the main, industrial disputes in this country have been conducted with a great deal of good sense and good temper on all sides, and usually that the law has been observed.

The Home Secretary spoke of suspicion, and he said that in our minds that suspicion was wholly unnecessary. After listening to his two short speeches I feel a suspicion which I did not entertain before he spoke. I suspect that in the absence from the law of the words which we are now suggesting it will be within the power of those who are supervising or generally ordering the special constables to do their duty to tell them to do just what they, the supervisors, please. If we complain of that, to what can anybody turn? They can turn to the terms of the statute, but they will not find in those terms the benevolent assurance which the Home Secretary has given us this evening. We have received an assurance from him that these men will not be used as we fear they will be used. In law that assurance is valueless. The terms of the statute alone express the powers that may be exercised. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was therefore so wholly unconvincing that our suspicions are rather hardened by his refusal to incorporate the suggested words in the terms of the statute.

I expressly ask him why he will not insert in the Act words which would give us a statutory reassurance, and which would expressly limit the duties of these men to the range of service which we are assured they will be required to perform? The new Clause does not propose in any way to interfere with the services of special constables for the particular purpose for which they are being recruited. It does not seek, and in no way does it contemplate, a restriction of the duties for which these men are being expressly enlisted, and while not in any way interfering with their proper duties, it does ask the House to declare that these men shall not take sides in a dispute. If they do take sides, we know from our experience that there is only one side they will take, and that is, they will take the side which is against the men and necessarily and inevitably on the side of the employers. We are entitled to a fuller and more convincing statement than that given by the Home Secretary. If we cannot have such an assurance he can scarcely expect us to place any value upon his assurance, and the new Clause must be pressed to a Division.


This subject is so important that it cannot be disposed of simply by the assurance of the Home Secretary. The difficulties that have arisen on this question have arisen on the unofficial reply of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). He distinguished between two kinds of industrial dispute; one a partial strike occurring in his own works, and in which he would have been merely concerned with his own men and in which case special constables could not be employed, and the other a strike on a larger scale which paralysed one essential service of the community, in which case he maintained that, as in the railway strike of 1919, it would be justifiable to employ special constables. I was inclined to give some attention to that unofficial reply, because the speech was made after some consultation with the Home Secretary, and I was surprised when the Home Secretary made a speech of a quite different character. The Home Secretary opposed the new Clause because he said it was unnecessary. He said that under the Act of 1831 special constables could not be employed in the way contemplated in the new Clause. I have taken the trouble to refer to the Act of 1831 with a view to seeing whether the exact words cover the object mentioned in the new Clause. The words in the first section of the Act are: For the preservation of the public peace, for the protection of the inhabitants and the security of property. It is possible that the words "for the protection of the inhabitants" might be so construed as to cover the employment of special constables in such essential service. That was the interpretation given by the hon. Member for Mossley. He said we had to consider whether for the preservation of the inhabitants it would not be necessary to organise some independent force to govern and run certain transport services. "Protection of the inhabitants" covers a great deal. It is not only that they might be attacked, but it might be that they had not the means of life, and I suggest that these words might be construed to cover service in such a strike as that mentioned by the hon. Member for Mossley. I do not think any assurance of the Home Secretary is sufficient to cover that. It becomes a question of interpretation. The special constables would be subject to penalties for breach of orders. Penalties are prescribed in the Act of 1831. If a special constable were asked to go to work at an electricity station or to run a locomotive and he refused to do so on the ground of the assurance given by the Home Secretary to-day, that assurance would be no protection for him. He might be summoned under the Clause? which imposes penalties, and he would be subject to penalties for each breach if the words were construed in the sense that I have construed them.

I submit that in these circumstances, as there is a doubt, it is essential that the new Clause should be inserted in the Bill. The Home Secretary says that he has no objection, on the merits. His objection is that the new Clause is unnecessary. It is the first time I have heard of a new Clause being refused on the ground that it is unnecessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I would remind hon. Members that in the Bill we passed last week, two Amendments were inserted in Committee, although the Attorney-General said they were quite unnecessary. He agreed to their insertion, however, on the ground that they gave greater security. This is a case in which we want to give security. There is a great deal of doubt, misgiving and suspicion abroad and if the Home Secretary wants to remove this doubt and suspicion there could be no harm in inserting this new Clause. It will not prevent him doing anything he desires to do or anything that he contemplates doing. It will strengthen him in refraining from doing what he wants to refrain from doing. There may be Home Secretaries in the future who do not pay any attention to the assurances that have been given and who will look up the Statute of 1831 and say: "It justifies me in employing special constables for this purpose, and I am going to do it." Let us have words in the Bill so that any future Home Secretary will not be allowed to do that. No difficulty need arise.


Could not the Home Secretary see his way to accept this Amendment? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have listened to the Debate very carefully and to the remarks of the Home Secretary and I understand that he considers the Amendment unnecessary on the ground that the language of the Act of 1831 fully covers the point. That is the only reason which he gave. He assured the House that it had never been the intention at any time to use special constables as substitutes for men on strike. On that point we do not disagree. The only disagreement is a purely verbal one and that is, whether the Act of 1831 carries out our desires fully or whether other words are needed to make it absolutely certain in the present Bill. I feel inclined, looking at the matter in a general way, to agree with the interpretation of the Home Secretary, but, apparently, doubt has crept in and may still further creep in. This Bill is a very exceptional Bill. The Government is asking for exceptional measures, to which we do not object on these benches; but we say that everything ought to be done to banish any kind of suspicion or any possibility of its being held out in the country that this is an elaborate attempt for the establishment of the Fascisti or any other of that kind of organisation which neither the Government nor any party in this country wants to do. Would not the Home Secretary be well advised to dispel the doubt which has arisen, and which has been expressed in Debate, especially in the extremely moderate and convincing speech of the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). If he did so he would find that he was doing a good thing from the point of view of the Bill and from the point of view of the Government. If he cannot do that, I shall feel it to be my duty to vote for the Amendment.


