§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), to leave out Sub-section (1) and to insert a new Sub-section, is printed in the wrong place on the Paper.
§ Mr. H. H. SPENCER
I beg to move, in page 5, line 12, to leave out Subsection (1).
I understand the Minister is anxious to get this Bill to-night and we on this side of the House and, I am sure, my hon. Friends on the other side, do not wish to prevent him doing se. So far as we are concerned, the Minister can have his Bill in ten minutes if he consents to what we impressed upon him in Committee. In a time when unemployment insurance is in the melting pot, when the fund is insolvent by millions, and when we are inflicting a heavy burden of contributions on the working classes and on the industry of this country to pull the fund round, we ask the Minister not to bring in any controversial changes into the administration of unemployment insurance. A very controversial change is proposed in Clause 4. May I ask the House to bear with me while I say something about the principle of unemployment insurance. The Unemployment Insurance Measure which was originally passed, possibly more than any other Measure passed within recent years except Old Age Pensions, had the good will of all sections of the community particularly in the terrible times through which we have passed. It was intended by its promoters and has been looked upon by its beneficiaries as a Measure meant to tide industry over the bad times which seem to be inevitable in modern civilisation, but it was not a Measure which was ever intended to subsidise trade disputes.
Even in 1911, when the beginnings of unemployment insurance were proposed, the demand was made that men and women should come on to the fund even 2394 if they were thrown out of work as the result of a trade dispute, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) then put the case far better than I can put it. He put it in its classic form, which I should like to read to the House, but, unfortunately, I lent the right hon. and learned Gentleman his own speech, and I have not got it back from him. That speech puts the whole point in a nutshell, and it was to the effect that the Bill had been introduced not to take sides between capital and labour, but purely to provide for inevitable happenings in industry. I am not reading it, because I do not want to trespass on the good nature of the Minister, who has asked me not to delay the Bill. We all have a good deal of pity for the gentleman who is known as the innocent victim of a trade dispute, and I hope my hon. Friends on the Labour benches will not make the very sad mistake that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Hudson) made in Committee, of characterising my views as purely class views. They are not. I have never yet pretended to represent any class, and I would not like to be in this House if I did. I do my best to represent the whole of the people who sent me here, and I am entitled to put this view, the long view, not as to what is going to relieve for the moment the innocent victim of a strike or trade dispute, but as to what is going to do good in the long run for the country as a whole.
I like to find. if I can, points of agreement with my political opponents, and I would make this point of agreement with all my opponents, that the most important thing before the country to-day is to get the greatest amount of wealth to divide among all of us. That is an axiom upon which I think we can all agree, but we are not likely to get that amount of wealth unless we have uninterrupted production, with the best will that we can get between all classes of producers. If I thought that this very controversial alteration in the Unemployment Act was going to give us greater production with goodwill on both sides, I would vote for it to-morrow, but I think that it will have the very opposite effect. I am afraid that the time is coming now when a great many work-people will feel that this Bill is a very great hardship, or even an injustice. 2395 There has been nothing better in our industrial life than the way in which workpeople and employers have cheerfully shouldered the heavy burden of the very heavy contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Act, but neither those workpeople nor those employers are going to shoulder it cheerfully if they feel that it is an unjust burden. The Minister has shown unwonted heroism, for a gentleman calling himself a Socialist, by resisting demands on the public purse.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I do not care whether it is a third, a fourth, or a sixth. I believe that I am the first Member to point out in this Debate that the public does pay something, and I want to congratulate the Minister upon his heroism in resisting demands on the public purse and upon the funds of the contributors. He said in Committee, with regard to Clause 8, the contracting-out. Clause:Obviously, no actuary can pretend to give you any idea at all. How does he know who is going to apply to contract out if the Clause in the Bill be not passed?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 19th June, 1924; col. 107.]He added a few minutes later:The plain fact of this matter is that the whole financial structure of the Bill goes to the winds if this Clause is with-drawn "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 19th June, 1924; col. 116.]
§ Mr. SPENCER
The Minister told us the whole finance of the Bill went to the winds if the contracting-out Clause was withdrawn, but how much more important is Clause 4 in this respect! The Government actuary who was called upon to report on Clause 4 told us that the effect that the Clause might have on the Act was incalculable, and he refused to give us any estimate as to what it would cost the country. I want, therefore, to appeal to the Minister to withdraw what, after all, is very controversial and entirely new. The old Clause 4 provided very 2396 fairly for the innocent victim of trade disputes. The only man who did not go on unemployment benefit, if he were out of work owing to a trade dispute, was a man who was actually working for the same firm in the same premises as those in which a dispute took place. The new Clause 4 puts upon the Fund the responsibility for unemployment of the whole of the workpeople who are thrown out of work owing to a strike, even if that strike be only among the key men in any particular factory or industry. What is that going to do for increased production, what is that going to do for goodwill among all sections of the producers of this country, and what is it going to do towards making a sense of injustice?
I know that in modern times an ordinary capitalist has no rights, but I would suggest that when you are taking from the employer a contribution of 10d. a week, and a similar contribution from the men, and a very heavy burden from the taxpayer, it is not in the interests of industrial peace or, in the long run, of the country, and, above all, it is not common justice, to say that this Unemployment Fund that was intended to tide over industrial ups and downs shall be used straight away to finance one side in an industrial dispute. That is the clear, straightforward issue, and I want to put it before this House and the country. I think the Minister has mistaken his function as Minister of Labour on this occasion. The overwhelming feeling of the Committee was that this should be a temporary Bill until such time as the Fund was solvent. We want to get it solvent as quickly as possible, so as then drastically to cut down the contributions which are pressing so heavily on industry, and I say that the Minister would have been better advised, and would have saved all this controversy, if he had been content simply to leave that Clause as it stood before and to wait until he got some sort of non-party committee patiently to inquire into the working of this Act during the next two years while the Fund is becoming solvent. I appeal even now to the Minister to give us this concession, simply to leave us where we are. I do not know that there have been great injustices done, and I cannot help thinking that this particularly controversial Clause is a gesture from the Minister to the extreme ends of his Socialist supporters. It is a 2397 very easy thing for the Minister simply to say to us, "For the sake of peace, for the sake of industrial peace, for the sake of peace in this House, and for the sake of cutting time short on this Bill, I am prepared to leave the Unemployment Insurance Bill where it stands to-day so fax as this controversial Clause 4 is concerned."
§ Sir K. WOOD
I beg to second the Amendment, and, in doing so, I may say I at once approach the matter with a view, if I can, to preserve this particular fund for its original purposes. I neither want an employers' organisation nor a trade union to use in any way the fund for their own purposes in the course of an industrial dispute. I believe that this particular fund, contributed as it is by the State, the employers and the workmen, should be used fairly and solely for the purpose of helping people who are genuinely out of work, and I need not remind the House that this question has proved a very difficult one for a very considerable period. I believe the right hon. Member for North West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), during the time he was Minister of Labour, endeavoured to come to a conclusion on this particular matter, and I believe on one occasion he suggested that if the Lord Privy Seal and Sir Allan Smith, representing both sides in matters of this kind, could get together, and come to a conclusion, he would be very glad to give it his sympathetic consideration.
§ Sir K. WOOD
And I think he said he would adopt it. Throughout the whole of the time this matter has been confronting the House and the country the difficulty has proved insurmountable. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment referred to the statement made on an earlier occasion by the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). I do not think any Member of the House will say that the position of those of us who oppose this Clause can be put in better words than were put on that occasion, on the 30th November, 1911, by the right hon. Gentleman. He said—and I think he perfectly stated the question—In the first place, we must secure that this fund shall be used to relieve people who are out of employment owing to the in- 2398 evitable fluctuations of trade, as distinguished from relieving people who are out of employment in connection with some industrial dispute. We must have a test which can be quickly and certainly applied.The right hon. Gentleman went on to show how difficult such a test other than that applied at that time would be. He said:May I point out to the House two reasons why the test in the Bill is likely to be the right teat? First of all, you do not want a test which is capable of being manipulated either by the trade union leaders on the one hand, or by the secretary of the Employers' Federation on the other. If you say that everybody who is not directly concerned in the strike is to have unemployment benefit, then it is obviously to the interests of the secretary of the trade union to pick and choose a few among the people in the works to strike, so that it would have the result of bringing the works to a standstill. He could select a particular kind of labour which would bring to a stop the motive power of the factory, and he might thereby, if he manages the affair adroitly, throw upon the unemployment fund a body of workmen who loudly assert they are not directly concerned in the strike, but who would certainly have joined the strike if it had not been made to their advantage not to do so. Secondly, the way in which an employer could prevent any class of workers from getting unemployment benefit, and the way to bring extra pressure to bear, would be by serving a lock-out notice on the lot, and so deprive them of benefit which they might otherwise get. I submit to the House"—the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—that it is not desirable that we should insert into this Bill words which would put it in the power of one side or the other so to manipulate their notices in trade disputes that a larger number or a smaller number of people might come out. If you do, you are really taking upon yourself the duties which the trade unions themselves ought to discharge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 30th November, 1911; cols. 803-4-5, Vol. 32.]These words, I venture to say, are very applicable to-night. I think they very correctly sum up the attitude of a large number of us who have no wish to have this Unemployment Fund subject to trade disputes or strike controversies. The only other matter I want to urge upon the House is this: Naturally, the Members of the House, in considering a matter of this kind, will say what is the cost going to be, because obviously we must have regard to the interests of the people who contribute to this Fund. I believe that the opinion of the Government actuary has been obtained, and he is not able, quite naturally, I think, to make any 2399 statement as to what cost may be involved to the contributors to this Fund. The difficulty, obviously, is of such a character that no competent actuary, regardful of his reputation, could give a figure, but it is certainly a considerable one. Sir Alfred Watson has said that it is "insusceptible of calculation." I venture, therefore, to say that, in dealing with this fund to-night, we must have regard, if we insert a Clause of this character, to what its effect is going to be upon a fund which has been contributed by employers and workmen alike.
This fund is certainly in a very peculiar position. We know its financial position to-day. But even at the best the Government actuary has said that actually at a time when a sum of not less than £35,000,000 is going to be expended annually he could only state that there will be a margin of £100,000. I say that very few insurance companies in the land to-day would care to go along on such a financial basis. They certainly would not be prepared to involve themselves in liabilities about which their actuary could not state any definite sum. Therefore I urge that in the first place the House will be very well-advised in not allowing this fund to become subject to any trade disputes, and, secondly, that they will not allow it to be subject to a demand which the Government actuary himself can put no figure on. For all these reasons I second the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I hope the House will support it.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Question I have to put is, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'participating,' in line 16, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I have an Amendment on the Paper to come in directly following the word "participating."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have put the Question down to the word "participating" but it does not include that word.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
On a point of Order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to put the Question down to the word "he" in line 16? I desire to move an Amendment to add the words "that neither he nor the trade union to which he belongs is participating or financing or taking any direct part in the trade dispute." It 2400 appears to me it will also be necessary to insert the word "neither" in line 16.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Is that not precisely the same Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson), and will that Amendment be preserved by the way in which the Question has been put?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I received a moment ago notice of a manuscript Amendment from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley, and I thought it would come best in the next sentence after the word "and. "The Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson) deals with "society or union." I think it is desirable that we should keep the question in that way, and I shall be glad to consider the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to that point.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The question we are now asked to decide has been one of the most puzzling questions in connection with this subject for a great many years, ever since the year 1911. I do not know whether I ought to feel gratified or embarrassed because the hon. Member opposite has quoted some words of mine. At that time I was simply a labourer who was assisting Lord Buxton, and what I said then put clearly the difficulties which undoubtedly do suggest themselves if you do not draw the line in connection with this matter very tightly indeed. There are two things which should be remembered. In the year 1911 the Liberal Government of that day was framing and devising, and in fact launching an entirely new constitution in connection with making provision for those thrown out of work, and of course our main concern was to be sure that, in launching a ship of an entirely new design, we should not run the risk of it going to the bottom straight away. It would be most unreasonable for anybody in the House to take the view, which was expressed as a matter of caution in 1911, as though it was a view which it was necessarily right to be held for all time. I have enough satisfaction in the small part that I took in that Act to be very unwilling indeed to admit that it was not well and closely framed, and I think that on the whole it was well and closely framed. But, at the same time, we have to consider things as they are found to work in 2401 practice, and it is no good trying to decide this matter by quoting anybody's words, least of all mine, some 13 years ago, when I had the good fortune to be Solicitor-General in an earlier Government.