We ought to approach this new Clause from the point of view of what is the correct interpretation of the duties of a police officer. There has been a good deal of disagreement in this Debate as to what are the duties of a police officer in a certain set of circumstances. I think that the Home Secretary is inclined to agree with Members on these benches rather than with Members behind him. The Act of 1831 makes provision for the appointment of special constables to presereve the peace, and for the protection of the inhabitants and the security of property. My experience, and I think the experience of the Courts, also points to the necessity for a legal interpretation of those words. The interpretation is left to the superior officer who is in charge of special constables, and who may differ from the Home Secretary, and the position of the special constable is that he is instructed by his superior officer to carry out a certain duty, which in the opinion of a special constable might be taking part in a trade dispute, and if that special constable declines to carry out the orders of that superior officer, despite the fact that the interpretation of the officer may be at variance with that of the Home Secretary, the special constable is liable to penalties and may be subject to fine or imprisonment or both.

Therefore, in the interests of the special constable, and also of the superior officer who may have no conception of the duties of those placed under his command, and also in view of the fact that there is a possibility of the special constable being placed under the control of people who are not experienced police officers this Amendment should be accepted. To get a true conception of a policeman's duties one has to spend a considerable number of years in the regular constabulary, and even then we are sometimes at variance with other people as to whether we are keeping within the confines of real police work. On these questions of trade disputes the Home Secretary has informed us that the duties of the special constables are very clear, merely those of a police officer. On the Second Reading the Under-Secretary said that the special constables would know very well what their duties would have to be when they joined, and if they did not care to go into a force when they might be called upon to perform certain duties, they should not join that force. We want to help the Home Secretary in this matter. We do not want to be contentious over this particular Clause, because to my mind it removes the main bone of contention between this side and that side of the House. If the Home Secretary can define police duty, and he says that the definition of police duty is that these special constables shall not take part in industrial disputes, why not put that in the Bill in order that there may be no misconception of what is intended by those who have introduced the Bill?

It is said that special constables are never, and have never been, called on by the authorities to engage in industrial disputes. I am sorry to have to differ from the right hon. Gentleman on that point. I could tell of cases in which not only special constables but also unfortunately, due to the misconception of superior officers, regular constables at times have taken part in industrial disputes, in a manner really beyond the powers of the police. During the time of a colliery dispute, General Macready, who in course of time found himself chief of the police at New Scotland Yard, while in charge of the military at the Tonypandy riots submitted a report to the Home Office or the War Office—I am not sure which, but I have seen a copy of a portion of it—in which he made it clear that the colliery owners seemed to have an idea that when there was a trade dispute, and they received the assistance of the regular police, the regular police were there to do the bidding of the colliery owners instead of doing the bidding of the police authorities in respect of police duties, and boilers were actually fired by police in these disputes, due to a misconception of duty by the superior officers. We do not want the possibility of this happening again. Special constables also have been used in connection with industrial disputes.

I do not think the House will have all its uneasiness suddenly dispelled by the statement of the Home Secretary. I would remind the House of what actually happened in 1919. Telegrams were sent from New Scotland Yard to the various commanders of special constables in the various areas of the Metropolitan district asking that men who had a knowledge of motoring or electrical engineering should be asked to parade for duty at a certain time. "Duty" was the word used in the telegram, and it would be a violation of duty if they did not carry out the orders of the superior officer placed in charge of them. When the men paraded they were told not to parade in police uniform; to lose their identity, so far as the public were concerned, as members of the special constabulary, that they should wear their oldest clothing and that they would be sent to do duty at certain power stations in the Metropolitan area. It may be all very well for certain Members to argue from their point of view that that is legitimate employment, and that view is held very definitely by Members who will probably go into the Lobby to support the right hon. Member's Bill, but it is not the correct point of view, if we accept what the Home Secretary says with regard to the proper function of the special constables. We trust that the Home Secretary will accept this Amendment which merely makes clear a question of interpretation, so as to avoid the possibility of a repetition of what has unfortunately occurred in the past with regard to industrial disputes.


This is a most important discussion, far more important than some of us realise. I am supporting this Amendment because I think the Government will be making a great mistake in playing into the hands of those who are definitely collected in a great organisation to act both in an illegal and a legal manner towards bringing about a revolution. There are those on the other side representing people who take means of getting behind the law, and all that we are asking for now is the inclusion of this particular Clause, and if we do not adopt it it would be taken as a further proof by those of whom I speak as to the subtlety of the methods which have been adopted, and to which very specific testimony has been given by the last speaker, who has special knowledge of the subject. Personally, I have some knowledge of his reference to the calls that have been made upon constables. I am not asking the Government to view it from the standpoint of the Labour movement. We call upon the Government to put this into the Bill, because we think it esssential in the best interests of all concerned, but at the same time I am bound to state that it is a very serious position for a trade union, which has perhaps the largest organisation, so far as the jute and mill factory workers are concerned, to carry through a recent strike, which brought tens of thousands of people into the streets, and deliberately evade their own trade union by-law which guaranteed the members that no such strike could be taken, without a two-thirds majority

being secured on a ballot, while no such ballot was taken. Communistic influences are operating. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]


The remarks of the hon. Member are not relevant.


I was endeavouring to show that if we call for the inclusion of this Clause it is essential that every section of society shall adhere to the laws which they have adopted in order to obtain that security which we are advocating. If this Clause is not introduced, then we are encouraging those forces which will lead up to some such result as that to which I have referred.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 246.