The second consideration is this: We now have, in fact, some 13 years of experience of the working of the Clause as it was put into the original Act, and, though I think it is possible very much to exaggerate the disadvantages which that Clause has brought about, it really is not open to serious dispute by anyone that, though it may be difficult to devise a better Clause, that Clause has some serious shortcomings. It is quite absurd to pretend that experience in the meantime has gone to show that there is nothing whatever to criticise or to regret in the operation of that Clause as it was originally drawn. That is quite im-impossible. No doubt every Member of the House is familiar with the precise point that we are discussing, but may I be forgiven if, for the purposes of clearness, I just put it in my own words?
In the Clause of 1911, repeated, as it was, in Section 8 of the Act of 1920, you have this very anomalous position, that individuals who themselves are not promoting a trade dispute—say a strike—who are not financing it, whose trade union has nothing to do with it, who are going to gain practically nothing from it, will get unemployment benefit if they are employed in an adjoining works, but will not get unemployment benefit if they are employed in the precise works in which the trade dispute has arisen. I do not think that any fair-minded man can deny that that has led to very curious and artificial results. There was an instance to which I recollect calling the attention of the House of Commons only a year ago—because there are more contributions than one of mine on this subject, though I do not complain because only one has been quoted—when I took it upon myself to point out to the House in 1923 how very queerly and oddly this Clause worked in connection with the then recent strike of moulders on the North-East Coast.
The result was this: First of all, a number of skilled people—moulders—who were concerned directly in the trade dispute, fell out of work because of the trade dispute. In fact, it was they who had taken part in it and caused it. Those 2402 moulders, of course, never claimed unemployment benefit, and that was quite right. It would be an intolerable position if the individual who claims unemployment benefit actually brings about the very risk on the occurrence of which he claims to be paid. Individuals who insure their ships against loss at sea find, to their regret, that they are unable to recover the insurance money from the underwriters if they have taken part in scuttling the ship; and people cannot recover on a fire policy if they have set fire to their own house. Of course, therefore, no one in any part of the House suggests that in the moulders' strike the moulders, who were the skilled workmen whose strike it was, could properly claim benefit from Unemployment Insurance. This Clause does not effect that change at all. But, while that happened in the case of the moulders, and they were quite correctly kept out of any unemployment benefit, there were working in the same works, side by side with them, the labourers. They had nothing to do with the moulders' strike; they did not belong to the same trade union; they had no concern in the result of the strike; they were, in the strictest sense of the term, persons who, for the time being, lost their employment because of someone else's trade dispute.
The result of the law as it was last year, and as it has been since 1911, was undoubtedly this, that, while those labourers, employed in the same works as the moulders who were out on strike, were prevented from getting unemployment benefit for themselves, other labourers elsewhere who belonged to the same labourers' trade union, were, merely because they were working in some other premises, entitled to benefit to which the labourers were not entitled who were working side by side with the moulders. I really do not think the House of Commons can dispute that that is a very curious and artificial result. It may be—and I have been puzzled on this subject and have been much interested in it for years—that it is not easy to devise a more satisfactory arrangement; but it is no good beginning as though the present situation was one which worked manifest justice for everyone, because it does not. Therefore, the real question for the House of Commons is this: Is it possible to effect a modification in the 2403 scheme which will do fair justice to the man who may really be regarded as the innocent victim of a strike, without introducing what we ought to try to avoid introducing—new consequences even more disastrous or anomalous than the ones which occur to-day? That seems to me to be the practical question we have to decide.
There is a certain amount of common ground here. The question is not really what we are aiming at doing. The question is whether or not these words will do it, or whether any words will do it successfully. I imagine no one in any quarter of the House is desiring to change the law so that the Unemployment Fund can be used directly and actively to finance a trade dispute. That would be perfectly intolerable. It would completely destroy what was the whole object of unemployment insurance as it was introduced by the Government of 1911 and as it has been followed and developed since. The second thing is this. We desire, I apprehend, not only that we should not finance out of the Unemployment Fund a trade dispute that is going on, causing the employers, for example, and the State itself actually to pay weekly contributions which would be used, as it were, in the fight later on, an utterly unjust result, as I am sure hon. Members above the Gangway will agree, but we want this thing further. We ought to secure that the change is not one which, as I said long ago, gives opportunity for manipulation. It would be a most undesirable thing if, owing to a change in the law, it became possible for ingenious people, by selecting the people who were going to be called out, indirectly to put a number of other persons, who are really directly interested in the dispute, who hope to gain something from it, who belong to the same trade union, who are really, as it were, sleeping partners or secret allies in the controversy, upon the Unemployment Fund. I hope very much that in stating that I am stating what is the honest intention and purpose of hon. Members above the Gangway. I am confident it is the honest purpose and intention of the Minister of Labour. The whole question is whether or not the Clause affects it. I am bound to say I do not think the Clause, as it is drawn, is in an entirely satisfactory form. For 2404 instance, as it is drawn the test is one that is applied to each individual standing alone. It is proposed to run that the existing provision of the law shall not apply in any case in which the insured contributor proves that he is not participating in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage of work.
Let me give an illustration. It would, surely, be quite intolerable that the trade union to which the individual belongs should actually be financing or supporting a strike and yet the individual in question should be able to draw unemployment benefit. It was for that reason that I was hoping, though I agree at very late notice to you, Sir, that you would have thought well to enable me to move an Amendment—owing to the way the question was put it is impossible to do it now—which would have introduced some words at that point. It may be that they can be introduced later on, but in order to show what I have in mind, I should like to read Clause 4 (1) in the form in which it would have seemed to me much better calculated to remove what, I admit, is an anomaly and at the same time not to give the opportunity for new injustice and wrong. I regard it as a gross injustice if this fund could possibly be available for a member of a trade union when the trade union is, in fact, financing or supporting the trade dispute which has caused the individual to be thrown out of work. It would be a gross injustice if we altered the law so that individuals who were directly interested in the success of a trade dispute should, none the less, be getting unemployment benefit in the meantime. I am not in the least satisfied that such individuals should get unemployment benefit merely because they can come forward and say, "Look at me as an individual. I am not participating in the dispute. Therefore, you must give me unemployment benefit, and you have no right to ask whether or not I am directly interested in the success of the dispute." That being so, the qualification which I think might be worth the consideration of the House is this—no doubt, it can be put in other words, but, I have my own words—whether Sub-section (1) could be so altered as to improve the present law without introducing a new and very serious danger. It might be altered in this way: 2405Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the principal Act (which imposes a disqualification for the receipt of benefit during a stoppage of work) shall not apply in any case in which the insured contributor can prove that neither he nor the trade union to which he belongs is participating or financing or directly interested in the trade dispute which causes the stoppage of work.We ought without distinction of party to try to get a better provision than the existing one, without introducing what I regard as a very serious danger both as to the solvency of the fund and the justice of the case.
§ Mr. LUKE THOMPSON
May I ask whether the right hon. and learned Member is in order, seeing that my Amendment which immediately follows is couched in the same terms?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The right hon. and learned Member is in order in what he is saying. I have already said that the hon. Member's Amendment covers part of the point which is now being put.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I hope the hon. Member opposite will understand that I have not the smallest desire to claim credit for this. I am not thinking about credit at all. Let it be understood, publicly and privately, that the whole credit belongs to the hon. Member. I am talking about an endeavour of the House of Commons to put into better shape something in which I have been interested for 12 or 13 years. I may say, however, that I do not agree with the words "Society or Union" in the hon. Member's Amendment. "Society" is not the proper expression. The expression trade union is the correct one. The general way in which this Clause might have been reformed would have been to secure that not merely the individual in question but the trade union to which he belongs should be one which is not participating in, is not financing and is not directly interested in the trade dispute which is going on.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Will the right hon. and learned Member explain why he only uses the word "directly"? Why does he not say directly or indirectly?
§ Sir J. SIMON
My real reason is this. There is a sense in which the labourer in the course of the moulders' dispute was very much interested in the trade dispute. 2406 He was interested in the sense that because of the trade dispute he was out of work. You are not going to deprive the labourer who had nothing to do with the moulders' dispute from getting benefit because in that sense he was interested. If you apply the test which I suggest as to whether or not he is directely interested, I think anyone would so construe that as meaning, "Is the fight a fight in which, although you do not take an active part in it, you are interested as being to your advantage?"
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
Directly or indirectly. Suppose a trade union is not directly connected with the strike, but gives a loan to a trade union that was, that would be indirectly but not directly.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be so kind as to follow me for a moment he will find that I use the word "finance." I get rid altogether of the rule which says that because A. B. is working in the same mine, factory or works, therefore he cannot in any circumstances get unemployment benefit. I do not think that that works fairly, and I am sure that experience goes to show that in some cases it works very hardly. The question is, Can you let him in without opening the door to numbers of things which honest people ought not to desire?
§ Mr. SEXTON
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that you may have a case of this kind. There are two sets of men working in the docks belonging to the same union and not working for the same employer. The men working on the quay go on strike because they have a dispute with their employer. The men on the ship have no dispute and do not go on strike. The men on the quay get strike pay from their union, which is financed by the men on the ship. What are you going to do about that?
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. Member is very fond of that illustration. This is the third time we have heard it in the House of Commons. It only shows that the matter is one which has got to be very carefully considered. I do not know whether I am asking too much of the House of Commons, after the indulgence which has been extended to me, if I ask to be allowed to read my words. I think 2407 that they are an improvement, and I sincerely desire to make a suggestion for the consideration of the Minister. What I would suggest is that it is not enough to say when this individual participates, because you may have people who know that the individual is not participating, but, nevertheless, having got an interest, and a direst interest, in what is going on, the union even may be interested, and may be financing or lending money. Therefore I think that the words ought to be:In any case in which an insured contributor proves that neither he nor the trade union to which he belongs is participating in or financing or dirctly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage of work.I do not for a moment say that those words are the best, but they represent what I have at the back of my mind. What I desire is to see whether we can solve what is undoubtedly a terribly complicated problem, which has been considered most carefully by both sides for years, by accepting Sub-section (1) of Section 4, insofar as it seeks to remove the present rule, which seeks to disqualify a man, however far away he is from the trade dispute, if he happens to be working under the same roof, and which introduces a fairer and more logical test. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I hope so. If what anybody is after is that this unemployment fund should be used to finance a strike. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then we are all at one! If anybody suggests that this unemployment fund is going to be used to finance a strike, it is not only merely unemployment insurance but it will do great injustice. I do not believe anything of the kind. I believe that those who are seeking to vary the present law are seeking to do so because experience has shown that the present rule does operate with great hardship on certain individuals. If we can find words which will really protect the innocent individual without introducing new and very serious mischiefs, then I think the Clause, with such modifications, might be supported. I am obliged to the House for letting me say this. I have been quoted in Committee and on the Floor of the House for something I said 13 years ago. I said it with the skilled advice of some at least of the very officials who are advising the Minister now.
§ Mr. SHAW
The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. H. Spencer) said I was very anxious to get this Bill through. I am, because unless this Bill goes to another place very soon it will be too late, and we shall have 100,000 people falling out of benefit, which I would not like to see. It is for that reason I am very anxious. I am a very, very innocent person, but even my innocence is a bit shocked by my hon. Friend from South Bradford who, in spite of the fact that on the Committee the majority in favour of this Clause was 21 to 15, blandly says. "If you had only accepted what we said, you would have got your Bill through." The question is, have I got a case, and does the Clause I have meet the case? I suggest that I have a ease, one that I believe was considered to be a really serious case in the days even of the Coalition Government. From that time onwards people have been trying to find words that would deal with the admitted injustice that was being done. I think it was understood in the House by everybody that the injustice existed, and that it was quite wrong to penalise people who were suffering as the result of either a strike or lock-out in which they had neither lot nor part and the result of which could neither improve their circumstances nor make them worse. The moulders' dispute is a typical example. The labourers in that case had no more to do with the moulders' dispute, except to suffer, than any other part of the community. They were not interested financially in any way, whether the moulders won or not. It did not mean anything to their wages or conditions. They were just sufferers in the dispute without any chance of receiving pay. I am proposing to remove what I consider an injustice. I am promising, first—and the terms are very simple—that before a man can get benefit at all, he must prove that he is not a participant in the dispute. I could, if I tried hard, imagine 101 things which might happen to make this Clause of mine unjust. I suggest it is an impossibility, in the present way of conducting trade unions, for a person to be a participant in a trade dispute without the fact being known. Strikes are for a very definite object. It may be an application for an increase in pay, or a variation of hours, or for an improvement of conditions. But a union cannot go to a firm 2409 and say we want for our members here certain conditions, and if we do not get, those conditions we will remove a certain number of men. That is precisely the last thing any union would attempt to do. The idea, that it would say to some of its members "you must go on working and black-legging while we withdraw other men,' is quite illusory and far from all probabilities.
The policy of the union is always to withdraw all the men in order to make the strike as complete as possible, so I would suggest that the actual facts are quite contrary to the imaginary case which has been quoted, in which a number of men were withdrawn and others allowed to stay on while the endeavour was being made to get improved conditions. I suggest that no authority in the world would have any great difficulty in deciding whether a person was or was not a participant in a certain trade dispute. If that be not enough, let me say a person must not be a member of a grade participating in the movement. It would be a very injudicious thing to split, as it were, union members and non-union members into two parties. If we had to say to a man, "Are you a member of the union that is running this dispute? If you are you are not entitled to pay, "and if we are to say to another man, "Are you a member of this union," and if he happens to be a member of another union he will get paid, I suggest that that would be very bad policy. You have various classes of workers to bear in mind in order to prevent the possibility of men genuinely engaged in a trade dispute receiving pay under this Clause.
§ Mr. SHAW
You might have in a foundry two kinds of fitters, one graded as a foreman and the other as an ordinary fitter. The foreman might, as a matter of fact, be friendly to the employer and stop on, because the dispute was caused by men in another grade who were definitely engaged in the dispute. What I want to suggest to the House is this. The terms of the Clause are drawn sufficiently wide to bring into the net everyone definitely concerned in the trade dispute, and I venture to suggest that in actual practical life there is no man on strike in any firm that can escape the meshes of this net. I have given very careful considera- 2410 tion to the question originally raised in an Amendment by my hon. Friend opposite which speaks of a society or a union. I venture to suggest that the matter becomes complicated when one begins to use his vivid imagination about societies and unions.
I might make "society" into a choral society, and "union" into any kind of union. Again, I suggest to the House that the two simple principles are these: First of all, there is an injustice. I do not think that anyone denies the injustice. Secondly, I have really tried to find a remedy which, from my own experience—which is not a small one—would prevent the absolutely sincere person who has nothing to do with the strike from being refused benefit.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
This is, without exception, the most difficult subject in the whole of the Bill, and it is for that reason that probably everyone in the House wants to do what is the right and fair thing. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken in defence of his Clause as if there were really no risk. I am sure he will admit that, if there were no risk of this Clause being used to subsidise a strike at the expense of the Fund, there would not be such serious anxiety on the part of, not cantankerous employers, but very progressive employers indeed. I suggest that what the House has to do is to recognise that, on the one hand, there is a hardship which should be met, and, on the other hand, that there is a very real danger and risk. Think what the position would be. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that when an Act of Parliament is passed there is always the most astute legal advice in the world available to enable anyone to try to get round it. If there is a hole in the net it is open to an organisation of employers or an organisation of workmen to get the most skilled advice possible and to see whether they can manipulate the powers given to them under the Act so as to obtain the benefit of a subsidy at the expense of the Fund. I am sure that Members in all quarters will admit that it would be an absolutely insupportable position if an employer should be called upon by means of his contributions to subsidise a strike which is being conducted against his business. It would be as bad as if the workers' contributions 2411 were used to subsidise a lock-out against them. Therefore, it is necessary to safeguard absolutely any risk of that kind.
There is undoubtedly in many cases a great hardship to people who are indirectly affected by a strike to which they are not a party. The way to get out of that difficulty is to do a thing which, I am sorry to say, the Minister has consistently refused to do, and that is, in a key industry or a great public service, to secure that an inquiry takes place before a strike or lock-out. If he would only do that, he would do more to ensure the safety of these men than by any provision he can put into this Bill. The second thing about which we have to be careful is that the fund is already insolvent, on the basis of the contributions which the Minister has put into the Bill. Apart from the announcement he made that he was going to accept a proposal which will cost £4,500,000; on the actuary's second report the Minister without this Clause has only £100,000 a year to meet all contingencies on an estimated expenditure of £30,500,000. That is, actuarially, a most dangerous and unsound position, and that is without taking into account what the actuary describes as the incalculable liabilities of this Clause. For that reason alone it behoves us to be careful that we do not encourage any form of strike or lock-out which is going to fall on this fund, unless it is necessary and just that the people concerned should be relieved. I think a great case has been made out for some more definite words than those which the Minister has put in. For my own part, I think the words suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley, provided he will accept one condition, go nearer to meeting the equity of this case than any other I have heard. The addition which I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make are the words "whether directly or indirectly." I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was disposed to treat the suggestion cavalierly and he said that labourers, of course, would have an indirect interest in a strike because they were thrown out of work by it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did me an injustice by that answer because that was not in the least what I meant. What I meant 2412 was that they should have no interest, direct or indirect, in the success of the dispute. [HON, MEMBERS: "They all have."] I would remind hon. Members that we are trying to get something, which I hope we shall get by consent. It is quite obvious you must not give, directly or indirectly, any kind of subsidy which will pass to the benefit of those who are in any way responsible for a strike or lock-out or are calculated to benefit from a strike or lock-out. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the words "directly or indirectly interested in the success of the strike" it would probably go a long way to meet the difficulty. If the Clause can be so drawn as to exclude all possibility of it being used to subsidise a strike then I think that alteration should be made, and, speaking for myself, I think the words suggested, with the addition I propose, would go a considerable way to meet the case.
§ Mr. CLIMIE
I have here a pamphlet issued by the National Federation of Employers' Organisations, and it was from this pamphlet that an hon. Member who spoke previously was quoting, in regard to the views of the employers. It is but a proof that, an any rate, there are some hon. Members on the other side who would wish in a matter of this kind that we should keep marking time at the pace of 1911. Hon. Members can hardly conceive how important it is that this question should be cleared up. I have had a considerable experience in industrial organisation and in organising the unskilled workers, who probably suffer more from the operation of this strike Clause than any other class of worker. I remember the case of some boilermakers who were on strike in a shipyard. The labourers who were employed in the repair of the permanent way that ran through the centre of the shipyard, because of the fact that the boilermakers were unemployed and work got slack, were dismissed or suspended, and the employment exchange decided that they were unemployed because of the dispute of the boilermakers. They had no more to do with the boilermakers than the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) had to do with that dispute.
I could go on in connection with builders' labourers with exactly the same 2413 set of conditions arising. A bricklayer has a dispute, and the builders labourer is not directly interested, but he is unable to draw his unemployment benefit, although he is not interested in the point in dispute. I want to urge upon the Minister of Labour not to accept any of the suggestions put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). If he begins to tamper with this Sub-section (1) as it is drafted he is going to open the door so that his intentions will not be carried out to the full. I wish to draw the Minister's attention to this fact, that the right hon. Member for Spen Valley says that he wishes words to be added requiring the insured contributor to prove that neither he nor the trade union to which he belongs is participating in or financing or directly interested in the dispute. I want to point out that where the leading men in a works, the only parties interested in a dispute with regard to conditions of labour, go out on strike, all the men thrown out belonging to the same union, because of the strike will not be able to draw unemployment benefit. I am quite clear in my own mind that the words suggested by the right hon. Member for Spen Valley will not carry out the intention that the Minister has in the Subsection under discussion.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was very disappointed with the Minister's reply. He knows, as we all know, that this is a very troublesome thing indeed. The whole structure of the scheme, taking contributions from the employer and the employed, makes this almost impossible of solution. The Minister knows the effort we have made. As has been said by the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), I asked the Lord Privy Seal and Sir Allan Smith to find a solution. It failed. Later I appointed a committee to find a way out, and then comes the present Minister—I am sure he will forgive me for saying—like a bull at a fence. What happens? Employers are paying 10d. a week cheerfully and willingly. You cannot be surprised if they say that this thing is now going to be used in such a way as to prolong and not shorten disputes, and they are tired of it. The right hon. Member for Spen Valley, who has very great legal knowledge, has suggested words which, I should have hoped, the 2414 Minister might carefully have considered, and I hope we shall vote upon them. We have to get this thing as near right as we can, although it is very difficult. I submit that my hon. Friend should ask leave to withdraw his Amendment, and that we should vote upon the words suggested by the right hon. Member for Spen Valley. That would be a better solution than this by a long way, and would prevent injustice arising. Unless the Minister agrees to do something of that sort, he stands a very likely chance of losing this Clause altogether.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
Almost the concluding words of the Minister of Labour were to the effect that the principal object he had in view was to remove injustice to workmen thrown out of work, if not directly engaged in a strike. Up to that point we can all agree with the Minister of Labour, but I venture to suggest that, while we are all anxious to remove a particular injustice to individuals, we all have a very much greater duty imposed upon us in this House, and that is to see that, in the removal of a particular injustice to individuals, we do not inflict upon the community at large a still greater injustice.
Just in a word or two I will content myself by drawing the attention of the House to an incident that must still be fresh in the memories of hon. Members, namely, the recent dispute in connection with the Underground Railways. Just imagine, even now, if "directly" or "indirectly" had been inserted in the Clause, how you would have dealt with a situation such as we were faced with then. The object was to bring out the men in the power stations. I happen to know that it was confidently predicted that, by bringing out these men, they would shut down the whole of the Underground services of London. I happen to know that they failed—it is common knowledge—and what followed? That is what you have to deal with in the future—that is, if you pass this Clause as it stands. When they failed to shut down the Underground services the uniformed men, who would all have been thrown out of employment if the services had been shut down, owing to the power stations men coming out, would rightly have been brought under this Clause for unemployment benefit. [HON. MEMBERS: "They 2415 were not insured at all!"] I quite understand that. I am merely illustrating the situation by what is within our knowledge, and because the thing is difficult to illustrate. The uniformed men did, in fact, come out on strike. Could anybody discover any arrangement between the two unions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]. I do not know whether there was or not. It is not my intention or desire to enter into controversy on the subject with hon. Members opposite, for we are all equally interested in the solution of this problem. But how can you deal with two unions, acting in close co-operation—the one calling a strike, and the men of the other affected, and not unwilling, in the circumstances, to come on the unemployment fund? You need to devise a form of words to meet the situation. I respectfully suggest that, even if we adopt the form of words suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), or the Amendment suggested by my right hon. Friend below me, you will still be faced with the difficulty. The word "indirectly" will not protect you, or I would at once say accept it. But how are you to know where the application of the word "indirectly" begins and ends? I submit that, with all the goodwill in the world to help the Minister of Labour in the solution of the question, he must at least make certain that he protects the community at large against injustice rather than always seek to protect a particular individual against injustice.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I have listened to the Debate on this Amendment and to the suggestions made to the Minister of Labour from different parts of the House, particularly to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). From the agitation which the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion has caused on the Front Treasury Bench, I should think it is likely to be accepted. I want to point out that the wording of the Bill does not cover the grievance of the people who are refused benefit by the employment exchanges because of a trade dispute, and even the words suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley do not solve the difficulty. There was quite recently a dispute 2416 among the dockyard workers at Southampton. The local trade unions of the men on strike ordered them back to work, but they refused. Then the Employers' Federation posted notices to lock-out the men, up and down the whole of Great Britain.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Your proposal does not help them either, but the words of my Amendment would help them, and that is the position. The men in the shipyards on the Clyde, the Mersey and the Tyne would have been locked out, and refused benefit by the employment exchanges, because they would be participating in a trade dispute in which they had no voice, and to which their executive was entirely opposed to the attitude of the men who had brought about the national lockout. A great deal has been said about saving the fund, and doing justice to all the parties concerned, but if a strike take place in any part of the country, and the men on strike prove themselves able to stand the strain without giving in to the employers' terms, then the Employers' Federation post notices for a national lockout, as the Builders' Federation did in the case of the strike at Liverpool, and this action was the inauguration of the present dispute in the building industry.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The hon. Member used to be a one-man party. Why should thousands of individuals suffer because of a one-man strike? I am glad the hon. Member accepts that idea. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on!"] I will get on, and I will go on if I keep you here till six o'clock in the morning. I am putting this case forward from the trade unionist's point of view. The hon. Member is putting it forward from the masters' point of view.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We are dealing with a very difficult part of the subject, and should be very careful in the words that are used. I hope that hon. Members will listen.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
It is a matter of indifference to me what they say. The wording, as I have said, of the Minister of Labour, the wording proposed below the Gangway, and the suggested alteration by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame) do not cover the difficulty in any way. The union itself is the body that ought to see that those who are called out on strike by the vote of its members are not going to suffer any financial loss. That is a matter upon which Members on these Benches will agree, but at the same time we see no reason why men should suffer who are locked out by employers, not because of any action that they themselves have taken, but merely because one of the trade unions in the industry in which they are employed has ordered a strike, and the masters have thereupon ordered a lockout in different shops. In a shipyard you will find something like 20 different unions organising and catering for different grades and different classes of workers in that particular yard. If one trade union call a strike, members of other trade unions may be locked out, and those who are locked out, going to the employment exchange and presenting their unemploymen cards, are definitely told that, having been locked out because of a trade dispute, they are not entitled to benefit Their trade union is neither paying strike pay nor has it had an opportunity of taking a vote of its members as to whether there should or should not be a strike, and consequently these men are suffering an injustice.
It is all very well for hon. Members in this House to talk about saving the funds, and to talk in an idealistic manner of the duties of the Minister of Labour and of this House to the community outside; but let them bear in mind that individual working men and women who are locked out by employers through no fault of their own because of a dispute, perhaps in another part of the country, have paid their contributions to the Unemployment 2418 Fund, and are justly entitled, having been thrown idle through no fault of their own, to be paid unemployment benefit. No words that have been suggested in this Debate to-night cover that point, and I suggest to the House, to the Minister, and to the Government that, if they are prepared to accept forms of words to tighten up this particular method of refusing benefit to individuals when strikes or lock-outs occur, they ought also to accept forms of words that will safeguard people from being dismissed from their employment—locked out—because of a dispute in which they have had no act or part, and will safeguard the right of those locked out persons to enjoy the unemployment benefit for which their contributions have paid, and the funds which they have built up.
§ Mr. SHAW
I find myself in a very difficult position. I have to consider, not what is ideally perfect, but how much I can get for the people who have been refused benefit. I feel positively certain, from what has been said, that my Clause, which I think in its simplicity is better than the Amendment, has little chance of being carried. [HON. MEMBERS: "Test it!"] If I test it and lose it, I lose all chance of these people getting benefit, and I am not prepared to do it.
An HON. MEMBER
Has the Minister made his peace with the fair sex, as I see no mention of them in the Clause?
§ Mr. SHAW
I understand the wording of the Clause, if I accepted the words which have been moved, would be,Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the principal Act (which imposes a disqualification for the receipt of benefit during a stoppage of work) shall not apply in any case in which the insured contributor proves that neither he nor the trade union to which he belongs is participating in or financing or is directly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage of work and that he does not belong to a grade or class of workers members of which are participating in the dispute.2419 If there be, any strike in an engineering shop, no man working there is paid. That is the present position.
§ Mr. SHAW
This, at any rate, seems to me to offer this possibility. Take the moulders' dispute as an example. Every man who was refused benefit will be granted benefit if this be accepted. That is the position of affairs, and as I am more interested in getting honest men, who are out of work through no fault of their own, paid, than I am in declaration of principles, I am going to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I at least will divide against the Amendment. Ministers are tumbling over each other to get everything for Liberals and Tories, and nothing for us. They ought to belong to those parties, and not to us. The Amendment can be demonstrated to be even worse than the present Act. It states that any men of a trade union which is engaged in an industrial dispute shall not receive any benefit. I want to point out an actual case where things will be made worse by the acceptance of this Amendment. Take a shipyard dispute where joiners are employed. The joiners there have a dispute with their employers. There are also joiners working in engineering shops and in the building trade. These joiners have no dispute with their employers, but this Clause as amended by the Amendment proposed by the Hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) would affect every joiner. The Clause as it stands would mean that if the ship joiner is on strike the building trade joiner is not deprived of benefit, and the engineering joiner can get benefit. Take the case of the light castings moulder and the heavy castings moulder, which are totally different industries. What happens now? They are both in the same union. The light, castings moulder has a dispute with his employer, but the heavy castings moulder has not, and he is not deprived of unemployment benefit. Under this Amendment, because they are both in the same union acid financing the strike, both sets of moulders would be debarred from benefit. Therefore the conditions will be much worse than under the present Act.
2420 I certainly prefer the present Act than the proposed form of words. This is a highly technical discussion, and these words are thrown at us and without any full discussion we are to come to a decision. I am a member of a highly skilled trade union, the Patternmakers' Union. There are some patternmakers who are organised in the Patternmakers' Union, and other are in the Amalgamated Engineers Union. Our union has a dispute with the employers, but the Amalgamated Union man has no dispute. The Amalgamated Engineers Union patternmakers under the Clause as it stands is to be paid his benefit, but the patternmakers in the Patternmakers' Union is not to be paid.
§ Sir J. SIMON
There is a misapprehension. The Bill as it stands enables a person to get unemployment benefit even if he be out of work by reason of a stoppage of work due to a trade dispute, as long as that person is employed somewhere else. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Clause which we are trying to improve, and I am trying to improve it, prevents a man getting unemployment benefit when he is out of work by reason of a stoppage of work because he is a person who, when he was in work, was in the same factory in which the trade dispute happened The only thing we are doing is that we are making a wider door than exists to-day. We are not shutting any door
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The right hon. Gentleman is stating what is not correct Some hon. Members seem to think that when a trade dispute occurs, everybody in the factory where that dispute occurs are debarred under the present Act from benefit. I do not think any previous Minister of Labour would accept that point of view. Everybody in the factory who is connected with the particular industry in which the dispute occurred is debarred, but not everybody in the factory. Take an engineering shop, where engineers and moulders were employed. When there was a dispute with the moulders, the engineers in that shop were not cut off from getting benefit. Therefore if a Minister of Labour or the right hon. Member for Spen Valley says that everybody at present in a factory is debarred, he is not accurate.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The right hon. Member for Spen Valley says that all who are working under the same roof are debarred. Take the case of a man who is a non-unionist. He may come on strike. The right hon. Member for Spen Valley says that the non-union man is to get benefit and the union man is not. Here we have the position in which a trade union Minister and the right hon. Member for Spen Valley say that every member of a trade union is to be debarred, whether he is connected with the dispute or not. This would debar a building trade joiner from benefit, if the shipyards were on strike, and it would give benefits to non-unionists and deny them to trade-unionists. If a Minister of Labour, particularly a Minister who has an honourable connection with trade unionism in this country, accepted that, it would be a gross betrayal of our movement. I would not blame the President of the Board of Trade. He knows nothing about these matters. I would divide against this Amendment, just as I would divide against the abolition of the Clause altogether.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. Clynes)
Clearly we cannot conform to the understanding that was reached earlier to conclude business at 12 o'clock, owing to new features which have arisen in the debate. If my hon. Friend who has just sat down were right in his conclusions, we could not for a moment think of accepting the manuscript Amendment of the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), but we believe that he is wrong, and that the House is suffering for the moment under the very real handicap of not having the terms of the Amendment before us. In view of the limitations to which I have referred, and as the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. H. Spencer) has intimated his desire to withdraw the Amendment, I would suggest that that Amendment should be withdrawn, and the suggested manuscript Amendment of the right hon. Member for Spen Valley placed upon the Order Paper, so that the House should have an opportunity of examining it. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is accepted!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
May I point out that, in the form in which the words were read out by the Minister of Labour, they could not go on the Paper owing to the Amendment now before the House. If the pre- 2422 sent Amendment be withdrawn, they can then be placed on the Paper in the form in which they were read out, but the Amendment of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) comes first.
§ Mr. H. SPENCER
I was perfectly willing to withdraw my Amendment, and in fact rose two or three times to ask permission to do so on condition that, if we withdraw, the Minister of Labour would accept the form of words he read. I do not express my desire to withdraw without that condition.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I think the hon. Gentleman has proposed to withdraw his Amendment on the understanding that we can then vote upon the new Amendment. [Interruption.] That is what the hon. Gentleman has been trying to say for three-quarters of an hour. I understand that we should vote either upon the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) or the Amendment which is identical in its purpose of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson). That, I understand, is the general sense in all quarters of the House. We have had a very long and fruitful discussion upon this question. It is perfectly clear to Members in all quarters of the House what is the issue at stake in this matter, and I think I am right in suggesting that we are perfectly prepared now to come to a decision upon either the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley or on that of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Question was put, "That the Amendment be withdrawn," and several Members said "No."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If one says "No" that is sufficient. Therefore, the House will have to proceed to decide on the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. H. Spencer). If that procedure be taken, then the Amendment of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) comes next. We cannot proceed at once with these other words.
§ Sir J. SIMON
On a point of Order. It does seem to me not at all unreasonable that hon. Gentlemen who appear to be in some doubt as to the effect of the new words should have a chance of seeing them on the Paper. [Interruption.] I think everyone who keeps his temper knows that our object here is to try to get the Clause in proper form. I know the Minister of Labour would never have got up and given the unconditional promise he did that he would accept these words until after he had consulted the extremely able and skilled advisers at the service of the Minister. Therefore, I am sorry that anyone should think that he did it in a fit of stupidity. At the same time I would much sooner that everyone is satisfied that the words do what is intended, which is to make things better and not worse. I hope, therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for South Bradford will be allowed to withdraw his Amendment, and I hope it will then be possible for me to put my Amendment on the Paper, because the last thing I want to do is to leave anyone under the impression that I am trying to take advantage of the position.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Amendment cannot now be withdrawn. It must be decided upon, because withdrawal was refused. Therefore, I must put the Amendment.
§ Mr. H. SPENCER
If we do not divide, am I to understand that the word of the Minister still stands good, and that the Government will accept the new form of words? If I ask permission to withdraw my Amendment, can I have an assurance from the Minister that the promise he made to me will be carried out, or has the right hon. Gentleman changed his mind? If so, I do not withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
I understand the ruling of the Chair is that the Amendment cannot now be withdrawn. Is the hon. Member therefore not now out of Order in presenting his views?
§ Viscount WOLMER
If the hon. Member's Amendment is negatived, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) be in Order in moving his Amendment?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have tried to explain to the House that the words suggested by the Minister of Labour were not in the form which I had suggested as the best drafting.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Does the Minister propose to stick to the straight pledge he gave me personally? [Interruption.] If hon. Members are determined not to allow me to speak, I shall be prepared to go on. I do not want to quibble about words. The pledge the right hon. Gentleman gave me, as a consideration for withdrawing the Amendment, was that he would accept certain words. Do the Government intend to abide by the spirit of that pledge, and to accept those words or some similar form of words?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned."—[Mr. Shaw.]
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
May I ask one specific question of the Lord Privy Seal, who was not, I believe, in the House at the time when the Minister of Labour gave his undertaking? As there is some doubt in the minds of some hon. Members, I want to ask if the Deputy Leader of the House adheres to that undertaking, and accepts the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon)?
§ 12 M.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I heard what my right hon. Friend said in reference to the manuscript Amendment. I am anxious to see that Amendment on the Paper. I see no reason to differ from my right hon. Friend as to what that Amendment means.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
We are asked to adjourn the Debate in order that we may bring this discussion to a conclusion at a future date. I asked the right hon. Gentleman not what he thought was the meaning of the words. I now ask again specifically, does the Lord Privy Seal accept and endorse the categorical undertaking given by the Minister of Labour that he will accept the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Spen Valley?
§ Mr. CLYNES
I must consult further with my right hon. Friend. I am conscious of the fact that it would please certain Members of the House if I answered categorically the question. I associate myself with my right hon. Friend as to the course which the Government will take when the Amendment is on the Paper.
§ Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee) to be further considered To-morrow.2426
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after half-past Eleven of the clock upon Wednesday evening, MR. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Four minutes after Twelve o'Clock.